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Are WODs Good For Sports Performance?

Updated: Jan 16

Ahhhh, the 'Workout of the Day' made famous by the rise of CrossFit. For anybody that doesn't know, a WOD is:


A daily workout (believe it or not) that is usually timed or recorded as a point of reference. CrossFit gyms use them throughout the day to coach to different classes. If you head to their website you'll find thousands that look something like this:


For time:

1,500-meter row Then, 5 rounds of: 10 bar muscle-ups 7 push jerks


OR


Front squat 5-5-3-3-3-1-1-1-1-1 reps

Run 1 mile


Note: this isn't a blog bashing CrossFit and their programming methods. Quite the opposite. I'm bashing 'coaches' who have tried to implement this within their programming in attempt to be 'sport specific'. Soz.


The Purpose of the WOD


I don't mind CrossFit. At the end of the day it's a sport. And in sport you get injured. Nobody is calling for the ban of amateur rugby league due to its high injury count so why should we do the same for CrossFit? Secondly, it's got 100,000's of people around the world physically active and transforming their lives. YES, there is the odd horror show, but head into any commercial gym around the world and tell me you can't find a PT breaking a client one shit squat at a time.


The WOD has purpose, in CrossFit. When you break them down, and look at the programming, most of the time they have serious structure and have been designed with thought. They aren't just filled with random movements thrown in together to make somebody tired. They're structured in a way to get to a specific outcome, ensuring the individual is improving multiple areas of their performance. There's energy system development days, strength days, active recovery days, and there's calisthenics days. Not only that, but throughout the week/month you'll be able to see there is attention to ensuring individuals complete a range of movements in their programming. Vertical and horizontal push/pull, knee dominant, hip dominant, unilateral variations, jump, land, sprint, brace, rotate, etc. etc.


So the purpose of the WOD? To get better at CrossFit over the long term. NOT to make somebody tired.


The WOD and Sport Performance


Somewhere along the line the WOD has managed to creep into the 'Sport-Specific' (hate that term) social media sphere. Why? I'm not quite sure. But here is my honest, maybe a little bit brutal, thoughts:


1. It's lazy programming

'How can we make someone really tired and feel productive' - certainly what it feels like


2. It's wasted energy

Will it make you a better rugby player, footballer, golfer, etc? No, probably not. Your time and energy could 100% be spent better elsewhere


3. It's not sport specific

Nope. Nope. Nope. I hate the term sport specific, it's completely lost its meaning. But claiming that a WOD is sport specific for rugby? I hate that even more


4. Risk vs. Reward

As fatigue sets in, your technique begins to be challenged. For a CrossFit athlete, this is part of reward > risk. To get better at their sport they need to manage their technique as the WOD progresses. But for the average Joe wanting to improve for a completely different activity? Risk-eh.


'Haven't you just contradicted yourself?'


No, because; the WOD has a place in programming for CrossFit, because you know, they're trying to get better at CrossFit. So it is not wasted energy, because it contributes to their end goal. And that end goal is to be a better at CrossFit, so yes, it's specific. See my point?


I am not saying eliminate WODs for the rest of your life, just be wary of the social media post that recommends you to do:


21-15-9-9-15-21 Burpees, Box Jumps, Jump Squats, and KB Swings.


To be a better at your sport.......


So What Should You Do?


You may feel like a WOD is needed in your programming because you lack opportunities for conditioning work. I get that. But, there's still a better approach. I like to include the use of off-feet finishers following a gym based session. Nothing too long, 5-10 minutes. Usually on a WattBike, Rower, or Ski-Erg, we'll do something along the lines of 30on/30off or150m on/15seconds off.


Why?

  • Off-feet means less load through certain joints

  • Less likelihood of injury as fatigue breaks down technique

  • Easier to programme and progress over time

  • Can monitor specific training variables

And, these little 5 minutes accumulate over time. 3 a week turn into 15 minutes of structured energy system development, which turns into an hour a month. Optimal? No. But better than nothing.


Danny Speirs MSc BSc (Hons)

Danny is a strength and conditioning coach who works with athletes worldwide through The Parfournen Academy and 1-2-1 in the UK. Want to work with him? Learn more here

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