EverProven Programming: The Method Behind the Madness

One of the common myths about CrossFit is that the workouts are arbitrary: the coaches just play eeny, meeny, miny, moe down a list of exercises. Of course, we know there’s a method behind the madness. To find out how EverProven WODs are put together, we talked to head coach Matt Michaud. “Even though it seems random, everything is super well thought out,” Matt says. “We get constant compliments on our programming and how we apply this with our coaching.”
When he first began programming at another gym, Matt says he created some workouts that were too easy and some that were insanely hard. With practice, he got much better at judging how difficult a WOD will be.
He learned a lot by visiting other boxes and looking for holes in their programming. In some gyms, the athletes were highly skilled, but lacked strength and endurance. Other gyms had athletes doing lots of metcons and high volume, low weight work. These athletes had endurance, but not much strength or skills. A third category of boxes had very strong athletes with low endurance. “I want our athletes to be strong, highly skilled, and able to run like a machine,” he says, adding that he strives for GPP: general physical preparedness. He focuses on the 10 aspects of fitness that are stenciled in big black letters across the wall in our box: power, speed, balance, accuracy, coordination, agility, strength, flexibility, stamina, and cardiovascular/ respiratory endurance.
Figuring out how to achieve this takes skill and practice, and it doesn’t happen in five minutes. “When I sit down to program, I am at that computer for a long time,” Matt says. “It’s laborious. It’s fulfilling, though,” especially when he sees athletes hit PRs, or transition from pull-ups to muscle-ups.
He designs the WODs for athletes who come 5 days a week, but if you come 3 days a week, you shouldn’t notice any gaps. “It’s not like Monday is Chest Day,” he says. The entire year is broken into three four-month cycles that begin and end with the CrossFit Open. Anyone walking in the door can fit into the current cycle.
A lot of factors go into planning a WOD, but here are a few:

    Matt knows from experience roughly how long the workout will take for the majority of people. The total amount of time may vary from day to day. Matt says that if he made it so that every workout takes exactly an hour, “the athletes would lose somewhere.”Generally, every WOD will either specify the time you have or the reps/ rounds you need to do.

      An AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) is a classic example of a time-priority WOD. A Tabata workout is a specific kind of AMRAP in which you will do 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest, for a total of 8 rounds/ 4 minutes.
      The focus of a task-priority WOD is to get the work done. A workout done “for time” is a task-priority WOD, because the point is to get the work done as fast as you can. An EMOM (every minute on the minute) is another example of a task-priority WOD. The faster you are able to finish the work, the more rest you will get.
    If the WOD involves a barbell or a kettlebell, you will see the Rx weights for men and women on the board, and sometimes scaled or percentage based weights as well. How heavy these weights are depends on the overall goal of the WOD. An endurance, cardio-based WOD will generally require lighter weights than a heavy complex. “If you see high reps you’re going to see lower weight,” Matt says. “Volume is generally inverse to load on the bar.”
    Matt wants the WODs to have enough variety to be fun and challenging, but he also makes sure that we do certain movements every week: squatting, pressing, pulling, running/rowing, and gymnastic movements.
    Matt programs a benchmark metcon at least twice in every cycle. If you look on the board and the WOD has a person’s name, rest assured it’s going to suck. Cindy, Fran, Karen, etc. are notoriously challenging CrossFit WODs meant to help you measure your long-term progress. When asked why he gave women’s names to these workouts, CrossFit founder Greg Glassman reportedly said, “Anything that leaves you flat on your back, looking up at the sky wondering ‘what the hell just happened to me’ appropriately deserves a girl’s name.” There are also hero WODs, which are done in honor of soldiers, firefighters, or police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty and some of our own home grown benchmarks.
    Matt says EverProven is very well outfitted, but he does consider the availability of equipment when planning a WOD. Obviously, the most meticulous WOD in the world isn’t going to work if we don’t have the equipment required to do it in real life. Sometimes larger classes may start the WOD in different places to ensure that everyone has a rowing machine, assault bike, GHD or space on the pull-up bars.

In addition to the regular workout of the day, Matt programs daily workouts for a select group of Athletes that’s focus is the spot side of CrossFit. The EverProven Competitors Program runs in two separate sessions per day. The workouts that the athletes perform here are specifically designed for those looking to go beyond GPP. The programming here is much more specialized and generally requires a larger level of commitment from the athlete to succeed. Matt explains that “Your average CrossFitter would not be able to handle the physical demand and mental toughness that this program requires. We often include individualized programming that is weakness based where there is focus on where the athlete needs greatest improvement. The end result here is for the athletes to translate this higher level of training to high performance during competition.”
Matt also programs for select individual competitive athletes outside of the box and even for other gyms. These other gyms aren’t doing the EverProven workout of the day; he tailors the workouts he writes for these other gyms to their athletes and their boxes capabilities.
“When I program for another box or an individual athlete outside of the box, there is a whole list of things I need to do before I start. Its not as simple as sending over workouts  and saying ‘there your good to go’. I need to know what the box’s community looks like or what the individual is like both personally and physically.”  This requires constant contact and evaluation with these other gyms/individuals to make sure that everything is operating smoothly and so that the best results are obtained.
While Matt has programming down to a science, he is always willing to make adjustments as he goes along. “I want to see peoplemake the best progress, and if they’re not moving forward in an appropriate way, I need to figure out where the holes are,” he says. He also likes to demo new equipment and products to see if it would be worth buying for the gym.
So the next time you walk into the box and see burpees in the WOD again, just remember that planning a cohesive schedule is nowhere near as easy as it looks. And those burpees are good for you… Right, Stone?