Programming: Variance

Programming: Where Does the “WOD” Come From?

Part 2: Variance

By Coach Sam Burns,

Last week, we began discussing the art and science of Programming, and specifically what guides us here at Reebok CrossFit Medfield in OUR programming. We started with the concept of Functional Movement, and today we continue with “Variance”.


It has been said that “we fail at the margins of our experience.” ** Said anecdotally, imagine an individual that practices his Olympic and Power lifts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he goes running for an hour. We might view this imaginary person as “relatively fit”, objectively speaking. But the first time you ask this same individual to perform the following workout…


5 Rounds For Time:

400m Run

20 Hand Release Push-Ups

10 Deadlifts (225/155#)


…The wheels are going to fall off of the proverbial bus. Life outside the gym does not occur in expected set and rep ranges or prescribed combinations of movements. Life doesn’t give two figs what your routine is. “Whether [our] challenges are excelling at sport, picking up a grandchild quickly to avoid danger, foisting a suitcase into the overhead bin, quickly getting up and over a fence because you’re being chased by an angry dog, or sprinting or buddy carrying to get help in an emergency, variance is the optimal strategy.”***

In addition, variance keeps the body guessing, preventing the inevitable plateau effect that can take place when a person trains the same muscle groups, in the same way, in a predictable manner. By varying loading (how heavy), volume (how much) and time/distance (how long/far), we are able to continuously challenge the body’s ability to adapt, which is the goal of ALL fitness programs everywhere – to induce favorable adaptations to stimuli.

Finally, variance is more fun. Anyone who’s ever tried getting up at 4am to go workout in a Globo Gym, only to struggle come up with something new to do (once you’re faced with all of those dumbbells, ellipticals and cable machines) and then resorts to doing the same things you’ve always done knows exactly what I mean. I know this from personal experience – the above example is what I went through every day before I found CrossFit. We vary programming so that you don’t have to, and we do so thoughtfully; with consideration of movements we’ve done recently and plan to do so that you don’t overuse anything (and more importantly, get to practice those things you might avoid because they’re a weakness – we all have them).****

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