622. CrossFit Coaching and Progressions

Jul 18, 2023


CrossFit Coaching and Progressions

Welcome to our comprehensive guide to CrossFit coaching and progressions! In this article, we will explore various aspects of coaching in the CrossFit community, including cues, progressions, and effective communication techniques. Whether you're a seasoned CrossFit coach or just starting out, this guide will provide valuable insights to enhance your coaching skills.

Transitioning to Level 2 with Ask Us Anything (AUA)

As we transition from level one to level two in our CrossFit training, we're excited to engage in an "Ask Us Anything" (AUA) session. This session allows participants to ask questions and seek clarification on various topics related to CrossFit. We've received numerous questions, and we're eager to address them and provide valuable information to our audience.

Exploring Cues and Progressions in CrossFit Coaching

Progressions for the Nine Foundational Movements

One common query is whether there are official progressions for all nine foundational movements in CrossFit. The answer is that not all nine movements have specific progressions. However, there are progressions for certain movements. Here's an overview:

  • Progressions within the nine foundational movements: Four out of the nine movements have progressions. These include push press, push jerk, sumo deadlift high pull, and medicine ball clean. The remaining movements are taught in a progressive manner, gradually increasing the difficulty level.
  • Progressions based on movement difficulty: Many movements in CrossFit naturally progress in difficulty from left to right. For example, the squat progresses to a front squat and then to an overhead squat. This gradual progression challenges athletes to improve their skills over time.
  • Progressions within specific movements: Some movements, like the glute-hamstring developer (GHD) exercises, have progressions that focus on increasing difficulty. This includes movements such as back extension, hip extension, and various combinations of these exercises. These progressions help athletes develop the necessary strength and skills before advancing to more challenging variations.

It's essential to understand that while not all movements have official progressions, it is possible to create progressions for any movement. It's encouraged to teach movements in a logical and progressive manner, breaking them down into manageable steps to facilitate effective learning and skill development.

Cueing Techniques for Squatting and Foot Positioning

One common issue observed during squats is excessive outward foot turning. To address this problem, it's crucial to employ appropriate cues and drills. Here are some techniques to consider:

  • Stopping the excessive outward foot turning: The simplest cue is to instruct athletes to stop turning their feet outward during squats. Reinforce the correct positioning and discourage the duck-like foot posture.
  • Foot placement cues: Emphasize proper foot positioning, such as distributing weight evenly across the feet, gripping the ground with the big toe, pinky toe, and heels. Encouraging athletes to engage the entire foot helps stabilize the squat and prevents excessive foot rotation.
  • Widening the stance: Another effective cue is to widen the squat stance. By adopting a slightly wider and more neutral foot position, athletes can reduce excessive foot rotation and maintain better form.

Remember, each athlete may respond differently to various cues and drills. It's important to experiment with different approaches to find the ones that work best for your athletes.

Incorporating Heavy Days in Training

One question often asked is whether it's beneficial to include multiple heavy training days in the same week. The answer depends on various factors, including the athlete's training history, goals, and overall fitness level. Here are some considerations:

  • Weightlifters and heavy training: Weightlifters frequently perform heavy squats multiple times in a week. Their training programs are designed to handle the demands of heavy lifting.
  • Context matters: For general CrossFit athletes, it's important to consider the context and the athlete's ability to recover. While it's possible to have two heavy squat days in the same week, it's crucial to assess the athlete's readiness and ensure appropriate recovery between sessions.
  • Modulating volume and function: One way to manage heavy training is by modulating volume and function. For example, you can alternate between heavy back squats and heavy overhead squats or introduce heavy doubles and triples on one day and higher-volume work on another.
  • Scaling for deconditioned athletes: If you have deconditioned athletes who struggle with recovery, scaling the volume or intensity of heavy training days may be necessary. It's crucial to assess each athlete's individual capacity and adjust accordingly.

Ultimately, it's important to strike a balance between pushing athletes' limits and ensuring adequate recovery to prevent overtraining and injury.

Developing Effective Coaching Skills

Enhancing Tactile and Verbal Cueing

To improve coaching skills, especially in tactile and verbal cueing, coaches can employ various strategies. Here are some tips to develop these essential skills:

  • Identifying personal preferences: Coaches should determine their preferred cueing style, whether visual, verbal, or tactile. Understanding their natural inclination allows them to develop a strong foundation in one area while actively working on improving others.
  • Focusing on areas of improvement: Coaches can challenge themselves by dedicating specific sessions to a particular cueing style. For example, a coach who primarily uses verbal cues can focus on incorporating more visual cues during a training session. This deliberate practice helps expand their coaching repertoire.
  • Open communication with athletes: It's beneficial to communicate with athletes about the coaching techniques being implemented. Letting them know that you're experimenting with different cues and approaches creates transparency and encourages open feedback from the athletes themselves.
  • Continual learning: Coaches should constantly seek knowledge and attend workshops, courses, and seminars to expand their coaching skills. This ongoing education helps coaches stay updated on the latest coaching techniques and progressions, enabling them to provide high-quality coaching to their athletes.

Remember, coaching is a dynamic process that requires continual refinement and adaptation. By actively working on improving cueing skills and staying abreast of industry advancements, coaches can enhance their effectiveness and positively impact their athletes' progress.

The Role of CrossFit Coaches: Challenges and Opportunities

CrossFit has gained immense popularity as a fitness program and community, attracting individuals from all walks of life. Central to the success of CrossFit are its coaches, who play a crucial role in guiding and supporting athletes on their fitness journey. In this article, we will delve into a recent conversation between two experienced CrossFit coaches, exploring various aspects related to coaching, career opportunities, and challenges faced in the industry.

The Importance of Transparency and Professionalism

During the conversation, the coaches touched upon the significance of transparency and professionalism in the coaching profession. It is essential to be transparent with members about changes in pricing and other aspects of the CrossFit experience. Coaches should act as professionals and set an example for their members by presenting themselves in a manner that reflects their commitment and dedication to their craft.

Making a Living as a CrossFit Coach

The conversation also touched upon the topic of making a living as a CrossFit coach. While not enough coaches are currently able to sustain themselves solely through coaching, the coaches expressed their commitment to changing this reality. They emphasized the importance of supplementing coaching income through various means, such as one-on-one coaching, nutrition coaching, and additional programs within the gym. By diversifying their sources of income, coaches can increase their earning potential and create a more sustainable career path.

Balancing Coaching Opportunities and Limitations

One question raised during the conversation was whether coaches can work at multiple CrossFit boxes or engage in one-on-one nutrition coaching. The answer to this question varied depending on the scenario and the agreement between the coach and the box owner. Some coaches can explore these opportunities, while others may face limitations due to concerns about member poaching or conflicting interests between boxes. It is crucial for coaches and box owners to have open and honest discussions about these possibilities and find a mutually beneficial arrangement.

The Level 1 Certification and Its Value

The conversation also delved into the significance of the Level 1 certification, which serves as a foundational qualification for CrossFit coaches. Attending the in-person or online Level 1 course offers a comprehensive learning experience. The interactive nature of the course allows participants to ask questions, receive clarification, and engage in discussions that deepen their understanding of the CrossFit methodology. Taking the Level 1 course can enhance not only coaching skills but also the CrossFit journey of individuals who do not plan to become coaches.

Incorporating Level 1 Concepts into Coaching

The coaches discussed effective ways to incorporate Level 1 concepts into coaching without overwhelming members. They highlighted the importance of leading by example and embodying the principles taught in the Level 1 course. By consistently applying small doses of knowledge in their coaching, coaches can gradually introduce members to the fundamental principles of CrossFit.

Common Errors and Challenges for New Coaches

The conversation touched upon common errors made by new coaches. One of the most prevalent mistakes identified was the failure to plan adequately. New coaches sometimes overlook the importance of lesson plans, arriving at classes unprepared and lacking structure. This lack of preparation can undermine the effectiveness of their coaching and hinder the progress of their athletes. Planning workouts, understanding athlete needs, and having a clear teaching strategy are all vital aspects of successful coaching.

Understanding the World-Class Fitness Pyramid and CrossFit Coaching

CrossFit training and coaching have gained significant popularity in the fitness industry. With its unique approach to fitness and holistic view of health, CrossFit has revolutionized the way people train and achieve their fitness goals. One of the foundational concepts in CrossFit is the World-Class Fitness Pyramid, which provides a framework for understanding the different components of fitness and their hierarchy.

The World-Class Fitness Pyramid: An Overview

The World-Class Fitness Pyramid is a visual representation of the key elements that contribute to achieving optimal fitness. It consists of four models: sickness, wellness, fitness, and the 10 General Physical Skills. Each model builds upon the previous one, ultimately leading to improved health and fitness.

Understanding the Pyramid's Order

The pyramid is not a rigid sequence of steps to follow but rather a conceptual framework. The models within the pyramid build upon each other, emphasizing the importance of addressing foundational elements before progressing to higher levels of fitness.

The Role of Constant Refinement

The World-Class Fitness Pyramid is continuously refined and tweaked by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman and other notable figures in the CrossFit community. While there is room for improvement, the pyramid's essence should not be altered drastically. The foundational principles of the pyramid should be respected and maintained.

Coaching and the World-Class Fitness Pyramid

Coaches play a crucial role in understanding and teaching the World-Class Fitness Pyramid. They guide athletes through the different models of the pyramid, providing guidance on nutrition, training methodologies, and skills development. Coaches create an environment that fosters growth and development while ensuring athletes' safety and well-being.


Coaching in CrossFit is a multifaceted endeavor that requires skill, knowledge, and adaptability. By employing effective cueing techniques, implementing appropriate progressions, and continuously developing coaching skills, coaches can provide exceptional guidance to their athletes. Embracing transparency, professionalism, and continuous learning contributes to a successful coaching career in the CrossFit community. Through dedication and a commitment to excellence, CrossFit coaches can make a lasting impact on the lives of their athletes and the broader fitness community.


Jason Ackerman, CF-L4, and Jason Fernandez, CF-L3, are Affiliate Owners and CrossFit Seminar Staff Members dedicated to the pursuit of helping Affiliate Owners and Coaches alike become the best in the world at what they do.


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