Getting Past a CrossFit Plateau

By Coach Manny A.

Let’s get this out of the way: plateaus suck and they are an inevitable part of training. A training plateau can be simply defined as the sudden stunt of progress. Plateaus typically happen after a period of time of training the same way. Your body adapts to the stimulus and if no new stimulus is introduced, progress halts. CrossFit as a methodology does an excellent job of prolonging this inevitability, but at some point even the constantly varied nature gets stale. Doing CrossFit in the group setting will get most people really far into their fitness goals, but there is a ceiling to everything. We have found that working with a coach via program design has brought tremendous results in breaking these halts in progress.

Program design is an option that can be done in the gym, remotely, or both. This is when a client and coach have a 1-on-1 relationship, in which the coach is responsible for listening to the client’s needs and goals to deliver the most specific approach possible. At NECF, we take it a step further by emphasizing work outside of the gym as part of the program design. Working with a coach who is responsible for delivering your customized approach can help break past plateaus by helping you take control of the other 23 hours outside of the gym, provide a more specific and structured approach to your training, and provide you with the accountability and feedback needed to create solutions that aren’t so easy to see physically. Here is how each of these variables help break plateaus:

Most people are really good at showing up and working hard. What they struggle with is usually proper nourishment, sleep, stress, sunlight, mobility, hydration, and other lifestyle related practices. Through collecting data from the client, the coach can design lifestyle goals that increase energy, recovery, mood, etc. These variables can be exactly what is needed to break past a plateau.

A more customized training approach allows the client to work on weaknesses and other variables that could be holding them back. These are usually really specific to the client, which makes it difficult to break past when in a group fitness setting. In my experience many program design clients still choose to do metcons (conditioning) with the class, but will have a more tailored warmup, strength pieces, accessory work, cool-downs, etc. The coach will also have the ability to monitor, track, and progress the load, volume, and frequency of exercises. This is extremely helpful for things like, strength gains and running gains.

Accountability and feedback are variables that are really difficult to see in training. Rather, it’s an observation that is followed up with the relationship you have with the client. In other words, sometimes the plateau is between the clients ears, so a coach only knows this through really understanding the client. These “mental plateaus” can happen because of a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, a fear, or something similar. There are various ways a coach can help build the client’s confidence back. It can be anything from a simple introduction of a different exercise variation, to making sure the client is coming in X amount of days per week. It can also be deeper and more nuanced, like being someone who listens to them, cares about them, and values them. This may be the most powerful reason why it’s important to have a coach who work with you individually.

Overall, plateaus are a part of progress and everyone hits one at some point. But it doesn’t mean it’s the top of your mountain and no hope. Sometimes you just need a change. Usually that change isn’t something as simple changing your training methodology. Sometimes it does mean you have to change your gym or coach. It takes a real professional coach to take the time to see if program design is the right move for you and if they can help you. Note that each coach or gym does program design differently. So if you’re considering a coach for program design, be sure to ask about what it entails. If you need any help, feel free to reach out!

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