Making Sense of the Lingo on the Whiteboard
During your first few weeks…or months at Axistence Athletics, you may encounter what you believe to be a foreign language written on the whiteboard. Don’t worry, this is completely normal. This post is designed to help you familiarize yourself with our terminology and the flow of our classes.
Throughout the workout, the coach may ask for your weights or times so they can write them on the board. We do this so that we know that our members are improving. As you get stronger, faster, leaner and more mobile, you will be able to complete more work in less time and your numbers on the board will improve. You’re only competing with yourself. If you don’t want your score posted, please let the coach know ahead of time, or just say “smiley face”.
Below, we’ve outlined some of our more popular acronyms that you’ll likely encounter on a weekly basis:
The WOD (Workout of the Day) is the same for every class from 6am to 6pm. The instructors may change but the movements will not. We program 4 main WODs per week: Mon-Tues-Thurs-Fri. Saturday follows a slightly different protocol. It could be an obstacle course or a partner workout. The contents of the WODs change with the seasons to get you prepared for your next outdoor adventure.
W/U is an abbreviation for Warm-Up. You may see that we’re doing Warm-up “A” or “B” or there may be a specific warm-up that we’d like you to do.
The first 10 minutes of class is usually dedicated to the warm-up. Please take this time to actually warm yourself up. In fact, we wouldn’t mind if you came in 5-10 minutes early just to make sure you’re thoroughly warm.
You could probably get away with not warming up for a Body Pump or Zumba class but if you forego your warm-up during one of our high intensity workouts, your risk of injury will increase. The warm-up should take each joint through its full range of motion and you should be at least a little sweaty by the end of it.
If you don’t have time to warm-up, you don’t have time to workout.
The Strength portion of our program is usually our main course for the workout. At Axistence Athletics we have a little bit of a strength bias, and for good reason. The stronger you become, the easier that everything will be. The strength portion usually incorporates barbells, kettlebells or dumbbells and could take anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes depending on the desired adaptation.
Every Strength portion will list the sets and repetitions of the exercises.
4 x 10 (4 sets of 10 exercises)
3 x 8 (3 sets of 8 exercises)
5 x 6 (5 sets of 6 exercises)
5 x 2 (5 sets of 2 exercises)
As the repetitions go down, the amount of weight you’re lifting should increase.
**** Axistence Unwritten Policy **** (except now I guess its written :))
Just because the whiteboard says “5 x 2” doesn’t mean that everyone in the class is going to be doing 5 sets of 2 exercises. We need to make sure that your ligaments & tendons are indeed ready for heavier loads. Although your muscles will recover quickly, your connective tissue takes time to catch up. Often when people injure themselves with weights its because they went too heavy, too quickly and with poor form.
In fact, if you are brand new to our system and exercise in general, we’d like you to use the following protocol:
Month 1: We must build a solid foundation first and perfect the movements before you go heavy. You’ll be doing 3-5 sets of 10-12 repetitions to build up your muscle endurance and perfect your movement patterns.
Month 2: You should now have a solid movement base and your muscle endurance should be improving. Its time to up the weight and decrease the reps. You’ll now be doing 3-5 sets of 8-10 repetitions.
Month 3: After 60 days, generally we feel comfortable that most of our members are ready for whatever the whiteboard throws at them. Whether that’s 5 x 5 or even a 6 x 1.
However, not everyone will follow this progression. You’re all adults. Egos fly high in the gym and its very easy to get caught up in the “how much can I lift” moment. Don’t worry, we actually program days specifically dedicated to test this. Use your best judgment when choosing your weights and always put quality above quantity. Your current goal may be 90 days away, but if you hurt yourself it could be a year away. Make good decisions :)
The MetCon (Metabolic conditioning )is a funny term because really, all conditioning is metabolic. However, this is the term CrossFit uses to describe the higher intensity series of exercises usually following the strength portion of the workout.
AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Posible) is a type of MetCon.
20 Minute AMRAP
Your goal will be to complete As Many Rounds As Possible of those exercises in 20 minutes. If you completed 10 rounds plus 5 pull-ups and 2 pushups, your score is 10 + 7.
RFT (Rounds For Time) is another MetCon. However, this time you’ll be given a task.
Complete the exercises as quickly as possible. Often times, there is also a time-cap. You may see something like this on the board:
"5 RFT (or 10 minutes, whichever happens first). If you’ve scaled the workout appropriately you should always be under the time-cap."
# - # - # (21 - 15 - 9)
This is popular rep scheme where you will complete 21 repetitions of each exercise, then 15 of each, and then 9 of each. Although 21-15-9 is very popular, the possibilities are endless. You could see any variation of numbers in any type of order, ascending or descending.
EMOM stands for "every minute on the minute". It's possible to see the EMOM as a strength or a MetCon, depending on what we're trying to achieve. The goal with the EMOM is usually to focus on skill and technique. It may look like this:
12 Minute EMOM
As the timer counts down, you will get ready to perform your first clean. At 0:00, you will perform 2 cleans, then 5 pushups. Then, you will rest until 1:00. At 1:00, you'll perform 2 more cleans and 5 pushups. If it only takes you :20 seconds to perform the movements, then you'll have :40 seconds to rest. If it takes you :57 seconds, then you'll have a :03 second rest period. Don't think of this as completing the movements as fast as possible to get the most rest. Think of it as "I have :60 seconds to perfect every movement". Of course by minute 9 you'll likely be gassed and they probably won't look as pretty as the previous 8 rounds. Fun fact: A "12 Minute EMOM" is really 13 rounds... We start at 0:00 and finish our last round when the timer beeps on the last minute. We call it a "BushCraft Dozen".
Combos are taken from the fitness system of MovNat and are very similar to MetCons. However, they are usually not as intense. The Combos will incorporate bodyweight movements like crawling, balancing, swinging and climbing. The human species has been performing these movements for the majority of the time we’ve been on the planet; unfortunately, we’ve lost touch with many of these aspects due to our jobs and sedentary lifestyles. The MovNat Combos are geared more towards technique & quality of movement (although you should always be focused on quality of movement).
On Combo days you won’t see a score posted on the board and we won’t ask you to keep track of how many rounds or repetitions you’ve completed. Instead, the goal is to “flow” for the time allotted and get your body back to moving like it should move.
If you check the WOD online and see “Fieldwork”, be prepared… Our Fieldwork days are used to simulate the movements and actions of our forefathers... You will move heavy, awkward things for extended periods of time. You might see exercises like getting off the floor with a heavy sandbag, or carrying kettlebells for 100 meters. It could mean climbing ropes or putting a concrete stone on your shoulder. Also, you may want to check out our post on odd object lifting:
AXFOS (Axistence Feats of Strength) comes around every few months and this is where we test and re-test to see if we’re really making improvements. Generally we pick 2 to 3 exercises and perform a 1RM (One Repetition Max) on each.
Disclaimer: not everyone is ready for a 1RM. When you legitimately push yourself to see just how much you can do for 1 rep, it can take several days to recover (This is especially true if you’re moving more than 2x your bodyweight). 1RMs should only be performed when you’re feeling on top of your game. You can just as easily see if you’re improving by doing a 3RM. This would mean finding a weight that you could only do for 3 repetitions, but not a 4th. Although still very challenging, the stress may be a bit less on the body.
Remember, just because the whiteboard says one thing, doesn’t mean its set in stone. Make good decisions :). If you’re unsure as to what kind of decision you should make, please ask one of our coaches and we’ll point you in the right direction.
Our AXFOS days have become very popular, especially to those that are following our program diligently. AXFOS is often a day that people set personal records!
Once you know your 1RM or 3RM for the big lifts: (Deadlifts, Squats, Press, Bench, Clean, Snatch, Jerk) then you will have a better idea of what kind of weight to use during class. Wednesdays are an excellent day to come in and test your strength in this capacity. Just be sure to give yourself ample recovery time.
Where the AXFOS is generally used to measure absolute strength, Benchmarks are geared to measure work capacity. Essentially, the Benchmark will look like a MetCon, but it will be special... Just like the AXFOS, we will test and re-test the Benchmarks to see if your work capacity is improving as well as your strength. We have short, medium and long Benchmarks at different times of the year with different goals in mind. As you get stronger and more mobile, you'll be able to move more weight in less time and your Benchmarks should improve as well. As you Benchmarks improve in the gym there should be a direct correlation of you improving in your adventures. You'll find yourself able to hit that last run down the mountain or maybe climbing to the peak of that 14'er just a little bit quicker and with less knee pain.
Now that we've gone over the Benchmarks, its time to discuss the two little letters that many people will spend a great deal of time chasing: "Rx". Rx means "As prescribed". We have a love/hate relationship with these two little words and here's why. Most CrossFit workouts have numbers after the exercises. These numbers indicate the weight that should be used for men and women respectively. It may look something like this:
This insinuates men will use 95lbs and women will use 65lbs. There is a 10 minute time cap for this workout, but the best in the world can do it in less than 3 minutes. If someone can do this workout in under 3 minutes then that probably means their 1Rep Max on a Thruster is more than double 95lbs.
Everyone wants that little "Rx" beside their name, but the problem is, its just not realistic for everyone. Many CrossFit gyms will prescribe a weight for every single workout and its assumed that men and women will just use the weights on the board. Of course you could scale back a bit and do what you feel comfortable with, but who wants comfort? We want results! Hold on there Tiger, remember when we talked about what happens when you injure yourself? Your goals are 90 days away, but now you've jacked up your shoulder so not only are you not getting stronger, you've actually taken 3 steps back. At Axistence Athletics one of our goals is longevity. We want our members to be strong well into their 90s and you can't lift forever if you're injured. Does that mean we don't want you to push yourself? Hell no, if you're feeling good then be like Salt N' Peppa and PUSH IT! Just know your limits. Also, please don't be offended if one of our coaches suggests that you use less weight. We promise we're not trying to bruise your ego, we're just trying to help you not bruise yourself.
Although we don't like to prescribe too many weights too often, you will see Rx on the board from time to time because there are certain benchmarks that we believe everyone could potentially be capable of. In the words of Carl Paoli, "Rx can be limiting". When you say that men & women should only use "blank" amount of weight, what incentive is there to do more? Why would they ever go any heavier? Rx is nice for CrossFit competitors, but for the everyday lifter, its not 100% necessary. Fun fact: Nature doesn't differentiate between males and females when it comes to Rx. When you summit the 14'er, nature doesn't care whether you're male or female, its still a 14,000 foot mountain regardless of your gender.
The nice thing about the field of Strength and Conditioning is that for over 70 years people have been taking notes. We have access to those notes and if you ever want to know what a human of your gender, age and bodyweight should be lifting, just ask us and we'll be more than happy to let you know.
IP (Injury Proofing/Prevention) is a term that you’ll likely see a few times per week. Although we’ll hit all of your major muscles during the workouts, usually when people injure themselves, its not the larger muscles. During our injury prevention we use the research on exercise science that we have to date to help “pre-hab” our joints to prevent injury. We’re not claiming that doing our IP exercises will make you bulletproof, but it WILL decrease your chances of injury. Although some of the exercises may seem silly, we promise that we wouldn’t put anything on the whiteboard that wouldn’t help you.
Finishers (also called Bonus work) are extra exercises to help you rev your metabolic engine. These are things like Sled Pushes, Air-Dyne or Rower Sprints or maybe even a Burpee burnout. These nasty little critters work their way into our programming and if you’ve still got gas in the tank, by all means, give ‘em a go! These short bouts of high intensity intervals can be crucial especially if your goals include fat loss. When you see “Finisher or Bonus Work” on the board, think “Look Better Naked” and perhaps that’ll change your perception.
That’s just about it for our whiteboard lingo. Try to soak it all in, we know there’s a lot. But as you become more familiar with the terminology, so too will you become the strongest, leanest version of yourself. Now get out there and lift some heavy sh*t!
- Ryan Humphries
"Adventure Fitness Specialist"