Get Strong and Sexy: CrossFit® Strength Program

Written By Joe Camoratto  |  Training 

Getting strong and building lean muscle is a common goal among CrossFitters. Balancing strength training with a general training program can be challenging. Some athletes prefer to focus solely on strength, while others incorporate heavy weightlifting into their regular CrossFit® workouts.

In this guide, we will show you how to effectively add muscle and improve your fitness while following a CrossFit® strength program that suits your needs. We will also provide you with six workouts to help you get started.

At the very end of this article, we'll let you know what the next steps are to get super strong in CrossFit®.

Should CrossFitters Train for Strength?

Absolutely! Strength is a crucial component of training and forms the foundation of CrossFit.® Developing strength can enhance your performance in CrossFit®, whether you're a recreational participant or a competitive athlete taking part in events like the Open and CrossFit® Games. Due to so many of the events being built around not only the Olympic lifts (the snatch and clean and jerk), but a myriad of other barbell lifts, being strong in that sense is paramount.

Just like other aspects of fitness, building strength takes time, and should be a lifelong endeavor. The sooner you start, the better.

Fortunately, strength training builds on itself and every strength training session you complete is a long-term investment in your overall fitness. We like to call this investing in your physiologic 401K.

Get Strong and Sexy CrossFit Strength Program

Benefits of CrossFit® Strength Training

Here are some benefits you can expect from following a CrossFit® strength program:

  1. Improved Muscular Strength and Endurance:
    Compound exercises like back squats, front squats, overhead presses, and deadlifts are, in large part, improved due to skill acquisition, meaning the more you do them, the better you’ll get at the technique and managing heavier weights.

    As a byproduct, these compound movements build functional muscles that improve CrossFit® performance and body composition. They also strengthen joints and tendons, reducing the risk of injury.
  2. Improved Relative Conditioning:
    Increased strength enables you to handle heavier weights, which, in turn, improves your cardiovascular performance in CrossFit®. When your absolute strength increases, lighter weights become easier to manage.

    This improvement translates into better performance in moderately weighted CrossFit® movements such as thrusters, handstand push-ups, kettlebell swings, and weighted stepovers.

Exercises to Include in Your CrossFit® Strength Program

Your CrossFit® strength program should focus on compound exercises such as:

These movements provide more comprehensive benefits compared to isolation or machine exercises, which are not commonly used in CrossFit®.

Determining Strength Levels in CrossFit®

The answer to how strong a CrossFitter should be depends on individual goals. However, there are general arbitrary milestones that both CrossFit® athletes and strength athletes often aim for, such as:

  • Bench press: bodyweight
  • Back squat: 2x bodyweight
  • Deadlift: 2x or 2.5x bodyweight
  • Power clean: 1.5x bodyweight
  • Snatch: bodyweight

However, it's important to note that these are just arbitrary goals, and many high-level CrossFit® athletes surpass these numbers.

CrossFit® workouts involve multiple repetitions at heavy weights while maintaining high levels of intensity and conditioning.

CrossFit® Strength Training for Beginners

Novice athletes can make significant strength gains by following standard CrossFit®  programming.

Many CrossFit® gyms incorporate daily strength training into their one-hour classes, typically allocating 20 minutes to strength training and 30 minutes to the workout of the day (WOD).

Regardless of your experience, here are three common strength templates you can adopt:

  1. Strict Strength Training:
    Train strength 4 to 5 days per week.
  2. CrossFit® with Strength Bias:
    Incorporate 4 to 5 workouts per week, with at least 3 dedicated strength sessions before the WOD.
  3. CrossFit® and Strength Training Combined:
    Engage in 5 to 6 workouts per week, with at least one day of double sessions involving standalone strength training.

Implementing a Linear Progression in CrossFit® Strength Training

To get stronger, implementing a linear progression can be of benefit. This approach focuses on incrementally increasing intensity (weight on the bar or subjective ratings) while also decreasing volume (sets and reps) in each exercise, rather than pushing for maximum weights in every set. The minimum recommended dose of strength training per week is 2 or more days.

Remember to maintain balance in your CrossFit® strength program. If you're still participating in three or four WODs per week alongside your strength training, it's important to account for that additional workload.

Recovery in a CrossFit® Strength Program

Recovery should be a focal point in any CrossFit® strength program to achieve long-term gains. Both strength training and CrossFit® workouts impose stress on your muscles and nervous system.

  • Eat sufficient protein:
    Aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of lean bodyweight per day to support muscle strength and hypertrophy gains.
  • Consume enough carbohydrates:
    Carbohydrates are crucial for recovery and fueling your workouts. Post-workout carb intake within an hour of exercise can be beneficial.
  • Prioritize sleep:
    Sufficient sleep is essential for muscle recovery. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to maximize energy and performance during workouts.
  • Stay hydrated:
    Your body has a powerful mechanism called thirst that when listened to can account for as much water as you need. Don’t get caught up in carrying a gallon of water everywhere you go like social media may tell you to.

Creating Your CrossFit® Strength Program

If you're considering developing your own CrossFit® strength program, here are some guidelines to consider:

  1. Set your goals:
    Following two dedicated programs simultaneously can be challenging, even for novice athletes who experience rapid gains in strength and fitness.

    Decide whether you want to take a few months away from training to focus solely on strength or integrate strength training into your regular programming.
  2. Choose the right program:
    Some athletes prefer to temporarily step away from CrossFit® and concentrate solely on strength training. Others opt to combine the two, progressing at a slower pace simultaneously.

    Determine which approach aligns best with your goals. Just remember that you won’t stay in the same Crossfit® shape if you go all in on a strength program and step away from Crossfit®, and vice versa.
  3. Ease into training:
    Allow yourself to adapt to the additional stress by gradually increasing weights and intensity during the first 2 to 4 weeks..
  4. Find the right balance in WODs:
    If you're combining CrossFit® strength WODs or using a biased strength program, avoid conditioning workouts that exceed 30 minutes.

    Most of your WODs should fall within the 10 to 20 minute range, and even less if you're lifting heavy.
  5. Stick to the program:
    Patience is key when following a linear progression. Avoid missing the forest for the trees and getting caught up in the little day to day things when attempting to improve the big picture (long-term success) Let the process play out.

CrossFit® Strength Program Template

Here are three sample templates for your CrossFit® strength program.These templates serve as examples, and if they don't align with your goals or schedule, consider consulting a coach at your local CrossFit® gym or exploring online CrossFit® training options tailored to your needs.

Strict Strength Training Sample Week:
  • Monday: Back Squat, leg accessory work
  • Tuesday: Overhead press day, shoulder/biceps accessory work
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Deadlift/Oly lift day, back and hamstring accessory work
  • Friday: Bench press day, triceps/chest accessory work
  • Saturday: Off or light cardio
  • Sunday: Off
CrossFit® with Strength Bias Sample Week:
  • Monday: Back squat, WOD
  • Tuesday: Overhead press, quick WOD (<10 min)
  • Wednesday: WOD
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Deadlift/Oly day (alternate weeks), WOD
  • Saturday: Bench press, upper body accessory work (Optional: WOD)
  • Sunday: Off
CrossFit® and Strength Training Sample Week:
  • Monday: Double session: AM standalone back squat/leg session, PM CrossFit® WOD
  • Tuesday: Light WOD
  • Wednesday: Double session: AM standalone bench/overhead press, PM CrossFit® WOD
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Double session: AM standalone Oly/deadlift session, PM CrossFit® WOD
  • Saturday: CrossFit® WOD
  • Sunday: Off
There are numerous combinations for CrossFit® strength training programs, such as:

Wendler 5/3/1

  • 3 sets of 3 repetitions
  • 3 sets of 5 repetitions
  • 5 sets of 3 repetitions
  • 3 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions (for hypertrophy and strength)

Supersets

  • AB (main lift followed by an accessory lift)
  • Tempo lifts (e.g., 3 to 5 reps every 30 or 45 seconds)
  • Negatives or eccentric training (slow lowering between each rep)

The key is to adhere to a linear progression and gradually increase weight over time.

What's the best CrossFit® strength program to join?

For individuals seeking to improve their strength while continuing their CrossFit® training, WPx Strength offers a highly recommended program. Our 3-Day Strength Program provides three weekly sessions that can be supplemented with short conditioning workouts. This allows for a comprehensive training schedule that includes both strength and CrossFit® sessions, depending on your availability.


To Summarize

When it comes to building strength, consistency and patience are key. Adopting a linear progression approach allows for incremental increases in intensity while prioritizing recovery to achieve long-term gains.

Implementing compound exercises such as back squats, deadlifts, and cleans into your strength program will provide comprehensive benefits that contribute to improved muscular strength, endurance, and relative conditioning.

By investing in your strength training, you can continue to improve your performance and achieve your fitness goals in the world of CrossFit®.

So, seize the opportunity to add muscle, improve your athletic prowess, and embark on a rewarding journey towards a stronger and fitter you.

Let the process play out, stay consistent, and celebrate every milestone as you forge ahead in your CrossFit® strength training journey.

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