Strategy, Equipment & Technique: How to Optimise Every WOD

Update your tactics, choose equipment that is well suited to each specific WOD and become a better athlete! Advice and tips from legend Josh Bridges and 6 x CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning.

One of the great parts of CrossFit® is the variety and unexpected nature of every WOD that we take part in. Individuals of all levels and abilities, from total beginners to seasoned professionals constantly face new challenges and opportunities to test their fitness and progress as an athlete.

With experience comes the ability to judge how to handle WODs more effectively and to strategise the best ways to complete them effectively. This involves making sure that both the tactics we employ, and the equipment we use, are perfectly suited to the workouts that we face. For every detail, from the way you breathe, right through to choosing the right thickness of Knee Sleeve, will have a strong effect on your overall performance.

rich froning crossfit games winner snatch lift
Train like a champ!

The following factors can significantly improve your athletic ability and potential for the future:

CONTROL YOUR PACE

Some WODs are designed to be hit head on at 100% of your maximum pace. No rest, no pauses, no pacing. Simply a sprint to the finish. These are short and highly intense, and the way to complete them is obvious. Many WODs are longer and if an athlete adopts the same tactics, they will simply burn out in the first few minutes, then progress at an incredibly slow pace through the rest of the exercises whilst they watch the other athletes overtake them. This is a classic rookie mistake.

Take the time beforehand to think about your speed and pace yourself. What effect will one part of the WOD have on another?

You know how fast you can do those Wall Balls with fresh legs, but what about if they follow an 800m row, or 10 cal on the air bike? Be smart and try to adjust your pacing to fit the requirements of the WOD. But remember, you can always move a little bit faster than you think.

CONCENTRATE ON YOUR BREATHING

This is often overlooked, yet it is vitally important for success! Controlling the pace of your breathing will allow you to remain calm and establish a steady rhythm throughout any workout.

KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

We all have both of these, and it takes a lot of dedication to turn your weaknesses into strengths, but you can do it. CrossFit® tests all aspects of fitness, and is an excellent way of making your weaknesses obvious (even if you didn’t realise that they were there).

If you know that you won’t do as well in a WOD because it contains an exercise that you aren’t good at, don’t ever skip it! Be humble and face any weaknesses you have head on. Work on them, train hard and turn your weaknesses into strengths.

rich froning track running wod
Work until your weaknesses turn into strengths

CHOOSING EQUIPMENT TO IMPROVE PERFORMANCE AND LONG TERM HEALTH

The same is true of the equipment that you use. The right kit, used in the appropriate way, can seriously improve your WOD times, aid and support your movements and give you feedback on how your body is performing. It can also help to improve your health in the long run, avoid injury and enable your full potential.

Logically, it makes the most sense to give yourself the highest possible chance of success by securing all possible advantages in your favour. This is especially true in competitions, where the tiniest of details can result in the differences between podium places and prizes.

RICH FRONING’S ADVICE ON WHEN TO USE THE 3MM

The name “Rich Froning” is synonymous with success at the highest elite level in CrossFit®. He is often understood as an athlete that simply shows up and wins, and the amount of planning, preparation, careful technical programming and sheer hard work that he puts in are often overlooked for the sake of a good story.

Rich has a B.A degree in EXPW (Exercise Science, Physical Education and Wellness) from Tenessee Tech. There he developed the academic, technical and scientific understanding behind his performance and training. Quality is always the result of intelligent effort, and with Rich, that also comes down to every detail.

He started out mainly using the 3mm Knee Sleeves because of their versatility for a wide range of different WODs and the feedback to his movements that the material gives to his body. Anything involving running, light Squats, Box Jumps etc, but tends to switch to the 7mm for any heavy lifting.

He trains in Cookeville Tennessee, where it is often hot, so the 3mm also for more breathability whilst also keeping his joints warm throughout the full training session.

WHAT TYPES OF WORKOUTS ARE THE 3MM BEST FOR?

The 3 mm Knee Sleeves are perfect for workouts involving running combined with longer sets of lighter exercises. Hero WOD “Murph” is an excellent example of this with the 1 mile run at the beginning and end, and the 300 Air Squats.

josh bridges air squat wod
WOD time!

Also any endurance work or WODs with long sets of similar light exercises grouped together will be significantly helped by the 3mm Knee Sleeves. Remember that feeling the last time you had to perform Bar Facing Burpees, Wall Balls or Box Jumps one after the other? I’m sure lactic acid comes to mind. Support on these movements can help to improve your times and streamline your movement patterns.

Of the 3 different thicknesses, the 3mm provides the lightest support, and they are an excellent way to keep your joints warm throughout the workout, allowing them and your body to perform as effectively as possible. As Froning states, every small detail in your favour adds up towards the bigger victory. Give yourself every advantage you can.

Example WOD where 3mm Knee Sleeves are the right choice:

For time:

  • 800m Run
  • 50 Wall Balls
  • 50 Box Jumps
  • 50 Burpees
  • 400m run
  • 50 Burpees
  • 50 Box Jumps
  • 50 Wall Balls
  • 800m Run

5 MM: JOSH BRIDGES’ CHOICE

The former Navy Seal is renowned for his incredibly tough mental attitude, his positive outlook and the way that he never forgets the fun, enjoyment and sense of community that lies at the heart of CrossFit®. Josh is exceptionally hard working, even by CrossFit® standards and very well-rounded as an athlete.

His Knee Sleeve of choice is the 5mm because of the way it is exceptionally versatile, as well as being well suited for the additional support it offers for strength work within WODs.

josh bridges crossfit athlete atlas stones wod
Be strong like Josh!

WHAT TYPES OF WORKOUTS ARE 5MM BEST FOR?

Sprint workouts, barbell work, short to mid length WODs with a wide range of exercises, thrusters, lighter bar complexes or general barbell work are all helped by 5mm Knee Sleeves.

The 5mm are a great “default choice” if you are unsure about which ones to use. Keep them in your bag so they are on hand if something unexpected comes along (which happens all the time in CrossFit ®).

Example WOD where 5mm Knee Sleeves are the right choice:

10 minute amrap:

  • 10 Front Squats (45 / 65 kg)
  • 15 Thrusters (25 / 35 kg)
  • 20 Double Unders

7 MM: BIG LIFTS AND STRENGTH WORK

These are perfect for big lifts and heavy WODs, offering the most significant support from the entire range.

It is worth noting that these do not restrict movement, despite the increased support and thickness that they provide. In reality, they offer feedback about the movement of your joints to the rest of your body and allow you to adjust your movements accordingly. This feedback loop can be exceptionally useful when you are operating at the outer reaches of your abilities (within 85 – 100% of your 1rm).

Rich Froning snatch lift
Enable your full potential

The 7mm Sleeves are also great to use when increasing the intensity of your training. Say you are increasing the frequency of training days from 3 to 5 days every week. Protect your joints and movements through this transition, so that they get used to the increased levels of force and stress without becoming injured. Instead your body will adapt accordingly, by growing stronger and fitter.

This is a helpful preventative tip to help promote longevity and health, and looks much further than simply improving your WOD times.

WHAT TYPES OF WORKOUTS ARE 7MM BEST FOR?

Strength EMOMs, barbell complexes or heavy Olympic lifting ladders (think the Squat Clean ladder from the 2016 CrossFit Games® or the Snatch ladder event from the Regionals). The 7mm are also perfect for using when you program separate strength cycles into your training. Progressive loading on your Front and Back Squats, Cleans, Snatches etc can easily be augmented to by the 7mm Knee Sleeves.

Also, if you are in the zone and it is time to go absolutely all out on your new Clean and Jerk PR or any other lift, then get your 7mm Sleeves on and smash out a new personal record!

Example WODs where 7mm Knee Sleeves are the right choice:

Snatch EMOM:

  • Start at 50% of your 1rm.
  • One lift every minute. If you miss the lift, the workout ends.
  • Increase by 5 kg for each round.

The 3, 5 and 7 mm Knee Sleeves all support lifts and movement patterns, augment your natural mobility and keep your joints warm during (and after) WODs. Knowing which ones to use, at which times, can really help to improve your short term improvements in lifts and workouts as well as your long term health and injury prevention.

Choose your Knee Sleeves now (link to Rehband)


rich froning crossfit games winner snatch lift © Rehband

rich froning track running wod © Rehband

josh bridges air squat wod © Rehband

josh bridges crossfit athlete atlas stones wod © Rehband

Rich Froning snatch lift © Rehband

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About The Author

Editor-In-Chief at BOXROX. I come from a background of rugby and weightlifting. Growing up in the English Lake District, I spent a great deal of time swimming in its stunning lakes and rivers. In 2015 my brothers and I became the first people to swim the 145km length of the River Eden, from source to mouth, in 9 days. We also swam the Corryvreckan whirlpool, the third largest in the world, and Crossfit is a huge part of my training for these events.

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