What Programming Would You Recommend For A Novice CrossFitter Wanting to be Able to Do HSPU, MU, Pullups & Pistols? – N&P


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What Programming Would You Recommend For A Novice CrossFitter Wanting to be Able to Do HSPU, MU, Pullups & Pistols?

Technique is critical, but if you are a novice looking to maximize performance then you MUST get strong first.

1. Load up the barbell

You must be strong before you can master those tough gymnastics moves.

The vast majority of your training as a novice should be devoted to progressive, full range of motion barbell work, there’s no way around that. For example, if you’re an aspiring male competitive fitness athletes, you need to be able to back squat at least 400 lbs and deadlift around 500 lbs.

No amount of technique work and WOD “Hacks” are going to make up for a lack of raw strength. Get to work!

2. Be strict before you start kipping

When you do train your gymnastics moves (as you should!), stick with the strict variations. It’s great to kip if you want, but ONLY after you’ve built that strength base.

Let’s say you were to skip strict and weighted pull-up variations in favor for the popular kipping variety. In this instance, there is a very real danger that you will be at an increased risk for injury. Also, you will NEVER reach your potential in that movement because you didn’t build a proper strength base for the lift.

Until you can perform AT LEAST 5 strict reps of these movements, DON’T KIP!

3. Keep your Metcon’s high quality

We say focus on building strength, but of course that doesn’t mean that you should skip your conditioning work. You should be breathing very hard about twice a week. You just have to keep the highest priority training focus in mind.

Keep your Metcon’s fast and relatively short. Stick with foundational movements. Scale down if you need to, that’s perfectly ok. Just maintain a very high-quality of movement, never sacrificing technique and efficiency for the sake of a faster pace or a better score.

That will only undermine your development.

4. Get leaner!

One thing is for sure, if you’re carrying around excess body fat, you’re going to have a rough time during gymnastics movements. Gravity can be a real bitch, don’t give it any extra ammunition!

You don’t have to get smaller, muscle and size are super important. However, if you’re carrying around too much dead-weight non-contractile tissue you’ll never perform at your best. Tighten up, baby!

Happy training!

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17 Responses to “What Programming Would You Recommend For A Novice CrossFitter Wanting to be Able to Do HSPU, MU, Pullups & Pistols? – N&P”

  1. Joe

    Love the daily format, keep up the great work!

    I was hoping you could point me in the right direction. I have been doing CF for about a year now and have progressed on the conditioning side pretty well. But when we add weight to a WOD or have some of the higher skill movements I start falling behind and have to break sets. I feel this is because of my underdeveloped strength.

    I have talked to my coaches at my box and have committed to taking the time to work on my strength. I have listened to some of your strength focused podcast, but I am not sure where to start with a strength program. I know it matters how, what and when you lift to get stronger. I also matter on the rep scheme and rep count.

    Is there a resource that is best for breaking down the strength progression? Everyone seems to have their own program and their own book, so it makes it hard to know where to start.

    I’m looking for a complete workout replacement that I will do 4-6 times a weeks. I will be limiting the amount of WOD’s at the same time because recovery will be important.


    • Joe

      The area that I wanted to focus are: Squat, Press, Deadlift, Oly, Bench, Row and Core

    • Chris

      You need to pick a program that works, then do it EXACTLY as prescribed. I would consider 531, as it’s dead simple and effective for the novice athlete. Use this for your squats, DL’s, presses, etc. For working the WL moves, consult a coach to help incorporate those lifts without blowing your body out. For conditioning, scale DOWN! You can crush the METCONS later. Cheers, Chris

        • Chris

          If you want the result you’re after you’ll spend AT LEAST 6 months dedicated to this effort. A year would be better

          • Joe

            I’ll try to do monthly updates. After a couple months do you this it would be ok to mix in a Wendler/Westside hybrid in? This keeps the 531 format and adds some opposite movement dynamic effort into some of the day. I think it might not be good to start this way and just make sure I have all of the movements locked down first.

        • Jason

          I’m a 531 believer as well. I started CF about 2 years ago and loved it. It made me skinnier but I wanted to fill out my shirt so I chose 531. The options for strength programs are endless, everybody has their recipe for success, but 531 is proven only if you follow the program. If you start tweaking it because you like certain things better then you may still see gains but not like you would if you just focused on the program and do what Wendler says. I did and my strength numbers went up quickly.
          Also, Chris, great thing you got going here. I’m a garage guy and don’t post much on the web but this daily BS thing is a treasure. Thank you for putting in the time to make us guys and ladies, who don’t even know, better every day.

  2. Dan

    Hey Chris,

    Expanding a little on what you have already covered, I have been primarily focused on strength training the last 6 months and have gotten my back squat to 405 and deadlift to 500 (used kind of a modified Wendler program with a 6 week cycle). Those were my year end goals, so I’m pretty pumped I hit them.

    Beginning in January, I plan to focus more on longer metcons to build on endurance and lose some bodyfat (after dropping some weight I will then focus more on the gymnastics stuff).

    My question is: how often should I be squatting and deadlifting and how should I program it? My next primary goal is to drop weight and increase endurance, but I don’t want to sacrifice strength to achieve it.

    • Chris

      You can still do 531 here, I would just back down some more.
      – Don’t do the bonus rep sets, just do the main prescribed sets.
      – Don’t try and hit PR’s. Instead, maintain your strength. Maybe scale down the work sets by 10-20%, whatever feels right. This will allow you to push your Metcon work to PR levels.
      Sounds like you’ve got it down now. Just keep your focus and you’ll kill it.


      • chrisp

        I use an app called Big Lifts. It is a wendler-based program app, but allows you to base your 531 off a percentage of your max lift for each exercise. It programs everything for you.

    • Brian

      Out of curiosity, where were your lifts before you started your 6 months of strength training?

      • Dan


        I took about a year and a half off and let myself get chunky and soft, so keep that in mind. June 15th my back squat was 285 and my deadlift was 365. I will probably hit 415 on back squat and maybe 515 on deadlift by end of the year (The 405 and 500 lifts came in November).
        Before my extended sloth break, my PR’s were 365 on back squat and 475 on deadlift. That was from about 3 years of pure Crossfit with no real lifting bias.

        • Brian

          Thanks, I was curious to see what kind of progression you’ve had. I’m in the process of trying to dramatically increase my strength and am trying to get an idea of what kinds of goals I should have over the next 6 months to a year. Congrats on reaching those milestones!

  3. Josh

    I have started 5/3/1 and love the simplicity of the structure. I want to focus 2015 on improving strength but I also want to taper my weight down. How would you suggest incorporating cardio/metcons? Should I separate days of conditioning and lifting?

    • Chris

      Condition, yeah, just bias towards scaled down WODs and low impact stuff like sled pushing. Strength work is still WAY more important. To slim efficiently, you have to focus on diet.

  4. Paul

    How would you recommend programming for somebody who cannot do a single pull up?

    Deadlift and Back Squat are not a problem however gymnastic movements are. I know a lot of weight has to be shed, should i focus more on the conditioning and less strength?

    Also could you reccomend any nutritional advice for weight loss?


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