07 Nov 2016 – A CrossFit Road Map For The Advanced Athlete

Photo: Milo Thomas Photography

We recently passed the 2 year birthday of CrossFit 1864, and it got us reminiscing about our earliest CrossFitters – those of you who have been part of the Crazy Ones since the beginning!

It also got me thinking about my CrossFit beginnings way back in 2008, and how I have grown and progressed in that time. I re-read two of our past blogs, A CrossFit Road Map For The Beginner Athlete, and A CrossFit Road Map For The Intermediate Athlete, and I saw how closely my journey was to these road maps.

I also realised we had not yet produced a CrossFit Road Map For The Advanced Athlete! So using a mixture of personal experience as an athlete, and that of a coach, here it is...

A CrossFit Road Map for the Advanced Athlete

1.) Your PBs will be few and far between, but the hard-earned gainz are worth it

Your PBs will go from what seems like weekly gains (The Beginner Phase) and improvements every few weeks (The Intermediate Phase) to PB droughts that seem to take forever to get past. This is a natural part of the training process – remember the email about the Chinese bamboo tree?!

This is where it becomes important to trust in the process and the training and avoid the two most common pitfalls (increasing volume and special programs discussed below).

For example, I PB'd my snatch at 90kg in early 2015. I hit that same weight again just one single time through the whole of that next year.

Appearing to not make any noticeable improvements was tough to handle, but I trusted the process. Just over a year later, the stars aligned and I hit a 10kg PB at 100kg. Now it may have taken a year to PB that movement, but adding 10kg to my snatch in one year is pretty damn good progress.

The more advanced you become the more time you need to make progress. You also need to focus more on factors away from the gym…

2.) Nutrition, sleep and stress levels become ever more important.

There is no way around it... following a training program can only take you so far. Nutrition is at the base of any training program. As a beginner you can get away with almost anything. You can come into the gym hungover and on 4 hours of sleep and still smash out a PB. Those days are long gone, I'm afraid!

If you want to keep making progress you have to look after your nutrition and we have several articles you can use as resources:

Nutrition - The Basics
Our Top 3 Nutrition Tips
Personalised Nutrition Programming

PS These are great resources for our Beginner and Intermediate athletes too!

As well as nutrition there are also sleep and stress / lifestyle factors than can affect your training progress. All these factors go hand-in-hand…. Check out this helpful infographic!

3.) You will think you need to do more volume

If nutrition, sleep and stress are not being looked after, and with your PBs coming less and less frequently, you will think the way to continue to progress is to keep adding more volume. From squatting 3 times a week to adding in extra met-cons.

Unless you are a 'professional' CrossFitter that gets 10+ hours of sleep per night (with added in naps!), you have a special nutrition plan that you adhere to religiously and you either have no job or a very low stress one, then multiple sessions a day is not going to help you progress. In fact, it can do quite the opposite and lead to a lack of progress and stagnation in your training as your recovery gives way to over-training. CrossFit programming, and your success, thrives upon intensity, not volume.

You need to be careful not to mistake volume for intensity. Adding volume will result in training for 2-3hrs a day at 60% of your best effort (intensity), when in fact 60 minutes at 90% intensity would have been more valuable.

Similarly, paying little attention to recovery is costly. It’s a fool’s errand to cram multiple workouts on top of each other in hopes of finding a shortcut to fitness. Some strong-willed people just don’t know when enough is enough
— James Hobart, CrossFit Games Athlete

For adaptation to training, improvement happens once the body nears full recovery and homeostasis of its systems is restored. This process of recovery can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours depending on the nature of the training and how hard you have pushed.

The problem with a lot of Advanced CrossFitters is that they increase training volume and don’t take sufficient rest to restore homeostasis, thus they then wonder why they don’t improve, they feel like they have stagnated and often end up with niggles and injuries.

4.) You will need to work on your weaknesses

We all have areas we excel in and areas we are not so hot at. When we are a beginner / intermediate athlete, everything we do feels like a challenge, but we get regular feedback through visible / regular improvements and so we find motivation and encouragement.

The more advanced you are the more you need to tackle specific weaknesses with a systematic approach, such as accessory work or additional skills drills (our P3 Programming!).

5.) You will have knowledge to impart on the newbies

Chances are that after one year you will have picked up a few nuggets of information! These little tips and tricks are what the less experienced athletes will crave, and you can help others the way you have been helped. Just be careful not to try and coach others! Passing on helpful advice is always welcome, but let the coaches coach.

6.) You will be the face of the gym

New people joining the gym will see you doing pull-ups, toes to bar, muscle-ups, back squatting ALL THE PLATES, and they will be in awe. Remember what it was like when you first walked into a CrossFit gym and saw others doing those things? Hopefully it gave you drive and aspirations.

These people will look up to you, so don't be the douche bag advanced athlete who thinks they are too good to talk to newbies. We were all in their shoes once.

7.) You will want to try new sports.

The faster and stronger you become the more the world of fitness will appeal to you. This is one of the foundational principles of CrossFit, 'learn and play new sports'.

CrossFit is a general strength and conditioning (S&C) program designed to make you well-rounded. It makes you faster, stronger, more flexible, agile and generally fitter so you can try your hand at new things.

Remember before you started CrossFit and all you did was run. Then you stumbled upon CrossFit, fell in love and forgot all about your regular Wednesday evening jog. Months later you joined in the local 5km Charity event, and incredibly you ran your fastest 5km time ever?! Well that was CrossFit, the general physical preparedness program (GPP).


Sport is the very pinnacle of the Pyramid of Fitness, your success in your sport, whether it's running marathons, playing football, tackling Spartan races, or learning martial arts, relies on your abilities in the other levels of weightlifting, gymnastics, conditioning and nutrition.

Improve in these other levels and you will improve in your sport, and CrossFit is the perfect tool to work on all the other levels of the Pyramid of Fitness.

8.) You will forget how much effect CrossFit has had on your life away from the box

Can you remember back to a time before you began CrossFit?

Can you remember what you looked like and how you felt?

Can you remember coming to CrossFit wanting to improve your life away from the gym?

Chances are that after you began CrossFit you started to notice changes. From cognitive changes such as more energy, improved mood and better focus, and aesthetic changes like losing weight, seeing muscle definition and having your clothes fit better, to making new friends and trying new things.

CrossFit provides us with a gateway to live a better life. Remembering why we started CrossFit in the beginning and the positive impacts it has on us away from the WOD times, the leaderboards, and the kilos we can back squat, will ensure we stay grounded and carry on enjoying the process.


A) Strength / Conditioning

5 rounds, not for time of:
Power cleans for max reps @ bodyweight*
Strict HSPU for max reps (or seated strict press)
- No rest between movements, 3 minute rest between rounds
* All reps to be touch and go, no resting on the ground or at the hips (resting in the front rack is OK)

B) Sandbag squats

3-5 x 15 (As heavy as form allows)

C) Bonus Gainz: Oblique Development

Single arm farmers carry: 200m per side