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Do the basics well and do them often.

Do the basics well and do them often.

I won’t pretend I haven’t been there, we all have! For me there was nothing like kicking up onto my hands and practically running across the gym floor. Showboating much? Certainly ego boasting. But beneficial? I argue not really or not to any significance. The problem here is not the specific movement or even the actual workout. The problem lies with the daily training output.

You would think it’s a priority problem but it’s really a maths one. If I have 90 minutes to train and I spend 1/3 of that valuable training time polishing specific skills that may or may not come up during a competition I’m really setting myself up for failure in the long run. Here’s why and you may not like the answer but sadly it’s the reality. The development of basic strength and mono structure conditioning holds so must more carry over into practically every workout it’s actually considerably more important to just keep working the basics. Over a period of 20-30 weeks that can stack up to a lot of training time (or wasted training time).

Now there is a time and place for polishing certain skills. Normally for a competitive athlete I would suggest around 3-4 weeks prior to the actual competition, also known as ‘comp prep’. It’s at this point that the results from any conditioning and strength work maybe negligible. All the work that could of been done, should of been done already. Granted I don’t believe anyone enjoys spending 30 minutes on a rower or 60 minutes on a bike completing intervals everyday, but it’s really where the magic happens.

So what is the right daily training ratio? A lot will depend on the individuals strengths, weaknesses, limitations and experience. But instead of a daily structure that continuously reads like:

33% Conditioning

33% Strength

33% Skill

It might be better to look like this:

General Phase:

50% Strength

30% Conditioning (mostly mono, some general)

15% Accessory

5% Skill

Specific Phase:

50% Conditioning (mono and general)

30% Strength

15% Accessory

5% Skill

Comp Prep:

50% Skill

20% Accessory

15% Strength

15% Conditioning (mostly general, some mono)

Of course there are a lot of variables and the balance of intensity and volume would need to be considered greatly, but the point is still very much relevant. Doing the basics well will lead to better results and performances in the long run. The tricky part is establishing what elements of CF are skill work and what are conditioning. The answer is not in the movements themselves but the athletes ability to perform the movements. Skill work for someone could be a warm up for someone else and that’s the challenge.

So what are some common basics?

Basic strength (slow)

Squat, deadlift, press (or variations)

Basic strength (fast)

Clean, snatch, jerk (or variations)

Basic Accessory

Joint stability, Core Stability, Mobility

Basic conditioning (mono)

Bike, run, row, swim

Basic conditioning (general) or the muddy part

Pull up, box jump, thruster, burpee, t2b, wall ball, kb swing (basically any common CF movement that doesn’t required ‘thinking’ or even much prep work)

If you have to consciously think about it, it’s probably skill work and not conditioning. Keep them separate until the skill becomes unconsciously easy or as CF put it, movement-consistency-intensity.

As you go into the final weeks of competition prep, the lines between skill, strength and conditioning should become blurred. All elements should be combined and tested multiple ways 1-3 times daily. This would likely be the best way to simulate the competition (unless you actually know the workouts).

Important Factors

Beginners vs Intermediate

Basics only really apply to fairly experienced athletes. A total novice will be spending nearly every session learning new skills and therefore the balance is irrelevant. At this point pretty much anything outside of learning how to move optimally is futile (hence why things like the onramp course was created).

How can you structure round a multi event season?

I think peaking at a number of points in the season is better anyway. It just leads to a more rounded training program and is generally more fun. Consider peaking every 12-18 weeks, that allows for 4-6 week blocks. This means planning out your competitive season or goals ahead of programming.


Basically if you can’t do a movement, whether that’s DUs or MUs etc. You should spend some of that 5% each day and week working towards being able to do it. Once you’ve learnt it, it goes from the learning pot to the skill pot. But the irony is that by doing the basics well, you will be in a better position to be able to learn the movement anyway. You will probably be stronger, lighter, more coordinated, more mobile, better core and joint stability etc. Secondly, if you are massively out balanced between conditioning and strength you should probably roll was a biased program until the comp prep and heavily lean into the weakness.

Lifting with conditioning

Barbell movements should be part of your general conditioning because it’s likely to appear in competition. But unless the workout is particularly heavy, do not consider this to be part of your strength work. This needs careful consideration and judgement because lighter barbell work at intensity can massively effect the bodies fatigue levels and ability to perform specific strength work the next day. I would consider dropping barbell movements from workouts if it has been a particularly heavy strength day, but also encourage them when there hasn’t been much lifting. Again this is one of those tricky judgements and gets every S&C coach itching because it’s very much unknown variables.

Don’t shoot in the dark

Workout your performances metrics. What are you good at, what are you bad at and how far off are you from your intended event, completion or goal? Prioritise the weaknesses to balance out your abilities. If you can squat 200kg but run a 10 minute mile, seriously stop squatting! Use that time to run, row and cycle more. I’ve got more to say on this for next time.

Anyway to save myself from going off on one and to stop you falling asleep I’ll wrap it up there. Let me know if you can offer anything more to this or have any questions. Always curious and you can never have enough knowledge so I’m all ears.

Al Rees