Team Soul Philosophy & Programming

Recently I have been having a lot of conversations with people who follow other gyms programming and have been finding themselves with an increasing number of injuries. Because of this a few of these people have reached out and asked to see how we program for our general population in order to compare it to the programming that has led them to injury. I’ll get to injury prevention soon, but first I want to provide you with a snapshot of what the programming process looks like for our general population Soul. The foundation for much of what we do comes from our Team Soul Training program that you can subscribe to on SugarWOD. From there I take time to adapt and make specific changes for our everyday clients. This altered TST program is what we call our MAINSITE program or what other gyms might call their “RX WOD”. The goal of it is to provide a well rounded fitness experience for our clients. We are not looking to make them the best CrossFitters, although we do prioritize that aspect of fitness when we are preparing for certain events or challenges.

Our MAINSITE program or general population programming is truly a mixture of many different elements. We believe in using aspects of CrossFit, traditional Strength and Conditioning, Olympic Weightlifting, Pilates, Powerlifting and other fitness elements. We believe we provide the safest and most well rounded fitness program that exists. The focus is not a 30 minutes or less “bang for your buck” experience, but rather a fully loaded, well rounded, safe, smart, fun and effective fitness experience. While many of the workouts/movements/prescriptions on our MAINSITE design are very challenging, it is the job of our coaches, and coaches at your own gym really, to give you acceptable substitutes and modifications based on your own personal skill level, goals, history, injuries, strengths, etc. We regularly post the concepts behind our workouts so that coaches can better understand our intention behind certain technical exercises.

Once our MAINSITE program is done, I fill in the gaps by providing specific warm ups, skill/strength work and assistance work. For example, we often need to supplement our program with more vertical pulling, better activation exercises, jumping, lateral movement or unilateral exercises. So the final touch to our programming is me making sure we check off all of our fitness component boxes and fill the gaps for the week and It’s through these 3 vital add ons (Warm-up,Strength/skill,Assistance) to the MAINSITE workouts that we do that.

After this, Sean takes the MAINSITE program and adapts it for the LITE and FLOW versions. Lite is intended to be a DB/KB version of our daily workout. This is designed primarily for people that are not comfortable or efficient using a barbell yet. The Flow program is a bodyweight only version of our daily workout, this is also intended for newer clients that are not as experienced with some of the more advanced movements. These 2 versions are used in the gym during our hour long fitness classes by clients who would prefer to follow those segments. They are also utilized on our online program called Soul At Home. This at home program gives users access to all three versions of the workout (Mainsite, Lite, Flow), so they can follow at home depending on what equipment they have and what their goals are.

Now that you understand the flow of how we program weekly workouts in the gym, I wanted to share with you the purpose behind me writing this blog. Let me be very clear that I am in no way writing this to directly shit on any other gyms or programs. However, we have a very BIG problem in our “community”, and I wanted to take the time to share my thoughts on what this problem is. Maybe it will help. Maybe you will wipe your ass with it. WHATEVER. My blog, my topic =)

STRENGTH BEFORE KIPPING. STRICT BEFORE KIPPING. STRENGTH BEFORE SPEED. Tattoo this shit on your forehead. Write it on your mirror and recite it to yourself 10 times every morning. Do whatever the hell you have to do to remember this. Remember that every day you violate this rule and you show a group of people new to fitness how to kip before everything I said up there YOU ARE A HUGE PART OF THE PROBLEM. Why am I so passionate about this? Because that was me, That is how I was taught, and it’s also why I walk around with everything from L3-S1 herniated, cannot extend my right knee, have micro tears in my shoulders and on and on.

First step, let’s talk about strength work, strict exercises and hypertrophy. Without having adequate musculature surrounding a joint as complex as the shoulder, one should NEVER kip a pull up in an attempt to get their chin over the bar. I cannot believe I even have to write this, but I do. The same goes for muscle ups. If someone does not have the strength in their shoulder/Upper body to support their own body weight, they should never even look at rings to “learn” how to do a muscle up. This also goes for handstand pushups and any other movement we call “high skill”. It may be a tough pill to swallow for some of you, but you shouldn’t get the skill without having the strength first.

The same kind of walk before you crawl thinking tends to guide banded work in many gyms, too. Giving someone 3 different accommodations to move them closer to a movement may sound good but in reality it is not going to actually get them there. I am specifically talking about the practice of using thick bands for kipping exercises like pull ups and chest to bars, but this goes for other movements as well. I have even seen people attach bands to their back for support in their handstand push up. Forcing or allowing your body to do something it does not have the strength to naturally do on its own only leads to problems. So skip the 3 ab mats for handstand pushups, and focus on a smaller amount of strict ones instead.

Assistance work or Skill Work is where you can focus on decreasing ROM and loading in movements like you would with banded work, but it still should never be done in a fatigued setting like a WOD. At Soul, we may decrease your handstand/headstand push up ROM in a skill setting, but we will never tell you to kip a decreased ROM in a workout. If this is you and you are guilty of doing everything I said here hopefully you don’t check out and go back to your instabook or tik stories because the truth hurts. I’m here to tell you It’s ok, There is still hope for you just like there was for me. For those of you that are coaches, take some time to better understand the mechanics of something like the spine before you ask someone to do 100 deadlifts after rowing. Experiment with yourself before you fuck other people up. Ask questions, sign up for training programs and challenge the dudes and dudettes who program. For athletes that find themselves relating to all this, find yourself a coach that adheres to the strength over skill philosophy I laid out, and if you can’t, allow yourself to go against the status quo at your gym. More strength will always lead to more skill, but the inverse is never true. There cannot be skill without strength, only injury and disappointment.

For those interested, below is a snapshot of what our program looks like before we publish it.

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