Theme and Variations

In my previous “phase of life”, I directed choirs. Yep. At one point I was pursuing a Master’s Degree in Elementary Music Education with a Certification in Critical Pedagogy from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.

Yep.

How I ended helping my brother build steel acoustic guitars and coaching with a skull logo is a long and winding story, so I’ll skip that and get right to the point.

One of the things classical composers would do to show off their compositional chops (ok, maybe not right to the point) would be to take a theme, or melody, and then play with it. Flip it upside down, backwards, add notes, subtract notes. The basic idea was still there, but different.

Writing your own workouts is fun, but can be a challenge,especially in the mixed-modal/competitive fitness/crossfit world where there are infinite combinations of movements, rep schemes, and protocols.

Taking a cure from our classical composers, you can use this “theme and variations” method to practice your programming chops by taking an effective workout and then use it as the nuts and bolts to create something new.

The Theme

Yestereday’s “Del Scorcho” was a hit, so we’ll use that as an example:

21-15-9
Assault Bike Cals
Thrusters 115/80
15-12-9
Calorie Row
Hang Squat cleans 115/80
12-9-6
Over the bar burpees
OVHS 115/80

This workout as written is going to take most people somewhere between 15 and 25 *ahem* minutes. It’s a great test of whether or not an athlete is willing to jack their heart rate up and move a barbell. This workout as it’s written is our theme.

Some hints for variations:
1. Variations should have a purpose. “I’LL MAKE ALL THE REPS 100 AND THAT WILL SUCK SO HARD OMG HAHAHAHAHAHAHA” isn’t a purpose, it’s stupid. What are you trying to train? The aerobic system? Lactic? Turnover rate? Mental toughness? Decide your purpose first.

2. Use a framework that works for that purpose. Long and lower intensity for aerobic work, intervals for intensity/turnover rate,  some kind of twist or extra challenge for mental toughness.

3. Double-check to make sure that the workout actually achieves its purpose. By the time you get done with it, it make not look anything like what it should and then you just have a bunch of “stuff”. Double-check.

The Variations

Here are two different purposes accomplished with the “same” workout. Each one is different, but it’s still the same six movements in a couplet form.

Aerobic Training:

Variation #1
At 70-80% effort
4 Rounds:
25 Cal Assault Bike
10 Thrusters 115/80
200m Run
then
4 Rounds
25 Calorie Row
10 Hang Squat cleans 115/80
200m Run
then
4 Rounds
25 Over the bar burpees
10 OVHS 115/80

Variation #2
For 10 minutes, at 70-80% intensity:
15 Assault Bike Cals
5 Thrusters 115/80
then
Zone 2 Aerobic Pace Assault Bike
then
For 10 Minutes, at 70-80% intensity
15 Calorie Row
5 Hang Squat cleans 115/80
then
Zone 2 Aerobic Pace Row
then
For 10 minutes:
10 Over the bar burpees
5 OVHS 115/80

High intensity/Turnover Rate/Lactic:

Variation #1
2 Rounds for time:
10 Assault Bike Cals
10 Thrusters 115/80
Active rest 5 minutes then repeat

– 7 minutes Zone 1 Assault Bike –

2 Rounds for time:
10 Cal Row
10 hang squat cleans 115/80
Active rest 6 minutes then repeat

-7 minutes Zone 1 Row-

2 Rounds for time:
10 Over the bar burpees
10 OVHS 115/80
Active rest 7 minutes, then repeat.

Variation #2
3 rounds for time:
15 Cal Assault Bike
10 Thrusters 115/80

then, rest 2:1

3 Rounds for time:
15 Calorie Row
10 Hang Squat cleans 115/80

then, rest 2:1

3 Rounds:
10 Over the bar burpees
10 OVHS 115/80

El Fin

This theme and variation approach can be a fun way to exercise your programming chops. If you’ve got questions or ideas, send me an e-mail at blackanviltraning@gmail.com, a message on Instagram, or leave a comment below.

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