Hardcore Casual, part ii

DSCF1252What I want to do with Black Anvil is to give “us” a name. To bring together a large group of like-minded people that approach training and life with the same philosophy.

A semi-popular fitness tracking app spams itself on Facebook streams using the tagline, “You’re not an athlete one hour a day. You’re an athlete 24 hours a day.”

This is not us.

When we train, we’re athletes. Fitness takes work, and we work hard. The choices we make outside the gym support what we do inside the gym. But the hours we’re not in the gym, we’re husbands, wives, moms, dads, employees, employers, students and teachers because that is what is needed.

We will stay up with sick children because that is what is needed, regardless of how it will affect the next day’s workout. We work hard at our jobs despite the possible effect on our training sessions because that is what is necessary.  We need success in training and success in life and those things can go hand in hand if we seek to make the time we have the most effective for whatever we’re doing.

Hardcore – Working hard, taking training seriously while dedicating the time, energy, effort and attention necessary to be successful
Casual – Having fun is awesome, plans might change or things may not goes as planned because other things took priority (and that’s OK)

If someone doesn’t make the same decision we do, that doesn’t make us “right” and them “wrong”.

But the paradigm of CrossFitters being either “competitors” or “non-competitors” needs to shift and people that love training and dedicate time, effort, energy, and attention to being the best they can be while at the same time balancing their lives by working equally as hard at their work, education, family, and relationships need to feel like it’s OK to take training seriously when needed and not as seriously when necessary.

We are the hardcore casual.



Hardcore Casual


I’ve run into a surprising amount of athletes who are punting on success outside the gym in the name of inside the gym achievement.

But if you consider yourself to be hardcore casual, you know that those things don’t need to be mutually exclusive because you’re willing to redefine what “success” is to make both work.

“I’m going to make it to the Games” might become “I’m going to make it to Regionals.”
“I train four hours a day” might become “I train one or two hours a day.”
“I sacrifice health for performance” might become “I sacrifice performance for health.”

The hardcore casual isn’t settling or lazy when they make this choice – they’re being responsible. They’re choosing a healthy, well-balanced life that is in line with the things that they value. They understand that family and work and fitness are all necessary and require a substantial amount of time, effort, and energy to be successful.

Are there athletes who sacrifice family, friends, work, and education so that they can pursue athletic achievement? Yes, and that could be the right choice for them.

But the hardcore casual knows themselves and understands that they aren’t that person – their values are different and they are able to make decisions that honor those values.

Examine yourself and what you value.

You can be hardcore or you can be casual…or you can be both.


On social media, it probably seems like we do a lot of sandbag, sled, and yoke work. And we do, because in the CrossFit world “a lot” when it comes to using these tools means “consistently” and “more than never”. In our current training split, these implements show themselves twice a week, about even with dumbbell, barbell, and bodyweight work. 

Project Warhorse is deliberately not competitive CrossFit programming. It’s GPP. That doesn’t mean that it won’t help people be competitive (it does and our athletes are proving it) it just means the programming doesn’t get caught up in trends in trying to define what CrossFit is. 

For a long time, CrossFit the trend was to define it as “barbell movements” and so masses of people snatched, cleaned, and jerked every single day of the week because they believed that was what defined the sport. This was dumb. 

This year the pendulum is swinging towards the “dumbbell and odd object” definition, which is good as a course correction, but dumb if it swings too far. 

Project Warhorse sits right in the middle. What does everyone need? Strength, aerobic capacity, and high intensity efforts – all in balance with each other, in the dosage required to progress, with an emphasis on movements commonly found in life outside the gym. 

Instead of trying to guess what “this year’s CrossFit will be”, we should just focus on what fitness is, and do that.

Something For Everybody: The First Post in a Series of Posts

Our kind of fitness is awesome. It’s fun, it’s functional, it provides measured progress, and it connects a local and international community together for motivation, encouragement, accountability, and enjoyment.

From a programming perspective, however, CrossFit is difficult because it’s not a spin class. People go to spin classes to lose weight and get in shape.

One activity, two goals.

But CrossFit is more complex. Weightlifting, gymnastics, strongman, WODs. Athletes want lifts to continually go up and metcon times to perpetually go down. They want to be able to do pull-ups, muscle-ups and handstand push-ups. Strength, power, speed, coordination, agility, endurance – all of these things need to improve, and all at the same time.

Things begin to get complicated, though,  when you combine all these different types of training and physical qualities with a population of people with a wide variety of goals and motivations. Some join the gym because they want to lose weight…and some want to gain weight by building muscle. Some only want to get stronger, some only want to get more conditioned. Some are there to regain physical function, and some are willing to destroy physical function in a quest for better performance. Some are there casually, and do Zumba and run on their off days, and some are training every day to make it to the Games. Some love strength work, and some hate it. Some love “cardio” and some hate it. Some “just want to have fun”, and for some, fun takes a back seat to progress.

Things get even more complicated when a gym owner needs programming that accomplishes all of these differing goals, lasts for one 60 minute session per day, for people with all these various goals and ambitions, with likes and dislikes, and with varying levels of attendance and consistency.

The only way to navigate this maze is to simplify. What does everyone need? What work can be performed that will give the gym as a whole the greatest return on investment?


Directly Transferable Movement

The primary going of physical training is that it improves a person’s quality of life. That might be defined as better health and function or as increased performance and competitive success, but everyone, regardless of goal, motivation, activity, skill or experience level needs to participate in a training that offers the possibility of a more full and enjoyable existence.

With the goal being established, the next step is to determine what kinds of training will help every kind of person that participates.

Every person, regardless of goal, motivation, activity, skill or experience level will benefit from increasing strength, aerobic capacity, movement proficiency and short, simple, high intensity efforts (I’ll explain more about the “why” of these in a future post). I believe that gyms offer the best return on investment to their members they train these qualities of fitness with an emphasis on using directly transferable movements.

Directly transferable movements are lifts, holds, and patterns that are found in both the gym and commonly in the “outside world”. They are simple, have a low technique and mobility requirement, and provide the foundation for more complex movements.

For example, a sandbag lift, hold, and carry is a directly transferable movement because mimics how we would have to lift, hold and carry an object in nature. It’s a fixed, in front of the body, between the hands weight that is awkward and without contrived handles to improve grip.

A thruster, on the other hand, while being a great, effective, compound movement isn’t a directly transferable movement. The load is outside the body, which is moving at a repetitive high rate of speed from deep flexion to extension, require a high technique and mobility requirements.


Is that saying that we shouldn’t do thrusters? No. Learning and performing a wide variety of movements is necessary and will improve health and performance faster than performing a small, more specialized set of movements.

All movements lie a spectrum. Some movements provide the most wide ranging benefit – these are the directly transferable movements. The middle part of the spectrum are movements serve as a middle point – not quite found outside the gym, but close, but not quite specific enough to be only found in competitive situations. The final side of the spectrum are movements that are really only performed in competitive situations and requiring a high level of skill to be performed safely and effectively.

Directly transferable movements:
Sandbag lifts, holds and carries
Farmer’s carry, both one-handed and two handed
Yoke walk
Sled pushes, pulls and drags
Dumbbell movements such as presses, curls, and rows
Running, lunging, and other single-leg movements
Strict gymnastic movements – primarily pull-ups, push-ups, and dips
Jumping – both vertical and horizontal

Indirectly transferable movements:
Squats – back, front and overhead
Shoulder press, push press, push jerk
Power clean
Strict weighted gymnastic movements – primarily pull-ups, push-ups, and dips
Kettlebell swings
Equipment based monostructural movement – rowing, biking, Skierg

Indirect (sport specific) movements:
Full clean and split jerk
Kipping movements
High level gymnastic skills


Again, so I’m clear, I’m not saying that athlete should never or seldomly perform indirectly transferable or sport specific movements. All of these movements should be learned and performed in the interest of balanced, effective, and enjoyable fitness. But you will affect the lives of more people in a more profound way if a large focus of training is on directly transferable and indirectly transferable movement.

There might be resistance to this at first. Because of the popularity of the CrossFit Games and “fitness as sport”, the definition of what CrossFit is to most people is competitive, sport specific movements. People think that “that” what will give the what they want. But Glassman himself said, “The magic is in the movements”, and good programming considers what movements in what frequency, intensity and volume will benefit the most people.


Today’s aerobic development work:

*2 minutes of rest between sections
A) For 10 minutes, 80-90% effort: 
10 Alternating DB Snatches 50/35
10 one arm overhead walking lunges 50/35 – BALANCE AND CONTROL HERE. Don’t rush. Push the shoulder down and use the lats to support a strong arm. (use opposite arm on the way back)
10 Burpees
10 one arm overhead walking lunge 50/35

B) For 10 minutes, 80-90% effort: 
12/9 Cal Assault
Then 3 Cals Arms only assault (for a total of 15/12)
50 DUBs

C) For 10 minutes, 80-90% effort:
Run 100m
Max push-ups
Fast walk back to recover – I want a fast 100m (NOT SPRINT, NO) and strong push-ups, thus the walk back

Chances are the programming you’re following goes through cycles. One of those cycles might be hypertrophy focused – gaining muscle. 

The problem I see is that sometimes these cycles simply aren’t long enough to do what they say they’re doing – gaining muscle mass to make an appreciable difference in performance. A typical “go-to” cycle length would be four to six weeks. The problem here is that the progress during this short amount of time is going to be primarily neurological. You are getting stronger, but not because you’re gaining muscle mass, but because your nervous system is adapting to the stress and learning how to perform the movements more efficiently and with more force. This is ok, but these kind of adaptations are more likely to evaporate when you move onto the next cycle, especially if it’s centered around conditioning. 

Commit. Especially if strength is a weakness. Go three months or more to be sure that you’re creating more muscle tissue that will create more force, leading to more strength.

The Big Picture

Hello people. A post for you all about how the training you are doing now fits into the training that you will be doing later.
Apologies for the lengthy post, but please read this when you get a chance since this lays out some of the why for what you’re doing.
When I plan programming, I think of it like scaffolding. We want to climb to the top of the building to be able to wash the big crap off the statues, but first we have to get off the sidewalk. We build the first layer, then second, then the third, and so on, until we get to where we want to go. Regardless of where you’re at in your fitness, the process is the same – you’re just trying to get to the top of different buildings. Some might be higher, some might not be so high, but everybody starts from the sidewalk.
Here are my layers:
1. Strength, aerobic capacity, movement proficiency. General Physical preparedness.
2. Continue building #1, but with the addition of power (strength + speed, think olympic weightlifting and kipping movements) and more frequent high intensity efforts.
3. Continue building #1 and #2, but begin adding more complex combinations with more sport-specific skill.
Layering training like this allows for better, faster, more sustainable and more consistent progress, especially over the long term.
Games caliber athletes, Regional level athletes, the person who walks into your gym never having done Crossfit and destroys everyone – one of the things they have in common is that they have 5-15+ years of athletic experience under their belts. It might be track and field, gymnastics, water polo, weightlifting, etc, but they’ve spent a significant amount of time becoming stronger, more enduring, and more resilient to be able to walk into the sport of fitness being able to achieve a high level of accomplishment.
I’m NOT saying “Ok people, we’ll be doing track and field and gymnastics for the next three years, and then we’ll start working in thrusters and burpees.” But I am saying that in order for progress to keep progressing, we have to spend a significant amount of time on each layer in order to be effective.
Think about it – we are trying to change and improve your body AT THE CELLULAR LEVEL. What we do in the gym is literally reconfiguring your body. This is awesome, but the creation of new and more cell parts, the building of new tissue, infusing that tissue with vascular and neurological systems, and then making those systems more efficient TAKES TIME. It would be great to hit a four week strength cycle and walk away meaningfully stronger, but for most of us, that’s simply not how it works.
So to be specific, our current five day training template looks something like this (how your gym implements this schedule might be a bit different than the order here, but the concept behind is day is still the same):
Day 1 – Lower body strength
Day 2 – Aerobic power/capacity
Day 3 – Strength/Strength endurance/Structural work
Day 4 – Upper body strength
Day 5 – Olympic work/Interval CrossFitty stuff
In about four weeks, the tentative template “clicks up” to a tweak of Day 3 and Day 5:
Day 1 – Lower body strength
Day 2 – Aerobic power/capacity
Day 3 – Strength and structure/ High intensity WOD, sled/sandbag/assault/row emphasis
Day 4 – Upper body strength in a faster paced setting – short rest, more circuits
Day 5 – Olympic work/Interval CrossFitty stuff
Then around October:
Day 1 – Lower body strength and power (begin emphasis on Olympic lifting)
Day 2 – Aerobic power/capacity
Day 3 – Strength and Structure/Sport-specific work
Day 4 – Strength and structure/Sport-Specific work
Day 5 – Olympic work/Interval CrossFitty stuff
That schedule then holds up until the Open.