Four Seasons WOD Structure
The heavy athletics philosophy embodies a variety of disciplines and methodologies. In order to combine powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, strongman, Highlander, and other competitive fitness events, heavy athletics must account for a constant struggle between specilization and transition in its identity. Concepts such as Louie Simmons Conjugate System are an important first step in this direction. At SCBC we’ve distilled these concepts down to their primal roots and developed a four seasons approach to training that acknowledges the primitive origins of athletic specialization and works within that framework, much like The Paleo Diet defers to anthropological theory as a guide for modern nutrition. More on that later.
Here we present an overview of the daily structure of heavy athletics programming and commentary on the motives for the ordering and emphasis of the workouts. The template for workouts in this program is compartmentalized specialization, meaning WODs are segmented into skill-specific components that build on each other in order to maintain important skills while emphasizing and developing others. In this format, workouts run between 40 min and 90 min, with fully 1/3rd of that being warm-up, mobility, and cool-down. The frequency of these workouts is high (4 to 6 days/week) and varied in both focus (posterior vs. anterior) and load (55% vs. 70% vs. 85% vs. 100%) as well as emphasis (see Comment).
In keeping with the Four Seasons philosophy, the length of each component is highly dependent on the “season” but it will always fit the order and structure of this template. Regardless of the season, every session will have portions dedicated to skill / explosive / dynamic work, then strength building or maintenance, and lastly some form of conditioning. In Oly season the explosive work will expand while strength work will be limited and conditioning will be little more than an afterthought. In powerlifting season the strength work gets priority. In the lead-up to a strongman meet much focus will be placed on muscular endurance and general conditioning. Highland training will see throws in the explosive segment along with Oly movements, but little conditioning. CrossFit and sport training would pull the emphasis toward work capacity and speed drills. But, in all of these seasons and scenarios, the individual components of the Heavy Athletics Four Seasons template remain intact and vital despite the shifting priorities.
General Warm-up (5 – 10 min)
The general warm-up consists of jogging, rowing, cycling, agility drills, jump rope, calisthenics, or other simple movements designed to elevate body temperature, prevent injury, and gradually transition the body into an active state.
Mobility Work (5 – 10 min)
After a proper warm-up, the athlete will work to improve range of motion, target imbalances, and improve positional integrity through a progression of mobility exercises. Band stretches, foam rolling, and other mobility drills work here. See MobilityWOD.com and GymnasticsWOD.com for ideas.
Specific Warm-up (2 – 5 min)
Determined by the focus of each workout, the specific warm-up transitions the athlete into a stressed environment through a series of related movements preparing the body for dynamic effort. This may simply be barbell work and warm-up sets.
Hi-Technique (10 – 45 min: Seasonal)
The working portion of the WOD will always begin with explosive, compound movements, typically in the form of Olympic weightlifting, jumping, sprinting, throwing, and other bursts of speed and multi-directional, complex combinations. Hi-Technique movements denote a heavy emphasis on technique and dynamic positions that progress through a sequence as the movement develops (snatch, shot put, etc). The athlete should be both physically and neurologically fresh for this portion of the workout as focus, timing, and body control are essential.
Strength Training (10 – 40 min: Seasonal)
At this point the athlete will segue into the slow lifts with higher rep schemes and loads. The goal here is to develop full-body, functional power through compound movements and powerlifting variations, such as squat variations (front, overhead, back, split, lunge), push/pull sets in various planes of movement (horizontal, vertical, lateral), Pendlay Rows and Lying Triceps Extensions. Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program works well here.
Conditioning (5 – 45 min: Seasonal)
Replacing the traditional MetCon is the Heavy Athletics Medley rooted in hefty, awkward, brute-strength challenges that cultivate immense core and grip strength as well as body control and overall muscular capacity. This portion of the workout emphasizes volume, endurance, and struggle while still focusing on specific skills (carry, throw, drag, push, climb, flip, etc).
Cool Down (5 min)
It is vital that the recovery process begin immediately with ample hydration, quality nutrition, stretching, and rest. Athletes should focus on muscle quality and recovery every bit as much as muscle training. This means that muscles are stretched, massaged, rolled, hydrated, fed/supplemented, rested, recovered, balanced, and injury free.