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Constantly Varied Functional Movements at High Intensity Programming for a masters wellness athlete is very similar to the programming we use for a younger athlete. Both require constantly varied functional movements at high intensity. Both are training for life’s demands, and both require a broad and inclusive fitness. Specific programming is not necessarily any more effective than scaling CrossFit. com-style programming on an ad-hoc basis. If there is a large number of masters athletes, providing masters-friendly programming that is pre-scaled for the group may be more efficient than dealing with scaling on an individual basis.


General Considerations for Wellness Programming


  • Increased variety lends itself to higher enjoyment levels, particularly in the late masters group.
  • Skill development requires greater frequency of practice in an older athlete. Add regular skill practice to warm-ups.
  • Movement substitution may be required for an injured or diseased athlete—i.e., some movements may never be achievable or in the athlete’s best interest. Don’t be a slave to the program. Make sensible adjustments.
  • More frequent strength training can be effective in offsetting age-related loss of lean body mass.
  • Using odd objects and variations in equipment can increase neurological challenge without increasing technical demands.
  • Training should be an enjoyable social experience.



Biasing Neurological Skills


Given that neurological skills can be a challenge, biasing the program to include more demands on coordination, accuracy, agility and balance can be of great benefit. Every session should include a challenge to neurological skills. Do not avoid complex movements even though they can be very difficult to teach to an older athlete. Complex skills are an essential part of the program. Just ensure that they are correctly scaled.


Masters athletes may push back on complex movements or get frustrated. The trainer needs to find ways to motivate them. The neurological skill development must be non-negotiable. You wouldn’t allow kids to avoid the things that are good for them, and you shouldn’t allow older athletes to do so either. The trainer must set the program and not budge. Include everything and scale to ability.


Assign Appropriate Loads and Movement Complexity


As a general guide, early masters should work toward Rx’d weights as posted on CrossFit.com. Late masters should typically be scaled to 70 to 80 percent of standard Rx’d loads. This should be thought of as a continuum and adjusted according to individual capacity. The overarching principle is that scaling should make the workout accessible, not make it easy. The prescription, Rx’d or otherwise, should never be a limiter.


Setting a separate masters Rx’d prescription for the workouts that are programmed for your gym can be very motivating to masters athletes, allowing them to compare scores with their peers. However, a word of caution: It is a slippery slope once you start defining scaled versions of workouts as Rx’d for a particular population. It is easy for the trainer to make the mistake of underestimating what the older adult can achieve physically. Setting an Rx’d standard is also setting an upper boundary—i.e., it becomes a limiter. It is always better to have a harder prescription that can be scaled down than an easy prescription that undermines development.


Manage the Repetition Budget


Masters athletes are more susceptible to overuse injuries. An effective way to prevent this from occurring is to identify high-risk movements (say pull-ups, overhead pressing and box jumps, for example) and assign a weekly budget of repetitions. The programming is then written to never exceed the budget. For example, a weekly budget of 150-200 reps for pull-ups is reasonable to minimize the risk of developing tennis elbow. If Fran is programmed early in the week (45 reps) and Angie later in the week (100 reps), plus 3 sets of 10 are programmed in a warm-up midweek (30), the athlete has completed 175 reps for the week and is in the safe zone. If another pull-up workout was programmed, or if the athlete was doing pull-up practice every day in addition, the budget is exceeded and the client is at greater risk of overuse injuries. Being dramatically under-budget for a movement is also not ideal as it can lead to lack of conditioning and set the client up for excessive soreness and muscle damage when that movement is next programmed. The budget is a very effective way for the trainer to keep track of the overall volume programmed for high-risk movements.


The repetition budget will vary from movement to movement. More experienced trainers will intuitively determine their own safe zones and adjust over time, but as a basic guide for a trainer lacking experience in judging appropriate volumes, the following formula can be used to determine a starting point for upper and lower limits:

Reference – CrossFit Masters Training Guide