Online programming is all the rage with many top Masters athletes, but are they worth the money and is one for you?

Before considering an online program, Spencer Whiteley (Box Owner – CrossFit Blockhouse, Coach and Masters competitor) offers the following:

I would advise far too many CrossFitters to stop following expensive programs sent to them by someone who doesn’t even know them. Or even free ones that do not cater for their specific needs in any way at all. I would say they should start by really ensuring they have got every bit of potential out of the program at their own box. Then find specific areas of weakness and target them specifically as most box programming is for GPP and there will be areas you need additional work on, your coaches should be able to help if you ask. If they can’t then help you then look elsewhere but choose wisely as its often quite a large expense. Please don’t just go looking for some online magical programme when you’re probably paying for a perfectly good one at the box.

Pete Howe (Coach, Box Owner, Masters Athlete and owner of Zone Nutrition) echoes these sentiments:

I find with many CrossFitters at local boxes too many of their athletes follow individualised programming when it is not needed; I feel if you are a competitive athlete and you have the ability to qualify for Comps then yes get some additional programming, but the fist place to get that is from your coach, they know you the best. I remind my members why they got into CrossFit and how they got fit? By attending classes is often the answer? So my advice is get back onto classes and enjoy what you do, have fun and the result will come.

If, however, you’ve thought it through and feel online programming is for you, read the following reviews from participants in some of the most popular programs to give you an idea of what you get.

We cover Comptrain, Invictus, JST Compete, The Athlete Program, Warrior Programming, The Progrm and Ironwork.


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Comptrain Masters website

Who does the programming and what are their credentials?

Ben Bergeron and his Head Coach/Programmer at CFNE, Harry Palley. You don’t get much better credentials than this. Bergeron can claim a decade of coaching experience, three successful boxes and five CrossFit Games Champions including Katrin Davidsdottir and Matt Fraser.

The philosophy behind the programme is:

Masters training isn’t about “less volume” or “less intensity”. It’s about training smarter. Every repetition has a purpose. Creating a unique program for each age bracket, the weight selections, volume, and movements will be specific to your division. – CompTrain Website

Who would I know that follows the program?

The website boasts 18 Games Athletes and 73 Masters Qualifiers (Top 200) in the 2016 season.

UK Masters following the Comptrain program include Scott Jenkins and Simon Wilson-Storey.We asked them about their experience:

Is Comptrain a Masters specific program?

Simon: ” The one I am on is masters specific but they do a free one for the under 35″.

Scott: “Yes, specific to masters and age category. At the moment there’s Masters Qualifiers programming and 2018 Open programming (depending if you’ve qualified).”

Are you following the program with a specific goal in mind?

Simon: “Yes, I’m following Comptrain to get to the games. I’ve been following it for about six months.”

Scott: “It’s games programming; my goal has always been to win the games since 2008. I’ve been following it for about 2  1/2 years now.”

What does a typical day / week look like?

Simon: “A typical day starts off with mobility, then some strength, then a WoD. Which I love because we all put our scores in at the end of the day to see where we come. The competition is so strong you can go two or three weeks without winning one. For example when I dropped out of the open I was 50th in the world and there were at least 13 Comptrain members in front of me – beating me.”

The Comptrain Masters website has a sample day that you can view here.

What made you choose it?

Simon: “I chose it because last years winner – Ron Matthews followed it and Scott Jenkins told me about it.”

What are the pros and cons in your opinion?

Simon: “Pros are it is specifically aimed at the open and the competition is so strong. No cons that I’ve found.”

Who would you say the program is aimed at?

Simon: “The programme is definitely aimed at anyone trying to get to the Open – but anyone can follow it.  Because you can scale the Wods if you need to – like Scott regularly has to – as he’s not strong enough yet. lol.”

Additional Features:

  • Coaches Notes – the strategy to adopt for each part of the programme / WoD
  • Custom Leaderboard Access – See how you finish among your peer group each day.
  • Discussion Board Access and Coaches’ Email

Cost: $39.99 (no contract, monthly payment – 7 day free trial on sign up).


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Invictus Masters Website

Who does the programming and what are their credentials?

CJ Martin and his team of coaches are responsible for the coaching.

Invictus rival Ben Bergeron’s number of boxes, Games competitors and success stories.

Their  website claims, “Invictus has established itself as the pre-eminent CrossFit athlete development program, coaching more than 30 individual CrossFit Games athletes – including podium finishers in 2011, 2013 and 2014. The Invictus affiliate team won the Southern California region 3 consecutive years and has placed in the top 5 at the CrossFit Games 4 out of 6 years – including a 1st place finish to be crowned champions of the 2014 CrossFit Games.”

The philosophy behind the program is:

The program places year round emphasis on mobility and stability exercises, and movements that we have seen directly benefit master athletes. We encourage all Master athletes who are looking to improve in CrossFit and build a relationship with the Masters community to join this program.The workouts are scaled appropriately with each masters division to include appropriate weights, movement progressions and rep schemes. The program also prioritizes mobility and stability work for our Masters community. – Invictus Masters Website

Who would I know that follows the program?

The website boasts 19 Games Athletes and 77 Masters Qualifiers (Top 200) in the 2016 season with 3 podium finishes.

UK Masters following the Invictus program include Rob Walker and Christian Loyer. Christian has only just started the program (upon finishing the Open 2017) and published a VLOG reviewing his first week of training.

One of MTB’s international interviewees Pete Mongeau is also an Invictus Master.

Is it a Masters specific program?

Rob: “Yes, after programming for myself for the past year, I am following the Invictus Masters programming.”

Are you following the program with a specific goal in mind?

Rob: “The performance goal is to get closer to the top 20 in my category. However, a huge determining factor was to streamline my personal time. It was taking far too long to programme for the box, some 1:1 Athletes I coach, and myself. ”

How long have you been following the program?

Rob: “I subscribed to the Invictus Masters Program during the CrossFit Games Open 2017. So not very long. However, I followed the Competitor version of Invictus for for 18 months prior to programming for myself. I am therefore familiar with the terminology, cycles, and strategy.”

What does a typical day / week look like?

Rob: “A typical day is actually very similar to a how I programme and coach a CrossFit session:
A. Warm-up and activation using the RAMP principles
B. Strength or Olympic weightlifting focus
C. Skill focus or practice
D. Conditioning WOD
Each session is designed to last approximately 90 minutes, with each section being strictly timed. There are also double session days, a single active recovery day, and a full rest day.”

You can find a sample day on the website front page.

What made you choose it?

Rob: “Several reasons:
1. It’s well known and proven. E.g. Cheryl Brost, Pete Mongeau, Bastian Rejen, and other great Master Athletes follow Invictus Masters.
2. It is saving me several hours a week programming
3. I was already familiar with Invictus
4. I train alone mostly, and being part of an online community is really great for accountability and motivation. ”

What are the pros and cons in your opinion?

Rob: “The main advantages for me are aligned to my reasons for choosing the programme above.”

Who would you say the program is aimed at?

Rob: “This is a difficult question to answer because there is a real mix of abilities in the online community. Personally, I would say that this program is primarily aimed at Athletes who are:

1. skilled at the standard CF movements already. i.e. RMU, BMU, DU etc, and
2. actively competing at a reasonable level.
 
However, there are other subscribers who don’t meet this criteria and gain justified benefit from their subscription. E.g. people who are unable to get to a Coached CF session.”

Additional Features:

Coaches interact on a Blog as well as on a private FaceBook Group. You are encouraged to post your training numbers to the Blog and videos to either the Blog or FaceBook Group to receive feedback.

Cost: $39.00 (no contract, monthly payment – 7 day free trial on sign up).


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JST Compete Website

Who does the programming and what are their credentials?

Steven Fawcett is head programmer of the JST Competition Programs. He was the first UK athlete to qualify to the CrossFit Games through the current Open/ Regionals/ Games format and has been programming for athletes for over 5 years.

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Who would I know that follows the program?

UK Masters following the programme include Alison Crawford (individual programming), Pete Klimo and Paul Hopper. We asked Paul about his experience:

Is it a Masters specific program?

Paul: “No, JST compete programming offer a few alternatives..strength bias..aerobic bias…but I follow the 1 session per day programme not designed to peak at any particular time but stay in decent shape throughout the year.”

Are you following the program with a specific goal in mind?

Paul: “I’m following the general compete program but there are plenty of options to peak for certain events etc.”

How long have you been following the program?

Paul: “2 1/2 years.”

What does a typical day / week look like?

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You can find a sample day on the website.

What made you choose it?

Paul: “I’m a member at JST, Ste put me on it before the first strength in Depth”

What are the pros and cons in your opinion?

Paul: “Having someone program for you means that you do stuff you wouldn’t programme for yourself. No cherry picking. It is really motivating. Ste Fawcett is the man programming it. I’d say that speaks for itself 👍🏻💪🏻”

Who would you say the program is aimed at?

Paul: “Any competitive CrossFitter or those wishing to enter comps. You can get individualised programming too, which would focus more on developing weaknesses etc”

Additional Features:

  • Join the ‘Compete Community’ allowing you to discuss workouts, compare results and progress.

Cost: £40.00 for one of the programs or £60 for individualised programming.


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Program website

Base, Competitor and Undefeated are the different levels of online based programs. Competitor is aimed at athletes / competitors and is tailored to the Open.

Who does the programming and what are their credentials?

A “handpicked” team of 5 programmers from around the UK.

Who would I know that follows the program?

UK Masters following the program include Liam Holborn and Scott Healey. We asked Scott about his experience:

Is it a Masters specific program?

Scott: “No. But before you join them at www.warriorprogramming.com, they ask your needs and a coach will be assigned to you.”

Are you following the program with a specific goal in mind?

Scott: “I follow Warrior Programming, which is headed up by the Reebok CrossFit Tyneside guys and my immediate coach is Paul Warrior.

My specific goals last year were the 2017 Opens and I’ve switched to a more competitive mind set, being on my first 40+ year I don’t want to waste time prepping for 2018 opens, nows the time for hitting the competition floor.”

How long have you been following the program?

Scott: ” 2 years and a little bit, I was lucky enough to be a member at RCFT for a short while and enjoy their programming.”

What does a typical day / week look like?

Scott: “Depending on what time of year we’re in, but at the moment a day is:

  • Warm up
  • Lifting both compound lifts and Olympic lifting.
  • EMOM sessions of gymnastics and lifts combined
  • And some METCON work.”

What made you choose it?

Scott: “Loyalty to the guys I’ve worked with, they’re a no bullshit, little pity and very knowledgeable bunch of guys. They also know me and my strengths an weaknesses.”

What are the pros and cons in your opinion?

Scott: “PROS:

  • Individualised programming.
  • I programme for my box, so it stops potential cherry picking.
  • I have to answer to someone.
  • Challenging.
CONS:
  • Time, I have plenty, but many don’t.”

Who would you say the program is aimed at?

Scott: “Anyone.
The guys are very good and even have a very successful adaptive programme, not only for people with missing limbs and disabilities, but even if you’re carrying a minor injury, they will adapt for your needs.”

Additional Features:

  •  Undefeated programming aimed at injured or adaptive athletes.
  • ‘Goatkiller’ –  a supplemented personalised program given to athletes to perform on top of the Base program.

Cost: Undefeated is for athletes who are injured (offering upper or lower body biased) £5 / Base is £10 (7 Day GPP programme) / Competitor is £30.

At the time of writing, a brand new program has been added – The WP Program. This is a periodized program tailored specifically towards athletes with the Open in mind.


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Program Website

Who does the programming and what are their credentials?

Designed by CrossFit Games athlete Scott Panchik and his team.

“Scott Panchik, a five-time individual CrossFit Games veteran, has qualified for every CrossFit Games since 2012. Never finishing below sixth, he took back-to-back fourth-place finishes in 2012 and 2013, missing the podium by just one place each year. Victor of the 2015 and 2016 Central Regionals, Panchik is known for his mental fortitude, always believing he can win while remaining unruffled by setbacks. A collegiate running back, Panchik owns CrossFit Mentality in Mentor, Ohio.”

CF Games Athlete Profile.

The program is offered at a series of levels: Level 1 (looking to compete in the near future), Level 2a (already at competition level – training once a day) and Level 2b (already at competition level – training twice a day).

Philosophy

The Athlete Program is structured with an aim of peaking for both the open and the European Championships.

Who would I know that follows the program?

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UK Masters include Michael Mallinson. We asked him about his experience:

Is it a Masters specific program?

Michael: “It’s a program for competitive athletes of all levels, it comes in 3 different programs you just pick which is best for yourself!”

Are you following the program with a specific goal in mind?

Michael: “I’m following the program with a goal to improve my Olympic lifting as it programs this 3 to 4 times a week.”

How long have you been following the program?

Michael: “I’ve been following the program now for about 8weeks and really enjoying it!”

What does a typical day / week look like?

Michael: “It starts on a Monday of every week with some kind of Olympic lifting followed by some strength work ,ie squats, push press barbell rows etc,
As it moves through the week it pushes your endurance and lactic training I could be doing for instance 10x400mts with a 90secs rest between sets or I could be running a 5k max effort or a couple of EMOM’s.”

What made you choose it?

Michael: “I got asked to try it and loved it, as it pushes most of my weaknesses and they do a 7 Day FREE Trial .”

What are the pros and cons in your opinion?

Michael: “Following a program for me is all pros as it frees my time up to train more! not having to sit down every other week for a hour or two programming my own ! And because it on wodify you see how your progressing each week and against other athletes on the same program!
The other side of it is to find the right program for you and this could be difficult as they are so many and they don’t suit everyone .”

Who would you say the program is aimed at?

Michael: “It’s mainly aimed at athletes or CrossFiters with a year or more experience.”

Additional Features:

  • An interactive online profile to register training results, view leaderboards and see personal progression statistics
  • A private Facebook group where they can post videos of movements to be analysed by the coaching team.
Cost: The longer you sign up to, the cheaper the monthly cost. One month only is £57pm, but if you pay for a year up front it is £30pm.

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Program Website

Who does the programming and what are their credentials?

Designed by Gareth Doody and CrossFit® Reading Team who state that, “The Ironwork methodology is born out of more than 40 years experience in lecturing, competing and coaching in competitive sport. The Ironwork team have been programming since 2011 and have qualified athletes for Regionals every year since.”

Philosophy

“The Master Plan programme provides access to a blueprint that is proven to outperform the linear progression achieved following a general physical preparedness programme. We’re committed to excellence and providing the right programme and support for each individual member.” IronWork Website

Who would I know that follows the program?

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UK Masters include Andy Collings and Martina Ashton. We asked Andy about his experience:

Is it a Masters specific program?

Andy: “No I’m following the competitors plan. There is a masters specific plan.”

Are you following the program with a specific goal in mind?

 Andy: “I started last April with the top 200 in the open in mind.”

What does a typical day / week look like?

 Andy: “There have been various cycles. We’ve had a build phase, a strength cycle, a test week, a pre season and competition season. When the open was over I emailed Gareth and said I qualified. I asked if he could programme something to take me up the the online qualifiers and a three week programme was emailed after 72 hours. I did each session in one morning usually 90 -120 minutes. I know others broke this is to am and pm sessions.”

What made you choose it?

Andy: “Knowing about Gareth and his background. The fact it’s UK based. The Facebook community page to ask and share things.”

What are the pros and cons in your opinion?

 Andy: “The pros are each week the sessions are sent on a Sunday, so I print out the whole week and pop it in a folder. Not having to wake up and print out each day saves time. The sessions come with videos to explain new things. Gareth is available to ask questions so are the Facebook group.”

Who would you say the program is aimed at?

Andy: “The competitors plan is just that. I know there are a couple of previous regional athletes on this programme. I’ve enjoyed it very much and looking forward to next month when the new plan* starts.”

*Gareth and the team plan to launch a new plan called ‘Project 200’ (you can probably guess what the aim for members is!) on 1st May. With Gareth himself promising to be ‘back at it’ himself this year!

Additional Features:

  • Dedicated members area – Members of The Master Plan programme can login and access all programme material here. Once logged in they can manage their account, view material and make comments to both trainers and other members.

Cost: £40 per month.


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Progrm Website

Who does the programming and what are their credentials?

The Prgrm is run by John Singleton who coached Sara Sigmundsdottir until she recently moved stateside. John is an osteopath, physiotherapist and coach. He has treated and worked with high level Crossfit athletes for 7 years.

Philosophy

“It is the program we use for our athletes and a useful benchmark to search for athletes that we would like to bring into our training camps.”

Who would I know that follows the program?

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UK Masters include Laura Prosser. We asked her about her experience:

Is it a Masters specific program?

Laura: “It’s not tailored towards Masters but a Facebook group with Gwendolin Sona and a few others who will advise and and answer questions to individuals.”

What does a typical day / week look like?

The Progrm consists of 9-12 training sessions a week. It is emailed to you in PDF form every Sunday night around 10pm GMT so you are able to plan your week. Laura sent us these sample days:

What are the pros and cons in your opinion?

Laura: “The interactive group is one of the most useful parts for getting advice on form/technique and comparing scores, etc.
The full progrm is brutal both physically and mentally which I really enjoyed but unless you have the time to train twice a day and recover between it would be tough to stick with it.
The consistent focus on the basics of gymnastics and never ending emoms which destroy my core have not been enjoyable but have definitely benefited me! It has forced me to work weaknesses such as just holding good positions like the hollow which I would never make myself do enough!! Workouts are set to a tough level and I often have to scale to get the best out of them but I’m ok with that as long as it progresses me which it has.”

Who would you say the program is aimed at?

Laura: “It’s aimed at competitive athletes with regional aspirations.”

The Prgrm website says:

“If you are considering this program a lot of things have to be in place before you start! These include, sleeping 8-10 hours a night, having a clear 3-4 hours during the day where you can train (we recommend dividing the sessions into 2-3 sessions each day), as well as having a diet in place that can support this level of training.

The Progrm consists of 9-12 training sessions a week. It is emailed to you in PDF form every Sunday night around 10pm GMT so you are able to plan your week.

It is the program we use for our athletes and a useful benchmark to search for athletes that we would like to bring into our training camps. If this is too hard or seems a lot we recommend that you start with the One-A-Day program, then from there build to the full program.”

Additional Features:

  • Interactive online group
  • A ‘one-a-day’ progrm for those who have less time.
Cost: £45 (50 euros) a month and for a full program or one a day option for those who have less time.

Thanks to all the Masters who gave us the inside track on these programs!

Do you do a program we haven’t covered? Or maybe you’ve got some thoughts on online programs? Let us know by commenting, below.


Check out the other athletes in the Meet the Masters series

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