It comes as no surprise to us that many CrossFitters and gyms see a workout like “30 Muscle-Ups for time” on mainsite or in affiliate programming and immediately think they need to change the workout.

In fact, one of our members shared with us that they went to an affiliate for three years, and not once was there a muscle-up in a workout. When muscle-ups showed up in an Open workout, only three people could do them, and two of them were coaches.

At Roots, we’ve always been self-proclaimed CrossFit purists. We don’t shy away from doing certain movements or workouts because they might be hard or because some of our members might not yet have that skill. Instead, we see those days as a pathway to developing new skills and growing your fitness. And most importantly, over more than a decade of applying the CrossFit methodology, it’s not uncommon to walk into a class of 12 people and see that 7 of them are doing ring muscle ups or half the class is walking on their hands. 

Here are 5 reasons we keep workouts with high skill movements in our programming and why you should too.

Our athletes, whether they have muscle-ups or not, are constantly being prepared and challenged through strategically designed skill work. 

Over the last several years, we have elegantly paired the workout of the day with in-class skill work to continually challenge and advance the skillset of our athletes. Can 100% of our athletes string together ring muscle-ups, handstand walk, or do legless rope climbs? No, but many of them can and most of them have gotten there because of the dedicated skill work and coaching we provide. For those who aren’t there just yet, they are consistently progressing and getting closer to these goals.

Weaving skill work into your weekly programming calendar, instead of filling extra class time with a second metcon or 10 minutes of extra lifting, is what will help move your athletes forward.

CrossFitters like seeing themselves progress toward doing cool things. 

When someone has been a member for a while and they see others doing high-skill movements, they also want to achieve those things. Most members don’t make time outside of class to work on these skills and if they do their progress can be limited. Creating skill work that has multiple scaling options and building that skill work into the workout regimen consistently helps members make progress that they can see. 

That progress creates belief and belief is a major way to keep members coming back. When a member believes they can continue making progress because they have started making progress, they keep coming back for more. 

For example with muscle-ups, perhaps an athlete starts with sets of ring rows and dips and the next week progresses to muscle-up transitions. This helps the athlete build confidence and excitement to continue working on this skill. 

Complex movements are not unique to gymnastics.

Have you ever tried teaching someone with no weightlifting experience how to snatch or clean & jerk? Both movements are technically complex and often broken down into steps yet most affiliate owners don’t bat an eye at programming them. Because they are consistently programmed, athletes develop efficacy over time.

The same is true for complex gymnastics workouts like 30 muscle-ups for time or workouts that include handstand walking or legless rope climbs.  

If you always avoided programming snatches into your workouts, your members would not improve in this movement. If you never program muscle-ups, how many of your members will be able to do a muscle-up in a year from now?

Our coaches are relatable. 

Our coaches get feedback not only on how they coach classes but how they move. They are intimately aware of their strengths and current opportunities and aren’t shy about sharing that with members. We continue to coach them towards movement perfection but we’re also aware enough to know that everybody is different. Our coaches aren’t shy about sharing what they are still working on themselves and this relatability is important to our members.

Properly demonstrating a movement is ideal but if you don’t have a movement just yet, that’s okay. The key is to clearly communicate or teach the movement, identify points of performance, and correct when they are not achieved.  

One movement leads to another

The beauty of CrossFit’s constantly varied programming and the philosophy of GPP is that all movements translate to other movements both in and out of the gym. Think about the muscle-up for a minute. The athlete works on elements like grip strength, pulling, and pushing, specifically as it relates to their own body. Can you think of a time when it would be beneficial for someone to be able to move their own body? Or how about a time when grip strength comes in handy? Quickly you start to see how 30-muscle ups for time begins to translate to other activities like high rep hang cleans or heavy deadlifts (grip strength needed!).

Sure, it’s cool to do muscle-ups but the skills needed to accomplish one translate to many more activities in life.

Your members CAN do high-skill activities. It’s up to you to help them get there.