How to Create Training Progressions for Beginner Athletes by Kyle Ruth

Two weeks ago we discussed strategies for adjusting metcons for group-training. This week we are going to look at how the coaches at TTT would create a training progression for the example workout we presented in that blog. This blog will break down the limitations common to Beginner athletes (defined later in the blog) as well as present a 2-phase example training structure to address the specific limitations for these athletes. Future versions of this blog will examine Intermediate and Advanced athletes in the same context.

To refresh your memory, our example workout from the previous blog on adjusting metcons for group classes was:

5 Rounds for time:

24 Double-unders

12 Burpees

8 Thrusters @ 95/65#

Appropriate Training

Previously we analyzed group metcon design through the lense of four basic questions:

  1. Who are the individuals in the population you are designing the training session for?
  2. What are you trying to accomplish? i.e. what training adaptations are you targeting?
  3. What are your space and equipment limitations?
  4. Where does this fit into the grand scheme of the training program?

This week we are provided with the answers to each of these questions by profiling our athletes (question #1), laying out their training priorities (question #2), and organizing their training into phases (question #4), we’re going to assume that the athlete has access to a jump-rope and barbell (question #3). By taking the time to thoroughly answer these questions we’re then able to create far more effective training progressions for our athletes.

Beginner Progressions

In order to create our training progressions the first thing that we need to do is determine who we are training. Our beginner example athlete fits the following criteria:

Beginner Athlete Profile

  1. They are new to CrossFit or group-class training (under 1-year experience)
  2. They have been through a basic “foundations” or “intro class” where they were quickly exposed to the movements used in the training program
  3. As a result of their lack of exposure they have not had significant repetition of basic movements (i.e. squatting/pressing) in order to have developed automaticity of movement (essentially they have to concentrate on performing each rep because the movement pattern is not ‘ingrained’ yet)
  4. This athlete will likely struggle with all facets of the workout regardless of whether they are fresh or fatigued (again indicating that they need skill-repetition in order to improve)

Now that we have developed a general profile for our beginner athlete we need to look at what their specific limitations are in our example workout. For the purposes of this blog I have broken down the possible limitations into the following categories: Skill (primarily referring to neural patterning / motor learning), Energy-systems (referring to the metabolic energy-production systems), Strength (encompassing all strength capacities from absolute strength to muscular endurance), and Mobility (this category would include both the flexibility/ROM components for the movement as well as the ability to stabilize joints throughout the ROM).

Beginner Athlete Limitations


  • double-unders
  • thrusters


  • aerobic endurance
  • aerobic power


  • absolute strength (squatting/pressing)
  • strength-speed endurance (pressing for burpee/thruster)


  • squatting positions
  • front-rack positions

Beginner Sample Training Progressions

As discussed in the introduction we’re going to split the training program for our athletes into two distinct phases. The first phase for the beginner athlete will consist of skill acquisition (meaning: learning skills) for double-unders and thrusters, absolute strength development for squatting and pressing (so that they can develop the basic strength needed to handle 95/65# thrusters in volume), and aerobic endurance development (to handle the aerobic and cardiorespiratory demands of the workout). It is not within the scope of this article to layout the mobility progressions that are appropriate for developing squat, front-rack, and overhead positions

Phase-1, 3-session progression

The second phase of the beginner training progression begins when the athlete is able to perform all of the skills (double-unders and thrusters) effectively enough to begin skill-repetition training and the athlete’s absolute strength is sufficient to support the squatting & pressing volume to come. Phase-2 training will focus on skill-repetition in a non-fatigued state, strength-speed endurance for squatting and pressing, as well as developing the athlete's aerobic power utilizing higher-intensity aerobic progressions.

Phase-2, 3-session progression

At the end of this progression, beginner athletes should be ready to test the example metcon. I would not expect these athletes to necessarily breeze through the workout after this progression, however they would be far more prepared than they were when they started. It is also important to note that the length of this example training progression could be quite long. It takes time to learn skills and improve strength metrics, so a beginner athlete might train using variations of the Phase-1 progression for months before they are ready to move to the Phase-2 progression.


As you can see, designing training programs that create continual progress requires an understanding of basic training principles. Following the basic process laid out in this blog series (asking and answering the 4 programming questions) makes the process of creating good training progressions far easier. However we must also take into consideration that athletes will all have different needs and that the training progressions for beginner athletes differ from the needs of intermediate and advanced athletes. In the next blog in this series we will look at training progressions for intermediate and advanced athlete and contrast how these differ from the beginner progressions laid out in this blog.

~ Kyle

Created By
Kyle Ruth

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