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In your studies as a professional fitness coach, you’ve likely come across the Strength
Continuum. At OPEX we are committed to delivering coaching education that equips
you as a performance coach and provides the tools you need to successfully implement
the knowledge into your coaching protocols.The strength continuum provides a
context for classifying different types of muscle contractions. Characteristics of
contractions differ between muscle groups and types of forces. For simplicity's
sake, four distinct categories are recognized in order to help fitness professionals
categorize different types of contractions:


For the purposes of this guide, we’re going to focus specifically on strength speed

Strength speed contractions are very common in numerous styles of fitness, like
weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit and other mixed modality fitness models.
Mastery of strength speed contractions is critical to developing athletes capable of
winning competitions like the CrossFit Games.

Strength Speed is the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the greatest
possible impulse in the shortest possible time. Olympic lifts (snatch and clean) and
their derivatives have potential for power outputs higher than "power" lifts (squat,
bench press, deadlift). Olympic lifts are the most commonly used movements in
strength speed work.

In very simple terms, strength speed is a type of contraction in which load or weight is
moved very quickly.

In order to express strength speed effectively, repetition of pure force generation --

in the form of absolute strength -- is necessary. Developing motor control to express
force effectively through a lower speed of movement, allows for the full expression
of strength speed.

Before discussing what strength speed training looks like, we have to answer three
simple questions: What purpose does this serve? Who would benefit from this type
of training? Who would not?

At OPEX Fitness, we have many clients engaged in mixed modality activities like
Olympic Lifting and CrossFit competitions. For those clients who compete in mixed
modal activities, we have to expose them to movements to help them build proficiency,
maximal potential, and competency across various circumstances.

However, strength speed training is only applicable to those who can actually produce
power. In order to produce power, a person must be able to produce force, moving a
mass with acceleration.


The prerequisite to strength speed implementation is absolute strength. Two of the
barriers to entry for clients being “able” to produce strength speed we use are:

Back squat @ body weight for 3 reps at a 30X1 tempo (3 seconds down, no
pause in the bottom, fast up, 1 second rest at the top for al reps)

Deadlift @ body weight for 3 reps (female) and @ 1.25 times body weight for 3
reps (male) at 30X1 tempo

*(See our CCP assessment course for further instructions and details)*.
Strength speed training is not for people who lack requisite absolute strength. Clients must
build a proper base of support in motor control, intramuscular coordination, and intermuscular
coordination before going into dynamic lifts and speed-based work with load. Ultimately,
developing enough force absorptive capacity will help the client learn and build motor control
and increase their resilience from injury.

The order of strength development starts with:


The foundation must be built before it can be tested to its maximum. Additionally, those who
don’t compete in mixed modal activities should question whether or not it will have long term
benefits to their vitality and overall health. The pieces that go within a training program are
ultimately up to the coach and client.

We are here to outline our guiding principles when it comes to strength speed training. The
function and goal of the client will always dictate what goes into training.

Strength speed contractions are defined as work divided by time.

Work is defined as force x distance. Therefore, strength speed is
defined as force x distance, divided by time.

Strength speed is characterized by three distinct components:

Starting Strength | The ability to recruit as many motor units

(MU’s) as possible, instantaneously, at the start of a movement.

Explosive Strength | Refers to acceleration or rate of force

development. Charles Staley puts it as, "once you’ve recruited
a maximal number of MU’s, how long can you keep them

Reactive Strength | Involves the storage of potential kinetic

energy during the eccentric portion of a movement, which is
then converted to actual kinetic energy during the subsequent
concentric phase— much like stretching and releasing an elastic

Movements that have a high potential to facilitate the greatest

amount of power. For the purposes of this guide, the pieces we will
focus on are Olympic Lifts.


Clean and Jerk, and their variants.


While the classic Olympic lifts are fairly black and white in their application within weightlifting,
their context within mixed modality activities are quite vast. Some of the categories we will
discuss include:

Technique work/pulls (Variations)

Technique within moderate/intense complexes

Submaximal volume building

Battery-based work

Touch-n-go/barbell cycling

Integrating barbell & aerobic/mixed work


Due to the complex nature of Olympic lifts, clients need to perform aspects of the movement
to help build it from the ground up, or top down. In the technique category, we will discuss
complexes and pull variations.



Client Sara has a hard time fully extending in her 2nd pull on the snatch. As a result,
heavier weights/loads tend to be missed out front due to lack of full extension and
close proximity to the barbell as it travels overhead. Integrating tall and high-hang
position work can help force Sara to finish her pull:

A. Tall power snatch; 2 reps @ 65-75# per min x 5 minutes (vertical dip and drive / tight to the body)

B. High-hang squat snatches; 2 reps @ 85-95# per min x 5 minutes

C. Back squat @ 3211; 5 tough reps x 5 sets, rest 2-3 min between sets (Hips underneath torso; driving
with chest out of the hole!)

D. EMOM x 20 mins:
1st | 12 Russian kettlebell swings @ 32kg (drive hips hard)
2nd | 20 sec L-sit on parallettes
3rd | 8 glute-hamstring raises @ 30X0
4th | 20 sec flutter kicks in hollow body position

Notes: This complex is forcing Sara to learn how to create force through the ground
using her legs. We progress it with some high-hang squat snatches to further the
distance the bar has to lower, reinforcing great pulling mechanics and connection to
the bar. Pause back squats help re-pattern leg drive out of the hole/bottom versus
shifting the load to her back.

Client Marc let’s his hips shoot up too fast as the load increases in his Olympic lifts.
We need to reinforce proper positions off the floor where the hips are down with a
vertical torso.

Clean technique + pulls

A. Power clean below the knee; 2 reps every 90 sec x 8 sets; 4 @ 175#, 4 @ 195# (Feel fast and snappy;
Extend and reach on each rep)

B. Clean high-pull -- mid-hang clean high-pull; 1.1 x 5 sets; 2 min between sets; 185-205# (Perfect
positions off the floor, keep that bar tight to the body)

C. Trap bar deadlift @ 3131; 4 tough reps x 5 sets, rest 2 min between sets; (Hips down, PUSHING with

D1. Sumo good morning @ 2010; 8 tough reps x 3 sets, rest 30 sec

D2. Sled push; 50m @ grind pace / constant movement x 3 sets, rest 2 min

Notes: Utilizing the low-hang (below the knee) position forces Marc to reach and
extend on his pull. This is followed with some clean high-pulls to help dial in his
extension and pull from the floor. Trap bar deadlifts are great tools to help minimic
a more vertical torso off the floor, forcing the client to drive with the legs more than
a regular deadlift. Ensure the client focuses on not going too heavy or too fast until
they train their body to move vertically properly.


Client Dave is moving through an accumulation phase and needs specific work in his
snatch that reinforces position with moderately heavy loads. In this instance, we can
create a complex that starts with lighter loads and moves into more challenging loads
that aren’t maximal.

Complex (Moderate > Tough loads)

A. Halting snatch deadlift -- paused squat snatch -- snatch balance; 1.1.1 per min x 10 mins - start @
135lbs, add 10lbs every 2nd min

B. Front squat @ 40X1; 5-5-5, 4 min - all challenging sets

C1. Press @ 11X1; 5-5-5, 2 min - all tough sets

C2. Weighted strict pronated chest to bar @ 21X0; 5-5-5, 2 min - all tough sets

D. EMOM x 10 mins:
1st | 30 sec Sorensen hold on GHD (weighted)
2nd | 30 sec L-it on top of rings

E. EMOM x 10 mins:
1st | 30 sec double kettlebell front rack hold @ 32kg/arm
2nd | 30 sec ring FLR

Notes: This complex is pre-fatiguing his legs to force him to extend more as he gets
tired. We have him start with moderate loads so he feels the movement and starts to
dial it in, then increase load on the back half to challenge the positions.

Client Jane is moving through an accumulation phase and needs to build leg strength
out of the hole with her clean. By adding in an additional front squat we can further
stress her in this position. We are keeping the loads a bit higher (70-85% range) to
ensure we elicit the correct dose response. We’ll keep the total squatting volume
within the clean work lower, so she can lift heavier loads on her squats after the clean
work. Leg strength is a priority for her in this cycle.

Complex (Moderate > Tough loads)

A. Squat clean -- front squat -- split jerk; 1.1.1 every 1:30 min x 9 sets - 3 @ 105lbs, 3 @ 115lbs, 3 @

B. Back squat @ 40X1; 5-5-4-4-4, 3 min - all tough sets

C. Snatch pulls; 3 reps @ 125lbs x 6 sets, 2 min between sets

D. Glute Hamstring raise negatives @ 50X0; 4-6 tough reps x 4 sets, rest 2 min between sets

E. Accumulate 5 min in a ring FLR position; 45 sec minimum holds


Submaximal volume building involves classic lifts (I.E. Squats, Deadlifts and the like) with
small touches on positional elements: ie. slightly fatigued state with higher percentage of
maxes. A fantastic manner in which to design this is in a EMOM format (Every Minute on
the Minute).

Once proficiency has been built, we can now start to test and build volume at submaximal
loads. We will integrate EMOM-style work, where rest time is limited and potential under
fatigue is tested.

Client John is moving through a phase of training where leg strength development is
the priority, followed by submaximal loads being tested with fatigued legs. We are using
loads between 60-85% of his max for John’s working sets. This is complemented with
speed/skill-based power clean work to help build volume of reps in a slightly fatigued
state. The loads used for this are very low, 40-50% of his max, to prevent excessive fatigue
and emphasize skill development. When considering the amount of reps that need to
be performed for skill development, we have to think about the functional volume of
the movement. I’ve also given a complementary day (IE- Monday’s session and Friday’s
session) to show how the movements would flip flop.

In mixed modal based sports, we see upwards of 40-60+ reps of light snatch and clean
variations. Thus, the training should build clients up to these numbers in various settings
to properly prepare them for the tests ahead.


Snatch volume building + Touch-n-go clean (light loads)

A. Front squat @ 20X1; 5 reps @ 76% RM x 5 sets, 3-4 min

B. Snatch high-pull -- squat snatch, 1.1 every 75 sec x 12 sets - reset between reps, 2 @ 155lbs, 2 @
165lbs, 2 @ 175lbs, 2 @ 185lbs, 2 @ 195lbs, 2 @ 205lbs (Snatch PR: 245#)

C. EMOM @ high effort x 15 mins:

1st | 100ft sprint (50’ out and back)

2nd | 3 touch-n-go power clean to overhead @ 135lbs

D1. Dumbbell back extensions @ 20X2; 8-10 tough reps x 3 sets, 1 min

D2. Alternating weighted pistols @ 2020; 6/leg x 3 sets, rest 2 min


Clean volume building + Touch-n-go snatch (light loads)

A. Back squat @ 20X1; 5 reps @ 76% RM x 5 sets, 3-4 min

B. Power clean -- front squat -- split jerk; 1.2.1 @ 245lbs every 90 sec x 7 sets

C. 2 touch-n-go squat snatch; @ 135lbs every 30 sec x 20 sets

D1. Dumbbell rear foot elevated split squats @ 40X0; 4-6/leg x 4 sets, 10 sec b/t legs

D2. Swiss ball leg curls @ 22X2; 8-12 reps x 4 sets, 2 min

As you can see, John is getting quality submaximal load work after tough squatting sets.
This is followed with low load barbell cycling to help build volume, skill development, and
proficiency in the movement under mild distress. Also notice the total amount of reps on
each cycling piece: 45 power cleans to overhead on Monday and 40 squat snatches on
Friday. As mentioned earlier, 40-60 reps falls within the functional volume athletes are
exposed to in the sport of Crossfit.
The context in which we will be describing battery-based work is sets of reps, or a rep, with
lack of full recovery. In the examples below, the progression model will be building load over
weeks at 75-85% of a client’s one rep maximum. From a design perspective, there are three
variables you can adjust when thinking about battery-based work: time between reps,
weight per rep, and/or the volume of total reps. In principle, picking one variable first and
building that over a phase of training before adding another is a prudent approach.

In mixed modal sports, an athlete’s ability to recharge their battery faster, between reps
of sub maximal loads, is paramount to success. As we move closer to competitive phases
of training, it becomes prudent to integrate progressions that challenge an athlete’s ability
to perform more reps under fatigue. This is all predicated on quality work spent refining
movement, and accumulating reps in non-fatigue settings before testing someone’s battery.


A. Back squat @ 20X1; Build to a tough set of 4 for the day (Only 1 tough set)

B. Squat snatch; 5 reps @ 185lbs every 4 min x 4 sets - drop each rep, fast reset, add 5 lbs per set

C. EMOM x 20 mins @ 85%/high effort:

1st | 12 Deadlifts, 9 Hang Power Cleans, 6 Shoulder to Overhead @ 135#

2nd | 3 ring muscle-ups + 3 ring dips
3rd | 12 DL, 9 HPC, 6 Shoulder to Overhead @ 135#
4th | 4 bar muscle-ups

A. Front squat @ 20X1; Build to a tough set of 4 for the day (Only 1 tough set)

B. Squat clean and split jerk; 4 reps every 4 min x 4 sets - start @ 225lbs, add 10lbs per set, drop each
rep, quick reset

C. EMOM x 20 mins @ 85% / high effort:

1st | 1 squat snatch + 2 hang squat snatch @ 135lbs

2nd | 1 rope climb to 15’ w/ legs + 1 strict handstand push-up to 10” deficit + 1 rope climb to 15’ w/
3rd | 1 squat snatch + 3 overhead squat @ 135lbs
4th | 5 toes to bar + 4 chest to bar + 3 bar muscle-up

Notes: After looking at both sessions, you can see how they complement each other. Monday
has a snatch battery emphasis with clean and gymnastic-based mixed work. Friday has a
clean battery emphasis with snatch and gymnastic-based mixed work. We can surmise
that this training is closer to a pre-competition phase due to the nature of the training:
higher intensity, less rest, and less absolute strength volume. As mentioned above, we can
progress this over the coming weeks by decreasing total reps per set while increasing load
each week. This can lead into a battery-based test to see how well our training worked.

Barbell cycling, “touch-n-go” work is a vital skill in mixed modal based sports. There are
multiple ways the client can train and build it dependent upon the time of year and the
necessity of it. One way we use barbell cycling is to elicit proper motor learning and
activation before moving into tough hinging or squatting-based patterns.


A. Seated box jump; 1 tough rep every 15 seconds x 5 minutes (hip extension emphasis)

B. Below the knee hang power snatch; 3 touch-n-go reps every min x 12 minutes; 3 @ 115lbs, 135lbs,
155lbs, 175lbs (emphasis on straight arm and extension!)

C. Box squat @ 21X1; 3 reps @ 225lbs w/ band resistance every 75 seconds x 4 sets (speed out of
bottom once hips are released)

D1. Kettlebell front rack alternating lunges; 8/leg @ 32kg/hand x 3 sets, rest 45 sec (push through heel)

D1. Glute Ham Developer (GHD) back extensions @ 3022; 6-9 reps @ 25# DB x 3 sets, rest 2 min b/t


A. Power snatch; 2 touch-n-go every min x 6 sets, 3 @ 115lbs, 135lbs (focus on straight arm pull and
being snappy)
B. Trap bar deadlift @ 21X1; Build to tough set of 2 reps in less than 6 sets (Set the low back, push with

C. Snatch grip Romanian Deadlift (RDL) @ 4210; 10-12 tough reps x 5 sets, rest 2:30 b/t sets (use

D. For Time @ skill effort:

GHD sit up | 30-20-10

Weighted double unders | 60-40-20

Notes: After reviewing the examples above, we see light technique based snatch work on
the front end to prime the athlete’s hinging pattern before tough bending work. While
accumulating reps and refining positions, the athlete is getting activation work on the front
end. This is a sound approach in the off-season.
As we move closer to competitions, we need to start
testing athlete’s barbell cycling abilities. We can start to
design pieces of work with light barbells where position
and metabolic systems are being challenged, very similar
to what is seen in mixed modal activities.



A. . Back squat @ 11X1; 3 tough reps x 3 sets, rest 2-3 min between sets

B. Snatch high-pull -- low hang squat snatch; 1.1 every 60 seconds x 3 sets; 3 @ 195lbs, 205lbs

C. Every 2 minutes x 5 sets @ high effort:

8 bar facing burpees

4 touch-n-go power clean to overhead @ 155#
4 thrusters @ 155#
24 double unders

D. EMOM x 8 minutes:

1st | 10 GHD sit-ups @ 2020

2nd | 20 sec flutter kicks in hollow position
3rd | 1 squat snatch + 3 overhead squat @ 135lbs
4th | 5 toes to bar + 4 chest to bar + 3 bar muscle-up


A. Front squat @ 11X1; 3 tough reps x 3 sets, rest 2-3 min between sets

B. Power clean -- low hang squat clean -- split jerk; 1.1.1 every 90 seconds x 6 sets; 3 @ 245lbs, 255lbs

C. Every 2 minutes x 7 sets @ high effort:

15 calorie Assault Bike

5 touch-n-go squat snatch @ 135#
1 rope climb to 20’ w/ legs up and no legs down

D. EMOM x 8 minutes:

1st | 30 sec GHD hold @ 45 degree

2nd | 30 sec double kettlebell front rack hold @ 32kg/hand (elbows down and breathing)
Notes: In both examples, we begin the session with some tough squatting sets. We
integrated a pause to limit maximal effort on these sets and prevent taking away from the
work to come. Next we have submaximal loads of the main lifts with limited rest. This allows
the athlete to continue building capacity while pushing their potential. This is followed by
fatigued barbell cycling sets with lighter loads. Both pieces start with 30-45 seconds of
work to create higher respiration rates and cause mild chaos for the athlete. Then we have
varying pieces of work cycling the barbell while under distress.

Remember, functional volume of the movement will dictate what we build up to. The
athlete’s training background and training age will dictate how many reps are appropriate
for the prescription. In the example above, this is a more advanced athlete who has a higher
training age and extensive exposure to the Olympic lifts.

Both pieces of work are giving the athlete between 35-40 reps of barbell cycling. This can
be a good starting point for us as we build them up towards 50-60 reps. As total volume
of cycling reps increases, load should be monitored to ensure the athlete is working the
intended skill: cycling the barbell under metabolic stress. If they start to get sloppy and
taking unnecessary breaks, the load might be too much or the prescription might be too
aggressive for where they are currently at.

We can now focus on blending barbell work into mixed aerobic work. We are going to break
this section down into 3 pieces: Off season, Pre-season, In season. Each of these will be in
the design of 10-minute pieces of work -- also known as MAP 7 work in the OPEX Coaching
Certificate Program. As a result, each design will have different characteristics depending
upon what time of the year it is. The further away we are from the competition, the more
different the training will look. The closer we are to the competition, the more identical the
training will look. If we review past Crossfit Open workouts we see variations of a barbell
being used in different scenarios. Some are light with high turnover while others increase
in weight and decrease in load. Each of these components need to be built, practiced, and
tested to ensure maximal expression come time to compete.

A. 10 minutes @ 50%/warm-up:

1 min Assault Bike

1 min bear crawl
1 min row
1 min single unders
1 min ring FLR
5 min rest/prep

B. 10 minutes @ 80%/sustained aerobic power:

200m run
5 deadlift + 5 hang power clean + 5 thrusters @ 95lbs
200m run
2 rope climbs to 15’ w/ legs
-5 min walk-

10 minutes @ 80%/sustained aerobic power:

8 calorie Assault Bike

8 hang power snatch @ 65lbs
8 calorie Assault Bike
8 overhead squat @ 65lbs
-5 min walk-

10 minutes @ 80%/sustained aerobic power:

3 power clean to overhead @ 115lbs - all singles

6 burpees
9 calorie row
3 power snatches @ 115lbs - all singles
6 toes to bar
9 calorie row

Notes: In this design, there are quite a few movements within each piece of work. Thus, the
turnover won’t be as fast, so total amount of reps will not be as high. There is also roughly 1:1
cyclical to mixed work within each piece. This will help keep people on track and consistent
with their splits between rounds. The loads for the barbell is lighter and not as demanding
for the athlete to allow for great consistency and prevent bottlenecks -- or points where
unnecessary rest has to occur. Lastly, notice the amount of rest between pieces of work: 5
minutes of complete rest. This will change as we get closer to the competition.

A. 10 minutes @ 50% / Warm Up:

15 calorie Assault Bike

12 air squats
9 box jump step down
6 toes through ring
5 min rest/prep

B. 10 minutes @ 85% / Sustained Aerobic Power

15 calorie Assault Bike

5 power cleans @ 95lbs + 5 front squats @ 95lbs
5 ring muscle-ups
-4 min walk-

10 minutes @ 85% / Sustained Aerobic Power:

15 calorie row
5 power snatches @ 95lbs + 5 overhead squats @ 95lbs
5 bar muscle-ups
-4 min walk-

10 minutes @ 85% / Sustained Aerobic Power:

15 calorie ski erg

10 thrusters @ 95#
5 burpees onto 24” Box

Notes: Now as we get closer to the season, we see quite a few changes. First, the warm-up
has more specific movements included to help build contraction volume and to elevate the
heart rate. Next, we see a change in the percentage prescription for each 10-minute piece of
work: 80% during the off-season and now up to 85%. While it is nearly impossible to make a
5% change in effort, objectively, subjectively the athlete knows that a small uptick in output
must be brought to the table for these pieces of work. That awareness to a small change in
pace is built from years of practice, repetitions, and learning one's own paces with different
modalities. Don’t assume by changing the percentage the athlete will automatically know
how to go a bit faster without reaching threshold.
The next piece we notice is the decrease in rest between pieces of work: 5 minutes in the
off-season to 4 minutes in the pre-season. The last couple of changes are the pieces within
each 10-minute block. We see less total movements per piece of work: 3 total compared to
5+. We also see more contraction volume with higher skill movements. These changes are
slowly starting to mimic what we see during the actual competition.


A. 10 minutes @ 50% / Warm-Up:

12 calorie Assault Bike

8 wall balls @ 20lbs to 10’
4 hang power cleans @ 135lbs
2 ring muscle-ups
5 min rest/prep

B. 10 minutes @ 85-90% / High Aerobic Power:

3 bar muscle-up
3 squat clean @ 185lbs
3 bar facing burpees
—2:30 min rest
5 min Assault Bike @ 60 RPM
—2:30 min rest

C. 10 minutes @ 85-90%/ High Aerobic Power:

9 kipping handstand push-ups (no deficit)

6 power cleans @ 115lbs
3 thrusters @ 115lbs
36 double unders
—2:30 min rest
5 min rowing @ 1,000 cal/hr
—2:30 min rest

D. 10 minutes @ 85-90%/ High Aerobic Power:

15 wall balls @ 20lbs to 10ft

12 toes to bar
9 box jump step down @ 24”
—2:30 min rest
5 min Assault Bike @ 60 Revolutions Per Minute
Notes: Now we see quite a few differences in this design compared to the previous two.
First, the warm-up has higher skilled movements,fewer total movements, and less volume
of reps. This allows for greater turnover. We see active rest added in between each piece
of work. After finishing the 10-minute piece, the athlete has two and a half minutes to rest
before she/he has to get on a cyclical machine and “actively” recover. This helps further
promote recovery, keeps the athlete moving, and challenges the system a bit more due to
continued activity after a tough piece of work. The next piece we notice is the total number
of reps within each piece of work. There is a substantial decrease in total reps, forcing
the athlete to turnover faster, increasing contraction volume, and increasing their ability
to push towards their highest level of sustainable aerobic power -- for that given piece of
work. The last piece we notice is the change in elements within each piece of work. They are
becoming more characteristic of what shows up in the Crossfit Open. The ability to cycle
through these pieces of work with those movements is built months and years prior to form
great progression and strength development.
Do you work your tail off to help your clients, but you they either don’t get the results you ex-
pected or they push back on you about what you’re programming for them?

One of the biggest challenges coaches around the world face is that their clients don’t trust them

OPEX’s goal is to give you the coaching knowledge and skills in order for you to enjoy the cred-
ibility and respect that you work so hard for.

When you build competency, consistency, and care, your clients immediately trust you more.
Their trust helps them enjoy better results, and it will help them refer way more of their friends
to you!

To succeed, you need to have a system behind you that not only provides education but provides
career mentorship as well. That’s where OPEX comes into play

The OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) delves deeply into programming the different
aspects of the strength continuum, and how to understand them.

Apply for OPEX Fitness CCP today, to master the intricacies of fitness program design and the
strength continuum.


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