Block periodization dedicates “blocks of time” to one training focus while maintaining others (8, 9, 10).
In the above example, block 1 prioritizes a focus on strength. That means exercises are performed with heavy resistance and low repetitions. But unlike a traditional linear approach, other adaptations, like conditioning, aren't avoided - they just take a back seat for a while.
In that same example, while the first three weeks of block 1 prioritize workouts focused on strength, week four helps to maintain other aspects of performance important to CrossFit, like conditioning.
Once the program gets to block 3, we see the reverse. Now, metabolic conditioning is the priority, while strength training is maintained.
BLOCK PERIODIZATION PRODUCES MORE ROBUST IMPROVEMENT
Impressively, some studies have found this method to be useful and perhaps more effective than other approaches. Take a 2017 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, for instance.
Researchers recruited trained hockey players and trained them for six weeks using either a block periodization model or a mixed model while keeping the volume the same.
For hockey players in the block group, their training prioritized strength training during weeks one, three, four, and six. During these weeks, HIIT training was performed once for maintenance. During weeks two and five, HIIT was prioritized, and only one, full-body strength session was performed during each week for maintenance.
The mixed model participants instead took a balanced approach. Each week included balanced HIIT and strength sessions, with neither receiving priority over six weeks.
The results showed that despite an equal training volume, the block model was superior, leading to significantly greater improvements in power and V02MAX than those using a mixed approach (8).
The specific emphasis on strength and power likely required a more robust adaptation response, leading to greater improvement.
IS BLOCK PERIODIZATION RIGHT FOR CROSSFIT?
For a CrossFit athlete, this model is likely superior to a standard linear approach, particularly during the off-season.
CrossFit has various demands, requiring high levels of endurance, strength, and fatigue resistance. This reality means that all of these factors need to be emphasized and maintained.
Block periodization is probably the best way to do this for a CrossFit athlete in an improvement or off-season phase. This method allows you to concentrate your training around a certain goal for dedicated blocks of time and also maintain other adaptations.