Coach Like Bruce Lee

Coaching is key!During a typical CrossFit class, a Coach could be training several people with a multitude of experience levels in fitness and CrossFit. What’s important for your athletes is that you can ensure a quality class experience across the board, regardless of fitness level.

One individual that regularly trains athletes at various fitness degrees is Ben Bergeron, the owner and head Coach of CrossFit New England, who has trained athletes from beginners walking into their first WOD to Games level.

“My first suggestion is … see what your athletes are seeing,” explained Bergeron. “When you’re coaching, are you losing the attention of certain athletes? Are you approaching a class and coaching in a manner that keeps everyone engaged all the time? You can do that through a few different ways.”

The Coach can be more theatrical, more entertaining, more inspiring, but “at the basic level it’s about making sure everyone is honing in on the basics,” Bergeron continued. He believes a lot of Coaches may end up getting wrapped up in the caliber of the athlete, like if they are a regional competitor, in order to make sure they are challenging them enough.

“You can do all of that stuff, but the chances are that they really need to improve on their basics, and I think a lot of people skip over that because they feel like they need to give their elite athletes differentiation from what they’re doing and what their regular [athletes are doing],” said Bergeron.

Excelling in CrossFit, according to Bergeron, is not a lot different than practicing martial arts and becoming proficient at the basic skills that produce a martial arts master. “Every single day is going to hone in on the basics,” he said. “They are going to drill, drill, drill the basics. That’s what separates CrossFit from a lot of other training programs, is its commitment to virtuosity and commitment to mastering the fundamentals. I think a lot of people blow past that trying to be a sexy as possible with their programming and trying to overly impress their athletes.”

It’s important that Coaches rely on their quality coaching skills in teaching CrossFit as opposed to worrying about impressing athletes. He likened the type of coaching one should possess to martial arts master, Bruce Lee. “If Bruce Lee is teaching you how to do Kung Fu you’re not going to get bored if he’s teaching you how to do a front kick,” said Bergeron in the sense that a front kick is a simple concept. “He’s going to make it pretty freakin’ awesome.”

When Bergeron designs his programming, he develops four levels for each WOD. One level is designed for competitive athletes, which he places on his competition website, The other levels are designed for classes at CrossFit New England: one is with Rx’d WODs while the other two make up the structure newer athletes will use during their first eight weeks of CrossFit. According Bergeron, the programming is consistent with what one would find on

“It’s 95 and 135 barbells for guys, 65 and 95 for girls, it’s the standard gymnastics stuff, but competitors’ site might have heavier barbells, 185 and 225 [for guys] and instead of regular handstand pushups it might be parallette handstand pushups and things like that,” he explained. “Our new members we strongly suggest do that level one for the first four weeks of the membership, and they do level two for the next four weeks. From there we’ll always [scale] for everybody, and this goes all the way up to our Games level athletes, is we’ll tweak each of those individually. Every single athlete in our class gets a unique version that fits for them. Whether it’s a tweaky shoulder, a bad back or knee, we’re trying to program for a certain stimulus. Someone might not have a certain movement or need to work on something, we can tweak the weights or tweak the movement so they get exactly the stimulus they are looking for.”

A good example is how they brief Fran. “This should be a four to six minute all out effort,” said Bergeron. “If you have done this workout before and it took you more than six minutes, I want you to use less weight than you did last time. If you did this workout and it took you under four minutes, and you’re not yet a prescribed weight, let’s have you bring the weights up. That way everyone is in that four to six minute time ladder. Once you’re at the prescribed weight, the goal isn’t to add weight, but to bring the times down. We’ll say the WOD to the class and then go to each individual member and discuss what that weight will be for them.”

Tyler is a former editor of Box Pro Magazine.