CrossFit Coaching 101: Have A Class Plan

Gone are the days of showing up to class entirely unprepared and just kind of figuring it out as you go. If you want to turn your box into an actual revenue generating business, you've gotta have some structure!

Be honest - we've all done it.

But before we get into the meat of why those days are long gone and what to do about it, let's start with story time.

Bobby Box Owner and his team have been working their butts off for the past nine months when they begin to notice that their average class size is finally starting to trend upwards.

Before too long, they're averaging 20 people in a class! High fives all around!

Needless to say, Bobby is PUMPED about the prospects of finally gettin' paid and possibly buying some new equipment (or even taking a day off for once!).

I mean, who wouldn't be stoked?

But there's a problem.

With all this growth, Bobby isn't sure how to effectively coach a group of 20 fitness starved adults who need their daily fix (all of whom, might I add, are at different points in their fitness journey, which makes this a huge undertaking).

Worse yet, he's trading discounted memberships for coaching hours with some of his members... and they certainly don't care about how great of a job they do when they coach two sessions per week. All they're after is a free membership!

To ensure the quality of coaching remains high, Bobby is now a slave to his gym.

Not the vision he had in mind when he started his box.

Ok. Enough story time. Let's get into this.

If you ask me, Bobby has two options: he can learn how to be a more effective coach or keep doing what he's doing and hope for the best.

This story is an all too common thing that happens with the inexperienced gym owner/coach. They spend hours and hours figuring out how to get more members, and when those members finally show up, they are totally unprepared for the growth.

The good news is there is a very simple solution this fiasco, and it's called a class plan.

The Simplest Thing You're Not Doing

Having a class plan is a sign that you’ve transitioned from the amateur "let's just wing it and see what happens" mindset to the professional "I'm taking ownership" mindset.

It’s a statement to your athletes that you respect their time and their safety.

But most of all, its a statement that you want to deliver a world class experience and really stand out in a competitive environment… because here’s the truth - it’s far too competitive NOT to.

Don’t you think it’s about time you start to run your box like an actual business?

In my opinion, having a class plan is the single most effective tool that a coach has, yet I rarely see it executed properly.


Effective CrossFit Coaching: What is a Class Plan?

Before we dive into the details it’s important that we get on the same page, young padawon.

A class plan is simply a rough game plan of how you plan on using the duration of your class. You can send a telegram through time to the future you, or just write it on a sheet of paper. I recommend just writing it down.

A proper class plan should includes things like:

  • Introduction and announcements
  • Warm up
  • Scaling options
  • Skill teaching progression
  • Class timeline
  • Announce any new members dropping into class
  • Reminder of athletes with existing injuries
  • Remind athletes to log workouts

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Effective CrossFit Coaching: Why is it Important to Have a Class Plan?

Coaches and owners have two entirely different sets of challenges. I feel its important that we identify both.

For the coach:

By taking ownership of the class and planning ahead, you’re better prepared to tackle the challenges that come with just about every class. You’ll know what skill progression you want to teach, what scaling options you have, and how much time to devote to each section of class.

Setting boundaries and timelines will free you up to do more of what you love - coaching athletes and improving their movement.

Your athletes will appreciate the fact that you respect their safety and their time all while delivering a world class experience, day in and day out.

For the owner:

An affiliate owner faces an entirely different set of challenges.

As the owner, it’s up to you to set the standard for your coaches. It’s very much a "top down” thing and coaches that don’t fall in line need to move on. Any level of distention among the coaches is like a virus that will plague your growth.

By setting the expectation that coaches show up with a written class plan, you will finally free up some time to take a break every so often knowing that your members are in good hands.

Once you develop a reputation in your community of running great classes and providing a higher quality product than your competitors, you will attract high quality coaches who want to grow and develop under your guidance.

It will allow you to deliver a world class experience every single day (and athletes who get that kind of service will gladly refer their friends). And if I am being honest, most gyms are totally missing the boat here. Referrals are pure gold in this industry.

And finally, having a structure for your classes shows respect for your members time and for their safety.


Effective CrossFit Coaching: Sample Class Plan

Alright, so now that you’re sold on the idea of having a class plan you’re probably wondering what a class plan actually looks like.

Let’s use this workout as an example:

3 rope climbs
10 deadlifts, 265/185
30’ handstand walk


Before we take a deep dive into that workout, here is my sample class plan. Notice that I run things on time stamps:

  • General class notes
    • I want to focus on a handstand walking progression today and have my athletes get inverted one way or another in the workout.
    • Remember to announce that the Progenex just got delivered.
    • Susan, John and Charlie are competing this weekend - cut back their volume today, and invite gym to come support.
    • Beth has a rt shoulder injury -> nothing overhead until Feb 28
    • Remember to put equipment away!!
  • Timeline
    • 0-3: Introduce any new members, drop ins, cover workout and today's scaling options - drop in: Jon from out of town
    • 3-10: warm up - timed handstand holds on wall, kettlebell swings and pulls up or rope climbs - no mobility today, just movement
    • 11-21: skill work - handstand walking progression and scaling options
    • 21-31: build up to workout weight for deadlifts across 5 sets, pee break, etc
    • 35-55: workout - turn up music and yell at athletes
    • 55-60: cool down and log workouts

Now let’s take a dive into the logic behind my class plan. Just looking at this workout, here’s what we’re working with:

One intermediate level gymnastics movement - rope climbs. I know that a lot of athletes will struggle with this, especially newer athletes, but this won't be my priority movement for the day.

One basic weightlifting movement that is moderately heavy for the number of reps required - deadlift. In the introduction I want to instruct my athletes that they should be able to complete all 10 reps in 2 sets or less. If not they will need to scale the weight.

One high skill gymnastics movement - handstand walking. I know that the majority of athletes will struggle with this, including intermediate and even some advanced athletes. Because of that I know I want to make this the focus of my skill work today.

A couple things that stand out to me right off the bat:

Because we have a high skill gymnastics movement, I know that I want to expose all of my athletes to that stimulus in the safest and most effective way possible. The next question becomes “what is the most effective way to do that in large group?”

Well, you need to get creative.

With a quick search on the old Google Bot I came up with two awesome resources for teaching athletes how to walk on their hands:

Do you think I could use some of those progressions while I am teaching this class? Shit yeah!

What about including rope climbs in the skill work? You certainly could do that, but I want to really emphasize the importance of learning the advanced skills and it takes more than 5 minutes to do so.

After the skill work I would instruct my athletes to grab an empty barbell and get in two lines facing the front of the gym. From there we would run through a down and dirty deadlift progression. As I am taking the athletes through the progression, I am also working my way through the lines they’ve formed cueing and correcting all faults that I see. Key point: this down and dirty progression should take no more than 3 minutes.

I would then instruct my athletes to build up to their workout weight across 4 or 5 sets, making sure to mention that we are starting the workout at 35 past the hour with or without them!

Once the workout is complete, I make sure to remind my athletes to log their workouts before leaving. The majority of your athletes probably don't care enough to do so on their own, so a daily reminder doesn't hurt. Set the standard (log every workout) and hold them to it.


Effective CrossFit Coaching: Time To Execute

You must have a class plan every day!

If you’re not planning, just know that your competitor is and that means they’re delivering a far superior experience than you. It’s far too competitive these days to NOT plan your classes.

Your customers will love that you respect their time and their safety, and happy members refer their friends…and referrals are pure gold for a CrossFit affiliate.

You’ll attract professional coaches who want to be part of a well run, professional facility. This makes your facility stand out from the rest.

Your members will get injured less, stick around longer and spend more money!

Go do it!

Programming, tracking and workout analytics all in one: Click here for your free 14-day CoachHeroic trial and become a more effective CrossFit coach

Questions? Comments? E-mail me and let's talk -

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About The Author

Colby Knepp is the man behind the Marketing at TrainHeroic. He's also a husband, father, strength coach, former rugby athlete and life-long learner. Colby is a big fan of a Moscow mules, ass-to-grass squats and Korean BBQ.