Building Strength As A CrossFit Master

Crossfit masters over 50 cover picture

Welcome, CrossFit Masters, to a journey of strength and resilience! As experienced athletes, you understand the unique challenges and goals that come with age. In this blog post, we will delve into the principles, strategies, and movements that will help you build strength and reach new heights in your CrossFit journey. Whether you're a seasoned master or just starting out, this guide will provide valuable insights to optimise your training and unlock your full potential. So, let's started!

Image of milos of croton the greek wrestler

The Foundations of Strength

At the heart of building strength lies the principle of progressive overload. A principle that’s over 2000 years old. True story - Milos of Croton, a wrestler carried a calf on his shoulders every day as part of his training (not sure where he was going with the calf). Over the course of time the calf grew as did Milos’ strength and size. Years later Milos was now carting around a fully grown bull with whom he shared a similar size and appetite. Progressive overload is not a new concept it has been around for many years for good reason, it truly is the foundation of strength. It's all about gradually increasing the demands placed on your muscles over time. As a CrossFit master, you have the advantage of experience, and by applying this principle wisely, you can take your strength to new levels. Start by setting clear goals and charting your progress. Increase the weight, intensity, or difficulty of your workouts in a controlled and measured manner, allowing your body to adapt and grow stronger.

Embrace the Power of Compound Movements

One of the keys to building overall strength is focusing on compound movements. These exercises engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, providing a solid foundation for strength gains. Squats, deadlifts, bench presses, shoulder presses, and rows are prime examples of compound movements that should be incorporated into your training regimen. These exercises recruit more muscles, stimulate greater strength gains, and enhance functional fitness – essential for mastering CrossFit.

Unleash Your Inner Olympian

When it comes to strength development, Olympic weightlifting movements can be game-changers. The snatch and clean and jerk demand explosiveness, coordination, and full-body engagement. Masters athletes can benefit greatly from these complex lifts by focusing on technique, mobility, and appropriate loads. Consult with a knowledgeable coach to learn and refine these lifts gradually, reaping the rewards of increased power and strength. Trying to unpick bad habits or poor movement patterns is more difficult than learning them in the first place. Pay attention to technique as it allows you to 

  1. LIft more weight 
  2. Lift more weight more frequently

Both are highly desirable for Crossfit success.

Functional Movements for Real-Life Strength

CrossFit is synonymous with functional movements that translate into real-life activities. Incorporating exercises like kettlebell swings, box jumps, wall balls, and burpees not only builds strength and power but also enhances your overall athleticism. These movements challenge multiple muscle groups, improve coordination, balance, and cardiovascular fitness – a perfect recipe for success in CrossFit. Not only that but these movements also challenge the explosive fast twitch muscle fibres. The ability to recruit these is crucial in the development of strength.

The Art of Tempo and Targeted Training

Take your strength training to the next level by exploring the power of time under tension and tempo training. By manipulating the speed of your lifts, particularly focusing on the eccentric and concentric phases, you can stimulate muscle growth and strength gains. Whilst I don’t recommend slowing down the tempo to increase the time your muscles are under tension I do recommend eliminating the lockout or resting at the top or bottom of a movement to increase this time. As a CrossFit Masters athlete I never want to teach myself to lift anything slowly. Under control, sure but not slowly, there is very little advantage in doing so. Another way to alter the tempo to your advantage is to add a pause. This can be particularly challenging at the bottom of a squat as you’re driving out of the hole. Building in a pause in this position can strengthen this portion of the movement and according to research strengthens the muscle at other joint angles too. Manske and Reiman, (2007). Combine this technique with targeted assistance exercises that address your weaknesses or imbalances to achieve a well-rounded strength development.

Ivan Abadjiev  watching  Naim Suleymanoglu,

Ivan Abadjiev oversees Naim Suleymanoglu, attempt a clean and jerk.

Periodisation and Variance

To optimise your strength gains, consider incorporating periodisation and variance into your training. Periodisation involves structured cycles of training that focus on different aspects of strength development, such as hypertrophy, maximal strength, and power. By rotating between high-rep, moderate-rep, and low-rep ranges, you challenge your muscles in various ways, preventing plateaus and promoting continuous progress. These cycles allow your body to build strength gradually often over a 6 week period. Not every class or training session is or needs to be 100% maximum. 

You may have overheard tales of the Bulgarian Weightlifting teams performing 2 - 3 workouts per day all of which involved training with maximum weights and intensity. The team performed extremely well in the 70s and 80s under the direction of their coach Abadjiev. The truth is though, that many athletes were destroyed by this level of intensity. Evidence of any team’s winning performance should be examined before adopting their philosophies at face value. The regimes that promote such systems funnel extraordinary athletic specimens and pump them through a meat grinder that has the potential to destroy them (and often does) The genetic superhumans not destroyed by the protocol are the medal winning exceptions to the training system that does not serve the majority

Burning candle at both ends image with flames

The Importance of Recovery

As a CrossFit master, recovery becomes even more crucial. Listen to your body, prioritise rest days, and optimise sleep. Active recovery techniques like mobility work, stretching, and foam rolling will aid in muscle repair and growth-while reducing the risk of injury. Remember, building strength is a journey, and adequate recovery ensures you stay in peak condition.


CrossFit masters, you possess a wealth of experience and determination. By incorporating the principles, strategies, and movements outlined in this blog post, you can take your strength training to new heights. Embrace progressive overload, compound movements, Olympic weightlifting, functional exercises, tempo training, and periodisation. Don't forget the importance of recovery to support your gains. With consistency and a smart approach, you'll unlock your full potential and continue to thrive in the world of CrossFit. Get ready to showcase the strength, resilience, and wisdom of a true CrossFit master!

About the Author Stephen Devine

Steve not just a skilled Crossfit Coach, but a top-tier CrossFit Competitor who's ranked in the top 1% worldwide in the 2023 Crossfit Open! And this is despite spending six weeks on crutches following surgery to fix a broken ankle just a year ago. He's Qualified as a Crossfit L1 Coach, Crossfit Gymnastics, and is also a qualified Olympic Weightlifting Coach.

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