CrossFit Games athlete Ron Mathews has reached the elite level of the sport’s over-45 division with this grueling six-days-a-week routine.
There are CrossFitters, and there are CrossFit Games competitors. The latter is always the former, but the former is certainly not always the latter. We’re talking about two completely different types of individuals here: a passionate yet recreational gym goer versus essentially a professional athlete competing in one of the most physically (and mentally) demanding sports in the world.
The average CrossFitter is very well served with four or five hour-long training sessions a week. The Games competitor? Not even close. One WOD a day won’t cut it. You need more like two or three.
Such is the training protocol of Ron Mathews, a true CrossFitting beast and third-place finisher in the ultra competitive men’s 45–49 Master’s Division in the Reebok CrossFit Games. The 46-yearold Mathews’ typical weekly routine (outlined in its entirety on the following pages) hits on all the various attributes the Games athlete must excel at: brute strength, speed, power, endurance, conditioning across all energy systems, skill in Olympic lifts, skill and strength in gymnastics, stamina, grit, and mental toughness.
“Generally speaking, I’m working my strength and metabolic conditioning simultaneously in my programming,” says Mathews, co-owner of Reebok CrossFit LAB in Los Angeles. “I don’t do a ‘bulking phase’ followed by a ‘cutting phase.’ Of course, I’m not a competitive bodybuilder; I’m trying to maintain as much lean muscle as possible to be able to perform well and look great at the same time. As for weights on my lifts, I go as heavy as form allows, with this caveat: I must get all reps of all sets with minimal rest.”
Though physique enhancement isn’t his top priority, Mathews starts his week (Workout 1, Part A) with what he calls a “giant set”—a circuit of five exercises, three of which (dumbbell flyes, curls, and hammer curls) are taboo in the CrossFit world for their lack of “functionality.”
“It’s really hard for me to give up entirely on my roots,” says Mathews, who’s earned a reputation as an A-list physique specialist by training Hollywood celebs like Hugh Jackman and Joe Manganiello. “While not very CrossFit-y, that particular workout is surprisingly taxing, and I feel it adds to my ‘intangible strength.’ In the CrossFit Games, there’s always some kind of odd object carry or sled push/ pull, and I tend to either win or finish no lower than third in those. When you just have to brute through it, I feel like that workout helps me train for that.”
Below is a typical week of training for CrossFit Games Master’s division competitor Ron Mathews. This doesn’t include a 10- to 20-minute dynamic warmup performed at the beginning of each session with varying movements and activities, depending on the workout. “Much like an athlete getting ready to play a game, I treat my warmup as if I’m getting game-ready,” Mathews says. “At the end of it, I’m ready to perform at max effort and max intensity from my first set.”
Caution: These workouts were programmed for an elite-level CrossFit athlete (Mathews). These prescriptions are not recommended for a beginner or intermediate-level individual. Scale down training variables (movements, volume, resistance, intensity, etc.) based on your current fitness level.
1. WORKOUT 1 (MONDAY)
Part A – Chest/Biceps/Abs Circuit
Six rounds for time:
|Barbell Bench Press||10|
|Dumbbell Pec Flye||10|
|DB Alternating Biceps Curl||10 (per arm)|
|DB Hammer Curl||10|
Part B – Metabolic Conditioning
*Optional substitution: 300 single unders
2. WORKOUT 2 (TUESDAY)
Part A – Glute-hamstring/Thoracic
Three rounds (not for time):
|Single-leg Shoulder Bridge||10 (per leg)|
|Hollow-body Single-leg Kick||15 (per leg)|
|T’s and Y’s (Bentover Rear-delt Raise)||10|
|Glute-ham Bench Situp*||15|
Optional substitution: V-ups.
BARBELL BENCH PRESS
Mathews says: “If I were doing sets of 10 on bench press with long rest periods, 225 pounds would be very doable. However, in this giant set I would start to fail in Sets 4, 5, and 6. Therefore, I use 185 pounds knowing that it’s not a max effort in Sets 1, 2, and 3, but that it will be challenging for those last few reps in the later sets.”
Part B – Strength
Deadlift (Warmup sets as needed)
Performed as traditional powerlifting/straight sets with sufficient rest between sets:
|Set 1||6 reps @ 65% of 1RM|
|Set 2||4 reps @ 75% of 1RM|
|Set 3||2 reps @ 85% of 1RM|
|Set 4||2 reps @ 90% of 1RM|
|Set 5||1 rep @ 95% of 1RM|
Part C – Metabolic Conditioning
|Row “buy-in” followed by three rounds of||500m|
|Deadlift (225 lbs)||5|
|Box Jump (24-inch box*)||10|
*Optional substitution: flat bench.
SINGLE-LEG SHOULDER BRIDGE
Mathews says: “In Workout 2 I’m getting some powerlifting in. Part A [featuring the single-leg shoulder bridge] is in addition to my warmup. I want to ensure that my glutes and hamstrings, along with my thoracic spine, are firing and able to support big weight before I jump into the deadlift.”
Mathews says: “Part C of Workout 2 is a sprint. I like to do these metabolic sprints [with explosive butterfly situps] because long-duration cardio burns calories but creates a body that looks like a marathon runner’s. I want to look like a sprinter—shredded and able to explode!”
3. WORKOUT 3 (WEDNESDAY)
Part A – Metabolic Conditioning
Three rounds for time:
|Run (70 lbs)||800m|
Part B – Metabolic Conditioning/Strength/Power
|Power Clean (205 lbs)||5-4-3-2-1*|
|Front Squat (205 lbs)||5-4-3-2-1*|
*Five reps of power cleans, five reps of front squats (with bar in cleaned position from power cleans), four reps of power cleans, four reps of front squats, and so on, until doing one rep of each.
Part C – Metabolic Conditioning/Gymnastics Skill
*Rest one minute between exercises.
Mathews says: “Workout 3 [featuring heavy KB swings] is a grinder. Part A takes me about eight minutes per round for three rounds. You have to really dig in mentally to keep moving well as you get over 20 minutes in a workout with no rest.”
These are a little bit easier than muscle-ups on rings (the bar is stable, unlike the rings) but not by a lot. They still require a ton of upper-body strength and power.
4. WORKOUT 4 (THURSDAY)
Part A – Rotator-cuff Warmup
Three rounds (not for time):
|DB Single-arm Press with Rotation||10 (per arm)|
|Banded Shoulder Internal/External Rotation||10 (per arm)|
Part B – Gymnastics Skill/Handstand Pushup (HSPU)
|Strict Deficit HSPU||3×3|
|Kipping Deficit HSPU||3×6|
Part C – Strength/Power
Warmup on push press as needed, then*:
Mathews says: “Push press is an assistance exercise for the split jerk. In the push press, the knees dip quickly, and then the weight is pressed overhead to full arm extension.”
DEFICIT HSPU + KIPPING DEFICIT HSPU
A deficit handstand pushup is performed with hands on plates (pictured at right). To add a kip, bend your knees and extend powerfully for the aid of momentum.
Warm up with an empty bar first to drill the right movement pattern. Remember: Most of the power should be generated in the initial pull when your hips are low. If you’re still yanking the bar in the middle of the range of motion, then it’s too heavy.
5. WORKOUT 5 (FRIDAY)
Part A – Olympic Lifting
Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM) for 12 minutes:
|MINUTE||WEIGHT USED (POUNDS)|
|1||30–40 below PR (personal record on snatch for 1 rep)|
|2||25–35 below PR|
|3||20–30 below PR|
|4||15–25 below PR|
|5||10–20 below PR|
|7||30–40 below PR|
|8||25–35 below PR|
|9||20–30 below PR|
|10||15–25 below PR|
|11||10–20 below PR|
Part B – Olympic Lifting Auxiliary Work
|Snatch-grip Deadlift at 100% of best snatch weight, 3×2|
|Snatch-grip Deadlift at 115% of best snatch weight, 3×1|
|Snatch-grip Push Press (from behind the neck), work up to aheavy 2-rep max|
Part C – Strength
|Barbell Squat, 5×2 (increasing weight gradually each set)|
|Front Squat, 1×10 (heavy)|
Part D – Sprinting
Three rounds for time:
|Rest 3 minutes|
|Rest 2 minutes|
*Optional substitution: hill sprints, stationary bike, stair sprints
6. WORKOUT 6 (SATURDAY)
Part A – Metabolic Conditioning/Body-weight Calisthenics
|Body Weight/Air Squat||100|
Part B – Metabolic Conditioning/Cardio
*Optional substitution: Bike or other cardio activity performed at 75% of peak intensity for seven to nine minutes.
Powerful, complete reps are more useful than quick ones, even in a race. Lean forward and let the chain recoil fully into the chamber. Then extend your legs and row the handle to your chest.