The gym- Ron Mathews

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.”

MASTERING CROSSFIT
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:

EXERCISE REPS
Barbell Bench Press 10
Dumbbell Pec Flye 10
DB Alternating Biceps Curl 10 (per arm)
DB Hammer Curl 10
Straight-leg Raise 10

 

Part B – Metabolic Conditioning

Burpee Sandwich

For time:

EXERCISE REPS
Double Under 100*
Burpee 50
Double Under 100*

 

*Optional substitution: 300 single unders

2. WORKOUT 2 (TUESDAY)

Part A – Glute-hamstring/Thoracic

Spine Warmup

Three rounds (not for time):

EXERCISE REPS
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:

EXERCISE  REPS
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
For time:

EXERCISE REPS
Row “buy-in” followed by three rounds of 500m
Deadlift (225 lbs) 5
Box Jump (24-inch box*) 10
Butterfly Situp 15

 

*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.”

BUTTERFLY SITUPS
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:

EXERCISE  REPS
Run  (70 lbs) 800m
Kettlebell Swing 21
Burpee 21
Kettlebell Swing  15
Burpee  15
Kettlebell Swing  9
Burpee 9

 

Part B – Metabolic Conditioning/Strength/Power

For time:

EXERCISE  REPS
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

For time*:

EXERCISE  REPS
Ring Muscle-up 10
Bar Muscle-up 20
Chest-to-bar Pullup 30
Pullup 40

 

*Rest one minute between exercises.

KETTLEBELL SWING
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.”

BAR MUSCLE-UP
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):

EXERCISE  REPS
DB Single-arm Press with Rotation 10 (per arm)
Banded Shoulder Internal/External Rotation 10 (per arm)

 

Part B – Gymnastics Skill/Handstand Pushup (HSPU)

EXERCISE  REPS
Strict Deficit HSPU 3×3
Kipping Deficit HSPU 3×6
Strict HSPU 3×9
Kipping HSPU 3×12

 

Part C – Strength/Power
Warmup on push press as needed, then*:

EXERCISE  REPS
Push Press 5×5

 

PUSH PRESS
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.

SNATCH
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

Barbell Snatch

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
6 Rest
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
12 PR attempt

 

Part B – Olympic Lifting Auxiliary Work

EXERCISE
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

EXERCISE
Barbell Squat, 5×2 (increasing weight gradually each set)
Front Squat, 1×10 (heavy)

 

Part D – Sprinting
Three rounds for time:

EXERCISE
2×60-second sprint*
Rest 3 minutes
2×40-second sprint
Rest 2 minutes
2×20-second sprint

 

*Optional substitution: hill sprints, stationary bike, stair sprints

6. WORKOUT 6 (SATURDAY)

Part A – Metabolic Conditioning/Body-weight Calisthenics

For time:

EXERCISE REPS
Run 1,200m
Body Weight/Air Squat 100
Situp 80
Pushup 60
Pullup 60

 

Part B – Metabolic Conditioning/Cardio
For time:

EXERCISE REPS
Row* 2,000m

 

*Optional substitution: Bike or other cardio activity performed at 75% of peak intensity for seven to nine minutes.

(SUNDAY)

Rest

ROW
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.

 

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