We  often walk around other london gyms, and quite frankly, the quality of coaching we see tends to be quite low . There are some noticeable good coaches too!

We thought we would begin to share some of the thoughts and principles that make Crossfit London a  centre of Excellence. 


Teaching and coaching:




You must know and be confident about the technical aspects of the skill you are teaching, be it the olympic lifts, the powerlifts, running or  gymnastics  This is perhaps 20% of the job, but you need to  know that 20% 100% as you cannot get away with "sort of knowing" how to squat. You need to know and have thought out every aspect of the activity you are about to teach, including obvious mistakes and common faults. Practice your teaching points out loud. Your cat may think you are mad, but what sounds reasonable and clear when you "think it" to yourself can come out a muddled mess when spoken for the first time.


Be patient: with your students and yourself




Good teaching depends on your ability to communicate with your students and have self awareness.


Within the context of this seminar there are three types of communication:


§ VERBAL - your spoken instructions

§ VISUAL - your visual demonstrations

§ MANUAL - your 'hands on' ability to correct mistakes


In order to enhance your communication and teaching  skills.  You need to bear in mind the following basic principles:


POSITION:                        Can your students see you?


CLARITY:                          Are your voice and demonstrations clear and concise?


ACCURATE:             Are your explanations/demonstrations correct?


FEEDBACK:              Teaching is a two way process, are your students responding?


ENTHUSIASM:             Enthusiasm is contagious


INTERESTING:             Do you make things interesting?


APPROPRIATE:            Is the tone and language level appropriate to your students?








There are some barriers to effectively teaching a class which are to be considered as much as the content of the lesson. Learning saturation will occur if too much information is given to quickly. Distractions such as the temperature of the room, noise and waving mothers will also have an effect on your students performance. Before teaching it is good practice to gain an understanding of your students existing level of ability to avoid incorrect assumptions. It may seem obvious, but a poor professional image of the teacher will give  bad impression to the students.? Ensure you vary the tasks given to the students and monitor boredom, whilst change can alleviate learner frustration sometimes repetition is the key. Ensure you have class control at all times, using your voice and clear instructions.


Don't forget the all important MOTIVATION, all students need motivating, this can be done in a combination of praise with positive feedback. 


Command and control.


You are responsible for the area in which you teach, It may well be someone elses job to clean the area, remove stuff etc, but its your decision to teach there.


You must take command of this area. Move stuff around if need be, clean it if need be. Cancel the class if need be.



Teaching Crossfit London Beginners.


It is  a privilege to be invited to deliver sessions targeted at beginners, as you have a unique opportunity to encourage, educate and inspire people. Or disillusion and put them off us, Crossfit and training, possibly for life.

Here are some principles.

The level of your class is "beginners". 

It does not matter if a super elite world class athlete books in, it's your job is to go through the basic drills with them. The reality is that most advanced athletes have never been through a structured skill delivery session. 

When I have trained advanced trainees with basic drills, they have always learned, or been reminded of stuff they have forgotten.

Rule 1 Basic drills

People learn by doing stuff. In the context of our beginner sessions they rarely learn by listening to you rant on about theory

If on the day you have your first driving lesson, the instructor parked you up and explained, by waving her hands around, the workings of the internal combustion engine your lesson would be a waste of time, whereas a drill that says " this is the clutch, put your foot on it, and press down"...well that could help

Rule 2  beginners learn by doing a guided drill, not listening to you talk

Rule 3 assume all learners are only capable of doing one thing at a time

Rule 4 every move has a coaching point

Rule 5 if the trainees are not doing something for more than 60 seconds, you are not teaching. It may be you are giving them a rest (physical or mental), or entertaining them,  but, you are no longer teaching ( within the context of a learning session)

Rule 6: Assume nothing. 

so, here is your  teaching practice for today.

In the space below, write down five key performance elements of the squat. 


For each point, write  a quick instruction that you would give to a beginner to help them perform that criteria






Think of a quick cue you could use to help reinforce your instruction (normally a quick pithy summary)


so for example

Performance element: weight in the heels

Quick instruction: " In the next squat you do, i want the weight in your heels: so pick up one foot and stamp your heel down, same with the other! Good job, great stamping. 

If it helps, just imagine you are having a temper tantrum and stamping your heels down in fury!

Ok, everyone, keep the weight on your heels, and down you go.

cue "heels"

In some cases your imagery won't work, so you need reserves: "imagine it's windy and you have a £50 note under each heel"   your cues could be, "keep that fifty quid"

So, stand in front of a  mirror, give your first instruction, then squat, then cue yourself and squat again. "heels" then perhaps " one more time, its really windy, keep that £50 safe" 

Then feed back to yourself: was the squat good? Were your heels down? Are you £50 better off?

now move on to your next point (knees? chest, bum back , etc etc)

If your beginners sessions involve you counting 1,2,3,4,5,6, its a waste of everyone's time.


Feedback: Crossfit London UK Coaching Academy

According to Scales P (2008) 'Feedback is an essential element in effective communication between teacher and learners; the willingness of learners and teachers to give and receive feedback is at the heart of formative assessment'

The most obvious type of feedback is given by others, and they can be peers, students, or performance assessment feedback ( Wilson, 2008) .

According to Gravells (2010), feedback is more in depth than a passing comment, and does not depend on opinion but facts that are relevant to the success or failure in the set task. To be effective, feedback must leave the learner feeling motivated to try again. Feedback needs to be specific and clearly state what the strengths/and or weaknesses were.  It should be constructive feedback and identify areas of improvement and what can practically be done about it. As its impossible to feedback about all aspects of performance, so it is important to priority to the more important elements.

In many cases the use of a praise sandwich (Gravells , 2010) can be appropriate, " a positive opener, a developmental statement a motivational close" ( wilson 2008)

Ideally feedback needs to be on a one to one basis,and can be in written or oral, but learners need to be able  question the feedback giver (Gravells 2010). According to wilson 2008 it needs to be delivered promptly

The feedback process is essential as it contributes to the reflective process. Wlson (2008) identifies numerous theorists associated with reflection, but basically draws a line in the sand  saying that good teachers reflect, and "coasting" ones don't bother.

Gravells Ann (2010) Preparing to teach in the lifelong sector pub www.learning matters.co.uk
Wilson Linda ( 2080) Practical Teaching A guide to PTLLs And CTTLS. pub Delmar cencage publishing


Review what your role, responsibilities, and boundaries as a crossfit London teacher would be in terms of the teaching/training cycles.

The aim of all  Crossfit teaching should be to deliver top rate learning by focusing on the fundamentals (Glassman, 2006). To date, the teaching cycle seems to be the most effective method of delivering effective basics.

The teaching cycle, according to Wilson (2008), suggests the following  looped process  of : identify the needs, plan the teaching, deliver the teaching, and assess the teaching.

The cycle puts one fundamental obligation on teachers, to ensure that nothing impedes the students learning. It is from this perspective that the role, responsibilities and boundaries  of the teacher needs to be reviewed

The role of the Crossfit teacher is a fairly obvious:  facilitator, organiser, subject expert, researcher, communicator:  broader or shorter lists can readily be found by  google search. However it is the responsibilities and boundaries in which the teacher operates that gives this list  further meaning.

Responsibilities and boundaries are often found within industry codes of conduct, in this case the Institute for learning (IFL., 2010) promotes a code of  professional conduct on which the following review is based

The learning cycle is an on going  process that emphasises the need to to be open minded and critical about new techniques, new learners, new knowledge and self performance. However the responsibility on the teacher is only to deliver what the teacher is competent and qualified to deliver.  Whilst Crossfit Londondoes not have a formal CPD structure, all  teachers are expected to undertake CPD (IFL,  2010)  activities and belong to professional bodies.

An obvious impediment to physical learning  is injury. The responsibility for the teacher is that students need to be kept safe as part of a planned process (HSE, 2010), from health and safety, appropriate drills, safe equipment, access to further support (fire. ambulance, police). This  obligation follows all stages of the teaching cycle and should not be relegated to a tick box form.  A passion for safety  is interwoven into the fabric of the cycle,  including assessments of near misses.

Discrimination undermines all stages of the teaching cycle as it diverts  the teachers mind from focusing on the student, instead focusing on personal discrimination. This can  cause  uninformed judgement  about students which  can impede their learning, hence government place the responsibility on all teachers to act in a non discriminatory way especially in the areas  of sex and sexuality, race, disability and human rights, In short this amounts to the overarching obligation to be fair.

There is an obvious responsibility to Administer and plan : to keep evidence and records in accordance with the data protection act, and ensure that copyrights, etc are not violated.

Administration and planning is not merely a step, it must follow the cycle through every stage, recording attendance, writing up  reflections, updating  the scheme of work amending  session plans, otherwise there is no real way of ensuring that the whole of the curiculuum has been delivered. and no effective way to record and push forward improvements.  Planning should ensure resources are available.

To be effective, learning  should be tailored to the individuals needs. Within the Crossfit London  class delivery system  this means all sessions should use a variety of drills that could appeal to  different learning styles (visual, auditory and kinetic, VAK) : a mixture of  cues, demonstrations,  and hands on correction, where appropriate. 

Issues of sexual inappropriateness seem to dominate most discussions of boundaries, and whilst they are serious in nature, and often attract publicity , it is the low level violation  of boundaries that can be more damaging to the students. Boundaries  should  remind Crossfit trainers that as  both professional and individuals, they  have limitations:  they must be ready and willing to refer issues and to make it clear where there expertise ends, and amateur personal interest   begins. Teachers are paid professionals, and they should not use their role to seemingly validate uniformed, unqualified information, nor should authority be misused to impose personal beliefs on others.

Superficially, this seems  worryingly complex, but the role, responsibilities and boundaries of the teacher in  teaching cycle makes sense, once the learner is placed in the middle. Once the delivery of excellence is understood, as part of a vibrant ongoing process, the mundane lists of duties, legislation, does and donts,  comes alive.


Glassman, Greg, 2006. Crossfit Journal .Fundamentals, virtuosity and mastery. Crossfit Inc.
Institute for learning  2010 The code of professional practice accessed 21 september at www.ifl.ac.uk
Health and safety executive: statutory guidelines. accessed 21 sept http://www.hse.gov.uk/
Wilson L (2008) Practical Teaching: A Guide to PTLLS and CTLLS . Delmar Cengage Learning



You are a self fulfilling prophecy! Your early teachers, the trainers you have met, the sports you have tried and failed at  have  pretty much taught you that you are weak, uncoordinated and basically crap. So, when you look at the WODs we publish on the Crossfit London UK site, you must to be thinking: "you have to be joking!  I cant do that!"

How you account for failure and success and the feelings these evoke  is the subject of  attributions;  the perceived causes of events and behaviours. Theories about attributions focus on your perceptions and interpretations that affect your behaviour.

The attributions we make about ourselves and others affect our behaviour.

If you cannot snatch (an olympic lift) you would behave differently depending on why you think you cannot. Perhaps you don't know how, or need more practice; in which case you may  attend a Crossfit London UK skill seminar. However if you think its because you are weak and too uncoordinated to learn, you could simply give up and go back to a leg extension machine in your local fitness centre. The attributions you  make about others also effects  how you feel about them. If you watch a classmate attempt a snatch , how you perceive their attempt will be different if you think they lack the strength or that they are lazy!

Weiner  et al (1974) has  been credited with  bringing attribution theory to prominence by developing an attributional theory of achievement behaviour. He specifically felt that the difference between high and low achievers is the difference in attributional patterns (or how you think about stuff)

According to Weiner, if you had to assess why you screwed up a workout, or came last in the Crossfit games, your explanations could fall into one of 4 categories: ability, effort, luck, task difficulty.

However these four categories are not the critical aspect, the locus of causality(where the "blame" lies) and stability are the two essential dimensions.

The locus of causality can either be internal or external, ie ability and effort are internal,  luck and task difficulty are external. Are these stable?  Your ability is stable, however your effort is unstable and can vary from workout to workout: luck, unstable.

Later Weiner added a third dimension; controllability. Some factors are internal, but not very controllable, ie aptitude and natural ability.

Often people make internal attributions for winning and external ones for failure. In team sports, external attributions normally seem to come from the loosing side (lucky breaks, officials' calls, weather). The tendency to attribute success internally and failure externally  can be seen as setting up a self serving bias. If you complete a workout faster than class mate, you would prefer to think that your extra effort won the day, not that your rival was ill that day.

Weiner suggests that the internal/external dimension can correlate to feelings of pride and shame, with the internal attributions provoking stronger feelings: you take a greater pride in a victory you earned!

The stability of these factors also has an effect: a stable attribution  leads you to expect the same outcome: if you have failed in the snatch because you its too complicated for you, you can expect the same results in the future. The controllability of the factor effects our moral judgements: we praise those who give extra effort and  dislike those who shirk.

However, the results of studies are confusing. Some have identified winners as internal stable and controllable, others that winners make more stable and controllable, but not more internal, attributions.

Spink and Roberts (1980) showed winners made more internal attributions, more importantly  they actually found two types of winners satisfied, and dissatisfied winners who felt the victory was too easy. Satisfied losers attributed losses to task difficulty, dissatisfied losers looked to their own low ability. Essentially, McAuley(1985)  found perceived success  to be a better predictor  of internal stable controllable atttributions  than objective success.

Attributions and Emotions.

It is quite popular to link attributions and emotions. Weiner identified outcome-dependent emotions (associated with actual outcomes)  and attribution-dependent emotions (the reason for the outcomes)

Work  by Biddle ( 1993) indicated performance satisfaction (or subjective appraisal)  is one of the best predictors of emotion, and that attributions play a role.

Dweck (1978)  deploys attributional theory in the field of learned helplessness.  We all come across those individuals ( do you think this of yourself)  who "know" they are slow, uncoordinated and too un-athletic to take part in sports or get fit ( or Crossfit) Here we can help by making these people attribute their failings to unstable, controllable factors including a lack of practice, instruction and techniques.

In reality, at Crossfit London, we find that many people who have been dismissed as weaklings, or overweight, uncoordinated failures can often make substantial improvements in performance and fitness. Our focus is to get you to work on those things you can control, and make stable; we do our best to get you to forget the vicious labels that incompetent sports teachers and trainers may have lazily given you. Our teaching is made progressive so that we can take beginners and make them skilled performers. Our approach will get the best out of your efforts and enhance your feelings of personal control. 

With my hypnotist hat on, most of my work revolves around removing irrational fears that your adult brain smears over your subconscious one. The chances are that your subconscious wants to achieve and train and have fun. Its you overly logical, overly negative Adult brain that keeps you in a chair eating crap.