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Test Weeks: why we program them & what to expect

September 24 2017 Program Structure

So you made it! Our three-block off-season cycle is over and you may be sick of shoulder pressing, squatting, and deadlifting but the progress was obvious from our perspective. According to the template we have laid out for the year next in the hopper we have 2 test weeks before we move into pre-season.

What is the purpose of test week?

There are many potential reasons for testing outcomes and they all serve a slightly different purpose. Ultimately, test weeks are a break in the rhythm and signal the start of a new phase. The important thing to note is that training (what we do day-to-day) and testing (what we will be doing these 2 weeks) is not the same thing.

  1. It allows us to evaluate the programming and whether or not it has accomplished the goals we have set for the last cycle;
  2. We can benchmark where the gym and our membership currently is so we can plan the next phases;
  3. You can evaluate where you are so you can see what you may want or need to work on;
  4. It allows you to map your progress against previous tests to validate your hard work and effort, reassure you that you haven’t stalled overall even if one area has, or determine how much you may have slipped if you haven’t been as dedicated over the last while; and
  5. Testing is fun and human nature. People like to know how they have progressed. By adding the occasional test week we find that people are more willing to relax and follow the programming knowing that something is coming rather than going off script to test everything themselves.

What makes testing different?

Testing is different than training. It requires your best effort and in some workouts requires you to adopt a strategy in order to maximize your outcome. For instance you may choose to intentionally break a set of push-ups into really small chunks to minimize your total rest time due to fatigue later on when in a normal workout you might push to go unbroken for as long as possible. Testing is also generally much lower volume; typically we will only do one workout piece in a class or 2 very small pieces. You won’t see high volume lifting or gymnastic EMOMs during test week. Lastly, while technique and safety will always be the highest priority, quality of movement is likely to be less of a focus during testing. Your coach will not stop you to fix a problem as long as what you are doing is safe for you and others the same way they might during a regular training session.


test weeks at Ironstone

The core characteristics of a test week are:

  1. Higher intensity;
  2. Lower volume; and
  3. Limited in variance because most tests are designed to analyze specific capacities.

Because of these characteristics they are not designed to increase your fitness, only provide a benchmark as to where you currently stand. That isn’t to say you won’t get more fit by participating in test week, just that they are not sustainable as a long term strategy for increasing fitness.

What should you expect from test week this time around?

Well, I don’t want to give it all away but I will give you a few and a few hints:

  1. Max strict Pull ups + Team Series Workout 1
  2. DT (5 rounds of 12 Deadlift, 9 Hang Power Clean, 6 Shoulder to overhead)
  3. Open 17.2 (our recent retest)
  4. CrossFit Total II

and this Gem….

So strap in and enjoy the ride over the next 2 weeks. Even if you are only doing this purely for fitness test week is still for you. You’ll get a chance to benchmark where you are and what you should work on. The team will be there cheering you on and in the end you’ll maybe work a bit harder than normal.