I had the privilege this summer to attend two very different coaching seminars.  This gave me great perspective comparing the programs and their teachings.  Without further adieu, here’s the rundown of…


Now to be fair, the OPEX program I completed was their assessment and program design (a fairly advanced course), while the CF course was a revalidation of my CF L1 Trainer certificate.

If you’re a CF fanatic, and want to learn more about the theory and methodologies behind CrossFit, the CFL1 certificate course is for you.  

Detailed description of their 9 basic movements (air squat, front squat, overhead squat, deadlift, sumo deadlift high pull, med ball clean, shoulder press, push press, push jerk), points of performance of these movements, and typical faults/ coaching cues are reviewed.  This is a broad course where nutrition and programming are also touched upon in brief 1 hour lectures.

The CFL1 seminar staff are phenomenal- excellent speakers, coaches and genuinely awesome people; however, I must repeat, this is a very basic course.  You will NOT be prepared to coach classes, counsel on nutrition or address semi-complicated movement disorders.  That my friend, comes from months (years really) of hands-on experience interning at a facility.  (Aka- learning, screwing up and learning from your mistakes under the guidance of an experienced coach.)

So what if you’ve been coaching for a while, but you want more…  

You want to know how to deal with those movement-challenged clients.

You want to learn more about programming than simply making couplet and triplet wods with varying reps and time domains?

…OPEX, baby.

Now, I am slightly biased, as Heavey completed his CCP L1 OPEX coaching credentials last fall, and has been raving since day 1.  But seriously, the assessment and program design blew my mind.

If the CFL1 was elementary school, this was college.

In assessment you learn how to dissect an athlete piece by piece.  Joint by joint to figure out if and where they have any movement issues.  You learn about body composition pinch testing, and what kind of training your client needs based on those results.  Aka- do they have hormone imbalances or stressors causing fat accumulation in certain areas (tricep, iliac, hammy, scap)?  If so, certain training methodologies may be better than others for these clients.

You also learn how to appropriately test athletes to determine their strengths and weaknesses.

For example:   What’s their back squat to front squat ratio?  How about their clean to snatch?  How is their single leg strength?  Is loaded double leg strength work appropriate for them yet?  And when do you safely incorporate plyometrics?  (Hint hint, it might be awhile!)

Learning all of this you start to realize that whole “scaling the wod for everyone”might not be the best form of action.  

Once you’ve passed the OPEX assessment exam, you are allowed to move on to program design…and oh boy, it’s a brave new world.

Energy Systems and Program Design

In the CF L1 (and slightly more in detail in the CF L2) you learn about the 3 energy systems: phosphocreatine, glycolytic, and aerobic systems.  For balanced fitness, you need to touch on all three of these systems frequently, and preferably in couplets and triplets to keep intensity high.  Pure strength work is recommended once a week.


From: https://graemethomasonline.com

(Pictorial from: https://graemethomasonline.com)

OPEX goes into much more detail on the PC, glycolytic, and aerobic systems in their three-day didactic program design course…

Here are the OPEX detailed energy systems you will not only become familiar with, but will learn how to incorporate into long term training programs for all levels of athletes:

  • Anaerobic Alactic Power
  • Anaerobic Alactic Endurance
  • Anaerobic Alactic Capacity
  • Anaerobic Lactic Power 1 / Power 2
  • Anaerobic Lactic Endurance 1 / 2 / 3
  • Anaerobic Lactic Capacity
  • Max Aerobic Power 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 (that’s 10 separate ones)
  • Aerobic Capacity Test


Heavey and I incorporate all of our OPEX assessment and energy system programming goodness into all of our individual clients’ programs.

Now after reading on all of this, you might think I’m dogging on the CF L1 course.  NOT AT ALL.  Everyone needs to start somewhere, and that’s a perfect point to begin your search for coaching knowledge.  CF seminar staff member Cherie Chan said it herself:  “As a coach, your search for knowledge to better yourself and your clients is never over.”  (BTW- she was awesome!)

With that said, if you’re looking to advance your coaching, check out OPEX and prepare to have your mind blown.  Knowledge is power, for you and your clients.


PS- Interested in learning more about your personal fitness assessment?  Want to know if individual program design is right for you?  Contact us – we’d love to have a chat about your training and goals.