A New Way to ME Black Box
Michael Rutherford


It was 2004 when I first started integrating M.E. lifts with the CrossFit high intensity randomized protocol. I have since tried some new methods, which have proven successful. They tell me at the Performance Menu that the M.E. articles are the most popular back issues on the shelf. I still receive e-mail each week with questions on the implementation on the template.

The mother ship with a push from Starting Strength guru Mark Rippetoe now includes a heavy dose of M.E. lifting. The CrossFit method now includes a lifting total. I like to believe that the ME BLACK BOX had something to do with that birth.

Like a lot of things in coaching, these templates were born out of necessity along with trial and error. A couple of clients had stalled out with their progress. Thusly, this variant was born.


I don’t want to fill this space with a recap of the M.E. BLACK BOX writing. I hate to do it but you will need to invest in the ME Black Box article for the background.

THE M-W-F Black Box

This approach took hold over the last two winters. It was a way to abbreviate the BLACK BOX on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday as these are the big days in my practice. The essence was a M.E. focus followed by a CrossFit type WOD.

The outline for this was:

Monday Total Body (T) High Hang Clean, Deck Power Clean, Cleans
Wednesday Lower Body (L) Zercher Squat, Front Squat, Back Squat
Friday Upper Body (U) Press, Push Press, Jerk

Rep Rotations

Wk 1 - 5 x 5
Wk 2 - 5 x 3
Wk 3 - 5 x 1

I took creative liberties with the CrossFit workouts (don’t act like it doesn’t happen). I modified certain WODs and turned it into a game. I had the athlete draw them from a hat. The workout was not replaced into the hat until all 8 workouts had been completed for one entire cycle. If on day nine a workout was drawn from the hat that was completed within the last three days then a redraw was permitted.

I found the familiarity with the WOD kept the workout moving each week, reduced the psychological demands of constant education, but did not compromise the desired stress adaptation.

Here are the top eight modified CrossFit WODs.

1. Countdown DB Snatch: 20, 16, 12, 10, 8 reps (that’s 10 right/10 left, 8 right/8 left, etc)

2. Modified Cindy: 5 pull-ups/10 push-ups/15 squats; How many rounds can you get in X time (I would pick the time based on the athlete’s relative fatigue for the day; generally not more than 10 minutes)

3. Modified Diane: Deadlift & Dips 21, 15, 9 reps (loading equals 100% of bodyweight)

4. Modified Jackie: 1000M Row / 50 DB push press / 30 Pull-ups

5. DB Snatch 10 (5 right / 5 left) Pull-ups 10; How many rounds in X time.

6. Isabel - 30 reps barbell snatch

7. Sled Push or Pull: 2:00 hard / 1:00 recovery x 4-8 reps

8. Modified Grace - 30 Reps Clean

I might occasionally throw in something simple like a bunch of thrusters or ball slams, but primarily these were the ones we ran with.

The Template

The Daily schedule included:

1. Warm-up Moves
2. M.E. Focus
3. Modified WOD
4. P-Chain Move
5. Eight Great Post Stretch Moves
6. Foam Roller or Stick for the problem areas.

Next month I have another spin for the committed family man.

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June 5 2008
I've received a few questions regarding the integration of the O-lifts. I offer two approaches.

M- Snatch work (Light to Moderate) W- C&J (Light to Moderate) F- Snatch & C&J (Moderate to Heavy)

Option #2 M-Snatch work (Moderate to Heavy) W- C&J (Moderate to Heavy) F-Squat variant (Moderate to Heavy)
Greg Glassman
June 18 2008
The heavy lifting was always there. Go back in the archives. Ignoring it isn't the same as it not being there. I check every time I hear that heavy lifting is new to CF only to find it a regular and constant part of the program since 2001.
Greg Everett
June 18 2008
Coach -

I'm on vacation and bored out of my mind, so I dicked around in the archives a bit today. First, I don’t know of anyone who knows what they’re talking about who’s claiming dedicated strength work was absent at any point, merely that it’s more frequent now than it has been in the past, and that a greater emphasis is being placed on it, both in the sense of its role in the CF program, as well as in a more physiological sense manifested in lower reps and the associated higher intensity. Whether that's due to Rippetoe's involvement or not I have no idea, as I play no role in the CF programming, so I have no claim either way.

I’ve agreed with the idea that strength work has increased, but based only on casual observation. To make sure I wasn’t fooling myself and looking like a complete asshole, I went through the archives for all of 2001 and compared them to the most recent one-year period on record, June 2007 through May 2008.

In 2001, I counted 47 workouts that contained what could reasonably be considered dedicated strength work, although I kept my definition relatively generous. For example, I included workouts that involved a “slow” circuit such as a row, 2 min rest, and then a strength lift, which in other circumstances I’d be inclined not to include. There were 2-3 powerlifting totals in the year. Rarely was the strength work done in isolation, e.g. the strength lift or lifts were performed in the workout along with other non-strength exercises, but not within a compressed-time circuit. Many of these strength workouts used reps as high as 10, which was the maximum I allowed for the work to be considered strength-dedicated.

In contrast, the most recent year period had 72 dedicated strength workouts – 153% more than 2001 – 9 of which were CF Totals – at least 3 times as many as in 2001. Additionally, every one of these workouts was comprised of strength lifts only – while some may have included more than one lift, none included non-strength lifts, and none of the lifts were performed within a circuit. Finally, these strength workouts were limited to 5 or fewer reps.

Bottom line, the data is there to support the idea that CF is now placing a greater emphasis on strength work than it did formerly. I’m not in a position to explain the change because I had nothing to do with it. And pointing the change out is in no way a criticism of CF programming past or present – it’s simply an observation. Finally, my humble opinion is that the change is an improvement, as all evolutions should be.

That's all I have on that one. Again, I'm not trying to be a prick, I'm just demonstrating (as much to myself as anyone else) that I (and whoever else) am not imagining the change or ignoring the available data.
Robb Wolf
June 23 2008
Hey Coach-
I remember my own progress through CF in the early days. Coming in with a solid PL'ing background but little to no met-con or longer work capacity I thought the CF WOD's were supra-human...I could not believe people were doing the WOD's and then 2 hrs of BJJ or other activities. A few months in however I had a 17 round Mary, 3 min Diane, 2:58 Fran, 275 lb clean & jerk and a few other reasonably noteworthy benchmarks. Not that impressive by todays standards, but not bad. The reason I achieved those standards was due to the significant strength base I could build an engine upon.

I noticed early on that our clients needed a significantly greater exposure to strength work such as BS, DL etc. to build the strength side of the equation, otherwise a 95lb thruster or 225lb DL was "too heavy" under a 21, 15, 9 format. Part of what got me thinking about this originally was Rutman's email asking my opinion of the ME template. My initial response was that the focus work was unnecessary...this based on MY personal experience. This did however get me thinking about why I could not replicate my performance in our clients. Since that time a dedicated strength focus has been the underpinning of most sessions and we have folks in the 2.5-3.0x BW DL, 2.0 Sqt and some impressive benchmark number like sub 3 min fran/diane.

NOW! I think the question is: what is the best route to this end. I think you have mentioned the ideal CF'r would be a gymnast throughout childhood, get proficient in PL'ing, then Oling then CrossFit. Obviously this involves more developmental control than most of us can exert over our clients so what do we do? Rip thinks folks need to Starting Strength for a time and then do CF. I'm inclined to think a combined program like the ME-Black Box or the Bagwell Powerlifting/Crossfit template provides both increasing work capacity AND enough exposure to the big lifts to make EVERYTHING better. This would be some interesting stuff to investigate as we have large potential sample sizes via We need clear pre and post intervention numbers on folks, it would also be nice to track how much training time occurred so we can gauge relative efficiency. This process might help elucidate what is both an optimum program and the best way to bring people to elite levels.

Most of the top crossfit performers follow the WOD they have (as a population) seen dramatic increases in work capacity across broad time and modal domains. It's obvious that the frequency of strength efforts has increased over the past few years (since this topic BECAME a topic). I think it's safe to say the strength focus has been the driver in this progress, otherwise the WOD would not have evolved to this point.
July 6 2008
On this routine, are you doing 1 ME exercise each day or more than 1?
July 7 2008
Ed- You do your warm-up and any prehab work and then one move of ME lifting. You can finish with p-chain moves and then post stretch/foam roller.
Matt Corley
August 17 2008
I've just gotten the whole MEBB series and I'm really excited to start. I have a family, with a small child and I think that the MEBB for the family man is probably the way to go. My question is this.
I work a 13 hr shift every Wednesday and then alternate 13 hrs on either Thursday or Friday.
My wife is OK with me going to the gym on the weekends, the kiddo comes along.
Would it be reasonable to do ME alt with CF my every except my 13 hr shifts?
Or do you think it would be better to just try to get my workouts in M thru F after work?
Justin Moulden
September 18 2008
"Next month I have another spin for the committed family man."

Is this in the journal? Is it available for individual purchase?
Greg Everett
September 18 2008
Justin -

It's in the next issue of the PM -
Tyler Thompson
November 30 2011
What is the best way to incorporate ME deadlifts into the MWF program?
July 27 2014
Hi, I'm a student and can't afford a crossfit membership but I do like the idea behind crossfit. I currently do a standard lifting routine and need a change. When looking at the MWF workout I see the rep scheme for three weeks but what about etending it. Is this workout structured for just three weeks? How is it supposed to be structured for longer training periods? Thank you.