Workout of the Day

Variance or Randomness


Let’s talk fitness misconceptions. A common misunderstanding is that variance and randomness are the same or similar. This is particularly common around CrossFit, where variance stands as one of the three main principles upon which the methodology is built.

Variance is exactly what it sounds like: some deviation from the same. However, variance can be planned and intentional. A burger joint that rotates their menu of specialty burgers every week engages in an act of variance (the specialty burgers are not the same from week one to week two), but this variance is planned, and there is an underlying consistency (it’s always some type of burger) and intention (create something interesting and delicious). Randomness, on the other hand, lacks any pattern or predictability. It is still a form of variance, but it does not rest on any principle of organization. A random rotation at our imaginary burger joint could have a burger one week, a hot dog the next, and a ceasar salad the following. There is no predictable consistency (it remains a burger) or intention (create a variety of a burger that is interesting and delicious).

Coming back to exercise: a brief glance at a highly varied program may lead you to believe that it is random. Things look different from day to day, and there’s no obvious pattern that jumps out and slaps you in the face. Look deeper, however, and you’ll find that a varied program built on principles has all the signs and signals of patterning and intention as a high specialized program that rests heavily on repeating the same movements. Put another way, while we may front squat heavy one week, back squat the next, and perform a split squat the following week, each of these movements aligns to a specified pattern (squat) and purpose (develop squatting strength and skill with different specific constraints and purposes).

Can variance include randomness? Absolutely. I am well aware that many organizations out there rest on the pull-exercises-out-of-a-hat-and-hope-for-the-best method for their variance. The true litmus test for randomness vs variance is this: can the intention be accounted for? If you ask “why this and not that,” is there a well-founded answer?

- PS


  • “Moore”

  • 20 min AMRAP:

    • 1 rope climb ascent

    • 400m run

    • Max reps HSPU

  • *record rounds and HSPU reps completed