For CrossFit the specter of championing a ﬁtness program without clearly deﬁning what it is that the program delivers combines elements of fraud and farce. The vacuum of guiding authority has therefore necessitated that CrossFit’s directors provide their own deﬁnition of ﬁtness. That’s what this issue of CrossFit Journal is about, our “ﬁtness.” Our pondering, studying, debating about, and ﬁnally deﬁning ﬁtness have played a formative role in CrossFit’s successes.
The keys to understanding the methods and achievements of CrossFit are perfectly imbedded in our view of ﬁtness and basic exercise science.It will come as no surprise to most of you that our view of ﬁtness is a contrarian view. The general public both in opinion and in media holds endurance athletes as exemplars of ﬁtness. We do not. Our incredulity on learning of Outside’s awarding a triathlete title of “ﬁttest man on earth” becomes apparent in light of CrossFit’s standards for assessing and deﬁning ﬁtness.
CrossFit makes use of three different standards or models for evaluating and guiding ﬁtness. Collectively, these three standards deﬁne the CrossFit view of ﬁtness. The ﬁrst is based on the ten general physical skills widely recognized by exercise physiologists. The second standard, or model, is based on the performance of athletic tasks, while the third is based on the energy systems that drive all human action.
Each model is critical to the CrossFit concept and each has distinct utility in evaluating an athlete’s overall ﬁtness or a strength and conditioning regimen’s efﬁcacy. Before explaining in detail how each of these three perspectives works, it warrants mention that we are not attempting to demonstrate our program’s legitimacy through scientiﬁc principles. We are but sharing the methods of a program whose legitimacy has been established through the
World-Class Fitness in 100 Words:
■ Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds,
some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep
intake to levels that will support exercise but
not body fat.
■ Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean,
squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly,
master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups,
dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to
handstand, pirouettes, ﬂips, splits, and holds.
Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast.
■ Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns
as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy.
Keep workouts short and intense.
■ Regularly learn and play new sports.
testimony of athletes, soldiers, cops, and others whose lives or livelihoods depend on ﬁtness.
Crossﬁt’s First Fitness Standard
There are ten recognized general physical skills. They are cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, ﬂexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. (See “General Physical Skills”, pg. 4, for deﬁnitions.) You are as ﬁt as you are competent in each of these ten skills. A regimen develops ﬁtness to the extent that it improves each of these ten skills.
Importantly, improvements in endurance, stamina, strength, and ﬂexibility come about through training. Training refers to activity that improves performance through a measurable organic change in the body. By contrast improvements in coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy come about through practice. Practice refers to activity that improves performance through changes in the nervous system. Power and speed are adaptations of both training and practice.
Crossﬁt’s Second Fitness Standard
The essence of this model is the view that ﬁtness is about performing well at any and every task imaginable. Picture a hopper loaded with an inﬁnite number of physical challenges where no selective mechanism is operative, and being asked to perform fetes randomly drawn from the hopper. This model suggests that your ﬁtness can be measured by your capacity to perform well at these tasks in relation to other individuals. The implication here is that ﬁtness requires an ability to perform well at all tasks, even unfamiliar tasks, tasks combined in inﬁnitely varying combinations. In practice this encourages the athlete to disinvest in any set notions of sets, rest periods, reps, exercises, order of exercises, routines, periodization, etc. Nature frequently provides largely unforeseeable challenges; train for that by striving to keep the training stimulus broad and constantly varied.
Crossﬁt’s Third Fitness Standard
There are three metabolic pathways that provide the energy for all human action. These “metabolic engines” are known as the phosphagen pathway, the glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway. The ﬁrst, the phosphagen, dominates the highest-powered activities, those that last less than about ten seconds. The second pathway, the glycolytic, dominates moderate-powered activities, those that last up to several minutes. The third pathway, the oxidative, dominates low-powered activities, those that last in excess of several minutes.
Here’s an excellent reference for additional information: http://predator.pnb.uconn.edu/beta/virtualtemp/muscle/exercise-folder/muscle.html
Total ﬁtness, the ﬁtness that CrossFit promotes and develops, requires
competency and training in each of these three pathways or engines.
Balancing the effects of these three pathways largely determines the
how and why of the metabolic conditioning or “cardio” that we do at
Favoring one or two to the exclusion of the others and not recognizing
the impact of excessive training in the oxidative pathway are arguably
the two most common faults in ﬁtness training. More on that later.