CrossFit, at its core is a strength and conditioning programmed designed to make one better at performing general tasks. Hence its importance in the realm of general physical preparedness or GPP.
The ascension of the CrossFit Games has led many aspiring athletes to move away from a generalists program to one aimed at making it through the qualification ladder and ultimately the CrossFit Games.
This is not the ideal way to train for 99% of people doing CrossFit. Greg Glassman, CrossFit’s ultra hip mastermind creator boiled fitness down to a 100 words in his pioneering article on fitness.
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 (clean & jerk), 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.
Check it out: The CrossFit Journal is a free resource with an untold amount of useful information.
Adhering to these principles will build a solid foundation for GPP. When looking to attain a level of general fitness, you want to perform movements that will produce a high return on investment. You don’t necessarily want to overdevelop any particular area but instead become capable of performing a myriad of tasks well.
For strength development, performing the major lifts: deadlift, squats, and presses yields the best results. Incorporating the clean & jerk and the snatch will produce power. Power is important because it is the force that moves things quickly. In a fight, power is what you will need to generate an effective punch.
Get Strong First: The Foundation of Physical Development
The acquisition of skill will help when performing daily tasks- or more importantly, performing a task for the first time. Imagine having to run away from a would-be purse snatcher. You may have to maneuver around obstacles, run across a balance beam over a bridge onto a pier, or duck under random bridges while maintaining your balance on a moving train. It doesn’t matter what the need is, the acquisition of skill through virtuosity will provide the means for its achievement.
That is the definition of virtuosity: the character or ability of a person who has a special skill. Learning to perform a gymnastic muscle up, or stringing together high reps of dips and pull-ups will train the body and mind to work together in a masterful rhythm. It all seems very virtuous after a while.
Mixing it all together helps to battle the mundane that regular gym-goers ultimately experience. It is guaranteed to happen. I have been lifting weights since I was 16 years old and I have gone through phases of being the most motivated gym goer in the entire world to phases where I dreaded every single second of it. It is a fleeting emotion that is borne out of the mundane.
In contrast, I have been doing CrossFit for seven years and I am still excited about showing up everyday. It is still very, very hard but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still can’t perform some of the movements and my max lifts are laughable at best. Yet, I still enjoy the process.
A traditional CrossFit program, one that does not specifically program for any specialty, will produce a very functional athlete. It is also unmatched at producing general physical fitness.
“There are ten recognized general physical skills. They are cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. 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. ”
Which of course all ties into the hierarchy of physical development. But isn’t a hierarchy counter-intuitive of a program aimed at GPP? Yes, but the CrossFit protocol smartly considers things like nature as a tool for rank ordering development.
“We don’t deliberately order these components but nature will. If you have a deficiency at any level of “the pyramid” the components above will suffer.”
I am not one to argue with nature. It is a very powerful force that does not discriminate.
It also means that the best way to exist in nature is to avoid being a specialist. Specialist inevitably die off. Nature has a way of always winning and the path to survival is to become particularly good at everything.
CrossFit, with all of its critics, does this better than any other program in existence.
In Pursuit of Excellence
The author is a CrossFit Level 2 Trainer but did not entirely buy into CrossFit at first go around. It took years of falling and getting back up again before it all eventually made sense. As in nature, some rocks are harder than others.