Primal Fitness

By Greg Glassman

In Rest Day/Theory, Videos

August 25, 2009

Video Article

“Primal fitness” is about accomplishing tasks in life. If you can’t move your body in a functional way, you aren’t going to be very good at life—or CrossFit.

“All great things in every province, in every domain, come to those willing to suffer and endure and sacrifice and commit,” he said. “It’s blood, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids that make things happen.”

Tony Budding said CrossFit can be an “asshole barrier,” where the program creates a community that weeds out weak people who aren’t willing to work for success. Coach Glassman agreed. “So much of repugnant behavior is about trying to get something for nothing, and the CrossFitters inherently don’t believe that it’s possible.”

Coach Glassman addressed the results of the 2009 CrossFit Games. He’s convinced that CrossFit athletes will learn the lessons of this year’s Games before the number-crunchers. “Winners are remarkably adept at figuring out what’s required to win,” he explained.

Tony Budding joins Coach Glassman for Part 3 of this interview filmed on Aug. 8, 2009, in Tustin, Calif. Additional reading: The Quest to Measure Fitness by Tony Budding, published July 1, 2008.

7min 37sec

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29 Comments on “Primal Fitness”


wrote …

Every time i hear Coach talk another light bulb goes off. I'm interested in the measuring of force for ball slams and sledge work. I have found a natural tendency to back off on those in the past.


wrote …

I thought that this might be a video of coach talking about how awesome of an affiliate primal fitness is.


Cody Limbaugh wrote …

I often had the same problem trying to program in a punch for a WOD. I love heavy bag work or focus mitts, but the incentive in a WOD is to cheat by taking the power out. If there was a way to readily quantify the force and accuracy of the punch it would be a great addition to the CrossFit programming.

I gotta say, when Coach mentioned the future prospects of the CrossFitter looking totaly different and training totally different than the current methods I got totally psyched! I love being part of a community that does not settle. You can't get to excellence by "good enough". There is always a better way and CrossFit will constantly be evolving to find the better way. How exciting!


wrote …

Off the subject...but where can someone buy the t-shirt coach is wearing?


Tom Seryak wrote …

That video series was just awesome! Thanks guys.


wrote …

Great video series with Coach, I could listen to him all day.


wrote …

Although the limitations in measurement make slamball, bagwork, sledge, etc. less desirable for measuring work capacity/power (and therefore less desirable for a main site WOD) that doesn't mean that a committed person with integrity in the intensity of their training would not benefit greatly and increase their WCABTAMD by incorporating those activities in their programming. The question is how much of a limiting factor is the "non-white boardability" of such activities. It might matter if you're geeking out trying to use an effort like that to figure out your own power curve or run a competition or determine who won the WOD at your local affiliate. But us garage gym-ers can wail away with a sledge on a tire and realize the benefit in fitness without waiting for an engineer to develop the sensitive rubber mat Coach descibed. I love the geek out stuff as much as anyone but sometimes we CrossFitters worship at the altars of "measurability", "power-curve calculus" and "almond counting zone prescriptions" a bit too much instead of remembering that we all belong to the Church of Fitness where sledgehammers and punching bags should be welcome.


wrote …


You think you're working hard with those implements, and you probably are. Nevertheless, until you are able to measure how hard you're working, you are evaluating your workout entirely subjectively. Furthermore, measurement is a prerequisite to both competition and tracking progress.

There's working hard, and then there's how hard you'll work when you're trying to beat the guy next to you, or the guy you were last month. It has been my experience that absent measurement and thus competition, no one, no matter the person's character, works as hard as he or she will in a measured, competitive environment.


wrote …

Every time I hear coach Glassman talk I fall more in love with his philosophy.
What a great quote "crossfit has an asshole barrier" too true!
Also, one small gripe; could the women's loads be posted more often and please can we have the kilo equivalent.


wrote …

Adam a buch of cool t-shirts:


Rob Barrese wrote …

I am an educator who has the pleasure of interjecting CF into every corner of fitness I teach. My intent is to give them exposure so if they like it after 15 weeks they can go find a local box (which there are several). Interestingly, I help the community out more than they know... no charge!
I would love to see these segments collected on a DVD and made available. At times I watch this and think "this is what I'd like my students to see!" I want to give them a sense of the parallel thinking and community that is out there. Often I think they believe I simply make this stuff up to hurt them and try as I may I cannot always convience them it is right around their corner.



These videos are a great chance to bring Coach to the wider community. As CF has grown, the opportunity to meet with Coach and many of the other personalities that helped make and "forge" CF has diminished, unfortunately. Coach, Lauren, and many others have heaps of responsibilities and they only have so many hours in the day. While the programming stands on its own merit (apart from any personality - and Lauren does an amazing job), I am glad to see segments like this to give people a sense of the human will and mind that is behind this thing. I was fortunate enough to be a competitor at the first Games, meet Coach and many of the luminaries, and now am blessed to be able to get some of their time more often than the community at large (not always).

I would like to see some interviews with some of the other "minds", like Lauren Glassman, or some of the personalities and trainers from the early days, like Eva T, Annie S, Robb Miller, Tony Budding, etc. and hear them talk about training philosophies or just reminisce about CF's origins. (Like the piece with Jim Baker - loved that). I guess I want newcomers to understand how this thing all began and from whence it came - and thereby appreciate the efforts of those who helped forge it.


replied to comment from Cody Limbaugh

Cody, I sometimes to heavy bag workouts, and my punchbag is one of the freestanding ones, with the base filled with water. What I sometimes do it say, you have to move the punchbag, by punching it, a metre in that direction. That gives some incentive to hit hard. Of course you couldn't do this with a hanging bag!


wrote …


The problem is that a punch that hits hard is very different from a punch that moves the target. If you train to move your bag, you're training to push your opponent. Boxing is not about pushing the opponent. That is a very different kind of punch.


wrote …

I assume that there are people like me who lost a bit of sleep last night thinking about how you could make the device Coach describes in the video. I have a couple thoughts that might provide some direction for someone smarter than me :)

1. The firefighter challenge uses a weighted sled that is moved by striking it with a sledge hammer. A photo can be viewed at the following link

2. Instead of using a force plate on the ground, what about using an Accelerometer attached to the sledge. You know the mass of the sledge hammer. If you know the acceleration, couldn't you calculate the velocity? With he mass and velocity it would seem that you could calculate the force of the impact.

3. What about using something that has been developed for a baseball swing? A Google search brings up stuff like the following:
Could something like the Power Swing Master be used in the vertical plane? (I have absolutly no affiliation with the Power Swing Master or that Hurricane machine).

If people are interested, I would love to bounce around ideas.


replied to comment from Russ Greene

I am no expert in these areas, but I think there are sports out there that use "unmeasurable" training with success. Boxing and MMA come to mind. Aside from Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, I have never heard of a boxer/MMA athlete measuring the force of their punches/strikes and yet they are essential to theeir respective sports.


replied to comment from Dale Saran

What Dale said.
I don't expect to ever meet Coach so these videos are a fantastic way to get some insight into his thinking. Hearing his response to casual questions was tremendously enlightening.

I've read most (I'd say all, but I may have missed some) of Coach Journal articles, watched every video I can of his lectures and on the spot interviews and attended an L1 cert, but I still learn a lot about what he intends CF to be from this.

Very useful. Thank-you.


Scott - you know, the first one has some potential. Remember that there has to be some ability for the masses to use it. How about something very simple - a sledge hammer and a standard 4 by 4. Instead of a downward hammer swing, you have to hit it from the side and move it X feet to the right and then X feet back left. The displacement is measurable as is the weight of the 4 x 4. In fact, all of the weights - the sledge, the 4 x 4, become zero order errors and are immaterial in the context of the WoD. You do 10' right, run 800m, 15 pullups - 4 rounds for time. (alternate slamming the thing right and left each round). Most people can get a sledge and a 4 x 4 and all that matters is the time to complete.


replied to comment from Dale Saran

Try chopping from the side. Compare that with chopping or sledging the standard method. See what method taxes you the most physiologically.

It's like comparing inchworm burpees with regular burpees.


replied to comment from Dale Saran

"...has to be some ability for the masses to use it." is a good point.

I like the 4x4 idea. Some things to solve / discuss:
1. it is hard to compare my 4x4 workout to your 4x4 workout. We could be hitting the 4x4 on different surfaces with different coefficients of friction (think grass verses smooth cement)
2. I would love to have a movement that replicated the driving of a railroad spike. I picture a railroad spike drive as more of a downward drive then the horizonal movement of the 4x4

What about combining the 4x4 with a lever. I wish I could draw you a picture but think of a simple seesaw. I am going to call one end the weighted end and the other end the hitting end. You hit the hitting end and the weighted end raises off the ground. Now put a weight on the weighted end of the seesaw. You have to hit the hitting end harder to raise the weighted end off the ground. Put more weight on the weighted end and it gets harder. (you could also move the fulcrum towards the hitting end to make it harder). A complete rep is hitting the hitting end hard enough to make the hitting end bounce off the ground. You could scale it by adding/removing weight from the weighted end or by placing something under the hitting end.


wrote …

Every time I hear coach speak I feel so inadequate and stupid. I love crossfit and love to tell everyone about it but I just wish I had a grain of coachs' verbal savvy and intelligence. I will just keep reading and trying to absorb. Thanks Coach!


replied to comment from Scott Bolan

This is kinda like what I am talking about (with out the clown part :) )

You would need to mess with the dimensions but the basic idea is that a full rep is when the side you hit with the hammer hits the ground (or bumper / bell under it). The workout is scaled (made harder) by putting more weight on the other (non-strike) side.

You can add precision by replacing that black pad the kid is hitting with a 4" long / 1" diameter vertical steel rod. Miss the top of the vertical steel rod and you hit something that redirects or absorbs some fraction of you swing.


wrote …

As for the "see-saw" idea with the sledge, they have those - at the fair - ring the bell and win a prize!

Growing up in Maine, I chopped and split a LOT of cord wood. There's your comparitive test of time - 10" maple, cut down within the past 4 days - keep track of your time to chop through the wood with the same ax resharpened after every few workouts. Or, split 1 cord of 18" long, 10" diameter maple, each pice must be split into at least 3 pieces. ESPN2 and Outdoor channels have those lumberjack competitions...those guys are beasts!

A couple martial arts competitions I've been to have a punch/kick competition with a pad that hangs against a wall and measures power. Best punch/kick combination wins - you get accuracy and power in one fell swoop. Power goes down if you don't hit it directly in the center. Do it for 10 sets of 1, and do both hands or both feet.


Michael Chase wrote …

"Crossfit is not the easy way" Tony Budding

"Why is it we are in an industry where the degree to which something causes misery is probably the degree to which we need to do it?" Tony Budding (The work on what you suck at principle.)

"All great things, in every province, in every domain, come to those willing to suffer and endure and sacrifice and commit. Its blood, sweat, tears, and other bodily fluids that make things happen. This is true in business, its true wanting to learn physics, to play the violin." ... "All good things come from sacrifice and discomfort." ... "We are co-selecting for a whole host of admirable character traits ... (this will) get rid of the people in your life, in your community, in your gym, in your neighborhood who want something for nothing, who don't understand it is through sacrifice, commitment, rigor, ardor, sweat that good things come." Coach Greg Glassman


I gotcha, Scott. Instead of a bell, you just have one end of the 4 x 4 with a spike and you put weight plates/bumpers on it. I'll bet 90 lb worth of bumpers on there would get your attention. Then do the WoD I suggested or something like it. 21-15-9 of swings with 800m run and pullups as well.

And Jake - "inchworm burpees" to regular burpees? WTF?? I'm not even sure what point you were trying to make after that analogy. I think I get it, but I'm not sure you're right in any event. I've chopped and sledged a fair amount of things in my day. In fact, sledging sideways (like a golf swing) is really hard to generate power. But even assuming you're right, it's beside the point. How about this, turn so you're sledging overhead down between your legs and slap the wood that way? The point is we're talking about a way to measure force doing some of the exercises that Coach talked about that are good but difficult to measure and therefore almost impossible to incorporate into a WoD. We're trying to brainstorm solutions - but thanks for your non-help.


wrote …

The Firefighterchallenge event is set to simulate chopping a hole in a roof for ventilation. It is also very similiar to chopping wood and driving stakes in the ground(like we did in Aromas). If we are going to actively pursue this for workouts, I think we need to perform both(strike between the legs as above and from the sides). Striking from the sides would simulate forcing entry(busting in through a door or through a masonry wall for ingress or egress). This task is not only necessary for Firefighting, but the Police and Military perform these task in their jobs as well.

The challenge is going to come up with a device that measures the strikes force, withstands the harsh abuse it is going to take, fairly maintenance free,can be easily callibrated, cost efficient, and doesn't require a lot of room. Our boxes and garage gyms for the most part are not that big.

I love the idea and the potential 'suck factor' that could come from it. Who ever comes up with this device could stand to make a lot of money. I remember when a 20# dynamax ball was only $ look how expensive they are.



Hence my suggestion. If we standardize what we're sledging and make it simple for the masses, there becomes no need to have some intricate force measuring device for each blow. Simply require the person to sledge a 4 x 4 (they're pretty standard at 8 feet, I think, from any Lowe's, Home Depot, or lumber store). Thus, everyone's weight moved will be the same. Everyone uses same size sledge and that's now removed as a differential factor (could have a women's sledge and a men's however). And number of swings/force of each swing becomes irrelevant if it's distance moved. The total amount of force necessary to move the 4 x 4 a fixed distance will always be fixed; the effort necessary to produce that much force over that distance (or Work) with a the clock ticking (Power) will vary from person to person.

The one critique Scott mentioned was coefficients of friction and while it sounds silly, he's right. Could be a huge factor. A waxed floor or grass would be radically easier than concrete. I think a simple recommendation in the WoD to "try this on grass" would probably be sufficient. Not everyone has ropes for climbing, so coming up with a sub would be interesting for mimicking the movement, although kettlebell swings are close, IMO.



replied to comment from Dale Saran

--- driving a 4x4 across the ground ---
I agree with Dale that the 4x4 is a big advantage of not requiring any construction and be widely available.

You could make it more difficult by "sharpening" the end of the 4x4 to a 1 inch by 1 inch "point". This could be done by cutting the top of the 4x4 with 45 degree corners. Kind of like the end of the 4x4 in this picture

--- the see-saw 4x4 ---
I have an idea for the lever-type sledge tool. I am going to be out of town for the next week but will try it when I get home. Someone is welcome to give it a shot if they some basic tools and can understand my description....

By moving the fulcrum of the 4x4 see-saw you can require an increase in force without the need of additional weights and without the risk of the weights flying off. The idea is shown in this picture

I think this can be created with a 4x4 and a couple of 2x4 or 4x4 scraps. The idea is that you can rotate the 4x4 to 1 of 4 sides (easy, medium, hard, and very hard). A fulcrum close to the center of mass is going to be easy while a fulcrum further from the center of mass is going to be more difficult. As I said above, a rep is complete with the striking end hits the ground. You may want to put some horse stall mat scraps on the striking end so you don't destroy it with the sledge.

Scott, Crossfit Malibu


wrote …

Why is this titled Primal fitness? I don't see how this discussion related at all to understanding what it means to be fit from a primal that is evolutionary perspective?

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