Diagramming Fitness

By Tyler Hass

In Rest Day/Theory

December 01, 2010

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Venn diagrams show relationships between sets of ideas, and Tyler Hass thinks they help explain CrossFit’s success.

Venn diagrams are a simple and effective visual representation of concepts and their relationships. They work by putting a concept into a circle. Any place where circles intersect shows a relationship between them, resulting in a new idea or concept. The Venn diagram comes out of mathematics and is a powerful tool for exploring ideas and relationships.

To understand CrossFit, the three most important concepts are functionality, variance and intensity. These three principles are the foundation of CrossFit. A lot of training programs and sports have one or two of these qualities, but CrossFit is the first that is built around all three. You can’t take one away from a training system and still call it CrossFit. However, being “incomplete” doesn’t make a sport bad. And as we’ll see, at the intersections of two of the three circles, we will find the component sports and activities that make up CrossFit.

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6 Comments on “Diagramming Fitness”


wrote …

I like most of what was said in this article but I have to disagree with your claim about team sports and sports against opponents lacking intensity. Anyone who has ever played football, soccer, hockey, basketball, wrestling, and the list goes on, can tell you that during the game if you are not giving it %100 you will not be playing long. All your training and work you do off the field is for that game. As a current athlete who competes at a fairly high level in my sport I can tell you with first-hand experience that team sports and sports with opponents requires a very high level of intensity, physically and mentally. Most good athletes train extremely hard and with intensity, to turn around and say that they don't use that same intensity in the game is ridiculous (and a little insulting). You don't get substituted in practice, but during the game you get subbed out if you are not trying hard enough (lacking intensity) or you need a rest because you are constantly giving it %100. Crossfit is also a sport, right? You are competing against opponents, yet somehow in your venn diagram Crossfit is the only sport with intensity? Then, in the end of your article you cite MMA (a sport) and soldiers as having all three components of the venn diagram. Which is it? Did you forget to put those in the center because of a lack of space or because it fit nicely into your argument for Crossfit? I would have to say that in my mind, Crossfit is not the only thing in the center, touching all three circles. Most sports should be right there with Crossfit.


wrote …

In the article the author argues that gymnastics is not functional, yet on the author's company's website it says gymnastics is both functional and varied.

In line with the previous commenter, perhaps this article oversimplifies things just a bit. CrossFit is indeed at the intersection of functionality, intensity, and variety, but it may not be the only fitness program out there that blends these three.


wrote …

I don't really see the need for this definition of crossfit. It adds nothing to the definitions we currently use except ambiguity. However, I think the discussion on CF, intensity, and team sports is a good conversation to have.

Very often it is the pressure of teammates on game day that force the greatest intensity humanly possible out of an athlete. This is emulated in a good crossfit box, but competing against someone is different than the success/life of your teammate relying on your performance. I personally will be able to bring more intensity if my teammate needs me, and in my experience this is the case for many. I will die for my brother but not for myself.

That said, I think Tyler may see the specific skills in sport as an intensity buffer. If you're dribbling a ball you can't run as fast as you can without a ball. However, if I don't have to dribble, I just have to haul ass... I will probably run faster on game day, because my team is counting on me.


wrote …

Go tell Ray Lewis, Micheal Jordan or Jonah Lomu that they haven't been intense, varied or functional.

Cindy is less intense than Fran, but more intense than a 15km run. It doesn't make any of them more or less Crossfit.

This is cute and simple, but it lacks fact.


Joseph Powell wrote …

Where the is the weight lifting aspect?... ie. moving an object through space


wrote …

I apologize for not commenting sooner. I actually wasn't aware that the article had been published.

There is a difference between effort and intensity. I would definitely say Michael Jordan and other athletes competed at 100% effort. But when discussing intensity, I specifically mean power output. 100% effort in a CrossFit workout equates to about 100% intensity in that workout. For example, 100% effort in a baseball game might only be 2-5% intensity. Most of the game is sitting on the bench or waiting prepared for the ball to come to you. The game itself doesn't approach the intensity of the preparation to play the game (workouts, practice, etc).
I didn't mean it to be at all insulting to team sports athletes and I tried to make that clear, but maybe not clear enough.
There was an interesting study done about top tennis players and trying to determine what separates the top few players from the rest of the top 100. In terms of stroke mechanics, speed, strength, etc, there was not a huge difference. The biggest difference found was in recovery between points. Federer and Nadal's heart rates dropped significantly lower between points than the rest of their opponents. Other players were able to get close to their relaxation level, but only if they won the point. As a result, over the course of a long match, they are expending slightly less energy than their opponents, which gives them a big competitive advantage. In an odd way, their opponents are giving more, but getting less in return.

With regards to what I say on my website about ring training being functional, I'm not talking about the sport of gymnastics. In "ring training" we don't do double back flip dismounts and the main emphasis is on highly functional movements, like pushups, pullups, dips, muscle-ups, etc. Less emphasis is placed on less functional movements like the iron cross. Gymnastics is really a contest of who can cram the most difficulty into a short routine. If gymnasts had to stick with only functional movements, it would be a very different sport (who can do the most muscle-ups or the heaviest muscle-up?). But in the sport of gymnastics, the progression is always moving towards greater and greater inefficiency. All of the more difficult skills in gymnastics are rooted in functional movements, but they evolve towards complexity, not efficiency. Lon Kilgore wrote a nice article in the Journal about leverage and he talks about removing unnecessary leverage from movements to drive efficiency. Gymnastics purposefully does the opposite.

I hope this helps clarify the article a bit. Thanks for your comments.


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