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Speaking of talk radio (which I was last month), Mike McConnell, the best talk show host currently on the air anywhere in the country, has suggested that the single most important contributing factor in the "obesity epidemic" is the relatively recent introduction of air conditioning and heating. This makes a huge amount of sense, given the fact that most of the time we're inside we are sitting on our asses and that air conditioning encourages us to stay inside. Heating used to be accomplished in a more manual fashion, predicated on hauling something inside to burn. People in more northerly climates enjoy a more friendly outdoor experience in the summer, and those of us cursed with a Texas address in the summer get compensated with comparatively mild winters. But the net effect of air conditioning technology is an increased average amount of time spent indoors sitting on our asses.

This leads to problems, because we have not spent the last 65 million or so years finely honing our physiology to watch Oprah. Like it or not, we are the product of a very long process of adaptation to a harsh physical existence, and the past couple centuries of comparative ease and plenty are not enough time to change our genome. We humans are at our best when our existence mirrors, or at least simulates, the one we are still genetically adapted to live. And that is the purpose of exercise. But the problems that are created by ignoring this are not just physical. Diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, sarcopenia, and bad breath are only a part of what's wrong with the way the twenty-first century treats its precious children.

Public school physical education stinks. Along with that, we see record obesity, record low fitness, and record low activity levels among school-age kids in the United States. How many schools in the U.S. have a requirement for daily physical education? How many schools provide adequate staff, equipment, and time for physical education so it has a chance at being effective?

Although administrators everywhere in the U.S. will say they do, it is a sad fact that, over and over again, the norm is that free-for-all recess is counted as physical education in many school systems. It is also common that physical educators, like one I know in Bowie, Texas, have 65 kids and only 45 minutes, a gymnasium, limited resources, and a state-mandated curriculum to work with. The curricula tend to be focused either on short units on various team sports or on "health" and "lifetime activities"--but never on fitness.

All these factors are a recipe for failure of epidemic proportion. One of my master's students chronicled this failure in a thesis research project that assessed fitness improvement over two years of junior high school physical education. Of the three junior high schools studied, only one set of kids made even minor improvements in standard physical fitness scores.

Performance & Health

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Do your friends and family think you are a little crazy for doing CrossFit? At the very least I think that the majority of CrossFitters are viewed as a group highly devoted to elite fitness, conscious of their bodies and diets, and perhaps "taking it all a bit too far." My wife thinks my love of CrossFit is all part of my midlife crisis but harmless enough—despite the fact that I spent a couple thousand dollars on my garage gym. (Of course, with a good friend getting a classic Lotus Elan when he turned 50, my wife thinks she is way ahead.)

Maybe seeing the term "Forging Elite Fitness" on the website is why some view CrossFit as being for a select few, but I would suggest the main reason is the standard understanding that "fitness for health" means traditional cardio exercise and maybe some low-weight, high-repetition resistance training (with machines and/or springs).

With medicine ball training, velocity or a combination of velocity and weight should always be the overload mechanism of choice. This is the mechanism of the Olympic lifts and their variations. Olympic weightlifting’s generation of horsepower through the bilateral summation of forces from ankle, knee, hip, posterior spine, shoulder, and elbow is unmatched, as all of the joints are working ballistically in the proper sequence at precisely the proper time. Medicine ball work can also provide excellent horsepower training, using many more combinations of force summation, as long as the load is not too great.

When this is the intent, lighter balls should always be used. Where pure strength through less complicated movement is the only intent, heavier balls can be used as a strength-training implement. Coaches, trainers, and physical educators are often baffled when an individual’s performance at a physical task does not correspond to expectations based on the measured strength levels of the body segments involved in the task. Failing to recognize the reason for the discrepancy, they continue along the same path of trying to develop greater strength. Though psychological and other complicated physical factors may partially account for the performance shortfall, the primary cause is often the insufficient generation of power through the summation of the forces involved.

Training groups has several challenges, not the least of which is the disparity in experience, skills, and capacities among clients. Skill-based warm-ups can help bridge that gap while setting standards for technique and range of motion and developing coordination. Relatively new clients can learn the movements and sequences well enough to complete a related workout, and experienced clients can refine their skills or at least get a thorough warm-up.

Having the group do skill transfer exercises for the Olympic lifts (à la the Burgener warm-up) with a length of PVC pipe or dowel is a frequently the basis of warm-up sequences at CrossFit Santa Cruz. Another favorite is a medicine ball clean and jerk warm-up using the standard 14-inch Dynamax medicine balls (smaller diameter balls are difficult to jerk overhead properly).

After some mild monostructural movement (run, bike, row) and some dynamic stretching, clients select their medicine balls. We have a wide variety of weights (from 4 to 28 pounds), and most clients know what weight they need (in some cases, they might warm up with a lighter ball than they’ll use in the workout). We put the best-moving client in the middle and the others circle around.

The Lifting Shoulder

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What should the shoulder's contribution to overhead lifting be? Should the shoulder remain fixed or should it elevate, moving toward the ear, during an overhead lift? These questions were recently raised on the CrossFit message board and found their way over to other pop fitness sites where our answers and practices are contrary to local orthodoxy.

As interesting as the questions are-- and they are potentially vital in terms of both safety and efficacy--they also offer a ripe opportunity to delineate how we at CrossFit typically evaluate all training methods and resolve issues and concerns of technique. That is very much the purpose of this article--to reveal our thinking on what guides and substantiates our beliefs and practices.

To answer the question regarding the shoulder's role in overhead lifting, we want to look to the methods and techniques of athletes who lift or support substantial loads overhead in the normal course of their sport; evaluate those methods against any observed, trusted, and acknowledged principles of human performance; and conduct local experimentation, where it is ethical and sensible to do so. We evaluate methods experientially, theoretically, and clinically, but each step has an empirical nature. Even our theories have utility only insofar as they are consistent with observation.



Fundamentals, Virtuosity, and Mastery
An Open Letter to CrossFit Trainers
CrossFit Journal August 2005
Greg Glassman

In gymnastics, completing a routine without error will not get you a perfect score, the 10.0—only a 9.7. To get the last three tenths of a point, you must demonstrate “risk, originality, and virtuosity” as well as make no mistakes in execution of the routine.

Risk is simply executing a movement that is likely to be missed or botched; originality is a movement or combination of movements unique to the athlete—a move or sequence not seen before. Understandably, novice gymnasts love to demonstrate risk and originality, for both are dramatic, fun, and awe inspiring—especially among the athletes themselves, although audiences are less likely to be aware when either is demonstrated.

Virtuosity, though, is a different beast altogether.

Digital Coaching

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The CrossFit community is thousands strong spread across a score of countries and populated with some of the most knowledgeable coaches and athletes in sport and strength and conditioning. Though strong, committed, and talented, the fact remains that our community is in large part connected by the Internet and diluted by geography. This, for many, means that opportunities for receiving inputs from our coaches are limited to text and getting to training events. Both have obvious limitations. It struck us recently that though we deal in tens of billions of bits of data monthly at, only very rarely does someone offer up photos or videotape of their training efforts for evaluation. This month we test and demonstrate coaching via digital inputs and offer an enticement to our friends to photograph or tape their efforts, post them to the CrossFit message board, and let the experts render feedback.

To test and demonstrate our digital coaching concept Tony Budding and Nicole Carroll each digitally photographed their Clean and Jerk and sent the photos to Coach Mike Burgener for evaluation. We're sharing the results of Mike's inputs here, and later this week we'll post these pictures to our message board in a section reserved for digital coaching. It'll be easy: get pictures of your effort, post them to the net, and stand by ready to receive the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I relish the feeling of using all my strength and power
until I'm spent. My favorite boulder problems--short,
intense series of climbing moves--are the ones that
demand everything I have but let me just sneak by
successfully--the climbing equivalent of a one-rep max.
But regularly training at that intensity is a mistake. As
has been said before, training to failure (all the time) is
failing to train. Last winter, after throwing myself into
CrossFit with my usual enthusiasm, I tanked. I wore
myself out, and I was sick for six weeks. It was months
before I fully recovered.

I was introduced to CrossFit in early 2004. Like most,
I was skeptical that a short-duration, high-intensity
protocol could offer significant benefits to long-duration
endurance events such as my sports of choice, ice and
alpine climbing. After half-heartedly throwing a CrossFit
workout into my training here and there, I finally
committed in November of 2004 and went full steam
ahead. I was ecstatic. After a couple weeks of regular 3-
days on/ 1-day-off workout cycles, I felt like Superman.
Whether it was the peak heart rates I achieved or the
neuroendocrine response, I felt stronger, faster, better,
and more confident in my abilities than at any other
time in my life.

Killer Workouts


Rhabdomyolysis was first described in the victims of crush injury during the 1940- 1941 London, England, bombing raids of World War II - and more recently in Eugene’s garage.

A rugby player performs intense sets of squat jumps on a hot day, collapses, and is rushed to the hospital, where he spends two days in intensive care. Doctors notice that his heart is beating abnormally and that he has unusually high levels of potassium in his blood. A soccer player runs a series of 100- meter sprints at near maximum intensity. After his eighth sprint he collapses to the ground; when he gets to the hospital he is found to have high levels of potassium and myoglobin in his bloodstream. He spends several days in the hospital and is unable to train for several weeks. A highly fit marathoner holds a 6:30 pace for 26 miles but collapses only a few feet short of the finish line. Blood tests reveal a potassium concentration three or four times the normal level and he dies.


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Falling is something we worry about as we get older. We often see our older friends slow down as they age, take shorter steps, need help getting up from a chair, and then need a walker. We watch this and are not surprised to hear that one of them has taken a fall. But even older folks who are active can suffer serious consequences from falling. As we age, our recovery times get longer, and bones break more easily and heal more slowly. A major bone break can start a downward spiral that may result in lost mobility that is never recovered.

Adding falling practice to the set of skills one tackles in CrossFit makes good sense, not just for older or beginning participants but for everyone...

Jim Baker and I are coaching a group of seniors in a class we call CrossFit Elements. Now that our clients have begun CrossFit, they are starting to feel some progress toward becoming fit and commanding more balance and agility than they used to. This in itself will reduce their risk of injury from a fall. That risk can be further reduced by knowing how to fall.

Adding falling practice to the set of skills one tackles in CrossFit makes good sense, not just for older or beginning participants but for everyone. Adding falling practice in slow, incremental steps is an example of CrossFit’s being scalable to all ability levels.

At a recent workshop, Doctor Lonnie Lowry noted that we need to learn to "Quantify" recovery. Simply, we need a daily reminder and a daily checklist to make sure we are balanced in our fitness goals. Since this workshop, I have been having my athletes use a simple ten point scale: Nutrition (4 points): 2 points for a good breakfast, 1 point for two snacks, 1 point for two additional meals... for a total of 4 points. (Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner is a four point day.) I think "good" choices, the superfoods, are the key, but I will accept just about anything from an athlete who is just learning that success is more than just dinner and soft drinks each day. Sleep (3 points): 8 hours is 2 points. One or two hours more is 3, one or two hours less is 1 and less than that is none. Relationships (1 point): Things were good today: 1 point.

Fights, stress, break ups: No points, maybe even negative points.

"Alone" time (1 point): If the athlete had some time during the day to collect their thoughts and relax without any time or work or school issues... you get 1 point. You need to figure 15 minutes at least...but that is not on the internet, phone, or a car, either! Play time (1 point): If the athlete found some time in his or her day to simply laugh and enjoy themselves in the company of others...not with a television on nor a phone nor the get a point. Table conversation is the best, followed by old-fashioned games.,

CrossFit PT

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Rising popularity of CrossFit within military and law enforcement circles has led to sufficient institutional and group adoption of our program to draw important lessons on the differences between traditional military PT and CrossFit PT. Some of the differences were wholly expected others were less expected but no less significant.

One glaring advantage with the adoption of CrossFit PT is improved fitness – dramatically improved fitness, but what is singularly unique about our program is the manner in which the improved fitness has been demonstrated. CrossFit PT has been measured against other PT programs by testing its adherent’s performance against the testing standards of the program it replaced! At first this may not seem significant but testing of traditional PT trained athletes against CrossFit-like demands produces more DNF’s on test day than above average performances.

One striking and important example of this is running. CrossFit programming calls for infrequent long distance runs and frequent sprints of 400 meters. Repeatedly, CrossFit has produced better long distance running times in head to head comparisons with programs where distance running is a staple. Better running times at less than 1/3 the volume has been the trend.

Why Fitness


The CrossFit family mourns the recent passing of Dr. Roy Walford, the world’s preeminent longevity researcher. Dr. Walford published over 300 scientific articles on the biology of aging. From his laboratories at U.C.L.A., where he worked for nearly forty years, Dr. Walford’s work centered on extension of life span via caloric restriction.

Dr. Walford’s untimely death at 79 (he’d long and publicly planned for 120) from ALS does not, in the least, challenge the validity or contribution of his scientific work on aging. The suspicion among many researchers that caloric restriction might, as it has in lab animals, extend human life span, should, and will at least in the short term, survive Dr. Walford’s death.

Sadly, we expect Dr. Walford’s shortfall to marshal, somewhere, a case for gluttony. We will honor the Dr.’s life and work by helping keep perspective. We do the same for the late Dr. Atkins when we remind some of his detractors that terminal brain injury from accidental head trauma could not have been realistically prevented by his or any other diet.

The culture we endeavor to nurture within the CrossFit community is focused on practice and results above theory and theory above personality. For us too much of fitness, nutrition, medicine, and health is marketed, associated, promoted, understood, debated, and even recognized in connection to a personality first, a theory second, and clinical practice or efficacy only third.

Metabolic Conditioning Glossary

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V02 max: Maximum amount of oxygen that can be used continuously divided by body mass. Long the gold standard of aerobic fitness, the slight advantage that endurance athletes have over anaerobic athletes in V02 max can be attributable to the low body mass of endurance
athletes. I can use a similar definition of strength – by dividing lifts by weight - to show that little guys are stronger than big guys.

Beginners' Workout


We are routinely challenged to provide workouts for individuals with little workout experience and very limited resources. That’s not our first choice of circumstances, but the exercise seems worthy. The challenge then is to see how much fitness we could motivate around the following parameters:

• Require a minimal amount of equipment
• Doesn’t necessitate gym membership
• Requires minimal coaching
• Low technical requirements for movements
• Fixed, easy to follow regimen
• Accessible to nearly every fitness level
• Unlimited in potential for development

We realize that to go at once from limited resources and experience to building a home gym with a rower, rings,
Olympic weight set, kettlebells, medicine balls, pull-up bar, mats, and to start out on a course of self instruction
requires undaunted courage and a considerable leap of faith. Our hope is that a graduated regimen involving
a few simple exercises would provide sufficiently dramatic gains in fitness as to inspire greater interest and participation in more advanced programming.

A Better Warm-up

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In commercial gyms everywhere, warming up constitutes little more than spending fifteen or twenty minutes on a bike, treadmill, or stair climber. While better than nothing, this approach to warming up is largely a waste of time in that it will not improve flexibility, does not involve the whole body or major functional movements, misses an ideal opportunity for reinforcing and practicing some critical exercises, and poorly prepares an athlete for rigorous athletic training.

We need a warm-up that will increase body temperature and heart rate, provide some stretching, stimulate the entire body and major biomechanical functions, provide practice for basic movements, and finally, prepare for rigorous athletic training.

We offer here a favorite CrossFit warm-up and compare the advantages that it has over riding a stationary bike for fifteen minutes. The CrossFit warm-up satisfies our needs whereas the traditional warm-up only leaves us with an elevated body temperature and heart rate. The essential features of our warm-up are that they include a stretch and major hip/leg extension, trunk/hip extension and flexion, and pushing and pulling movements.

The combinations are limitless and might include more challenging movements like good mornings, hollow rocks, rope climb, or handstand push-ups in place of back extensions, sit-ups, pull-ups, and dips. The movements used will largely depend on your athletic development, but over time the more challenging movements can be included without being a whole workout.

Seniors and Kids

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We get email asking about the appropriateness of our program for your kids but even more concerning your parents and grandparents – our seniors. Let’s start with them.

The needs of the elderly and professional athletes vary by degree, not kind. Where one needs functional competency to maintain independence, the other needs functional mastery to maintain dominance. Improved hip capacity will help a pro ball player’s throw to first; it will also reduce the chances of grandpa falling in the tub. The squat is the perfect tool for both.

Squat Clinic

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Why Squat?

The squat is essential to your well-being. The squat can both greatly improve your athleticism and keep your hips, back, and knees sound and functioning in your senior years.

Not only is the squat not detrimental to the knees it is remarkably rehabilitative of cranky, damaged, or delicate knees. In fact, if you do not squat, your knees are not healthy regardless of how free of pain or discomfort you are. This is equally true of the hips and back.

The squat is no more an invention of a coach or trainer than is the hiccup or sneeze. It is a vital, natural, functional, component of your being. The squat, in the bottom position, is nature's intended sitting posture (chairs are not part of your biological make-up), and the rise from the bottom to the stand is the biomechanically sound method by which we stand-up. There is nothing contrived or artificial about this movement.

What is Fitness?

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What Is Fitness and Who Is Fit?

Outside Magazine crowned triathlete Mark Allen “the fittest man on earth.” Let’s just assume for a moment that this famous six-time winner of the IronMan Triathlon is the fittest of the fit, then what title do we bestow on the decathlete Simon Poelman who also possesses incredible endurance and stamina, yet crushes Mr. Allen in any comparison that includes strength, power, speed, and coordination?

Perhaps the definition of fitness doesn’t include strength, speed, power, and coordination though that seems rather odd. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “fitness” and being “fit” as the ability to transmit genes and being healthy. No help there. Searching the Internet for a workable, reasonable definition of fitness yields disappointingly little. Worse yet, the NSCA, the most respected publisher in exercise physiology, in their highly authoritative Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning doesn’t even attempt a definition.

Crossfit’s Fitness
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.”


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CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. We have designed our program to elicit as broad an adaptational response as possible. CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.

The CrossFit Program was developed to enhance an individual’s competency at all physical tasks. Our athletes are trained to perform successfully at multiple, diverse, and randomized physical challenges. This fitness is demanded of military and police personnel, firefighters, and many sports requiring total or complete physical prowess. CrossFit has proven effective in these arenas.

Aside from the breadth or totality of fitness the CrossFit Program seeks, our program is distinctive, if not unique, in its focus on maximizing neuroendocrine response, developing power, cross-training with multiple training modalities, constant training and practice with functional movements, and the development of successful diet strategies.

Our athletes are trained to bike, run, swim, and row at short, middle, and long distances guaranteeing exposure and competency in each of the three main metabolic pathways.

We train our athletes in gymnastics from rudimentary to advanced movements garnering great capacity at controlling the body both dynamically and statically while maximizing strength to weight ratio and flexibility. We also place a heavy emphasis on Olympic Weightlifting having seen this sport’s unique ability to develop an athletes’ explosive power, control of external objects, and mastery of critical motor recruitment patterns. And finally we encourage and assist our athletes to explore a variety of sports as a vehicle to express and apply their fitness.


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