The CrossFit Total

By Mark Rippetoe

In Workouts

December 01, 2006

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The CrossFit Total reflects an athlete's functional strength capacity more accurately than any other test, writes Mark Rippetoe, author of Starting Strength and owner of The Wichita Falls Athletic Club/CrossFit Wichita Falls.

The CrossFit Total is the sum of the best of three attempts at the squat, the press, and the deadlift. All three lifts are done while standing on the floor. They require minimal and inexpensive equipment. They are not technique- dependent to the extent of the Olympic lifts, yet they require technical proficiency beyond mere passing familiarity. They are safe when performed correctly, since they can all be performed without spotters—alone in a garage if necessary.

There is no time limit for each lift or for the length of the session in which they are all performed, but they must all be performed during one session—i.e., you cannot leave the area to rest or perform other activities between the three lifts.

Anyone in a position to attempt a legitimate CrossFit Total should be familiar enough with their capabilities on the lifts to have a fairly good idea of just what might be possible for a one-rep max (1RM). This number is what you warm up intending to do. A meet situation will involve three attempts, and this is a good way to determine a true 1RM.

The first attempt would be a weight you know you can do for a heavy set of three. The second attempt would be a weight you know without any doubt that you could do for a single, having just done the first attempt. And the third attempt is the weight you want to do, based on your performance on the previous two attempts.

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31 Comments on “The CrossFit Total”


Pierre Auge wrote …

really good stuff, I've been waiting for something like this since our chat the day I spent at your gym.

Once I get myself sorted out and get my blood potassium and myoglobin checked out tomorrow, (I think I may have a mild case of Rhabdo (thanks Robb) as a result of getting run over by that car) I plan on posting some totals when I recover now that I've got an adequate place to do it...

Oh and I took your advice on the weight issue a while back I'm slowly nudging myself closer to 160lbs, not sure why but it has seemed to help my back squat, front squat and press, HA sarcasm is great...

Not that this is relevant to anything but even though I can't passively straighten my arms right now, I pulled off two free standing handstand push-ups today right in the middle of GloboGym during rush hour... I just felt like sharing that and I was here...

Take care, keep safe, and watch for traffic!!!


wrote …

"Singlets are not allowed" - um, for decency, I take it, as a wrestling singlet clearly affords no performance advantage. "Long pants are not permitted" - what's the rationale there? Must be a TX thing...long pants are likely to be the order of the day for garage workouts in December in New England


Rippetoe wrote …

The singlet rule is designed to allay any tendency toward supportive gear, as is the No Long Pants rule. Sweats are okay when you're doing the CFT informally, as you will be tomorrow, but in a meet situation we'll need to enforce the clothing rules. Call me about this if you want to discuss it further and I'll explain my reasoning at length.



wrote …

Will do - are you around tomorrow?


Pierre Auge wrote …

hey, I'm all about the no pants thing!


wrote …

Excellent article, Mark!


wrote …

Like the idea, good article, one question; for meets what will be the legal hand position for the deadlifts? both palms facing you or can one be facing away?


Rippetoe wrote …

Any grip you like will be legal. Straps will not.


wrote …

Looking at the drawings for the squat: I was under the impression that when squatting, allowing one's knees to extend in front of the toes places undo strain on the knees, and should be avoided. Any thoughts or comments?


Rippetoe wrote …

My only thought would be that you are somehow under an incorrect impression. Have you ever seen an Olympic lifter catch a clean without putting the knees waaaaaaayy out in front of the toes? I honestly do not know where this myth comes from (maybe AFAA or ACE or NASM or ACSM or some other organization that is not actually involved in strength training), but I seen no evidence that the patellar tendons cannot handle being placed a couple of inches in front of the toes. I mean, we all get up off of the toilet this way without any trouble, even those of us that are kinda large.


Rutman wrote …

Good work Rip. I've voiced the very same opinion on max effort work for a considerable amount of time. In fact. A template modification that includes more frequent ME work or your new TOTAL accelerates CrossFit benchmarks/WOD performance like nothing else.


Coach wrote …

Chip #9, Rip's being diplomatic. The notion has no logical, physiological, mechanical, or empirical foundations. It's unexplainable, damned near invincible, ignorance. The greater strain is put on the knees by not letting them pass over the toe, e.g. wall-sit and Smith Machine squats where trapping the hip puts an enormous shear force on the knee.

Rutman #11, Your voice had long been heard and jived with what we were all seeing, and the CF prescription has drifted accordingly over the last six to eight months. One of the primary values of the CFT is motivational and we're seeing the desired effect already. We've turned the increased ME prescription into sport; the excitement/enthusiasm expressed around these fundamental lifts is new to our community.

Rip, Rutman, and Burgener are critical to the CF synthesis.


wrote …

I appreciate all the effort gone into this. Well written and concieved. I think CF can benefit for developing standards like this. I agree that this is probably the most important area to start with. (I can only look at myself to see that). Thanks to everyone involved!


wrote …

Your awesome Rip. Looking forward to learning more from you!


Matt Hunt wrote …

Mr. Rippetoe,

Loved the article and forgot to ask you this question in December....why is the order to Squat first, then Press, then Deadlift?

Does it matter in which the order of performance is executed, or can the order be rearranged?

If there is a purpose for that specific order, I would like to know what it is, and be able to explain it to our clients (so we don't come across like the usual knuckleheads that we are!)

Matt Hunt


wrote …

Some of you guys and gals might find this chart useful; it provides rankings for how you stack up with your CFT.


Rippetoe wrote …

#15 Matt:

The CFT order preserves the traditional order of the lifts from powerlifting, as well as being the one that makes the most sense. It is obvious that the two lower body lifts need to be separated in time to allow for recovery, and the squat goes first because 1.) it taps in less than a heavy deadlift, and 2.) the spotters can be released early in the contest.



wrote …

You mention in your book you can lose bodyfat as well on your routine.. is it just by being at a calorie deficit?

Also adding pull-ups and dips to the workout, will it lead to overtraining or not?

Thanks and fantastic book.


wrote …

From my understanding, the myth about extending the knee beyond the toes in a squat being injurious arose from the determination that the majority of sports-related knee injuries occur in such a position. This is corrolative, not causative, and the conclusion that one shouldn't weight train in this position is based on faulty logic. If anything, I would think that deliberately, and carefully training in this position would decrease the number of knee injuries!
Incidentally, the ACE personal trainer manual does propagate the myth as well as recommending not bending the knee beyond 90 degrees (I am ACE certified). Lame! These guys should know better.


Rippetoe wrote …

I am interested in why you think the ACE guys should know better. I see nothing in their method that would indicate that they are concerned with much of anything except not getting sued.



wrote …

1.Can you tell me what you think is the best way to increase a squat, I seem to have plateaued at around 120 kgs where i am doing 3 sets of 5reps approx 3 min rest. I have heard that an effective way is to reduce the range and increase the weight can you tell me your thoughts.
2.I believe you have mentioned that to reduce chance of shoulder injury when bench pressing you should press in equal amounts, what is the reasoning behind this. I have been led to believe that exercises above the head can lead to shoulder impingement, what you are advocating obviously contradicts this way of thinking.


wrote …

Press 125
Squat 245
Deadlift 255
Total 625

3rd week of CF, new to olympic lifting. Got some good coaching afterwards on dlift form, so hope it pays dividends next time.


wrote …

I'm very new to XF. Is this all we have for today?

"CrossFit Total"

Back squat, 1 rep
Shoulder Press, 1 rep
Deadlift, 1 rep

Is this at a certain percent, wt, rounds?
could someone please explain.


wrote …

Excellent article, and I am going to attempt my first CFT this evening.

One question I have: why does the bar stopping midway through a rep discount the lift? Is this just the standard practice in powerlifting comps?

Say if I'm pressing the weight overhead and it gets stuck momentarily, but I then dig deep and manage to grind it out all the way to full extension, why shouldn't that count? Surely it still displays the same basic strength required in moving the weight from position A to position B?

Or am I wrong?


wrote …

Back squat - 305 lbs
Shoulder press - 135 lbs
Deadlift - 275 lbs


wrote …

Squat 455
Shoulder press 205
Deadlift 515


wrote …

Why is the walk out necessary? Monolifts invalidate the lift?


wrote …

Don't forget just how much the rest of your life, such as fitness goals and workouts previous to your total, will effect that number. I'm an endurance athlete, though I come from a competitive lifting background.

My club did "Total" yesterday. I've been working hard to get to my race weight as well as performing the Westside Barbell deadlift improvement routine. I was spent and didn't even know it.

These things, as well as the opposite - extra rest, a taper and especially improving form - can have a huge effect on your CF Total numbers.


wrote …

Squat 315
Press 165
Dead 315

Think I need to work on form for dead lift as I was lifting with upper body instead of legs, I worked on it after and look forward to doing my total again in a month or so.



wrote …

Maybe a little late to be posting a comment on this article but I'm new to CrossFit. I'm a long time weight lifter and runner (>30 years) but love what CrossFit does. Am I correct in assuming that the CrossFit Total, as part of the WOD routine, is a benchmark exercise meant to assess progress using three core weightlifting exercises?

In general, I'm not a fan of max-out exercises. I find that's when injuries can occur, even for experienced weightlifters. People that are new to this activity need to be very cautious and need to know what their capabilities are.


wrote …

is the crossfit total can be done by any healthy human or ther are any limitation ?
lets say beginners - do you recommend leting them max out?

thank you

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