CrossFit prides itself on constantly varying the program to prepare it’s athletes for the unknown and unknowable. The lists of tasks are endless. You must do 1 RM’s, 5RM’s, 20 RM’s, short WODs, medium WODs, long WODs, single modalities, couplets, triplets, intervals, chippers, complexes, and more. You must also be prepared to Olympic lift, powerlift, perform gymnastics, plyometrics, strongman, and various endurance events such as running, rowing, biking, and swimming. The combination of time domains, and movements, provide us with endless combinations to improve our fitness…the goal of CrossFit.
-“What is Fitness” Article http://journal.crossfit.com/2002/10/what-is-fitness-by-greg-glassm.tpl
CrossFit also defines 10 components essential for fitness:
- Cardiovascular / respiratory endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
- Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
- Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
- Flexibility – The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
- Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
- Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
- Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
- Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
- Balance – The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base.
- Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.
So what movements can I do that make me better at everything simultaneously?
Components 1-4 are all an adaption training. If I squat, bench, deadlift, run, row, and stretch, then I will improve the first 4 components. Obviously there are more things I could do, these are just some examples.
Components 7-10 are an adaption of practicing skills. You may be strong, flexible, and have great endurance, but it doesn’t mean you could do a handstand, kip toes to bar, hit a baseball, or shoot foul shots well. Those are all an adaption of practice.
CrossFit defines your fitness as the ability to produce speed and power over all of the different time domains. This makes components 5 and 6 the most important. They are also the most unique, because they are a combination of training (components 1-4), and practice (components 7-10).
This is how I got to the “carry over effect”. The “carry over effect” is the method we should think of when we are trying to figure out what movements or skills needed to be in the program of different individuals or teams. The carry over effect can be applied to many sports or tasks, but it is essential in CrossFit. Simply ask “what movements or skills have the most carry over to other movements or skills?” Since speed and power are the goal, I concluded that the snatch and clean and jerk will be one of the best “testers” of our fitness, since those movements carry more components than nearly all other movements we do. The snatch and clean and jerk involve a deadlift, violent hip extension, a deep squat, and the ability to lock out heavy weight overhead. If you understand the snatch and clean and jerk, you probably understand almost all of the barbell movements.
I don’t know anyone who snatches 275lb, and clean and jerks 335lb, who has issues with wallball, KB swings, box jumps, or even muscle ups, and HSPU. A 1RM snatch of 275lb doesn’t guarantee great stamina or endurance, although it will be easier for a person with a 275lb snatch to develop endurance necessary for CrossFit, than it will be for a person with a 135lb snatch, and great endurance, to develop that type of strength.
If the 2 athletes were doing “Isabel” (30 snatches for time @135lbs), the stronger athlete would be working at a fraction of their 1RM, while the weaker athlete would need to hit his PR snatch 30 times. Power and speed also have carry over to endurance events for this very same reason. It would be easier to get an elite sprinter to be a good distance runner, than it would to get an elite distance runner to be a good sprinter. This is true, because the elite sprinter would be running at a fraction of their capacity. Although, we would have to get the elite endurance runner to run at speeds they have never run before, in order to be a good sprinter. I’m not saying sprinters are automatically good at distance because they are strong and fast. I’m just saying the path to being good is easier because they have strength and speed (power). You can be fast, but not be a good endurance runner. But you can’t be a good endurance runner, if you aren’t fast. You can be good at weightlifting, and not good at CrossFit. But you can’t be good at CrossFit, and not good at weightlifting.
If we know the snatch and clean and jerk are good testers of our ability, what movements have carry over to the snatch and clean and jerk? It is a combination of components 1-4, and components 7-10. This means that you don’t need to snatch and clean and jerk every day, although, you need to practice enough to refine and maintain technique. You also need to improve your strength and flexibility. This means that you must regularly do general strength work (squat, deadlift, press, bench, pull ups, lunges, push ups), and variations of the Olympic lifts (power clean, power snatch, front squat, push press, jerk, clean pull, snatch pull). It is safe to say that a person with a 400lb squat, learning to Olympic lift, will have a greater base than someone who is starting to learn, and has a squat of 200lbs. Because of this reason, it is important that you are always getting stronger.
The current class structure takes all of this into account. There are strength days, dynamic days, and technique days. Every class also involves CrossFit style conditioning (you still need to do CrossFit, to be good at CrossFit), and accessory work to build weak points, and restore the muscles and tendons.
Just for thought…using the carry over method, I conclude that the best athletes of our 4 major sports (baseball, basketball, hockey, football) are basketball players. Most people may say football due to their speed and strength. Although, there aren’t any examples of NFL guys playing in the NBA. But there have been college basketball players who are successful in the NFL. What do you think?