CrossFit is built on a hierarchy of fitness. Consider it the proper progression. Like a house, if the foundation is not sound, that which is stacked on top will be shaky at best. Think of a pyramid, like the food pyramid. The base of the pyramid is wide and it narrows as you move up. At the based of the pyramid is nutrition. On top of nutrition is metabolic conditioning/cardiovascular capacity. Next up is gymnastics, which is directly under weight lifting, and at the top is sport.
The widest section at the bottom is nutrition because it is the most important and should receive the most attention. If your nutrition is off, it will impact everything else as you move up the pyramid. If the fuel is junk, the engine will not function. You won’t have the nutrients to process, you won’t have clean burning fuel, and you won’t have what you need to rebuild.
Cardiovascular Capacity/Metabolic Conditioning
Above nutrition is cardiovascular capacity. This is your ability to move from point A to point B without having to stop and rest. One of the taglines of CrossFit training is to increase your work capacity through broad times and modal domains. That means you can work for 5 minutes or 20 minutes and it doesn’t matter if you are on the ground, in water, or up in a tree. However, if you don’t have the stamina to move, it won’t matter what kind of strength you have to do pullups or lift weights. Thus, your cardio capacity is next on the hierarchy.
Once you can move without having to rest too often, your next step is to focus on your gymnastics. This is your ability to move your body in space under control through a full range of motion. Before you worry about squatting 200 lbs, are you able to do a perfect air squat? Before you climb a tree (an expression of sport) can you do a ring row? This includes strength and mobility. Focus on lifting your body properly, then we can add weights.
Lifting weights, the next step of the progression, simply means lifting anything external to your body. In the gym, we typically use barbells and dumbbells. However, it can be anything. Lifting weights includes picking of the rocks in your backyard, moving dirt in a wheelbarrow, or helping your buddy move.
Finally, we use all of the fitness we’ve acquired and built to participate in sport. Sport is any activity that expresses our fitness. We run marathons because we’ve built the cardio capacity. We do things like Go Ape last weekend because we have the strength to move our body. Or, we build a fence in our backyard because we have the strength to lift and move everything we need.
We all like and prefer different levels of the pyramid. Some prefer gymnastics, others love the barbell. However, if we want to be well rounded humans setting ourselves up for longevity in life, this hierarchy of fitness provides a roadmap.