10 General Physical Skills
CrossFit recognizes 10 general physical skills as articulated by Jim Crawley and Bruce Evans of Dynamax (they make medicine balls).
- 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 bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.
- Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.
These 10 skills can be categorized as skills that progress through training (skills 1-4) and skills that progress through practice (skills 7-10) and skills that progress through a combination of both (skills 5 & 6). Training is considered physical adaptation to exercise stress, getting stronger and running longer. Training produces a physical change in the body like more muscle and a leaner frame. Practice is a neurological adaptation to exercise. This can be seen when an athlete acquires skills like double unders or kipping pull-ups. Power and speed are usually hallmarks of an exceptional athlete and take both training and practice to develop.
Glassman states that you are only as fit as your weakest area of these 10 skills. Focusing on only a few of these general skills will impede your road to fitness and general health. To put this in perspective, lets look at the overhead squat. There are many athletes with an advanced level back squat (great level of strength) and a novice level overhead squat. The overhead squat does require an element of strength, but it punishes the inflexible with lower-than-average lifts. In addition, to the trainable aspects of strength and flexibility there is some amount of balance and coordination that needs to be practiced to master the overhead squat.
What is so amazing about the methodology of CrossFit is that when you practice coordination and balance and train strength and flexibility for the overhead squat you are generally improving those systems to be applied broadly to other, seemingly unrelated movements like a muscle up.
In general, the more complex the movement or combination of movements, the more of these skills you will incorporate and the more quickly you will progress in other areas. They often say that CrossFit is training for life, and if you are equally proficient in all 10 skills you will have good movement quality and health at home as well as in the gym.
At Firebird CrossFit we have developed testable Levels and Milestones that give us insight into what might be deficient or excellent for our athletes. When an athlete completes most of these tests, we have a good idea of what areas this athlete needs to work on. It is beneficial as we can assign homework/gymwork to an athlete or scale their workouts to help them overcome their deficiencies.
If an athlete fails to develop these aspects in a relatively even manner, they will often hit a plateau in their training, of if the difference in levels is wildly misaligned, they could be more prone to injury.