CrossFit’s 9 Foundational Movements

 In Stuff We Say

Beginners to our program may wonder why we teach certain movements repeatedly and others less frequently. CrossFit teaches the following movements as foundational: The squat, the front squat, the overhead squat, the press, the push press, the push jerk, the deadlift the sumo deadlift high pull and the medicine ball clean.

These nine movements can be further categorized into three series of three movements each with the complexity of the movement increasing as shown in this table:


Squat Series

Press Series

Deadlift Series


1.The Squat

Is foundational to…

2. The Press

Is foundational to…

3.The Deadlift

Is foundational to…

More Complex

4. The Front Squat

Is foundational to…

5. The Push Press

Is foundational to…

6.The Sumo Deadlift High Pull

Is foundational to…

Most Complex

7.The Overhead Squat

8. The Push Jerk

9. The Medicine Ball Clean


While CrossFit founder Coach Glassman did not invent these movements, he was the first to organize these movements into a comprehensive program of general physical preparation. While these movements are not unique to our sport they have, as Again Faster’s Jon Gilson once pointed out, been assembled in a unique and novel way like the notes of a symphony.

They are foundational in that doing them well will serve as a solid basis for training for any sport or for life in general. They are also foundational in that they employ “universal recruitment patterns” which mimic the requirements of our daily lives. These kinds of movements can be contrasted from isolated, single-joint movements like the biceps curl or almost anything done on a machine in that gym you used to go to. Your ability to jump high, run fast, throw a powerful punch, escape a burning building and live independently as you age are enhanced performing these movements well.

While it may take minutes to learn these movements, truly mastering them takes most athletes a lifetime.  A perfect air squat performed with a completely upright torso

Of course there are other movements performed in CrossFit, but they are frequently derived from the foundational movements (e.g. the thruster is the Front squat combined with a push press) or contain elements of them (e.g. observe a clean and you will see, among other things, a deadlift and a front squat). Even our kipping pull-ups, kettlebell swings and box jumps are enabled by the powerful, explosive hip opening we learn during the sumo deadlift high pull and medicine ball clean.

While muscle-ups and handstand push-ups and double-unders may be sexier, master these nine movements and you will have laid a solid foundation for your career as an athlete.

Recent Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search