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The Pyramid of Fitness


Believe it or not, there are still people out there who haven’t heard of or are new to, CrossFit. I know, it’s not because we are quiet about it. The first rule of CrossFit Club is that you MUST talk about CrossFit. So I’ve decided to introduce a series of posts that will help newcomers to the CrossFit world learn our language and methodologies. In our first little mini lesson I want to talk about what the CrossFit world refers to as the “Fitness Pyramid” (see example below)


crossfit fitness pyramid small The Pyramid of Fitness

The pyramid is designed to be read from the bottom up. With the most important items being on the bottom (aka Nutrition). Let’s break it down from most important all the way to “least” important. And by least, we don’t mean don’t do it, we just mean it should take up a smaller percentage of your physical activity than some of these other items.


Nutrition is the most important factor to your fitness. You’ve got to get the right balance of protein, carbohyrdates and fats in your diet in order to reach your fitness goals and get your body operating right at the molecular level. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the game for weight loss, muscle gain, or peak performance. If you aren’t fueling your body right, it’s not going to happen.

Metabolic Conditioning

Ahh, the lovely Met-Con workout. The “crack” that pulls people into CrossFit. 5 minute workouts that leave you flat on your back and wanting more. But why are they important?  Your body is comprised of 3 metabolic pathways, which are each suited for short, medium, or long distance metabolic work. (in this example, distance can also each time). I’ve written before and talked about each of the metabolic pathways in greater detail so I’d encourage you to read CrossFit Cardio, the Myth Debunked, (which subsequently is one of the first articles I wrote for the site)


Pull-ups, Handstands, Muscle-ups. All the stuff that looks really cool and makes us look funny if we CrossFit at a Planet Fitness or if our neighbor sees us in our garage. But why is it important? Think about the body control and awareness you have to have in order to perform some of these movements. Pull-ups, just pull. That’s easy. Butterfly pull-ups? You have to maintain a rhythm and be aware of your body so you don’t smash your face into the bar. Muscle ups? You’re completely suspended on two little rings so you must be aware of where you are, how, you’re moving, etc… See my point? These movements will also help extend your body’s range of motion (think about all the moving your shoulders do during a kipping muscle up). This body control and awareness can help us as we age and help keep our proprioceptor muscles from aging. When you walk up a set up steps do you look down at every step or do your feet just know where to go? If they know where to go, that’s your proprioceptor muscles firing (more info on them here). Now think about an 80 year old. Alot of them have walking strides that are more of a shuffle? Part of that is that those muslces aren’t functioning like they used to.

Weightlifting and Throwing

Here it is. Picking stuff up and putting stuff down. Grabbing some plates at the weight buffet…you get the point. This are all of your Olympic lifts, bench presses, muscle ups, Dumbbell work, etc… This is where you learn to produce power and the manipulation of objects in your day to day life: picking up your kids, doing yardwork, lifting things for your job, etc…

Playing a Sport

This is where your fitness “shines” so to speak. It allows you to apply all of the other items in the CrossFit pyramid into a cohesive, competitive event with a more randomized series of movements. Think basketball: Is he going to shoot or pass, do I need to jump and get the rebound, etc… For me, my sport in the past has been Spartan Races and while I’m still a huge fan, my next one is going to be a GORUCK Challenge: 8-10 hours with a 40 pound rucksack, taught by Special Forces members. I’m in. What’s your sport?

Wait a minute…where’s strength???

That’s right. The very astute of you may notice that strength gains are not specifically called out in the CrossFit pyramid. That’s because strength gains are an assumption based up all of your work across the other horizontals of the pyramid.

Here’s where CrossFit and I have to philosophically disagree for a minute. I think that if you have a strength training background, played highschool/college sports and you were on an intense strength training program (for example), that this pyramid works perfectly. Your body is somewhat already in tune with how it needs to work and operate and the gains will come (albeit slow, but they will). But if you are let’s say a runner, who wants to start CrossFit-ing. I feel you need some type of base layer of strength training. Even if it’s just some basic Wendler cycles to get you into the bodyweight bench, 2x bodyweight squat, etc… That’s why for all the clients that I work with, I make sure that there is some element of strength training in their workout, and you see this at alot of CrossFit boxes too, which is good. The first part of the class is some strength work followed by a WoD.

What are your thoughts? Is this your first time seeing the CrossFit Pyramid? Agree or disagree with my strength rant? Let me know in the comments below.