Tuesday, 9 June 2009

What defines the Intermediate CrossFitter?

This blog is meant to help all the intermediate CrossFitters out there. But what defines an intermediate CrossFitter?

These are four factors that identify most intermediate CrossFitters:

1) Competency in, but not mastery of basic movements
2) Increased necessity for developing capacity in weaknesses
3) Decreased ability to progress with normal group CrossFit classes
4) Ready to start incorporating advanced/high skill movements into training, rather than just practice

1) Competency in, but not mastery of basic movements.

The intermediate CrossFitter has a good grasp of the more basic fundamental movements of CrossFit. These include but are not necessarily limited to the squat, front squat, overhead squat, press, push press, deadlift, pullup, pushup, running, and sumo deadlift high pull. There may be some mechanical minutia that needs to be worked on, but for the most part the athlete is capable of performing these movements not only safely but efficiently even while fatigued. The intermediate athlete should also be able to safely, if not efficiently, perform the snatch, the clean & jerk in its various incarnations, and will be developing capacity in the more advanced gymnastics movements, such as muscle-ups, handstand pushups, and L-pullups.

2) Increased necessity for developing capacity in weaknesses.

The intermediate CrossFitter is "comfortable" with the pain of a CrossFit workout - they have accepted that it will hurt and can push themselves through it regularly. Where the novice athlete struggles simply with the pain and intensity of CrossFit, the intermediate athlete will start seeing plateaus due not to their inability to cope with the intensity, but with specific movements and weaknesses that hold them back during the WOD.

3) Decreased ability to progress with normal group CrossFit classes.

The intermediate CrossFitter should be one of the better performers in the group classes held at his or her affiliate. They may be at a point where competition is hard to come-by, and this can have a negative effect on motivation. In the case of the intermediate CrossFitter who trains alone, motivation is probably not a problem, or hasn't been for quite a while. Instead the issue is the need for coaching on complex/advanced movements.

4) Ready to start incorporating advanced/high skill movements into training, rather than just practice.

It's important that we define the difference between training and practice. Practice is skill work done outside of the WOD, in order to develop capacity in a specific movement. Warming up with 3 sets of 10 overhead squats at a weight that is challenging only because form is inefficient is practice. Training is work done within the WOD itself, at high intensity. 5 heavy sets of 3 overhead squats, or the overhead squats during a WOD like "Nancy," is training. The key here is intent: During practice, the intent is to develop skill in the movement itself. Intensity is secondary at most (in fact, it is more likely irrelevant.) During training, the intent is to achieve maximal intensity: form is important only in that it makes the movement safer and more efficient, and therefore the athlete is capable of achieving higher levels of power output. The intermediate CrossFitter has reached a point where movements like squat snatches, muscle-ups, one legged squats, L-pullups, handstand pushups, etc should be programmed not only into practice, but into training, to develop the capacity to perform these movements at high intensity and while fatigued.

In the coming weeks, we will be discussing methods for dealing with the problems that define the intermediate CrossFitter.

Post thoughts to comments.


Maximus Lewin said...

I prefer Rip's definition from Practical Programming/Strong Enough:

"...when enough progress has taken place that the amount of work that can be administered during one workout is insufficient to stimulate further progress, and when the amount of work that would stimulate progress cannot be recovered from between two workouts, the trainee is an intermediate."

Tsypkin said...


Though Rip's definition is undoubtedly good, it is in reference to linear strength training, and specifically involves Selye's process of stress and adaptation. The athlete's ability to adapt to stress is only a component of our definition, and if we did not include other components, the definition would not fully encompass the defining traits of most intermediate CrossFit athletes.

TexasPatrick said...


How are you defining "better performers" in the context of a crossfit class?

Clearly, a intermediater isn't a firebreather, so how are you looking at that? Or should I not be impatient, and wait like a good grasshopper for the info to come?

Tsypkin said...

Patrick: When I say "better performers," I mean it in the most simple possible context, i.e., they put up better times, scores, and weights than the other athletes.

TexasPatrick said...


Getting there, just not there yet. More like a sub Rx'd kinda guy.

Still, interesting stuff.