Read more – The secret to Crossfit – Constantly Varied
As with everything in Crossfit, it seems even this aspect of the definition of ‘what is Crossfit’ falls under microscopic scrutiny, and which it seems unfair to challenge Crossfit’s methodology to this degree, its good that Crossfit has been able to stand up to that challenge by offering clear definitions of what is meant by their definition- ‘constantly varied, function fitness, performed at high intensity, designed for universal scalability’
Functional Fitness seems like a vague catch-all phrase, but as with everything in Crossfit, its really just a distillation of some rather complex thinking. We’ve already touched upon Crossfit definition of Fitness, in this post, however just to recap, Crossfit’s definition of fitness is achieving General Physical Preparedness via improving the 10 General Physical Skills that make up Fitness, including – Cardiovascular endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance and Accuracy.
Focusing on Functional then, we must first appreciate that functional means different things to different people, but, at it broadest functional in the context of fitness simply means being able to do what you need to do on a daily basis, so at this base level this means being able to walk, get out of a chair, go to the toilet, put a bag overhead, with easy and without getting injured. This also means using Functional movements i.e. movements that are ‘universal motor recruitment patterns’ (in english, means they use multiple joints and muscle groups), as is mentioned in the definition of Crossfit, movements are universally scalable, so a movement even as simple as sitting down can be broken down into its constituent parts – lean back (butt back), bend the knees, begin to lower the butt down onto the surface. and the same movement can be scaled up from sitting into a chair to squatting, from squatting to squatting loaded, to front squat, to overhead squat and so forth. Universal scalability means scaling up, as well as down.
As mentioned functional is about dealing with daily challenges, which will be different for a retiree versus a Navy SEAL, in context of Crossfit generally this means being able to accomplish the work outs, ideally Rx’d but scaled as necessary. So as far as Functional is concerned in the context of Crossfit as a sport and fitness protocol, this means being able to successfully handle the required movements at the required weight, rep, combinations and durations.
Most Critics would argue however that some of the movements within Crossfit are not functional, such as Double unders or sumo deadlift high pulls. What’s missing, however is ‘context’, double unders aren’t functional in the context of daily life, which is only ne way in which functional is defined under Crossfit, however they do help build agility, coordination and cardio vascular endurance under the Crossfit definition of Fitness based on the 10 General Physical Skills – so in this context they are functional, additionally, by developing Double unders they can help build towards better calf and rebound – which helps with running, so in this context whilst they in themselves are not functional, they contribute to developing functional movement. To be fair however, and partly because i hate double unders, the question that should be posed about double unders isn’t ‘are they functional movements’ but rather ‘are there BETTER/MORE functional movements’
Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, ultimately for most of us we’re not going to be doing Crossfit for anything more than general wellness and fun, so in that context Functional should really be about a balance between skill ability and injury prevention – so long as you’re enjoying it, progressing and not getting injured, its all good!