General Physical Skills – Accuracy

Its easy to neglect Accuracy as a General Physical Skill. After it doesn’t seem physical. But its important in all aspects of physical movement, consider the accuracy that you need to ensure that you’re in the correct position for a movement. Now imaging doing 150 Wallballs, maintaining correct position through out the movement, for every rep in as short a time as possible – in a scenario like this, accuracy is the different of millisecond wins and injury.

When we look at the Crossfit definition of Accuracy we see it being defined as The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity. So you can see how Accuracy as a General Physical Skill directly impacts and supports other General Physical Skills – Agility, Coordination. Agility itself is also supported by other General Physical Skills – Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Coordination, Balance – so my training these General Physical Skills and being able to maintain the points of performance of a movement you can develop accuracy, once you’ve got accuracy at slow speed and weight, you can start to scale up on both.

General Physical Skills – Balance

Often when we think of balance we think of standing on one foot. balance simply being the ability to stabilise ourselves in a static position. What gets neglected however is The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base, in motion, such as on a skateboard or surfing.

Balance isn’t static, its dynamic and changes based on countless external factors as well as internal ones. And it’s essential for Crossfitters too, especially when you consider the intensity with which the movements are conducted.

planes of motion in crossfit

Typically, we think of balance in terms of right and left leg, or, as the diagram shows, in terms of the sagittal plane. But the reality is that balance also occurs on the frontal plane (balance doing a squat or on a skate board) and on the transverse plane balance during a golf swing or wood chop, as well. So, it’s important that balance and muscles are trained to cope with full range of motion in all three planes of motion. One of the limitations in Crossfit however is that the vast majority of movements occur over the sagittal plane, and whilst this is important, arguably, more movements should be done for the transversal and frontal plane as well, movements like cossack squats and pistols as well as single handed kettlebell work help, but this is certainly an area that Crossfit can do more with.

General Physical Skills – Agility

Agility is seen as a very important part of most sports by is typically ignored in terms of fitness training. Its directly related to Coordination, one of the other 10 General Physical Skills and is defined as The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.

Crossfit can often seem like its only about strength feats and high reps, but there’s a huge mental game that happens and part of this mental game is how to quickly and efficiently transition between movements, this is all about coordination and agility, even as a amateur level Crossfitter, i find myself spending time considering how to transition from movements in WODs, it could be as simple as resting 1 rep before the end of a movement so that the last rep of that movement transitions into the subsequent movement seamlessly, or it could be about developing the technique and range of motion needed to do butterfly pull ups to save time over standard pull ups.

all of these ‘time-savers’ focus on efficiency of expending effort and energy, and require the agility to do so. generally in Crossfit its the most efficient athlete that wins, and in a sport of seconds and minutes, agility is crucial in that winning formula.

We can see agility being developed in Crossfit training with movements like double unders, or butterfly pull ups, or in transitions between various movements, and we can also see how agility needs other aspects of the 10 General Physical Skills to be developed  specifically Speed, Flexibility, Coordination and Accuracy.

General Physical Skills – Coordination

For a sport like Crossfit, it seems odd that Coordination, would form part of the 10 General Physical Skills. But when you consider the complexity of movements and the combination of movements that make up Crossfit, Coordination actually becomes essential.

Coordination is defined as the ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement, you can see how almost all compound movement, down to and including something as ‘simple’ as a double under require degrees of Coordination to be developed in order to do, sustain and progress the movement.

For example, a double under involves combining both a double wrist rotation with a high vertical jump. Arguably, at low speed and low reps this is an achievable challenge for most, but where it becomes interesting is when you add the element of volume and speed to the equation, one quickly finds movement quality deteriorates, and this is what makes a Crossfit athelete outstanding, a strong Crossfit athlete should be able to sustain both the speed and movement quality consistently regardless of weight or time variables.

So, to achieve this virtuosity, Coordination forms an essential part of the training of movement mechanics for any Crossfit athlete.

General Physical Skills – Speed

Speed is one of the 10 General Physical Skills that most people who watch Crossfit notice. Its certainly the one, that on the surface seems to get the most attention as a result of the Crossfit style of training. The focus of Speed in Crossfit is in the ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement. In the Definition of Crossfit (constantly varied, function fitness, performed at high intensity, designed for universal scalability) the focus on high intensity is particularly important. Speed directly influences the intensity of the workout, so speed is always seen as an essential aspect of the Crossfit methodology.

Speed often gets a bad rap from non-Crossfitters, primarily because some movements, at high intensity, i.e. high speed, result in a loss of form, technique and therefore become unsafe. But, as any good, competent Crossfitter, and Coach will tell you, speed doesn’t mean compromising on technique or form, if there’s a breakdown in technique or form, you need to slow down, and ensure that these elements are not compromised before increasing the speed.

Its also important to consider that Speed in a competition is certainly going to be different from Speed during training, which highlights how competitive Crossfit, despite its appearances is actually far more elite than it comes across, and really, its not for everyone.  In a training environment, under the watchful eye of a good coach however Crossfit and the application of speed (relative to the other 10 General Physical Skills) can be better controlled, minimising injury and ensuring safe application.

The safe application of speed comes from competency in other aspects of the 10 General Physical Skills including – Coordination, Agility, Balance, Accuracy, Flexibility, Stamina, and Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – without these elements, movement quality would deteriorate over time.


General Physical Skills – Power

Power is on of the 10 General Physical Skills thats really the result of combinations of the other 10 General Physical Skills. When we look at the Crossfit Definition of Power, its defined as  – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.

In simple terms its the physics definition of Power, which is force  x distance over time, or work done, over time. This means that power is a direct result of Strength and speed – which themselves are influenced by the other of the 10 General Physical Skills.

In this sense, Power is really a measurement of the 10 General Physical Skills, and consequently a measure of the athletes fitness.

power graph crossfit

the attached graph looks as the ‘health-fitness “sheet”‘ created by looking at time, power and age, its the goal of Crossfit that at all points that make up the ‘sheet’ the graph moves higher. so in this sense you are improving the athletes power, regardless of time age or workload -hence Crossfit’s aim to improve work capacity over broad time and modal domains.

As mentioned before, power is a direct result of strength and speed attributes, so by improving these elements and their associated elements, one can become more powerful

General Physical Skills – Flexibility

Flexibility forms one of the 10 General Physical Skills defined as The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint. it’s directly related to mobility and stability (which we discussed here) and is crucial in  injury prevention and allowing the body to get in to more efficient movement positions. Unlike the other 10 General Physical Skills, Flexibility is unique in being an attribute of the body’s state, whilst you can influence it, its not something you actively train for. mobility work, yoga and stretching all influence flexibility. But given its ‘passive’ nature, its often neglected by athletes in favour of more strength, or speed. Yet limiting flexibility can increase the risk of injury and directly affecting performance in the other 9 General Physical Skills

General Physical Skills – Strength

Read more – General Physical Skills – Stamina

Most training focuses on strength, indeed most body building can be classed as strength training, and you get specialist strength and conditioning coaches. But the definition of strength in this spectrum is limited, typically it refers only to how much weight can be lifted. Which in reality is only one dimension of strength.

When we look at the Crossfit definition of strength it states – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force. – so what we’re looking at here is a far broader context of what strength means, indeed when you factor in broad time and modal domains, and you start to consider different weight and rep protocols, strength becomes far more than simply how much you can lift.

as an applied example, a power lifter is strong, but so is a sprinter, yet neither would be remarkably strong in the other’s sport, this is because strength isn’t simply about how fast you can run, or how much you can lift, its about force generated.

And if you recall your highschool physics – power = force x distance /time = work done/ time

so strength is typically what we look at when we consider the ‘force’ in our equation for power, but the other factors, distance, time can significantly change who we define as strong.

this is where Crossfit is unique, sometimes it isn’t the one who lifts the most that wins, and some times its not the one that runs the furthest that wins, its usually the generalist, who has the highest base level of General Physical Preparedness (GPP) over the 10 General Physical Skills that wins.

General Physical Skills – Stamina

read more – General Physical Skills – Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance

In my post about Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance I talked about three different metabolic pathways, the Phosphagenic, Glycolytic and Oxidative. And how Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance is not the same as Stamina.

If we look at the wikipedia definition of stamina it states “ability of an organism to exert itself and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds, or fatigue

So Stamina in the context of Crossfit has more to do with the body’s ability to quickly recover from the external forces imposed on it, rather than its ability to exert effort for prolonged periods of time, which is more related to Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance.

In other words stamina is what helps us deal with fatigue, the more stamina you have, the less easily you fatigue. Of course, there are different ways that stamina and fatigue can manifest. someone with high Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance would most likely have high stamina in the low intensity setting of a marathon. but the same athlete would have low stamina is the high intensity setting of weightlifting.

The Crossfit definition of stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy. – highlights how stamina focuses on the body’s efficient use of energy. when you apply this ability across broad time and modal domains, which is what Crossfit training strives for, you’re ultimately tuning the bodys engine to be efficent no matter what ‘gear’ its in, with contributes not only to better performance, but also better health and well being.


General Physical Skills – Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance

In my previous post about the ‘constantly varied‘ aspect of Crossfit, i touched on the definition of Fitness, at least in terms of the Crossfit definition, which consists of the 10 General Physical Skills (GPS) that make up General Physical Preparedness (GPP).

The interesting aspect of the 10 General Physical Skills (GPS) is that most sports either specialize in one exclusively, or only cover a small spectrum of the 10 General Physical Skills (GPS), and whilst atheletes that specialize in that sport will be highly proficient in the selected 10 General Physical Skills (GPS) within that sports scope, more often than not, they’ll be extremely deficient in the other 10 General Physical Skills (GPS), so you end up with Olympic level hurdlers who aren’t able to perform back bridges. Or more extreme still, you have runners who can run the distance of a bus route without losing their breath, but would be able to run after the bus and catch up.

I previously talked about being functional in our fitness, and that applies equally to all 10 General Physical Skills (GPS).

Focusing now on Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – this General Physical Skills (GPS) focuses on “The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.” – just to be clear, this differs from stamina, another of the 10 General Physical Skills (GPS).

Metabolic Pathways

As Crossfit has constantly varied elements, one element that can be varied is the duration as related to time, this results in Crossfit deliberately targeting three different metabolic pathways, the Phosphagenic, Glycolytic and Oxidative, the body uses a different type of fuel for each of these pathways which in turn, activates a different type of muscle fiber, Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance focuses on working the Oxidative, aerobic pathway specifically, and helps in some of Crossfits longer workouts such as the mile-long runs in Murph, or the triathlon that has been conducted at several Crossfit Games events.

generally, being strong in the Oxidative pathway (Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance), means you’ll also be relatively strong in the Phosphagenic and Glycolytic pathways as well, by virtue that you’ll increase the overall base of fitness. In Crossfit, we typically see athletes who have an endurance training background as having ‘good engines’ their capacity for work seems higher than other athletes and they seem to tire less rapidly.