Gauging Your Results Appropriately By Way of the 10 General Physical Skills
No matter what type of fitness you partake in, everyone wants results and we want them now. We naturally gravitate to measuring our results in 3 ways which are: weight lost, pounds lifted, and reps performed/faster run or workout times. Often, if we don’t achieve one of these each day, we feel like we’re failing or tell people, “I’m not getting better.” I’m here to tell you, that if you fall into the mindset of gauging your results strictly by these 3 categories, you are just outright being mean to yourself.
The awesome thing about CrossFit, aside from offering a definition of what fitness is, is that it provides a list of 10 General Physical Skills to fitness by which we can gauge our results. This gives us 10 ways to measure how much we’ve improved! This means there are so many other ways to leave the gym everyday feeling like we’ve won instead of feeling like we’ve lost because we didn’t do better than last time or last year. Let’s talk about each one in detail.
1. Cardiovascular and Respiratory Endurance. This one may be the most important of all and equates to our body’s ability to gather, process, and deliver oxygen to the body via the lungs and the heart. As we build strength of the heart and capacity of the lungs we are able to endure longer periods of time maintaining a higher steady pace. An example might be improvement on our 5K run times.
2. Stamina: This refers to our body’s ability to store, use, and deliver energy via the 3 key energy pathways, the phosphagen, glycolitic, and oxidative systems. Examples of this might be interval training days where we work at a high intensity, then a low to no intensity, and then kick it back up into high. How are we recovering? In what round do our times begin to fall off? Maybe your time for the day was worse than last time, but maybe you maintained a higher intensity deeper into the workout before you crashed? This is a win.
3. Strength. This is the ability of our muscles to apply force, usually max to slightly sub-maximal force. We see this in improvement of our 2 to 5 rep back squats, deadlifts, and other heavy lifts. The thing about this one is, where we are in our day and/or week plays a huge role in our body’s ability to apply maximal force. Current sleeping tendencies, nutrition habits, stress levels, and recent workouts can all play a role in our body’s ability to apply maximal force. So if you aren’t hitting a PR everytime, that is super normal! In fact, Chris Spealler said that as long as on any given day you are within 90% of your maximal strength, you have nothing to worry about, it hasn’t gone anywhere.
4. Flexibility. This refers to your body’s ability to maximize the range of motion of any given joint. The key ones are the ankles, the hips, the thoracic spine, the wrists, and your shoulders. What this means is that finding a deeper depth in your squat is a huge win. Finding a stronger, more stacked overhead position is a victory! As a coach I would prefer to see my athlete squat below parallel with an empty bar than see them load up 315 and take it down ¾ of the way and stand it up. When your body becomes more flexible, you become capable of hitting deeper positions. Deeper positions mean more joint flexion, equalling more muscle recruited for stability and strength. In the end this means burning more calories and getting a vastly more effective workout.
5. Power. This is the ability of our muscles to apply maximal force in minimal time. Strength does play a role here, however power is more than that. It is explosiveness. Power applies to the take off on your 100m sprint just as much as it does to getting out of the bottom of your 1 rep max squat. This progress can also be seen when we are able to move up box jump heights or pogo our box jumps. How far can you chest pass a 20# medicine ball?
6. Speed. This is our ability to minimize the time cycle of given movements. Don’t get this confused with metcon finishing times. Let’s think rep speeds here. How many proper, efficient wallballs can you crank out in 30 seconds? The average is about 15. Some folks fall in the 12-15 range and others in the 15-18. Speed takes into account many factors and as we improve our quality, then consistency, we can add intensity through speed. This takes practice and this is a way to find a win each day, just don’t get sloppy speed confused with quality speed. We’ve all seen the ½ way down and ½ way up air squat at 40 reps per minute that looks like….I’ll leave it to your imagination.
7. Coordination. This is our ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement. Can we coordinate all of the joint movement? Take a squat clean for example, combining the ever important deadlift and front squat. Add a jerk and now it’s 3 parts. Loads aside, just learning how to do and then improve the technique of this movement is a win. That’s why practice is often done sub maximally. How precise is the pull? The turnover? The receiving position? How upright and balanced is your dip before the drive? How well are you pushing under the bar? These are all examples of areas where we can make technique gains. Technique gains sometimes feel like setbacks as we explore new positions. They may feel weaker, but only because they are under-developed. Gain coordination by way of trying something new or slowing things down and just practicing.
8. Agility. Our ability to minimize transition time from one movement to another. Take a burpee boxjump for example. Are we able to jump up from the burpee and then reload and jump to our box? How long does that take. We can find gains in our ability to cycle one rep here. Even if it makes us more tired immediately, can we reduce the lag time between the burpee and the boxjump? What other movement combos can you think of where agility comes into play? A power clean into a push jerk? Did you increase your agility today?
9. Balance. Our ability to control placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base. We can find gains in balance! Single Leg RDLs. The bottom of our squat. In deadlifts finding our entire foot instead of mainly toes or too much heels. Weight overhead. Lunging. Next time think about this. Do you feel more stable in positions than you did 2 months ago? If you do, you’re one step closer to being able to pick up your intensity through speed!
10. Accuracy. Our ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity. Are you able to hit your key positions/checkpoints in your movements? Drills like tempos, pauses, or loading to hang positions are all ways to gauge our accuracy. Did you find the proper mid-hang position. Do you remember what it feels like and can you replicate it. Often our lifts will be limited by our accuracy and instead of lifting more what we need to do is practice more at lighter weights. Do you feel better at the lighter weights? Are you more accurate and precise at lighter weights than you were before? Maybe a PR is on the horizon.
The 10 general physical skills all work hand in hand with one another. And yes, some of them are gauged by times or weights. However, that is not their only gauge. Individually, each is a skill. A skill that can be practiced at lower intensities in order to achieve results at higher intensities. Together, they equate to one’s fitness. We want to see improvement in all 10 of these, not 2 or 3. And with that said, we should gauge our success in all 10 of them, not just 2 or 3. So remember, the next time you have a session and leave the gym either feeling like you didn’t get much out of it aside from a sweat or you’re disappointed with your performance, think about the 10 general physical skills of fitness. Did you make strides in any of these? I can confidently say that if you ever feel you did not then A) you are too hard on yourself and B) your view on what proper training is may be way off. We always have something to work on when it comes to the 10 skills. We all have goat movements, definition B, things that we struggle with 🙂 Those items deserve a slower tempo and more focus on the 10 skills so that we can walk away that day knowing we improved. Be nice to yourself. Be honest with yourself. Be humble and be FIT!
Thank you to Greg Glassman and The CrossFit Journal, October 2002, “What is Fitness,” for the amazing article and guidance in defining the 10 General Physical Skills. Read the full article here: WHAT IS FITNESS?