Dire Wolf CrossFit-Part 2: Defining Fitness

Dire Wolf CrossFit: Part TWO

Read Part ONE Here

Defining Health and Fitness

     As a physician, I’ve long recognized that western medicine has been focused for too long on preventing illness and treating disease rather than promoting fitness, and better yet, obtaining an optimally functioning body. Recognizing that the attempt to avoid a negative (avoid disease) is not met with the same level of health motivation as an attempt to gain a positive (achieve optimal health and performance), I believe that Western medicine, and our culture in general, has focused for too long on the wrong approach. Some will recognize this as motivation by LOVE (focus on gaining a value) as opposed to motivation by FEAR (focus on avoiding a disvalue). A love of life approach is quite different than a fear of death approach.  Depending on which you choose, you will your life quite differently.  You will get different effects from a focus on avoiding obesity than you will from a focus on obtaining improved performance.  And as Tecumseh, the famous Shawnee Chief wrote, “So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart…. be not like those whose hearts
 are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes
 they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again 
in a different way.” Truly, this is an important philosophical point for each of us to keep in mind as we live our lives to the very best that we, individually, can. With this in mind, let us look at what CrossFit has to contribute to the health and fitness debate.

When developing the CrossFit methodology, Coach Greg Glassman attempted to unify fitness and health – and he did a great job, with essential insights. Coach Glassman defines health as increased work capacity across broad time, modal (type of exercise engaged in), and age domains. Work capacity is the ability to perform real physical work, as measured by force x distance, in a specific unit of time. This is the same thing as power (work per unit time). Fitness is this ability to perform work in as many modal domains as possible.  See “What is Fitness?” on the CrossFit Journal Site.

Dire Wolf Crossfit Study

Please hang in there on this technical discussion of basic physics, for it is extremely important in measuring and recording your performance over a period of time.  Thus, you must become a workout recorder in some form.

Physical output can be also be measured in terms of foot-pounds/minute…i.e. how far, and at what resistance, can you move your body or an external object. The ability to move large loads, long distances, quickly, in the broadest variety of domains is fitness for Glassman. The ability to sustain that fitness throughout your life is the CrossFit defining measure of health. Here is where I diverge a little, with the understanding that this is not the only defining measure of health, albeit it’s a critical one.  Work Capacity is probably the sine qua non in terms of our physical existence, however. We are composites of mind, body, and soul. We need a mind to think, and a body to act. So there is more to this equation of health than just physical performance.

CrossFit’s prescription for obtaining this is “constantly varied high intensity functional movements.” The fundamentals of this were covered in part one of this series.  Fitness is graphed in two-dimensions with duration of effort on the x-axis and power on the y-axis. At each duration, your power capacity is averaged across a variety of modal domains (skills and drills). This creates a power curve, the area under which is your work capacity across broad time and modal domains (aka fitness).

A third dimension, Age, can be added as the Z-axis. By reassessing your two-dimensional fitness at various times throughout your life, the graph attains the form of a 3D object. The power curve takes on the shape of a plateau or blanket. This three-dimensional graph is a defining measure of health.

Health, therefore, is nothing other than sustained fitness (per CF Level I trainer guide).

CrossFit 3D Model of Health

From – http://crossfitimpulse.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/3d-health.png

     Realize that strength is not just the muscular contractile force, but the productive use of force, which includes the nervous system and technique used. Proper technique is the mechanism by which potential human energy and strength translate to real work capacity. This is another reason why conventional bodybuilding, as a sole practice, has significant deficits both in health and performance.

Further, since your work capacity WILL decrease with age, the further you develop that capacity NOW, means the more you will have later.  That work capacity will serve as a buffer to shield your mind, body, and abilities against the inevitable ravages of time, disease, and injury.

Programming Template

     For us loners outside the box, we need to know what motivates the specifics of CrossFit programming.  We’ve grown up designing our own workouts anyway, so this is nothing new.

“The template encourages new skill development, generates unique stressors, crosses modes, incorporates quality movements, and hits all three metabolic pathways.” CF L1 Trainer Guide (p. 55)

     Although CrossFit specifically regards routines as anathema, there must be some understanding of programming and progression (and periodization) for the Solo crossfitter to establish an effective program.

CrossFit normally prescribes a 3 on- 1 off program as the ideal program, no matter what day of the week this falls on as you progress over time.  If that does not sync with the normal 5 days on, 2 days off pattern of your work and family life then another method is also recommended (it’s 5 days on – 2 days off if you were wondering). However, for those doing their workouts at home, any segmentation is possible.

There are three categories of exercise in CrossFit:

MC – metabolic conditioning

G – gymnastics

W – weightlifting

“A strength and conditioning program devoid of gymnastics is deficient” -Greg Glassman

Day 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Mode MC G MC Off G W G Off W M W Off
W 7M G

Table 1: 3 On – 1 Off Schedule


Day 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Week1 MC G + W MC+G+W M+G W Off Off
Week2 G W+MC MC+G+W G+W MC Off Off
Week3 W MC+G MC+G+W W+MC G Off Off

Table 2: 5 Day On – 2 Day Off Schedule

     Each Modality represented in the above tables represents a single exercise or element. A single MC means a single exercise of usually a long distance effort. A single G is the practice of a single skill that is usually complex enough to not yet be included in a timed event. For a single W, this is a single lift practiced for technique and advance to high load, low rep sets. Two element days, the structure is generally a couplet of exercises that are performed alternately for 3 to 5 rounds (for time). Three element days have the structure of a triplet and generally are by number of rounds completed (AMRAP=as many rounds as possible.)

Gymnastics Metabolic Conditioning Weightlifting
Air Squat Run Deadlifts
Pullup Bike Cleans
Pushup Row Presses
Dip Jump Rope Snatch
Handstand Pushup Swim Clean and Jerk
Rope Climb Medicine-Ball Drills
Muscle-up Kettlebells
Press to Handstand
Back extension
Jumps (vertical, box, broad)

Table 3: Exercises by Modality (pg 53 of CF L1 Trainer Guide

Days Single Element Two Element Triple Element
Priority Element Priority Task Priority Time Priority
Structure (Set Structure) MC: Single Effort

G: Single Effort

W: Single Lift

Couplet Repeated 3-5 times for time Triplet repeated for 20 minutes with as many rounds as possible (AMRAP)
Structure (Intensity) MC: Long, Slow Distance

G: High Skill

W: Heavy

Two moderately to intensely challenging elements Three lightly to moderately challenging elements
Work Recovery Character Recovery not a limiting factor Work/Rest Interval Management Critical Work/Rest Interval Marginal Factor

Table 4: Ex. of Workout Structure (pg 54 of CFL1 TG)

Example of a Single MC: Run 10K (cardio for 30-60 min at low to moderate intensity)

Example of a Single W: Deadlift 5-3-3-2-2-2-1-1-1 (heavy fundamental barbell lift such as Deadlift, Squat, Clean, Press)

Example of a Single G: Practice handstands for 45 minutes (Skill work that would require body weight management)

     In 2003, Coach Glassman introduced 6 Benchmark workouts to record performance improvements.  These are probably the best workouts to start with if you are not familiar with Olympic Lifting – for that you will have to study books and YouTube well, or go to a local box for specific coaching to avoid injury.

Original Scaled version
Angie For time:

100 Pullups

100 Pushups

100 Situps

100 Squats

For time:

25 ring or inverted Rows

25 Knee pushups

25 Situps

25 Squats

Barbara 5 rds for time (AMRAP)

20 Pullups

30 Pushups

40 Situps

50 squats

3 min rest between rds

3 rounds (AMRAP)

20 ring or inverted rows

30 Knee pushups

40 Situps

50 Squats

3 min rest between rds

Chelsea 5 Pullups

10 Pushups

15 Squats

Each minute on the minute for 30 min

5 ring or inverted rows

10 Knee pushups

15 Squats

Each minute on the minute for 30 min

Diane For time:

21-15-9 reps of

225 pound deadlift

handstand pushups

For time:

21-15-9 reps of

50 pound Deadlift

10 pd dumbbell shoulder press

Elizabeth For time:


135 pound Clean

Ring Dips

For time:


25 pound Clean

Bench Dips

Fran For time:


95 pound Thruster


For time:


25 pound Thruster

Ring or inverted Rows


     CrossFit’s nutritional guidance is simple and straight forward.  It is described as the foundation for general health and for high performance. “If you want top-fuel-type performance, you need top fuel; you can’t just piss in the gas tank” (p47).

In general, one should focus on eating meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, an no sugar.

Protein should be lean and varied and account for about 30% of your total caloric load and be roughly equivalent to .75-1.0 grams per pound of lean body mass.

Carbohydrates should be overwhelmingly of the low-glycemic sort and account for about 40-50% of your total caloric load.

Fat should be predominantly monounsaturated and account for about 20-30% of your total caloric load.

I personally use a 50/30/20 approach for Carbs, Protein, and Fats.  My body and mind runs better on carbs from my experience but they should be quality.

Next Week, part three – putting it all together and some sample routines for you to start out with – but try using these principles yourself.  It’s fun to design your own routines, around your own schedule and lifestyle, to make working out super fun again.


Lanny Littlejohn, MD


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4 responses to “Dire Wolf CrossFit-Part 2: Defining Fitness

  1. I love this BOX! You guys are so family orteined and really love to help and see your members achieve their goals! You guys make it soo much fun to WOD! It feels like home away from home. Super great vibe and can’t forget to mention I’ve lost 17 pounds!! Thanks IC Proud of you guys!

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