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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 04-20-2006, 08:33 PM   #1
Nick Cummings
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I have heard many times that men should aim for 5-8% bodyfat. Is the ideal range diffrent for women?
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Old 04-20-2006, 09:09 PM   #2
Rory P. Duane
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I believe it is more like 14-20% as ideal for female athletes. Maybe some females will chime in with some input.
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Old 04-20-2006, 09:13 PM   #3
Mark Reinke
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Eighteen to twentyfive percent, but that varies based on the female's goal. If a women were to dip below a certain BF% for more than a short period of time, they risk specific health risks associated to their low BF%. For example, a female body builder/fitness model might typically drop down to the 5-7% range, but only for a short period of time for their competition.

As for males, the five to eight percent range is relatively low, and those who you hear that from being what to "aim" for are thinking relatively unrealistically. Unless they are in the competitive environment that warrants this type of body composition, there is no reason to have a BF% this low.

Put it this way, your body needs fat for many reasons, and the most important one is to function effectively! Also, keep in mind that it really shouldn't be a game of numbers when it comes to how you look and feel, simply because people end up with a bit of mental complex when looking at the scale or BF%.

I have a client who was first well above 420lbs who is now down to 352. While his BF% is still in the mid 30% range, I don't know anyone else who can move like this guy at that weight. He can run the mile in under 10:30, he can deadlift over 400lbs, and perform pushing and pulling movements to match his brute strength. I've also NEVER seen anyone as balanced and stable when put in a proprioceptively enriched environment that challenges his stability and movement.

So, basically one's goal of lowering their BF% to a 5-8% range are going to be purely for asthetic purposes. Not performing better! One more thing, with a body fat percentage lower than average, an individual can clearly not expect to perform their best due to the depletion in nutrition during a phase like this. Bodybuilders are their weakest anyways whenever their on stage with their body composition like that.

CALLING DR. G<<<<<<<<

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Old 04-20-2006, 09:19 PM   #4
Lincoln Brigham
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Many bodyfat measures do not even go that low for men above a certain age...
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Old 04-20-2006, 09:39 PM   #5
Nick Cummings
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Have you guys not read the posts in maybe the nutrition forum recommending strict zone until 5-8% bodyfat and then increasing fat blocks? The reason stated has always been performance. I accepted the idea with little thought as it makes intuitive sense to me that it will be easier to do body weight exercises like pull-ups and handstand push-ups with lower bodyfat. I don't see why it wouldn't be a good idea.

(Message edited by nick_cummings on April 20, 2006)
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Old 04-20-2006, 10:06 PM   #6
Jonathon Edward
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The 5-8% range seems perfectly healthy to me, though you have to be careful on the lower end (hence the recommendation to increase fat blocks when performance decreases). I remember reading (I'll try and dig up the reference) that the average bf% for hunter-gatherer males was around 10%. We, as modern males surrounded by a surplus of food, have the liberty to drop below that mark without much risk.

On another note - some very knowledgeable folks, such as Art De Vany, theorize that low bodyfat levels (achieved via proper nutrition and intelligent exercise) translate into increased lifespan. There's no reason a man should carry around extra fat. It negatively effects most parameters of fitness and carries physiological consequences.


Hats off to your client for their amazing progress; however, it seems logical enough that if he brought his bodyfat to a lower level his running time would improve as would his strength/weight ratio (though limit strength may be negatively effects). If your statement about low bodyfat impeding performance were true, we (CrossFit) would not have males and females with very low bodyfat levels (single digits for men) setting records and consequently the pace for the rest of us. Take a look at sprinters, gymnasts, and olympic weightlifters or powerlifters (outside of the heavyweight/super heavyweight class) and it is readily apparent that low bodyfat and peak performance can and do coexist. Lastly, your reference to bodyfat levels that are "lower than average" is extremely ambiguous. What is your definition of average?

p.s. - if I recall correctly, Dr. G is now sporting a bodyfat level of around 5%.

(Message edited by jon_e on April 20, 2006)
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Old 04-20-2006, 11:32 PM   #7
Veronica Carpenter
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Hmm, no women chiming in yet? The lowest I've been measured at was 12% 6 months post partum. I'm sure I've been lower when I've dieted down to the 48k class, with no adverse affects (ie amenorhea ?sp?) I'm guessing, in this middle aged body with inconsistent training, I'm probably around 18-20% (OUCH that's scary to admit!)
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Old 04-21-2006, 05:11 AM   #8
Hone Watson
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5% is problaby too low for men. Art De Vany also said that once a man goes below 6% they can start displaying diabetic type symtoms.

Male olympic wrestlers and gymnists usually don't go below 6% and they generally have the lowest body fat percentages out of olympic athletes.

Many women stop having their period once they go below 12 - 14%.

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Old 04-21-2006, 06:17 AM   #9
Laura Rucker
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I'm definintley no expert but I had heard that 15 percent was a lower end of the range unless you have a specific reason - like competition.

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Old 04-21-2006, 06:36 AM   #10
Richard Paul Ham-Williams
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Uk has it at 12-15% for males and 15-20% for the ladies

This is a "healthy" standard - I have never seen anything for sports minded folks.
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