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

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Old 08-17-2009, 11:48 PM   #1
Mauricio Leal
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Understanding the CFT rationale

I was thinking recently about the CFT and how a lot of people on this forum communicate and compare their progress in lifts, workout times, etc., and how common bases for comparison are really lacking, or at least no one has yet decreed which way is "the way."

Now, the CFT does scale with weight, so I thought maybe I'd do a little normalization and see what sense I could make of it. Attached is a spreadsheet with the values straight from the FAQ pasted on the left side for men and women, and the normalized (by body weight) values presented on the right side. I also created the sheet "Deltas" which examines the differences across levels (Untrained, Novice, etc.) to see how much weight or fraction of their bodyweight one must add to their CFT to move up a level.

After pondering the results for some time, I can't say anything with certainty because I still don't know the thinking that went into creating the CFT in the first place. Sure the guys who made it are experts, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was just a bunch of educated guessing. Correct me if I'm wrong please. What seems apparent is that lighter people have to be hugely stronger relative to their own body weight to make it up towards the elite level compared to the other end of the weight scale. There is probably some biology behind this but far be it for me to attempt an explanation.

I would like to ask whether it would be more prudent to create a normalized set of standards, perhaps including age as a variable also, although of course that adds a third dimension. I often see people discussing 2X or 3X deadlift etc. and wonder why this normalized terminology hasn't crept it's way into the measurement of "total fitness." Does this mentality conflict with what CF is about? Is absolute strength at the expense of relative strength a worthy tradeoff?

Full disclosure: I do greatly favor BW and Gymnastics style training, but I am not trying to pick a fight for it's own sake.
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Old 08-18-2009, 12:02 AM   #2
Dimitri Dziabenko
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Re: Understanding the CFT rationale

Crossfit is a task-oriented program. Relative strength is an artificial calculation completely irrelevant in real life. By that calculation, ants are way stronger than humans, which is probably not how you want to evaluate the ability to do a task. Next thing you know, we'll adjust for height, age, anthropometry and god knows what else. Just lift the damn weight.
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Old 08-18-2009, 12:07 AM   #3
Katherine Derbyshire
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Re: Understanding the CFT rationale

According to Wikipedia, the world record snatch + clean and jerk total in the 56kg (men's) class is 305 kg, which is 5.4 times 56kg. The world record total in the heavyweight (more than 105 kg) class is 472.5kg, which is 4.5 times 105kg. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of..._weightlifting WFS)

In other words, the CFT tables don't have an "anti-bodyweight" bias. Rather the opposite: they reflect the reality that smaller lifters have to move larger multiples of their own bodyweight in order to join the "elite."

Katherine
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Old 08-18-2009, 01:51 AM   #4
Mauricio Leal
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Re: Understanding the CFT rationale

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Originally Posted by Dimitri Dziabenko View Post
Crossfit is a task-oriented program. Relative strength is an artificial calculation completely irrelevant in real life. By that calculation, ants are way stronger than humans, which is probably not how you want to evaluate the ability to do a task. Next thing you know, we'll adjust for height, age, anthropometry and god knows what else. Just lift the damn weight.
Hmm. While I agree CF is task-oriented and the task often doesn't care how much you weigh, saying relative strength is irrelevant is pretty short-sighted to me. Sure ants are way stronger relatively, but what a silly analogy -- I almost feel silly refuting it. We don't compete with ants; ants don't have four limbs and walk upright and get into bar fights. We also write essays and play songs, therefore ants make terrible pianists.

Relative strength is relevant because there are many tasks that do reward the relatively strong and punish the relatively weak. There are tasks that require both absolute and relative strength also (cue Cliffhanger scene where Stallone can't hang on to his friend's wife). I believe CF already acknowledges this and incorporates many relative strength exercises. The dang CF total does account for BW already! I was just trying to understand why it scales the way it does and why it isn't all 2's in the normalized Untrained column, 3's in the Novice, etc.

Katherine seems to have addressed this for me with a very simple reference to olympic lifting records, which practically puts the issue to rest I guess, but still doesn't explain why, physiologically, that discrepancy exists. It seems that as humans add mass we becomes less and less efficient at manipulating that mass, relatively.
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Old 08-18-2009, 04:47 AM   #5
Dimitri Dziabenko
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Re: Understanding the CFT rationale

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Originally Posted by Mauricio Leal View Post
Hmm. While I agree CF is task-oriented and the task often doesn't care how much you weigh, saying relative strength is irrelevant is pretty short-sighted to me. Sure ants are way stronger relatively, but what a silly analogy -- I almost feel silly refuting it. We don't compete with ants; ants don't have four limbs and walk upright and get into bar fights. We also write essays and play songs, therefore ants make terrible pianists.

Relative strength is relevant because there are many tasks that do reward the relatively strong and punish the relatively weak. There are tasks that require both absolute and relative strength also (cue Cliffhanger scene where Stallone can't hang on to his friend's wife). I believe CF already acknowledges this and incorporates many relative strength exercises. The dang CF total does account for BW already! I was just trying to understand why it scales the way it does and why it isn't all 2's in the normalized Untrained column, 3's in the Novice, etc.

Katherine seems to have addressed this for me with a very simple reference to olympic lifting records, which practically puts the issue to rest I guess, but still doesn't explain why, physiologically, that discrepancy exists. It seems that as humans add mass we becomes less and less efficient at manipulating that mass, relatively.

If you look at the size of the people, number/type of muscle fibers, the leverage, etc..., it seems clear that the ratios won't be the same. That is, the 250lb guy is likely to be taller than the 125lb guy, and so even if he puts twice as much on the deadlift bar, the torque will be more than 2x of what it was before.

When it comes to moving another object, in real life, your mass is irrelevant and so relative strength is an irrelevant calculation. When it comes to moving yourself, it becomes a relevant metric that helps us to make a judgment. All I was saying was that it wouldn't be right to have relative standards for the CFT, since it makes little sense in real life for this type of task (hence the ants analogy, since all that matters in real life for this task is how much actual weight is lifted).

I will now try to decide which one is sillier, my analogy about the relative strength of ants to show the importance of absolute weight lifted or your attempt to refute it with references to bar fights, essay writing and ant piano players.
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Old 08-18-2009, 04:57 AM   #6
Ryan Whitley
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Re: Understanding the CFT rationale

The CFT is relative...that is why there are rows for different bodyweights.

Relative strength isn't irrelevant...some might say it is the only measure of strength that is truly relevant.
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Old 08-18-2009, 05:16 AM   #7
Dimitri Dziabenko
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Re: Understanding the CFT rationale

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Originally Posted by Ryan Whitley View Post
The CFT is relative...that is why there are rows for different bodyweights.

Relative strength isn't irrelevant...some might say it is the only measure of strength that is truly relevant.
Of course when it comes to scoring a lift, we create "fair" categories (by weight class usually), and we let the people in those categories compete against each other, because we see it as unfair that a larger person should compete with smaller person based on absolute weight. However, in real life, if your task is to lift the 400lb boulder, it's really not that important whether you weigh 250lb or 150lb, as long as you get it done, hence I feel that the calculation is not a relevant metric.

If the task is climbing, then how much force you can produce relative to your BW (which is after all the resistance) is important and hence a relevant metric.

I think an example of what I mean in my first point was workout 2 at the Crossfit Games, where scoring was based on actual weight lifted vs. calculating the relative strength of the competitor.

Relative strength is important since many tasks require that you move your own body (running, climbing, etc...). I just don't think it's an important metric in real life when * moving an external object *. It's certainly important for competition with the addition of a weight class.
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:48 AM   #8
Ryan Whitley
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Re: Understanding the CFT rationale

You can create scenarios all day about 400lb boulders, overturned cars, etc but they don't create real goals. A person can train for a 3x BW deadlift easier and make more progress than training for some vague situation in the future when you will need to lift something "heavy."

I get what your saying, but I also know that for some people being as strong as possible at a specific BW is more advantageous than getting as strong as possible at a higher BW.
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:57 AM   #9
Nick Cummings
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Re: Understanding the CFT rationale

I'll give you the relative strength for comparison if you agree to wear a 60lb vest for all metcons and runs. Deal? =)
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Old 08-18-2009, 07:07 AM   #10
Dimitri Dziabenko
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Re: Understanding the CFT rationale

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Originally Posted by Ryan Whitley View Post
You can create scenarios all day about 400lb boulders, overturned cars, etc but they don't create real goals. A person can train for a 3x BW deadlift easier and make more progress than training for some vague situation in the future when you will need to lift something "heavy."

I get what your saying, but I also know that for some people being as strong as possible at a specific BW is more advantageous than getting as strong as possible at a higher BW.
Well, since the goal of Crossfit is to be able to do many things, a lower bodyweight at the expense of slightly reduced strength (compared to the case if one were heavier) is often better.

Whatever happened to the unknown and unknowable, our favorite slogan? I think being able to lift heavy stuff that isn't a barbell is a real goal (for example with boulders, you learn to lift with a rounded back).

Advantageous is such a relative term (no pun intended). In general, if a person could keep all the other benchmarks the same (ie. running, pull ups, etc...), gain 10lb of muscle, and improve all the lifts but perhaps reducing relative strength, that would be a worthwhile thing to do if your job includes lifting unforeseen things, running, etc... Of course it never happens that way, which is why people try to find a bodyweight that is good for them, and get as strong as possible relative to that bodyweight.

I think it's important to make a distinction though. They are not trying to maximize Lift/BW (which could include cutting weight as a way to manipulate this fraction), but rather try to maximize Lift at a constant (and suitable) BW, in effect seeking absolute strength while keeping the bodyweight constant at a level suitable for other activities (or just to be in some weight class).

Last edited by Dimitri Dziabenko : 08-18-2009 at 07:10 AM.
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