How on earth does CrossFit find the fittest fit?

Every year since 2007, CrossFit athletes and enthusiasts have watched with anticipation as a field of fittest competitors are scrapped to the last and fittest. Walking up stairs on their hands and swimming a mile in open water, these athletes look superhuman. CrossFit presents them, boldly and unequivocally, as the fittest on Earth.

But are we justified in making this claim? Is Tia-Clair Toomey really fitter than the most decorated gymnast in history, Simone Biles? Is Justin Medeiros fitter than Michael Phelps, who has set the most world records in swimming? We might feel more confident answering if we could see Biles and Phelps participating in multiple events outside of their respective disciplines, such as heavy deadlifts, sprints, and marathon rows, but we tend to say yes. This is due to the very specific parameters of the question.

Tia Claire Toomey and Matt Fraser

Dave Castro celebrates Tia Claire Twomey and Matt Fraser’s performance at the 2020 Games Following Event 12 | Photo by Michael Valentine

How do we know fitness?

In 2002, CrossFit published an article titled “What is fitness?” It started with a seemingly simple question – “What is fitness and who is appropriate?” —but it turned out that this was the kind of question whose answer suddenly eluded you, just as you felt yourself approaching it. This is because fitness did not have a clear definition – until 2002.

Most people know fitness when they see it. It looks something like this This is amazingAnd This is amazingAnd many more highlights here. But CrossFit has done what no other fitness program, expert, or exercise scientist has ever done: define specific standards by which general fitness can be defined, evaluated, and tested outside of individual, specialized expressions of fitness. The question of what is fit and who is fit is suddenly becoming fully measurable and observable.

Read “The Science Behind the Magic of CrossFit”

The CrossFit definition of fitness is the ability to work across a wide range of areas and conditions; A broad, general, and comprehensive ability that qualifies you for the unknown and the unknown. In other words, the fittest athlete is the one who will excel while performing many different physical tasks across the widest range of timeframes. These tasks can be quantified. How far did the athlete go? How long did the effort take to complete? How many reps can they achieve? What is the weight of the load that was lifted? If a combination of these metrics improves across a wide range of activities, then the athlete becomes objectively fitter.

The CrossFit methodology was created with the idea that it will prepare a person to accomplish any physical task or set of tasks chosen at random from the hopper.


CrossFit outlined a theoretical hierarchy of development and world-class fitness in 100 words in the 2002 article “What Is Fitness?”

CrossFit isn’t just about being fast and strong. It’s also about cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, flexibility, strength, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. These 10 general physical attributes are the basis of one of CrossFit’s fitness models. A fit person has proficiency in all 10 games, and CrossFit Games tests that proficiency in all kinds of challenges, including running, lifting, swimming, cycling, doing singles, climbing, basic gymnastics (gymnastics exercises) and more—any combination of endurance work, weightlifting, and cross-country gymnastics. Short, medium and long term efforts.

A CrossFit athlete isn’t necessarily faster than a trained runner, stronger than a strongman, or more flexible than a gymnast, but their goal is to be as good as possible across a wide range of physical tests. In short, the CrossFit athlete is a jack of all trades, master of none, and is fit to take on any unknown physical challenge that may come their way. This is why variation is essential in a CrossFit training program.

“CrossFit tends to be very variable so you have results and adjustments across a wide range of different things,” said Justin Berg, GM of Sport.

Handwalking event at the 2018 Games (Photo by Ty Randall)

Effectiveness of walking on hands in the 2018 Games | Photo by Ty Randall

So, for example, the fittest person isn’t one who can squat 1,000 pounds—although that’s pretty impressive—but who can’t run a mile in less than 10 minutes. Nor is he someone who can run less than 4 minutes if he can’t squat more than 1.5 times his body weight. Both athletes are impressive in their own right; The former may be the strongest athlete and the latter the fastest, but neither can claim to be the fittest, because every athlete has a distinct lack of general abilities outside of his preferred discipline.

But if a person can, for example, he can Stand at 500 lbs. and run a 5-minute mileWell, as Dave Castro pointed out in “CrossFit Games BuildingAccording to the CrossFit methodology, this person can be considered very fit. The more they can do in a wide range of tasks, the fitter they will be.

Why are the winners of the “fittest on earth” award crowned?

CrossFit Games winners within a group of peers of similar and exceptional athletic ability have shown themselves to be the best of them all, legitimizing the claim that these athletes are the best on earth.

“It’s hard to look at the general population and really see the best and fittest,” Berg said. “In the general population, you might find really strong people or really talented athletes. But there has to be a filtering process where the fittest is to compete with other fit people. The niche element of that becomes more neutral.”

To find this group of peers, all athletes start at the World Open and are sorted through the quarter-finals and semi-finals into the world’s top 40 men, 40 women, 40 teams, 180 age group athletes, and 30 adapted athletes.

Once at the CrossFit Games, these top athletes are tested to their limits with highly skilled moves across all 10 general physical attributes in challenges such as Loop muscle popsa Row 42,195 metersor even a 600 yard record carry. Tests are often unknown until moments before athletes hit the competition grounds, forcing them to adapt to anything thrown their way.

As CrossFit seminar staff Flowmaster Chuck Carswell explains, “The fittest person — they perform statistically better in all the activities we test over the weekend. … They average somewhere around 85-90 percent.”

mental game

There is another component to prosperity in the sport of fitness that is hidden more often than physical skills, and that is the mental game. It’s not just about having a strong competition mindset, though that’s crucial. Just look at how the top competitors in 2020 handled the surprise of having to repeat the 3-mile course they just completed in reverse:

In addition to mental fortitude in the face of unknown challenges, CrossFit Games athletes need to think fast. They must be smart. The best keep their composure and mental finesse in the midst of competition and are able to strategize and adapt quickly as necessary to complete the task at hand. Just watch the video below to see Cole Sager’s quick-thinking feature on getting him into 2018’s Battleground:

While other athletes pulled Rescue Randy in the traditional way a first responder would grab him under the arms and sway backward with a dominant quadruple style of running, Sager turned and ran forward, allowing the larger muscle groups in his posterior chain to push off. for him. He won the event.

It turns out that flexibility may be one of CrossFit’s 10 general physical attributes, but it’s also a highly valued characteristic of the mental game. This has been the case since the beginning of the games. Old fans will remember The Wheelbarrow event took place in 2010during which athletes who were able to think quickly used lighter tools to create platforms they could climb to move their loads more efficiently.

These kinds of flashy moments of ingenuity are relatively unique to the CrossFit Games. Athletes are able to push the boundaries of their sport year after year because they know what the competition will be like. They know what they need to do to push the boundaries of what seemed impossible last year. CrossFit Games athletes don’t really know what they want to do when they come to the Games. And that’s exactly the point. The CrossFit Games put the best CrossFit athletes on the world stage and stress-test their physical and mental skills.

Kara Saunders in 2017

Kara Saunders in 2017 | Photo by Thomas Campitelli

Fitness sport

CrossFit is, by design, the most effective way to stretch a person’s physical capabilities and increase their ability to work, and the CrossFit Games are the most effective way to test the abilities and working abilities of the best athletes – that is, the Games are the ultimate test of physical fitness.

This is why the CrossFit Games are called a fitness sport. Which is why the winners are the best on earth.

Join the fittest on earth at the CrossFit Open

Learn more about the Magic of CrossFit


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