The Ten General Physical Skills

In CrossFit we use 3 different models to determine who and what is fitness. It is a core tenant of our program’s ability to stand up to the rigor of real scientific explanation. The 3 models are the ten general physical skills, the hopper model, and the very thing that drives all human movement, bio-energetics. Today’s blog is going to focus on the first operational model and that is the ten general physical skills. 

This model was presented to CrossFit by coaches Bruce Evans and Jim Cawley. They determined that anything worth working on for an athlete was going to fall into the category of one of these 10 general physical skills and they are as follows:

Cardiovascular/Respiratory Endurance –  The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen. 
Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force. 
Flexibility – The ability to maximize range of motion at a given joint.
Power – The ability of muscular unit or combination of to apply maximum force in minimum time. 
Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement. 
Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another. 
Balance – The ability to control the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base. 
 Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity. 

Now, I know it seems like there’s some overlap there but each skill presents a different trait that must be worked on/tested. There is also a splitting of the camps between the first 4 traits and last 4, while the 2 in the middle are equal parts both camps. 

The first 4 traits are organic in nature. In other words, to create a change in them there has to be a physical reshaping of the tissue. The last 4 are neurological in nature which means the brain has to undergo a change in order for them to see improvement. Power and speed are equal parts organic and neurological. You can make improvements in both by not only learning to perform a movement better but also via a change in the tissue. CrossFit took this model a step further than Bruce Evans and Jim Cawley and declared that he or she who is fittest would be balanced across all 10 physical skills. If we were to look at this from the standpoint of a real life example, we could examine the long distance runner and the power lifter. 

The long distance runner would no doubt be superior in their cardio/respiratory endurance, stamina, and perhaps speed. The power lifter would obviously win in strength, power, and possibly accuracy. However, both are VASTLY deficient in other areas. They are also, without knowing, deficient in the areas in which they believe to be superior. The runners cardio/respiratory endurance and stamina only serve him or her on a long run. If he or she was asked to do even a lightweight thruster for a significant amount of reps they would fail in a heartbeat. The power lifter would also not be so strong if they were asked to perform any bodyweight movement. This model favors no specialist which is the main reason CrossFit loves it. Should you have any weakness at any one of these traits in ANY movement in which it could be demonstrated, you’ll know it right away when performing that movement. Consider your fitness and in which trait you struggle the most, chase that deficiency head on and you will improve your overall capacity in ways you didn’t think were possible.