In 2002, CrossFit Inc.’s founder and CEO Greg Glassman defined fitness, and presented the fitness pyramid, which illustrated the building blocks for world-class fitness. We have identified some key pieces missing from the pyramid and reorganized the priorities. This is the Maddox Method’s fitness pyramid.
Nutrition: Nutrition should always be the foundation of any exercise regimen. If you do not have proper nutrition, it will be difficult get the desired results. You cannot out-train a poor diet. It will be hard for your body to perform at an optimal level if you are not fueling it properly. A nutrition plan consisting of lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fat sources will help your body reduce fat mass and build and maintain lean muscle. Having resistance training as a part of your regimen will assist in the building and maintaining of muscle, but if you do not have your nutrition dialed in you will not get the body composition that you desire. Additionally, proper nutrition will assist in keeping adipose tissue (fat) off of your organs, which will keep your body functioning optimally and help to fight off chronic disease.
Mobility: Once you have your nutrition dialed in, the next aspect of your fitness to focus on is your mobility. Achieving full range of motion decreases the stress on your tendons and joints and will help to prevent injury. It will allow you to perform a variety of movements, from complex gymnastics to weightlifting. Lack of mobility will limit you from performing certain movements. Squatting requires lower extremity mobility, so if you have limited ankle, knee, or hip mobility, it will make it difficult to go through a full pain-free range of motion in a squat. If you have poor shoulder mobility it will be tough to perform pressing movements, overhead squats, and Olympic lifts like the snatch and clean and jerk. Mobility should always be a part of any training program, whether it is to improve or maintain mobility; it is extremely important to prevent injury and improve performance.
Weightlifting and Gymnastics: In the original fitness pyramid, they had metabolic conditioning before gymnastics and weightlifting. In that model, they considered metabolic conditioning as “cardio” training using mono-structural exercises such as running, rowing, biking, swimming, etc. In CrossFit, we know that metabolic conditioning can come in many other forms of exercise. It can be a combination of different movements including weight lifting, gymnastics, and mono-structural exercise. It is because of this fact that we chose to prioritize gymnastics and weightlifting before metabolic conditioning. Movement efficiency should always take place over intensity. Mechanics, consistency, and then intensity is CrossFit’s protocol when it comes to progressing athletes. If you are not proficient in manipulating external loads (weightlifting) or moving your body through space (gymnastics), then you should focus on the mechanics of your movements, becoming proficient in those movements, and then ramping up the intensity. We prioritized gymnastics and weightlifting on the same level because we feel it is equally important to be able to manipulate your body as well as external loads. Additionally, gymnastics movements and weightlifting techniques are exercises that should constantly be practiced and refined. It takes a lot of repetitions to master these movements once you have learned them.
Metabolic Conditioning: Once you have become proficient in movements, you can begin to incorporate them into your workouts. The biggest adaptations you are going to get from your training regimen are variation and intensity. Incorporate gymnastics, weightlifting, and mono-structural exercises, in as many different combinations as creatively possible. Train for the short and the long duration.
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Train for strength, power, speed, agility, and endurance. Keep your technique sound throughout your workout, especially when fatigue sets in. When you have a breakdown in technique, you run a greater risk for injury. As you get fitter, you can increase the intensity. This can be in the form of heavier lifts, more repetitions, or just moving faster (getting more work done in a shorter amount of time). The increased intensity will improve your metabolic conditioning and provide great results for your overall fitness.
Sport: At the top of the pyramid we have sport. This does not necessarily have to be competitive or organized sport. This can be something as simple as recreational hiking, mountain biking, or even playing with your grandkids. It is important to stay active outside of the gym. The ultimate goal should be to not suck at life. We should all want to avoid being in a wheelchair when we are in our old age. Staying active inside and outside of the gym will help us to live a longer, healthier, and more fruitful life.
If you follow this fitness pyramid, the foundation is nutrition. Dialing in your nutrition is the first step to living a healthy lifestyle. Next, you should focus on your mobility and then movement efficiency. Once you have you have become proficient enough in gymnastics and weightlifting, then you can increase the intensity of your workouts to help improve fitness. From there it is time to apply your fitness outside of the gym. This does not necessarily mean competitive sports, but you should try to find a way to be active outside of the gym. As with any pyramid, once you’ve built to the top, you must still maintain the lower levels and the foundation. If those become weak, then the pyramid will crumble. Always strive to become better than you were before and constantly push to grow.