What is Fitness? Part 1: 10 General Physical Skills


The classic article, “What is Fitness?” by Greg Glassman is one of the true defining measures of the CrossFit methodology.


In the olden days of CrossFit, before the big Reebok sponsorship and the Games on ESPN, many people found CrossFit from this article, after developing an awareness and understanding of true fitness.  CrossFit is the only fitness program that has actually defined fitness in a way that is measurable, observable, and repeatable.


CrossFit uses 3 standards to evaluate fitness:

  1. The 10 General Physical Skills
  2. Capability at random physical tasks
  3. Competency in the 3 Metabolic Pathways.

Here we will explain the 1st standard in more detail. We will explain the other two in separate articles.


What are the 10 General Physical Skills?

The 10 General Physical Skills are: Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, & Accuracy.


Your overall fitness can be described by how proficient you are at all 10 of these skills.  Most people are very strong in a few, decent in a majority, and very poor in another select few.


For example, someone with superhuman strength may be able to lift a car, but may struggle to run down the street, while someone who specializes in ultra marathons may have a difficult time helping on moving day.


Each of these are greatly dominant in a specific areas, however are clearly lacking in others.  A true fitness program has the ability and focus to continually develop all of these skills, not just a select few.  In CrossFit, our goal is to “specialize in not specializing.


What is important to note, is that these skills are developed in different ways.  Endurance, Stamina, Strength, and Flexibility are organic (observable) changes in the body, and come about through training.  Coordination, Agility, Balance and Accuracy are neurological changes in the body, and come about through practice.  Power and Speed are adaptations of both training and practice.


10 General Physical Skills Defined (w/example from the gym):


  1. Endurance (Cardiovascular/Respiratory) – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen. (Run/Row/Bike)
  2. Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy. (High repetition Push-ups)
  3. Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force. (Heavy Deadlift)
  4. Flexibility – The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint. (Squatting below parallel)
  5. Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time. (Olympic Lifts: Clean/Jerk & Snatch)
  6. Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement. (Sprints)
  7. Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement. (Jump Rope/Double Unders)
  8. Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another. (Box Jumps)
  9. Balance – The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base. (Overhead Squat)
  10. Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity. (Wall Ball)


If your goal is to be truly fit, you will need a good balance of each of these skills.  This is the very reason why you should not cherry pick your workouts.  The workouts involving your weaknesses and new skills are actually more important to attend, as you will see greater improvement each session over a skill set you already dominate.


Keep an eye out for our post about CrossFit’s 2nd standard to evaluate fitness, capability at random physical tasks, and how it ties into these 10 skills.

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