How Fit Are You?
That simple question quickly gets complex. Fit for what? Everyone knows that being “in shape” is a good thing. We all know that we are supposed to work out, to burn calories, and to get our heart rates up. However, how fit is fit enough, and how do you evaluate your fitness? What is the end goal? How much work should you be able to do? How strong do you need to be? What are the necessary skills and how do you measure your own progress?
If you are training for a particular sport, or activity, it is fairly straightforward and easy to define your desired outcomes. However, if your goal is simply “being fit,” it can become much more complicated to establish appropriate goals. What is needed is a system of benchmarks that will help us train in an effective manner and allow us to evaluate our development as we go.
While the Skill Levels define a limited set of physical skills and set progressive benchmarks in these skills; they can be utilized to develop a personalized set of goals for improving your fitness.
By using a set of standards that encompass all components of physical fitness, we are able to provide a defined structure of development and goal setting. We utilize the Athletic Skill Levels as a versatile and user-friendly tool to fill this role.
The ten generally recognized components of physical fitness are: cardiorespiratory endurance, strength, stamina, flexibility, coordination, agility, balance, accuracy, power and speed.
A varied workout program like CrossFit develops all of these components. To maximize vertical growth (development of new strengths and skills), it helps to set goals, measure progress, and aim for balance among the skills.
Using the Athletic Skill Levels
Developing expertise in any area requires determined, consistent effort. It takes “grit.” But grit will not help you if you are only reinforcing existing strengths instead of developing weak areas into strength.
The Levels are designed to provide a general fitness perspective, to help set appropriate goals, and to allow focus work on weak areas that result in the rewarding mastery of activities you couldn’t do before. The levels are:
Level I – Healthy beginner.
This level is the minimum standard for health. Lacking these basic levels of strength, flexibility and work capacity makes daily life unnecessarily limited. The complete Level I should be attainable within three to 12 months for those with no significant limitations. At this level, proper basic movements, such as hip flexion and active shoulder use, are developed, while healed injuries and structural problems are resolved.
Level II – Intermediate athlete.
All healthy adults can aspire to this level of fitness and should perceive these skills as normal. Basic movements are perfected and advanced skills are introduced. The complete Level II may take from six months to several years to reach after achieving Level I. Along the way, you develop significant levels of strength, stamina, work capacity and speed, building on the Level I foundation already attained. Further, the ability to complete all elements of Level 2 will prepare individuals to be able to successfully participate in the CrossFit Open.
Level III – Advanced athlete.
Few people possess this level of general fitness, although any healthy person can achieve it. The strength, work capacity, power and skill required to meet these goals can prepare you to tackle any kind of physical performance with competence and confidence. Expect to invest another three to five years of consistent effort. This is an appropriate level of general fitness for those who depend on their fitness: competitive athletes, military, law enforcement and firefighters. Engaging in combat or highly competitive sports without possessing the abilities of Level III is inviting injury or failure. Any additional requirements of your sport need to be added to this list. Further, the ability to complete all elements of Level 3 will prepare individuals to be able to compete at a high level within the CrossFit Open and potentially make it to their respective regional level of competition.
Level IV – Elite athlete.
This level of achievement requires long-term dedication and a passion for fitness. The skills required of Level IV are very advanced and, taken as a whole, represent a highly skilled and well-rounded athlete. Further, the ability to complete all elements of Level 4 will prepare individuals to be able to compete at a high level within the CrossFit community including but not limited to advancing to the CrossFit Regionals of their respective region and potentially the CrossFit Games.
Please remember, the Athletic Skill Levels are intended to be a gauge and a guide, not a standardized test you are obliged to “pass.” Do not beat yourself up for not being “elite.” Use the Levels to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and to make smart choices about your training time. This guide is not a definitive guide to CrossFit, an exercise prescription, nor a complete guide to developing the skills. The skills are intended to be broadly representative of general fitness.
Proper form in all movements is imperative. Many resources are available to help with technique: coaching, videos, books, seminars, and workout partners. USE THEM!
Kong CrossFit would like to thank Dave Werner and the staff at Level 4: CrossFit Seattle for their assistance and inspiration in the athletic skill development. Descriptions of the levels are reproduced on the Kong CrossFit website. Download the original descriptions in PDF format.