Testing Your Strength With "The Crossfit Total"

"Strength: the quality or state of being strong"

Try this.  Go to a gym, fitness center, or exercise facility and ask the people performing easy sets of bicep curls, chest flys, and leg extensions what their goal is.  In addition to the typical "toning", "firming", and "bulking" responses, you'll likely hear quite a few "I want to get strong"s.

(If you're feeling really spunky, you could then ask them how lifting weights that barely break a sweat are helping them to reach their goal.  Caution: this is a recipe for equal parts *blank-stare* and "Come at me bro!")

Individual responses to exercise naturally vary, but the fact of the matter is, unless you are exerting yourself MAXIMALLY you are not working on strength.

While the meaning of "strength" has come to symbolize emotional fortitude, mental toughness, and qualities such as endurance, durability, and perseverance, the true definition of physical strength is the ability to exert force.

Testing strength, therefore, comes down to two things, quantity ("How much can you lift?") and quality ("How did you lift it?")

You could test your strength in many different ways, but one measure that I am particularly fond of is "The CrossFit Total".

The Crossfit Total was born when Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Mark Rippetoe sat down with CrossFit Grand Poobah Greg Glassman to figure out how one could measure "raw strength" while still applying the CrossFit principle of "functional movement".

After much deliberation, Rippetoe decided on "a measure of absolute strength based on the sum of the best of three attempts at the squat, the press, and the deadlift" WITH proper form and WITHOUT the assistance of special shirts, belts, and "touchy" spotters.

The press, deadlift, and squat were selected because they were "functional" (performed with feet on floor within the field of gravity unlike an exercises such as the bench press where the trainee is supine), "safe" (someone with a reasonable amount of skill can perform them alone without a high level of risk), and "approachable" (none of the lifts require expensive personal equipment).

WARNING: The CrossFit total is not designed to be used by novices.  The exercises are not as complex as, say, a clean and jerk, but they still require a degree of familiarity and proficiency in order to be performed safely.  It also takes time to develop a feel for estimating ones own capacity for a maximal effort.

However, if you have the requisite skill, are injury-free (or at least not injured in a way that will be worsened by attempting The CrossFit Total), and would like to find out how your strength stacks up, you might want to give The Total a try.

The Press

Essentially a barbell shoulder press performed in a standing position.  A properly performed press assesses the strength and stability of the shoulders and challenges total body balance and stability.

Removing the bar from the rack: Link to image here

Executing the lift: Link to image here

The Deadlift

While both the deadlift and the squat work "the legs", when properly performed, the deadlift recruits a much higher percentage of muscle fibers from the hamstrings and the glutes.

Executing the lift: Link to image here

The Squat

The proverbial "King" of all weight training exercises, the squat activates every muscle in the body, with a particular emphasis on the quadriceps, glutes, and stabilizing muscles of the core.

Proper "bottom" position alignment: Link to image here

Executing the lift: Link to image here

Wondering how your strength stacks up? Check your results against general standards for The Press, The Deadlift, and The Squat. (Explanation of standards criteria here)

Have you "totaled" your strength?  Share your results, questions, and feedback in the comments section below!


"Intensity, What Is It?" by Clarence Bass, http://www.cbass.com/IntensityResistanceTraining.htm

"The ability of a person or animal to exert force on physical objects using muscles." Wikipedia.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_strength

"The CrossFit Total", www.CrossFit.com, http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/52-2006_CFTotal.pdf

"What is CrossFit?" www.CrossFit.com, http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/what-crossfit.html

Images and Gif's from ExRx.com, http://www.exrx.net/
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About Unknown

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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