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What is Fitness? What does it really mean…

 The concept of fitness started with me having what I call a belief in fitness that is I was of the view, still am of the view that there was a general physical capacity that would lend itself well, generally well, to any and all contingencies to the likely, to the unlikely, to the known, to the unknown. Little different than the fitness is required for say sport. In fact, one of the things it demarcates, delineates, defines sport physiologically is how much we know about the physiological demands.

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And so, I look at a guy like this, Mr. Prefontaine, rest in peace, I don’t think a 400-pound bench press would have helped his efforts or made him a better runner. Understand that? And if you want to be in a bench press competition I don’t think training with him would have gotten you there either. But that’s because we weren’t looking, he wasn’t looking for a broad, general, and inclusive fitness, he wasn’t looking for fitness that would prepare him for the unknown and unknowable though, hey, maybe that might have made a difference in his demise.

An interesting bit of speculation, but we’re chasing headlong this. This concept of fitness is a broad, general, inclusive adaptive capacity, something again that would prepare you for the unknown and unknowable and went to the literature to look for and that could find shit, you know, and the stuff we did find seemed either esoteric, irrelevant, logically flawed, scientifically flawed, even for the stuff that came from the best scientific minds. To date, the American College of Sports Medicine cannot give a scientific definition of fitness. They give a definition for sure but it contains nothing that can be measured.

In scientific definitions, that includes unmeasurable things that are not scientific, though they may look like it. Could have all kinds of words like neuro synaptic facilitation, I mean you can really get fancy with the language and throw some Latin at you, but if in the end if it’s not measurable you don’t have a good definition. And so, we started playing with it and it came up with three operational models. You’ll see what they are. They were kinda clumsy but they had utility and they guided us, kept us on this path and I’ll share with you what they are.

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Jim Cawley and Bruce Evans of Dynamax, they make these med balls over here. Poor guys have gone completely senile but still, it was a big contribution. It’s a great, great med ball. In their prime, in their days’ vigor and vitality, they produced a list of physiological adaptations. That was possible for an exercise program. This includes cardiorespiratory endurance, and you can get these from the

" What is Fitness?

" article, you needn’t write them down, I want you to just get an overview here what we’re talking about.

They listed these 10 general physical skills. They called and really what they did is they represented the gamut of potential adaptation, physiological adaptation, to an exercise program. That is, you can improve cardiorespiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance.

They gave reasonable definitions to each of these 10. So that they seemed fairly distinct. Couple of notes here–nature has no obligation to recognize these distinctions. It’s completely man-made. This is an abstraction, a construct, a model made by a couple of coaches and exercise physiologists to help us understand fitness better.

Well, what we did with this that was a surprise to the guys came up with the list, they said they had one of these damn its moments where they wish they had taken that next step, let the other shoe hit the ground. If you will, as we said that he or she was as fit as you were developed in breadth and depth in those 10 capacities. And to the extent that you were deficient in one relative to any cohort, that is, the guy standing next to ya, you were less fit. OK? Simple.

This is a balance, a compromise if you will, you probably understand physiological adaptation.

Second model. This is kind of a statistical model based on training modalities. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m gonna take a big hopper you know like we pick a lottery winner and throw in all the cards and envelopes and turn the thing and pull out your winner, right. You’ve seen that before. What we wanna do? Is I wanna load this thing with his many skills and drills from as many different sports and strength and conditioning?

You can come up with, and I mean it could be B-skip drills from track, agility ladder work from football, it could be a one-rep max bench press, it could be Fran.

Helen and Diane from the Cross Fit workouts, any of our Hero workouts, those are all Cross Fitters that we lost. It could be, fuck, I’ll put Pilates in, some yoga shit in there, I don’t care. I’m not gonna exclude anything, the more, the better. Fill it.

You can read our other blog which is about “How to get fit?

Now, line everyone up, turn the crank, pull something out and put it to the test, give it the Pepsi challenge. Here’s the contention, he or she that performs best at these randomly assigned.

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The physical task is a fit test, and it may very well be that the fit test man on Earth is about75 percentile in terms of what you pick out, you understand? In fact, best at many things would tell me immediately that you’re not as fit as you could be. Want a for instance for that? I’ll give you one, you got a 4:10 mile. I’m gonna tell you to know thousands of people a whole lot fitter than you are. Because part of the adaptation to get you a 4:10 mile is it probably coincides with a max bench about half body weight in a vertical leap of 3-4 inches. And I get a 4-minute mile, it’s especially true, and we get under that and it’s just it’s absolutely certain, absolutely certain. Did you get 900-pound back squat? Let me tell you, you walk funny, you can’t really run, you can jump up boxes too well and you’d be hard-pressed to run a mile without stopping four or five times. That’s just how that is.

It’s not a character flaw, that’s part and parcel of the adaptation. Now if you tell me I’m living for a 900-pound back squat, great, I’m all for it. I can tell you put you in touch with Dave Tate, he’ll get you there. Mark Rippetoe, he’ll probably get you on your way. You want a 4-minute mile, I’ve got people who can help you with that, move you in that direction. But you are not advancing your fitness in doing so. What you’re doing is advancing a very narrow bandwidth specialized capacity. That’s what you’re doing, no value judgment there. So, we have a statistical model where we’re looking at skills and drills, and what I’m talking about his balance and compromise, breadth and depth, capacity breadth, and depth of training modality. OK, different skills and drills.

The other one, the first one if you remember was this balance between adaptation, physiological adaptation. I got a third–there are three metabolic pathways, turns out there’s a fourth in there, someday probably a fifth, sixth and seventh. We fundamentally don’t care, but you put power on this axis and duration of effort here. Time and the first one looks like that, the second one looks like that, third looks like that. The real point here is that this is a high-power, about a hundred percent of the max human output of your output. This one’s oh probably 75percent, maybe 70, authorities differ. This one could be about 40 percent this one crap out here at about 10seconds, this one peak at about60 seconds. This one terminates at 120, and this first one here. This long one starts real low and doesn’t fade in any reasonable time for which I have patience or interest. Right? These are engines, engines that produce ATP. What is that? It’s the currency of all effort of all energy output, doesn’t really matter. High-powered, short duration. Moderate powered, moderate duration. Low-powered, long duration.

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Yes, they have names: phosphocreatine or phosphagen. Go ahead and forget it, you’ll be better off if you did. Lactated or glytor ictic, and oxidative or aerobic–these two are are anaerobic and this is aerobic by definition. Good, forget it all. Guess what? Our thought is that you are as fit as you are balanced incapacity in all three of these engines. The human being is a vehicle with three engines on it let’s get ’em all working, does that make sense? How fuckin’ crazy is that, huh, simple. And you tell me not as a fourth engine, well fuckin’ rev that one up too.

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How about a fifth, sixth or seventh? Am I like, no forget them. No, let’s get them too. Now turns out, we were maximizing, very likely maximizing in a global sense, maybe historically. We’re maximizing the output of a pathway that would no one knew existed. How?

Through constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement. If you want to remember something, remember that, and Tony gave it to you. In the prescription, constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement, of which the WOD on the website is nothing but an example. Alright?

So, breadth and depth balance in bio-energetic and the biochemistry, the engines that fuel all human activity.

By the way, you’re all in one of the states right now. All three engines work all the time to some extent, kinda cool, they idle, others rev, they rev, others idle, two will rev, one will idle, doesn’t matter. But right now you’re using one of these dominantly, oxidative. The key is sustainability.

What are you doing right now? Something you can only do for 10 seconds, I hope, I’m not that fuckin’ boring. But you know you can probably not, I go a little longer than 10 seconds, Coach. Could you do it for longer than two minutes? I think I’ve already proven you can ’cause everyone’s still looking I don’t see anyone’s eyes closed. This one, ah, so right now you’re doing aerobics, isn’t that cool. You get really fit this way, right? Balance in physiological adaptation–coordination, accuracy, agility, balance stamina–you got it?


Balance in the skills and drills from a sundry of sports, throw ’em in, turn the crank, pull it out, statistical kind of game. Balance in bioenergetics in the molecular mechanisms that create all activity–sleeping, eating, fighting, it’s all there–we don’t even need to know how many there are or where we just want them all balanced. Then we move forward and we launched, the workout, the WOD, put up the website. And use these three operational models and they’re operational and therefore kind of clumsy, but they had utility they kept u son track. Let me just give you some of that. In the hopper model turning the crank and pull something out, check this out.

 Everyone here probably knows what it is you don’t want to see come out of the hopper. Got a sense of that? There’s something you’re like, oh that would be fucked. And there’s probably something, too, that you’re like, man, this would be a great one. But if you’re like everyone else, and you’re stand-in’ there and the crank’s turning, you’re saying some kind of silent prayer. Dear God, don’t let it be … and there’s something you just don’t want to be confronted with. Here’s what I have learned about fitness, sports training, about preparing yourself for the unknown and the unknowable. There’s more traction, more advantage, more opportunity in pursuing that thing that you don’t want to see come out headlong to put more time into that thing you’re already good at.

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That thing you don’t want to come out is a chink in your armor and addressing. It will make a difference for you in ways you’ll never be able to predict prior to the experiment. Never be able to predict, and we have countless examples of this from amateur and professional sport. And really the heart of this is that we’ve learned some things about GPP that the world never knew before–general physical preparedness. Someone’s taking notes, so I’m gonna just run with that a little bit here and give you some fuel on this.

There’s more opportunity to advance athletic performance in advancing GPP beyond whatever you think. Its current state is that there is more specific strength conditioning training, specific to the sport. I don’t care who you are, you could be an eight-figure ball sports megastar or a UFC champ or the guy next door. There is some significant, glaring deficiency in your GPP and is a correlate to that. Just give your clinical centers it will take me, at most, at most two hours to find it. Two hours, I guarantee I’m gonna have it nailed down.

We will confront you, relative to other people at your performance level, this is something you suck at compared to them. I don’t care who you. Fixing that will give an advantage where it doesn’t make sense, maybe mechanically or metabolically. Why do more pull-ups make for better skiers, I’m not quite sure. We’ve got some theories, but we demonstrated it’s a fact. Do we need to know the why of it, the actual mechanism? Not really. I’m in the business of just advancing performance.

So, we got the three models, we’re doing constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement in an attempt to stay true. These are more like lighthouse guideposts. You know, a litmus for us than anything else, and we’re plugging along and we’re doing WODs.

We’ve collected data and we start analyzing this data and looking at it and looking at it, and what does it really mean to do Fran? What does it really mean to do Helen? What does it mean to say that your time went from seven minutes to six minutes to five minutes to four minutes? And some interesting things kinda came out of this.

Now, work is force times distance divided by time. And apologies, just a little bit of algebra here, maybe I shouldn’t even say that word but don’t let it care for you. Force times distance divided by time, essentially, what is it weigh? Distance, how far did you displace it upward? Time, how long did it take? Now, the functional movements–this prescription here is constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements. The functional movements are defined as well as by any other definition, they have a unique capacity to move large loads, long-distance and quickly. This turns out to be power. Now, in a workout like Fran–does anyone know what that is? Show of hands if you do. Look, here’s a thruster, I front squat, drive 95 pounds overhead, that’s one rep. Do 21 of those, then 21 pull-ups and it’s basically 21 times chin over the bar, anyhow.

The kip is the most efficient way to do that. Twenty-one pull-ups then go back. Fifteen of the thrusters, 15up pull-ups, 9 of each, stop the clock. And we get time for it, OK? The work required for Zack to do Fran is constant. It doesn’t change, unless your height changes, the distance you travel, the load changes, your weight changes, or the bar changes.

But as long as you are you’re current–what are you, 5’8" 5’9"?5’10" as long as you stay 5’10" and your weight doesn’t change. We stay at 95 pounds and we don’t change our standards for a range of motion, and we do not, then every time you do that workout, the work is constant.

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So, we do it some first time here and we get sometime one for it. And if we do it on another date I’ve got the same work–don’t do scare you–and I get a separate time. Now if I go to divide these, if I want to compare these two here, check this out. You guys remember how to do this. We take the denominator here flip it, right? These are the same and they cancel. Now suppose there were some error and there will be, we know about it those of you who have got a math/physics background, you a doc? PT? Just a smart kid. That’s good. As long as this work is constant, it is, any error incumbent in here not that lies within our methodology of measurement and how we’re doing is we’re … I’m measuring the weight with a scale, I’m measuring the distance you travel with a tape measure and I’m measuring the time with a watch. There’s really not a lot of error there. But there are some interesting things as we’re calculating the body’s displacement by you looking at the center of mass, blah, blah, blah. It is your error, it is constant error, the error that is here is it here when I do with the second time. But what happens when we go to look at the map?

What happens is, though, the work and its error cancels, and the ratio of the second time we did to the first time we did it describe my progress to the accuracy and precision of the fucking watch, which is really enormous. It’s the best of my tools. It’s better than my scale, it’s better than my ability to use a yardstick. It’s time. It’s a watch, it’s easy.

So what are we looking at here, well we’re looking at it we’re looking at changes in power. We’re gonna change is a power and we didn’t have to study this much longer to come to this understanding. That if I put power on this axis and duration of effort here, and say we take a handful of efforts that take approximately 10 seconds to do and measure their power output, and get an average. And I can do this at 30seconds and I can give you examples, but it doesn’t really matter. We can keep playing this game, getting these data points and then graph this thing. What I’ve done here technically, mathematically, with adequate scientific accuracy and precision is.

I have graphed an individual or I could do this with the company, a group, a battalion, a platoon or a country. I have measured work capacity across broad time and model domains. By the way, this power is work capacity. Here, we’ll draw it again pull it out of the rubble here. Power equals force times distance divided by time. Work–that’s work per unit time, work capacity, power is work capacity. I have a measure here of your work capacity across broad time from short duration to long duration doing a bunch of different things a teach duration at each time limit. I have measured your work capacity across broad time and modal domains. And what this means is that the area under the curve gives me scientific, accurate and precise measure, scientific measure, valid measure of an athlete’s fitness. And we’re the first people to have ever done that.

Now, I’ve got exercise physiologists scratching their heads and calling it dangerous. It is dangerous ’cause it’s fucking up their position in the market. And calling me an asshole, but you know, I don’t have anyone out of exercise physiology who’s refuting this. What’s interesting is when we show this to physicists, chemists, engineers, you know what they say? Why, of course, there’s no other way to assess the capacity of something be it a rocket, motorcycle, truck, humvee, tank, I wanna know what does it weigh? How far did it move and how long did it take? It turns out that everything else is derived from that or entirely irrelevant, like is it blue or green? You know, we don’t care. You with me?

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