The Three Factors of Conditioning

CrossFit is a strength AND CONDITIONING program. And there are three factors of conditioning that we need to work on if we want to have solid motors. Energy systems, movement capacity, and mental performance are all necessary.

Energy Systems

We’ve covered energy systems in depth previously, so we’ll stay a little higher level here. Generally speaking, we have our aerobic energy system, and our anaerobic energy systems. Our aerobic system allows us to produce power over long periods of time. This system is great for developing endurance.

Our anerobic energy systems help produce power for short term use. We use them to develop high levels of force and power.

It’s important to develop both pathways to be a well rounded athlete. If you have solid endurance, but no power, you’ll be able to move for a long time, but you won’t be able to push. If you’re an athlete that pretty much has 1 pace, this means you’ve developed your aerobic system well. On the flip side, if you have a well developed anaerobic system but no endurance, you can push hard, but you burn out quickly. We want both.

Strength and Conditioning

Movement Capacity

CrossFit uses many movements from many different disciplines. When we use simpler movements such as KB swings, burpees, rowing, etc., it’s easy to target our energy pathways. When we use higher skilled movements (thrusters, kipping movements, Olympic lifts, etc.), we are limited by technical proficiency.

The more efficiently we’re able to perform a movement, the longer we can keep performing that movement without slowing down. As soon as our form starts to break down, we waste energy with inefficient movement. For years, CrossFit HQ pushed what they called “CrossFit slop.” The idea was that if you pushed hard enough, you would have a corresponding breakdown in form, and that was the goal. Frankly, that’s crap. The goal is always to maintain proper form.

Mental Performance

We spend a lot of time working on this aspect at Viking Athletics. We throw different rep schemes, difference movement combinations, different time domains, etc., at our members so they can gather information about what movements and paces gas them the most. In other words, we develop their ability to pace.

Mental performance should not be confused with mental toughness. Mental toughness is equated with pushing hard, sucking it up, going full send, whatever you want to call it. Mental performance is about controlling your output – pushing when it’s appropriate, dialing back when it’s needed, and learning how to manage fatigue.

Conditioning is often used synonymously with energy system development.  But, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. CrossFit helps develop movement capacity along with energy systems, and our approach to it helps work on the mental performance piece as well. To be truly well conditioned, you need all three. See you in the gym.


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