Pillars of CrossFit: Constantly Varied

Hello all my wonderful Uncommon people! It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, but the clamoring for my wisdom has just become too deafening to ignore any longer. So here I am, and here you go.

I thought it might be interesting to write about each of the pillars of CrossFit. We have enough newer people in the gym that might not even know what they are. We also might have experienced people who have heard them, but haven’t given any thought as to what they actually mean. So it will be a three-part series which covers: constantly varied, functional movement, and high intensity. These are absolutely essential components of what makes CrossFit so effective. To understand them, you need to understand CrossFit’s overarching goal.

I highly encourage you all to read Glassman’s CrossFit Journal article titled “What is CrossFit?”:

The short of it is that CrossFit’s goal is general physical preparedness, or GPP. And what have we found is the best way of achieving GPP? Why, I’m glad you asked!

Let’s start with “constantly varied”. If you’ve been paying any attention to fitness culture at all over the last 20 years, you’ve probably heard the phrase “muscle confusion” thrown around. Should we be confusing our muscles? Can your muscles even get confused? What are they confused about? Am I confused after asking all these questions? Perhaps.

In the world of health and fitness, there are VERY few things that are universally agreed upon. But one of those things is called the “SAID principle”. This stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. This means that everything you do to your body is a stimulus. If this stimulus is different in any way than what your body is used to, you will adapt. Your body wants everything to stay in a balanced equilibrium. So when a stimulus takes you out of the equilibrium in some way, the adaptation is your body’s attempt to get it back. Many, many years ago, equilibrium meant you were safe and fed. In our society now, there is very little danger of starving, dying from exposure, or being physically attacked by someone or something that could kill you. But your body doesn’t know that. If you do a 5 rep max Dead Lift, the sirens and alarms are going off just like they would if you were out in nature trying to fight off a wolf. The human body is incredible at adapting to different situations and environments. It’s why we can inhabit almost anywhere in the world, while most animals cannot. This is great for survival! But, as I said, survival isn’t nearly as big of a problem today as it was a long time ago. So the systems that make it easier for us to adapt to our environment and survive will also cause us to adapt to an exercise routine relatively quickly if the stimulus is not changed. This makes it necessary for us to change up our fitness routines if we want to keep improving.

Remember, any change you are trying to make to your body is an adaptation to the stimulus you are giving it. Your body is hard-wired to survive, so in order to be better at surviving the challenges you put it through, it will adapt to better handle those challenges. The easiest example of this is how your muscles grow when you start lifting weights. You can’t keep lifting the same weight the same number of times and expect to keep growing stronger. Your body will adapt to that stimulus. You need to introduce a new stimulus. The same goes for type of exercise.

Aaaaaaaaaaand now we’re back to “constantly varied”. People were cross-training long before CrossFit was a thing. But the exercises selected by Glassman have been superior to any others when it comes to eliciting an adaptation. Every time you exercise, your body tries to adapt to that stimulus. We keep it constantly varied so you are introducing something new to which your body has to adapt a lot more often. And remember, constantly varied doesn’t mean random. If a non-crossfitting exercise person tells you CrossFit is just random, you sock them straight in the face and scream “CONSTANTLY VARIED IS NOT RANDOM!”

(Forrest Gump voice) That’s all I have to say about that.


Tune in next time when we go over Funtional Movements!

author: Jacob Watts


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