Monday, May 15, 2006

Beating the Hopper

Crossfit programming is focused on general physical preparation (GPP). If you've read up on the Crossfit definition of fitness, you've heard of the hopper. The idea is this:

An infinite amount of physical tasks are loaded into a hopper. The hopper spits them out randomly. The fittest athlete is the one who can perform the most tasks proficiently.

Given this idea, it makes sense that the majority of our training is focused on speed and strength. Having both speed and strength will leave you relatively well prepared to take on any task--these qualities are readily transferrable.

When I work on my front squat, I'm building strength in my posterior chain--back, glutes, hamstrings, etc. This group of muscles is highly recruited during other activities, including sprinting, box jumps, thrusters, push presses, swings, and olympic lifts. If I train speed and strength, I'll be able to deal with most of the tasks thrown at me in the WOD.

The transfer of speed and strength to other activities breaks down when those activities are skill-based. My ability to squat 200 pounds has little bearing on my gymnastics, and it certainly doesn't help with my double-unders. These activities require specific patterns of movement. Mastery of movement requires practice.

As you pursue fitness, recognize the difference between activities that require GPP and those that require specific skills. As a general rule of thumb, skill-based activities will require more patience and dedication to perform proficiently. You'll need to develop reflexes, spatial awareness, agility, and balance.

I have a tendency to neglect skill-based exercises. I suck at jumping rope and pretty much anything involving tumbling. It's much more fun for me to think about deadlifting another 20 pounds than to imagine doing 10 consecutive double-unders or a back handspring. Nonetheless, I have a sneaking suspicion that developing spatial awareness, reflexes, agility, and balance results in increased ability across all skill-based activities.

Next time you're deciding between doing yet another set of squats or practicing your dive to front roll, remember that the hopper makes a fool out of the specialist. GPP alone will not win the day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to be splitting hairs, but if the Crossfit definition of fitness calls for you to be able to perform "an infinitesimal amount of physical tasks", then even my grandma won't have trouble doing that.

I suppose Crossfit should expand its notion of complete fitness to include the mind :)


5/16/2006 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Gilson said...

Thanks, Toby. Jackass :)

5/16/2006 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Go lick a window ;)

5/16/2006 05:25:00 PM  

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