The Strength Pyramid: Building a Solid Foundation for CrossFit®

Written By Ben  |  Training 

Hey everyone, Ben here from WODprep. Welcome to our three-part article series on how to get strong, essential for excelling in CrossFit® and functional fitness. Today, we kick things off by diving into the "Strength Pyramid," a crucial concept for understanding how to build a robust foundation of strength and progress to more advanced skills.

Understanding the Strength Pyramid

Often, athletes associate strength with the ability to execute complex barbell movements like snatches and clean and jerks. However, these high-skill movements represent just a fraction of the overall strength equation. The Strength Pyramid helps us prioritize and structure our strength training effectively.

1. Absolute Strength: The Foundation

At the base of the pyramid lies absolute strength, the cornerstone of all strength development.

Absolute strength is your ability to move external loads, typically measured through exercises like the deadlift, shoulder press, bench press, front squat, and back squat.

These movements require minimal skill but demand maximum raw strength. The key to absolute strength is focusing purely on how much weight you can lift, regardless of your body weight.

2. Power: The Next Level

Once a solid foundation of absolute strength is established, we move up the pyramid to power.

Power is defined as moving weight quickly and efficiently, incorporating more skill. Movements in this category include the snatch, jerk, clean, thrusters, and various complexes.

Developing power enhances your ability to perform dynamic lifts with speed and precision.

The Strength Pyramid Building a Solid Foundation for CrossFit

3. Relative Strength: Bodyweight Mastery

On the same level as power, we have relative strength, which is your ability to move your body weight.

This includes exercises like strict pull-ups, handstand push-ups, and ring muscle-ups. Relative strength is crucial for body control and efficiency in movements where your body weight is the primary resistance.

4. Gymnastic Skills: The Pinnacle

At the top of the pyramid are gymnastic skills, which involve high levels of coordination and skill.

These include high-volume kipping pull-ups, kipping ring muscle-ups, and other advanced gymnastic movements.

While these skills require a blend of strength and technique, they are built on the foundation of absolute and relative strength.

Prioritizing Your Training

To become a well-rounded CrossFit® athlete, it's essential to follow a structured approach:

  1. Build Absolute Strength First: Focus on foundational lifts like deadlifts and squats during the off-season. This period is ideal for developing raw strength without the pressure of competitions.
  2. Develop Power and Relative Strength: Once you have a solid base, incorporate power exercises and bodyweight movements. This phase requires a mix of strength and speed training.
  3. Hone Your Gymnastic Skills: Finally, as the competition season approaches, refine your gymnastic skills. These movements demand a high degree of technique and coordination.

Common Pitfalls

A major mistake athletes make is prioritizing high-skill movements like snatches and ring muscle-ups without first developing a strong foundation of absolute strength. This approach can lead to frustration and limited progress.

By focusing on the pyramid's base during the off-season, you'll set yourself up for success as you advance to more complex movements.

Join the Conversation

Stay tuned for the next article, where we'll dive deeper into testing and developing your absolute strength. We'll explore specific exercises and methods to enhance your foundational strength, setting the stage for improved performance in all areas of CrossFit®.

What's the best CrossFit® strength program to join?

For individuals seeking to improve their strength while continuing their CrossFit® training, WPx Strength offers a highly recommended program.

Our 3-Day Strength Program provides three weekly sessions that can be supplemented with short conditioning workouts.

This allows for a comprehensive training schedule that includes both strength and CrossFit® sessions, depending on your availability.


Read the Full Series Here:

The Strength Pyramid: Building a Solid Foundation for CrossFit
How to Build Absolute Strength for CrossFit: Understanding the Six Core Elements
Test Your Absolute Strength & Fix Your Weaknesses 


BONUS: What is CrossFit Strength Training? Your Questions Answered

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