What Is the CrossFit Total?

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The CrossFit Total is a series of three exercises combined into a strength test that was conceived by weight lifting coach Mark Rippetoe in 2006 for the CrossFit community. Consisting of the squat, overhead press and deadlift, the CrossFit Total is designed to be more accessible then the Olympic lifts and assesses whole body functional strength. Followers of CrossFit perform the CrossFit Total every month or so to measure their strength gains.


Prior to attempting the CrossFit Total, it is important to warm up thoroughly. This is best achieved by performing some light cardio and dynamic stretching. Once your general warm up is complete you should then perform two to four sets each of the squat, overhead press and deadlift in preparation of your test lifts. According to Rippetoes' rule for the CrossFit total, you are allowed three attempts at each exercise to establish your one repetition maximum. Your first attempt should be safe -- a weight that is heavy but you have no doubt that you will be able to complete the lift. Your second attempt should be closer to your best and the final lift an attempt at a new personal record. Record the weight of your heaviest lift for each exercise and combine them to calculate your CrossFit Total.

Exercise Selection

All of the exercises used in the CrossFit Total are performed in the standing position. This, says Rippetoe, means that these exercises have the greatest carryover to sports and real life activities. Although good technique is essential, the squat, overhead press and deadlift are easily learned and much simpler to perform than the very technical Olympic lifts: the snatch and clean and jerk. The bench press, not included in the CrossFit Total, is performed lying down. This, says Rippetoe, reduces it's functional benefits, especially when compared to the standing overhead press. No special equipment is required for the CrossFIt Total which makes it very accessible regardless of where you chose to workout.

Using the Results

Once you have completed all of your attempts and you have your CrossFit total, you can compare your results with other CrossFitters and with the normative table. Based on body weight, your score will result in a ranking of untrained, novice, intermediate, advanced or elite. Each exercise can also be compared individually so that you can ascertain areas of weakness. Strive to maintain your current body weight and increase your total or lose body weight while maintaining the same total. Both scenarios demonstrate an increase in functional strength.

Potential Dangers

Lifting maximal weights can be dangerous. Your connective tissues, muscles and joints are all placed under tremendous pressure that can result in injury. You should only attempt the CrossFit Total if you have a good grounding in strength training and can perform all the exercises with near perfect form. Maximal strength training can also increase your blood pressure so do not perform this test is you are hypertensive. In addition, if you have any knee, hip, back or shoulder injuries, wait until you are healed and pain-free before attempting the CrossFit Total or any similar test of strength.