Standards: What Are They? and Why Should You Pay Attention to Them?

A ‘standard’ by definition is “something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality” (taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary). If you’ve been around the sport of CrossFit for any period of time, then you are probably aware that there are a specific set of standards for each movement. When you attend a CrossFit class, your coach will most likely go over the standards for the movements in the workout. This ensures the athletes know what’s expected of them. But without fail, some members will choose to ignore the standards so they can get through the movements as quickly as possible. However, there are several different reasons why standards are important. 

First of all, they establish a status quo – a way to measure who is the best. Let’s be honest with ourselves for one quick second…what CrossFitter actually competes with just themselves? (hardly anyone) No. In most CrossFit boxes, the daily wod quickly turns into who has the fastest time or the heaviest lift on the gym’s Whiteboard. So with that being said, there has to be a standard, a status quo, for determining who is actually the best. 

The best example of this is at a CrossFit competition. Judges are given the task of making sure the athletes meet the set standards for each movement. If they don’t, then the athlete is given a ‘no rep’ and must complete the movement again.

But how often do you see another athlete give themselves a ‘no rep’ as they are working out in class? How often do you honestly give yourself a ‘no rep’? How then will you be able to compare yourself to the other athletes if you’re shorting the movement and they are performing it correctly? Short answer: you won’t. If you truly want to get better and be competitive in your gym, then you need to hold yourself to the same standard as everyone else. In order to truly measure your progress and then accurately compare scores with other athletes, you have to perform the movements correctly.

Another reason why standards are so important is because of safety. Think about the simple air squat for a second…in order for a rep to count, the hips must pass below the knees and then fully open at the top of the squat. Even if these standards are not met, the athlete is in no real danger of badly hurting themselves. However, picture an athlete who is attempting to max out their clean in a workout. First of all, they are most likely fatigued so the chances of injury are already increased. Second, this particular athlete has a history of shorting their depth on squats, barely reaching parallel, and only for a few reps. As the athlete starts to increase the weight of their clean, they are no longer able to power clean and their coach is encouraging them to catch the clean in a squat. Do you see where I’m going with this? If the athlete has not trained squatting to full depth, then chances are, they won’t be able to catch the clean in a full squat and their risk for injury to occur during the movement increases as well. 

Finally, standards are important because they actually help to build strength. Let’s go back to our example of the athlete who was trying to max out their clean from the paragraph above. Now, imagine that this athlete was consistently squatting below parallel in every workout and opening their hips to full extension at the top. In doing these two actions, the athlete is training their muscle memory bank for when they need to perform more complex movements – now the athlete has the ability to squat to full depth and can initiate a powerful hip extension. Cue the max clean: as the athlete starts to build in weight, they quickly realize that they will need to perform squat cleans in order to lift heavier weight. Now that the athlete has trained themselves to squat properly and reach full hip extension, they will be more likely to successfully make the lift. This movement will now feel natural to them and they will become stronger because their muscles and joints have been trained properly. 

Movement standards are not set to be an annoyance. They actually serve a greater purpose in essentially making you a better athlete and functioning human being. Therefore, it is in your best interest to adhere to the standards as best you can and reap the benefits of doing so.