626. Joe Degain | Common Themes For Functional Movements in CrossFit

Jul 19, 2023


The Common Movement Themes in CrossFit: A Comprehensive Guide to Coaching Success


CrossFit has revolutionized the fitness world with its diverse and challenging workouts. But behind these workouts lies a profound understanding of human movement and the principles that govern it. In this article, we'll explore the common movement themes in CrossFit and the essential role they play in coaching and training athletes.

Understanding Human Movement in CrossFit Coaching

To be a successful CrossFit coach, one must master the art of understanding and analyzing human movement. The ability to identify common movement themes, correct deficiencies, and enhance performance while minimizing the risk of injury is crucial. As coaches, we need to develop a keen sense of observing human movement, just as wrestling coaching significantly influenced the speaker's perception of movement.

The Common Movement Themes

CrossFit comprises a wide range of movements, each governed by specific themes:

  1. Midline Stabilization (MC): The foundation of preventing injury and maximizing performance by maintaining a stable midline during movements like deadlifts and squats.

  2. Core-to-Extremity (C): The concept of generating power from the core and transferring it to the extremities, fundamental in Olympic weightlifting and movements like kettlebell swings.

  3. Balance (B): Vital for maintaining proper alignment and control, especially during complex gymnastics skills and single-leg movements.

  4. Frontal Plane (P): Understanding lateral movements and lateral raises, which occur from side to side.

  5. Posterior Chain Engagement (SAFE): The key to powerful movements, involving the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, essential for lifts like deadlifts and cleans.

  6. Sound Hip Function (SAFE): Crucial for proper mechanics and force transfer in movements like squats and lunges.

  7. Active Shoulders (SAFE): Vital for stability and safety during overhead movements, such as presses and snatches.

  8. Range of Motion (SAFE): Understanding an athlete's flexibility and mobility, ensuring safe and effective movement patterns.

  9. Grip and Stance (SAFE): Impacting performance and safety in lifts like deadlifts, pull-ups, and handstands.

Prioritizing the Common Movement Themes

As a coach, understanding that there's no fixed priority among these themes is vital. Prioritization depends on an athlete's unique needs and weaknesses:

  1. Degree of Faults: Focus on themes where athletes have the most significant violations or weaknesses.

  2. Impact on Movement Patterns: Address themes that significantly affect other movement patterns.

  3. Individualized Approach: Tailor coaching to individual athletes' needs and weaknesses.

The Level 4 Certification: A Practical Evaluation

The Level 4 (L4) certification in CrossFit sets the standard for practical evaluation of coaching skills. Conducted by senior staff members, this certification involves coaching real classes with actual scenarios and challenges, making it unparalleled in the fitness industry.

Developing as a Coach

Becoming an effective CrossFit coach requires continuous growth and experience:

  1. Time Under Tension: Gain experience coaching on the gym floor to refine your skills.

  2. Self-Reflection: Regularly evaluate coaching sessions to identify areas for improvement.

  3. Stay Current: Keep up-to-date with CrossFit's coaching resources, seminars, and certifications.

  4. Be a Continuous Learner: Seek mentorship, attend workshops, and learn from experienced coaches.

  5. Develop an Eye for Movement: Observe and analyze human movement patterns to identify areas for improvement.

Coaching Stance and Grip: The Low Hanging Fruit

Paying attention to an athlete's stance and grip can significantly enhance midline stability, posterior chain engagement, and overall performance. By addressing these fundamental aspects, coaches can see remarkable improvements in their athletes' movements.

Individualized Scaling: Empowering Athletes to Succeed

CrossFit is for everyone, regardless of their skill level. Coaches can empower athletes by providing individualized scaling options, allowing everyone to participate and achieve their best performance.

The Continuous Journey of Improvement

Coaches and athletes should embrace continuous improvement. Learning from others, revisiting certifications, and seeking new insights are crucial for growth.

A Call to Share the CrossFit Message

As CrossFit enthusiasts, we should share the knowledge and benefits of CrossFit with others, regardless of their interest in becoming coaches. Encouraging more people to experience CrossFit can positively impact their lives.

Embracing Humility and Emotionally Intelligent Coaching

Successful CrossFit coaches are not just knowledgeable but also emotionally intelligent and humble. Creating a supportive environment with effective communication is essential for athlete progress.


Mastering the common movement themes in CrossFit is essential for effective coaching. By understanding human movement, addressing deficiencies, and empowering athletes, coaches can create a positive and inclusive experience for everyone. Let's spread the CrossFit message and inspire more people to embark on this transformative journey of health and fitness. Remember, coaching isn't just about creating better athletes; it's about creating better individuals inside and outside the gym. Embrace the journey and keep evolving as a CrossFit coach to inspire and empower your athletes on their fitness journey.


Jason Ackerman, CF-L4, and Jason Fernandez, CF-L3, are Affiliate Owners and CrossFit Seminar Staff Members dedicated to the pursuit of helping Affiliate Owners and Coaches alike become the best in the world at what they do.


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