Foundational Movements

Air SquatFront SquatOverhead squatShoulder PressPush PressPush JerkDeadliftSumo Deadlift High PullMed Ball Clean

These are the 9 foundational movements of CrossFit. These movements share common fundamentals and build upon each other. If you can master these movements with proper technique and perform them effectively, you will drastically improve your fitness level and be much more prepared for any other task you need to accomplish inside and outside the gym.

Think of these movements as a series of progressive steps across 3 categories: SquatsPresses, and Lifts. Within each category, the movement pattern goes from simple to complex. It’s important to gain understanding at the simplest levels first before moving forward.

These 9 foundational movements of CrossFit also share the following common characteristics:

Midline stabilization is your capacity to maintain a neutral spine throughout a movement and while under load. Check out the following videos from the CrossFit Journal for more details:

Midline stability with Kelly Starrett: Part 1 | Part 2Part 3

The Posterior Chain is a group of muscles that produce hip extension. They include hamstrings, glutes, and groin muscles. Check out this video for more details:

Posterior chain in the squat

Core to extremity is a way of expressing a pattern of movement. It means all movement is best expressed from the core (the center of your body, hips, glutes, upper legs, trunk) outward to the extremities (the end points of your body, arms, legs, hands, feet). Here’s a video that demonstrates this in more detail:

Core to Extremity Violation

Your range of motion is the ability for you to move your body to its natural limits. CrossFit calls this mobility or flexibility. Problems arise when we don’t, over time, extend to those natural, thresholds.

Humans were designed to move their joints at full range. CrossFit emphasizes functional movements that are are multi-joint, compound muscle movements. They are natural, effective, and efficient locomotors of body and external objects.

Having active shoulders means positioning your arms and shoulders properly, in a safe and natural way, for holding things over your head. Check out this video for more details on this position:

Active shoulders by Kelly Starrett

A. Squats

The squat is one of the most important functional movements you can do. As you age, you gradually lose the ability to stand unassisted. To maintain your quality of life, we need to strengthen our legs and ensure full mobility and range of motion.

Air Squat

1. Air Squat

Level: Simple

Front Squat

A2. Front Squat

Level: Moderate

Overhead squat

A3. Overhead Squat

Level: Complex

B. Presses

A press allows you to bring an object from your shoulders to over your head. They’re important for strengthening your shoulders, but also help develop mobility in the hip flexors, hip extensors, spinal erectors, and quadriceps (all the muscles that help you stand).

Shoulder Press

B1. Shoulder Press

Level: Simple

Push Press

B2. Push Press

Level: Moderate

Push Jerk

B3. Push Jerk

Level: Complex

C. Lifts

As you age, you gradually lose the ability to pick things up off the ground. This is a basic human movement, but you’d be surprised at how often it’s not done correctly. Whether it be a heavy or light object, lifting something off the floor to hip-level or to chest-level is functionality you will be required to do in your life. Learning to do it efficiently with the proper sequence of muscles is critical to your health and fitness.


C1. Deadlift

Level: Simple

Sumo Deadlift High Pull

C2. Sumo Deadlift High Pull

Level: Moderate

Med Ball Clean

C3. Med Ball Clean

Level: Complex

Each one of these 9 movements is the foundation of more advanced movements in CrossFit. When you master these movements you will become inherently better at their advanced counterparts.  Skipping over these movements will not improve your results. In fact, it will be just the opposite. Even experienced CrossFit athletes will see plateaus in PR’s, WOD times, and their physical results because of breakdowns in these fundamental movements.

As Coach Glassman says, “the beauty is in the movements.”  You will be a more effective human by becoming a master at these 9 movements.

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