Snatches, and Thrusters, and Push-Jerks, Oh My: My Take on the CrossFit Level 1 Course

A glimpse into the CF-L1 weekend.

A glimpse into the CF-L1 weekend.

A few weekends ago, I, along with 2 friends and 57 strangers, attended the CrossFit Level 1 certification course at CrossFit Garden City in Long Island, NY. For starters, the facility was absolutely amazing and the entire staff had an energy level that was just electric. I signed up for the course somewhat on a whim, urged by my coach, Anthony Mucurio, as he said his wife would be taking it and I should take it to. I really can't say that I had any specific goals of becoming a coach going into it, but with my fondness for CrossFit and my constantly increasing involvement via movement and mobility work with the athletes, I thought it to be a sound investment.

As a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) I have attend my share of weekend-long courses over the years. The CFL1 course does an excellent job of balancing lecture and movement, a combination that has been scientifically proven to aid in learning and information retention. A fairly abundant amount of time is spent drilling the 9 fundamental movements, with enough repetitions performed to make a 7 oz PVC pipe begin to feel like your 1RM. You WILL feel the burn and you WILL have your shitty form broken down...again and again and again. Small group breakouts are utilized to ensure quality, and the Level 1 staff rotates through each group, so you get to see a number of different coaching styles. A WOD is thrown in the mix each of the two days, incorporating the movements that were taught that day. Here you get to work on not only your fitness, but also your coaching, as you're encouraged to use the cues and movement fixes discussed throughout that day. 

While the two days are broken up fairly similarly, their content is very different. From a theory perspective, day 1 answers the big questions such as ‘What is CrossFit?’ and ‘What is fitness?’, and outlines Coach Glassman's original vision. I texted my coach at some point during day 1, fervently, but jokingly stating that every person who joins a CrossFit box should have to take day 1 of the CFL1 course. While I realize the impracticality of this, I stand firm in my conviction that every box should do all that it can to convey Coach Glassman's words and outline the founding principles of CrossFit.

Theoretical Hierarchy of the Development of an Athlete

Theoretical Hierarchy of the Development of an Athlete

Day 1 pretty much rocked my world, and introduced me to what CrossFit was intended to be; not the bastardized, sensationalized craziness that is oft times the subject of many "Best of" YouTube videos. While I could write paragraph after paragraph attempting to summarize a few hours of lecture, I'll instead opt to include a picture of Coach Glassman's "Theoretical Hierarchy of the Development of an Athlete" and a copy of his infamous recommendation entitled "World-Class Fitness in 100 Words":

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.
— Greg Glassman

If you feel that that those words don't apply to you, then you're likely dead. The universal applicability of this model became super clear to me over the course of those first few hours, and if I wasn't already a believer, I sure was when I left CFGC that afternoon. I know, I know, that sounds like cult talk or whatever other phrasing you wish to use to lump every single CrossFitter into one group with a negative connotation. But honestly, you could do a whole lot worse than hanging out with people who want to get fit, eat well, and stay healthy. Just sayin’.

Day 2 concluded with an exam, that if you read the handbook (which is online and free anyone who wants to read it: click here) and paid attention during both days you should have absolutely no problem passing. A background in CrossFit, weightlifting, and/or movement science is a definite plus, and while there is no minimum amount of time required before one can take the course, I'd recommend having at least a solid few months to a year under your belt. I'm honestly not here to discuss whether or not there should be more stringent requirements in order to affiliate, or the merits of the testing process. The course itself provides a host of benefits, the least of which is improving your ugly snatch. You want to argue about standards and requirements, go do it with someone else.

Overall, I found the course to be highly enjoyable and well worth my time. Whether you've been doing CrossFit for 10 months or 10 years, you'll learn something new, and leave with a better understanding of CrossFit. At $1000, some may find the price-tag to be a bit steep, but considering the certification lasts for 5 years and there are no continuing education requirements, it's actually a lot cheaper than most, if not all other certifications. 

Long story short, I clearly drank the kool-aid a long time ago, but it was still pretty awesome to sit a room filled with other like-minded individuals and be taken through the methodology, ideology, and founding principles of what has clearly become my, and countless others' favorite pastime. If you're on the fence about taking the CrossFit Level I Trainer Course, start that mental countdown and just do it. 3-2-1 Go!