Building Capacity

If you happened to watch the CrossFit Games this past weekend, you may have seen a trend in the early workouts… work capacity. Although work capacity is simple to work on and develop it is often illusive because of what it takes to develop. There is a big difference between simple and easy!

But what does work capacity mean?

Work capacity is essentially developing the ability to do more work in less time. Look below at the Theoretical Hierarchy of Development for CrossFit and metabolic conditioning (work capacity) is the second foundation of athlete development with nutrition being the first and most important factor.


The goal is to be able to have capacity in long, moderate, and short workouts.

Why is work capacity so important?

It is vital because it doesn’t just mean being really good at running, biking, rowing, or jumping rope. Work capacity is vital for developing the ability to do increased repetitions at everything we do in CrossFit. If you have developed the technical ability to do pull-ups, it then comes down to the amount of work capacity that has been developed as to how many reps in a row can be done.

This does not mean increasing volume, quite the opposite. Lowering the volume and increasing intensity will illicit much better results. More is not better, better is better.

If your goal is to improve health and fitness, simply follow the Theoretical Hierarchy of Development. Most importantly, eat well, hit the one hour class hard, and be happy in the knowledge that health and fitness is improving.

So what does this mean?

This means that our focus should be on developing higher levels of work capacity because by doing so we will increase in all areas (technique dependent). The basis of CrossFit is to be metabolically well-conditioned because without it nothing else increases. Developing work capacity is the most valuable asset we have and should be prioritized in every workout.

We cannot go from 1 pull-up to 5. We must go from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 4 to 4, and so on. With work capacity we must push ourselves harder, become more uncomfortable before adding more technicality if we want to develop our fitness. Having a really pretty bar muscle-up in isolation is one thing, but it does not mean when 3-2-1-Go comes along that we will be able to do the same.

Prioritize metabolic conditioning and we will see work capacity increase and improve across all areas. As Greg Glassman has stated, “individuals put too much emphasis on developing the complex before mastering the basics”.

Simply put, follow the theoretical template above and we will see vast benefits. Funny, our creator and chairman Greg Glassman seems to know what he’s talking about!!!

Joseph TownsendComment