Oakley Hawkes at CrossFit Invictus in San Diego

Master the Basics First
Written by Bryce Smith

In the world of strength and conditioning, there is a lot of innovation. Some of the innovative fitness programs are amazing, while others…not so much. Many athletes are in search of “The Answer,” and quite frankly, he (being Allen Iverson) doesn’t play anymore, and he never truly wanted to practice anyway (Check out this video to see what I’m talking about – https://youtu.be/eGDBR2L5kzI).

For those of you that understand the previous metaphor, here is a massive air high five! We must practice the basic human movements first and do them over and over again until they are mastered. Bruce Lee is famous for saying, “ I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once, I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times.” So rather than getting too fancy with your training and chasing all the newest innovations, try mastering the basic human movements first.

Innovation is fine with accessory work, and maybe, on certain days in a training program, it’s ok to add in a little variety and change things up a bit. But the bottom line is we must master the basic movements first. We have to master the ability to pick things up off the ground, put things overhead, and carry things for time and distance. Movements like deadlifting, pressing, squatting, pulling, pushing, carrying, and sprinting make up my magnificent seven.

Below are some fitness standards for both men and women that we should all aim to achieve [1]. Some of these are easy for some of you and some of these may be a challenge, but mastering them all shows that you have spent some time in the weight room doing the right things.


Push: Bench Press Bodyweight x 15 repetitions

Pull: Strict Pull-ups x 15 repetitions

Hinge: Deadlift Double Bodyweight

Squat: Bodyweight Squat x 15 repetitions

Loaded Carry: Bodyweight per hand x 100m

Press: Bodyweight Strict Press x 1 repetition

Sprint: 400m in 60 sec



Push: Bodyweight Bench Press x 1 repetition

Pull: Strict Pull-ups x 3-5 repetitions

Hinge: 275lb Deadlift x 1 repetition

Squat: 135lb x 5 repetitions

Loaded Carry: 85lbs per hand x 100m

Press: 125×1

Sprint: 400m in 70 sec

If you are unable to do the things listed above, then you should stop messing around with “bandy this” and “bandy that on a bosu ball” and start working on mastering the above standards. I have stepped foot into many strength and conditioning facilities, and noticed that many strength coaches attempt to have sport specificity with their athletes. This sounds fantastic to the human ear, but leads to coaches and athletes wasting time and money. When you try to get too specific, you lose focus of the goal and instead of helping athletes train to get better, the focus switches to striving to get hundreds of likes on an instagram video. When a barbell is traded for some funny looking device and the goal is to replicate sport specificity under some unsafe and unnatural loading parameter, many argue that this is functional training [3]. If you cannot do the above things then I recommend focusing on that first before striving to do something like using two pieces of equipment at once so you can impress onlookers.

Many athletes and coaches are beginning to implement too much variety into their programming to set themselves apart from the basic squat, press, deadlift mentality. There is a reason why so many coaches utilize the major lifts in their training programs. They simply work. Becoming a better athlete and maximizing potential is often done while mastering the basics and eliminating all of the excess exercises that take too much time anyway. Stick to a program that incorporates the basics and exercises like the ones you see above [2]. Too often athletes jump from program to program thinking they have found a magic solution to their problem but they cannot accomplish the basics listed above. Every workout should build off the previous session and help to get closer to your goal [2].

Master the basics and simplify your training and you might be astonished by the magical results. You may even arrive in Gainzville or PR city a few times via the hard work “back to the basics” train.


1)    John, Dan. “Strength Standards.” Danjohn.net. N.p., Apr. 2014. Web. 25 Aug. 2015.

2)    John, Dan. “9 Tips for Dedicated Lifters.” 9 Tips for Dedicated Lifters. N.p., Aug. 2014. Web. 25 Aug. 2015.

3)    Rusin, Dr. John. “The 4 Most Abused Words in Fitness.” The 4 Most Abused Words in Fitness. N.p., 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 25 Aug. 2015.

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Other Barry
Other Barry
September 26, 2015 11:01 am

Great article, Bryce.