The Lens of “Large Loads Long Distances Quickly”


As a lanky 170-pound freshman catcher claiming to weigh 180 pounds, I remember staring at a list pinned to the wall of the University of San Diego athlete weight room. It was a list of the “Top 10 Mass Builders.” Our strength coach and original CrossFit flow master, Stephane Rochet, pinned it there.

Farmer's Walk

I can’t recite the entire list in order but it looked something like:

  1. Back squat
  2. Deadlift
  3. Bench press
  4. Pull up

Surely the movements on the list and their order may be up for debate, but the perspective from which the list was written is of most interest to me. Put adding “mass” aside for a moment and think about our view of fitness. Fitness, for us, is about capacity to do work.

Furthermore, we find that excellent builders of fitness are movements that allow us to, as CrossFit famously states, move “large loads long distances quickly.” It’s even a signature characteristic of what makes functional movements functional.

I’ll never forget looking at that list at USD and understanding what its author was thinking. The movements that allow us to move the largest loads, in many ways, play host to the biggest fitness adaptations. That, for me, was key.

This perspective has stayed with me and, though it isn’t the only perspective to consider when considering training, it is an important one. If you’re an athlete or a coach, consider your training and programming through this lens.

Rob Orlando of CrossFit Strongman prides much of the potency of his training and the efficacy of strongman training on this very principle. In fact, it’s through my exposure to him that I know we can rewrite that list with tools like the yoke, farmers handles, etc.

Consider, for example, the contrast in work capacity of a 100-foot yoke carry at triple body weight and it’s equivalent in some number of 65-pound thrusters. I’m not telling you to throw out the thrusters for tire flips and deadlifts, but at least consider the perspective.

How do you give you and your athletes the opportunity to move the largest loads possible? What does your list for top load bearing movements look like?

Logan Gelbrich