The Pyramid of Athletic Development

The Pyramid of Athletic Development (PAD) is a system of training developed by CrossFit which was created to provide athletes with the best possible chance at success. Its main purpose is to develop and maintain optimal physical condition through varied, high intensity exercise. It is based on the premise that athletes must have access to multiple sports specific skills in order to compete effectively.

CrossFit’s philosophy is that athletes are not only better prepared physically but mentally as well. They believe that proper preparation will allow them to perform at their peak during competition and beyond.

The PAD system provides the athlete with a variety of exercises designed to improve strength, speed, endurance, flexibility and balance. These exercises range from simple movements such as pushups or squats to complex movements like burpees or kettlebell swings. Each movement is performed for time, with short rest periods between sets. The goal of each set is to complete all the reps without stopping.

The PAD program consists of three phases: pre-contest, contest and post-contest. During the pre-contest phase, the athlete trains specifically to prepare themselves for competition.

At this point they focus on improving their performance in key areas such as strength, power and speed while developing general fitness and mental toughness. During the contest phase, the athlete focuses on maintaining their physical condition while sharpening their skills in preparation for their upcoming competition. During the post-contest phase, the athlete enters a physical and mental break before preparing for their next season of competition. It is important that they continue to train during this phase to avoid losing fitness, but it is done at a much lower intensity level and without any emphasis on sports specificity.

The Crossfit program that adheres to the PAD system has gained rapid popularity in recent years. Many high schools, colleges and professional sports teams are using it to prepare their athletes for competition.

It has also found use with non-athletes as a means of achieving optimal health and fitness in a relatively short period of time. Like any other training system, it is not suited for everyone but the results seem to speak for themselves.

The PAD system divides athletic training into 3 different types of fitness; general, special and specific. Specific in this case refers to a type of activity.

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So running, would be very specific to running, but would not transfer to cycling or swimming.

Crossfit uses this setup because they believe that you must master each of the 3 areas before moving on. Focusing on one area will promote improvement in the other two, but largely ignore the third.

By dividing your time equally among all three you will maximize your overall potential.

Your first year of training would be considered your general preparation year. During this year you will do a lot of experimenting with various types of exercise.

Your goal during this time is to find which types of exercise you enjoy most and learn which are best suited to improving each of your 3 areas of fitness.

Most people will be most improved in the area that they enjoy most. This is not always true though, you could have just found an activity that improves all 3 or you might just take to something more easily.

Whatever the reason your first year of training is largely experimental.

The next three years can be divided up into two phases each. During phase 1 you will continue to focus on improving your key physical abilities while adding in related sports skills.

During this time you will have to decide which, if any, sports you want to pursue after phase 2.

Phase two of years two and three can largely be considered your competition preparation period. During these years it is important to prepare for the specific demands of your chosen sport while continuing to improve your general and special fitness.

The final year can largely be considered your taper year.

Sources & references used in this article:

Long-term athletic development-part 1: a pathway for all youth by RS Lloyd, JL Oliver, AD Faigenbaum… – The Journal of …, 2015 –

Glycemic load food guide pyramid for athletic performance by KM Beavers, B Leutholtz – Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2008 –

An injury prevention pyramid for elite sports teams by PA Coles – British journal of sports medicine, 2018 –