The CrossFit Total is a benchmark test of your functional strength. The three movements, the back squat, shoulder press and deadlift, represent movements you do in your daily life and paint a good picture of your total strength.

The Workout

Back Squat – 1RM
Shoulder Press – 1RM
Deadlift – 1RM

For the CrossFit total, you have three attempts to lift your heaviest load for each movement: the back squat, shoulder press and deadlift. Even a failed rep counts as an attempt. Your score is the combined total of the heaviest lift from each movement.

The History

Mark Rippetoe developed the CrossFit Total in 2006 as a way to build and test your foundational base of strength. Rippetoe said that the back squat, shoulder press and deadlift are “the three most effective lifts in existence for developing and testing functional strength.”

How to Break Down the CrossFit Total

Unlike many other benchmark WODs designed for speed with lighter loads, the CrossFit Total should feel heavy and slow. The CrossFit Total is a test of max strength and isn’t intended to be done “for time.”


Use your three attempts with intention. After a good warm-up, plan out a load progression for each lift where your third lift is your heaviest. Rippetoe makes these recommendations for your three attempts:

“The first attempt would be a weight you know you can do for a heavy set of three. The second attempt would be a weight you know without any doubt that you could do for a single, having just done the first attempt. And the third attempt is the weight you want to do, based on your performance on the previous two attempts.”


Don’t rush through this workout and take plenty of rest. Rest between attempts, as well as between movements.


To scale this WOD, focus on the loads that you’re using. If you’re still new to the techniques of the back squat, shoulder press and/or deadlift, then continue to refine your mechanics before increasing the load.

To learn more about Rhapsody Fitness in Charleston and our range of programs, get in touch with Team Rhapsody today.