If you’re familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, then you’ve probably seen the 5-level pyramid comprised of:

  • Physiological needs (at the bottom of the pyramid) – food, water, warmth, rest
  • Safety needs – security, safety
  • Belongingness and Love needs – relationships, friends
  • Esteem needs – prestige, sense of accomplishment
  • Self-Actualization (the top level of the pyramid) – reaching our full potential

According to psychologists, we must meet our lower-level needs before moving up the pyramid. Meaning that achieving full potential (self-actualization) isn’t possible until we’ve addressed and met the lower levels of the pyramid.

The Hierarchy of Fitness

At this point, you’re probably wondering, “What does Maslow have to do with fitness?” Well in 2002, CrossFit published an article that addressed the question, “What is Fitness?” and presented a similar pyramid, also with five levels. This “Theoretical Hierarchy Of Development” presented a tiered pyramid for the CrossFit community.

Theoretical-Hierarchy-of-Development-credit-crossfit.com-Rhapsody-FitnessThe foundation of this pyramid is nutrition. From there, the pyramid moves upward to metabolic conditioning, followed by gymnastics, then weightlifting and ultimately, sport. In this model, the lower levels affect our performance and abilities in the higher tiers.


When you see nutrition sitting at the bottom of the pyramid, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Food is fuel, and the fuel we put in our bodies determines the quality of our output. Poor food choices mean poor performance in the higher-level tiers of the hierarchy. It all starts with nutrition.

Metabolic Conditioning

The next level of the pyramid addresses cardiovascular capacity. Your aerobic engine needs to be powerful enough to reach your full potential in physical skills like strength, speed, power and coordination.


The third level is where skills like spatial awareness and body control come in. Before you can move heavy weights, you need the ability to control your body first.


Where the third level (gymnastics) is about controlling your body, the fourth level is all about controlling external objects. The focus here is building core strength and working to transfer that efficiently to the extremities.


The top of the pyramid is where you focus your general physical preparedness toward a specific task – a sport.

While the pyramid follows a progression, you don’t have to ace or perfect each level before moving on to the next. Keeping this hierarchy in the back of your mind can help you set some fitness goals and guide you toward changing your current training and lifestyle habits.

If you recognize that there are levels that you’ve been neglecting, then start giving them some much-needed attention. What’s one change that you can make today?

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