Learn the 9 Foundational Movements of CrossFit

Learn the 9 Foundational Movements of CrossFit

The 9 foundational movements of CrossFit are:

  1. Air Squat
  2. Front Squat
  3. Overhead Squat
  4. Shoulder Press
  5. Push Press
  6. Push Jerk
  7. Deadlift
  8. Sumo Deadlift High Pull
  9. Medicine Ball Clean

These nine movements form the foundation of many CrossFit WODs. If you can get the hang of these, you’ll be on your way to stomping the workouts at your local CrossFit Gym.

With any CrossFit movement, make sure to scale the weight and intensity to suit your current level. Of course we always want to be pushing ourselves, but prioritize safety and avoid unnecessary injuries!

Let’s jump in and break down each of these movements:

Air Squat

These squats use your body weight to provide resistance instead of adding additional weight. They feature heavily in popular WODs like Murph. Not needing equipment also makes them a perfect addition to any home CrossFit workout.

Tips for the Air Squat

  • Angle your toes to allow for a comfortable depth. The length of your femurs will often dictate how deep you can squat.
  • Keep a neutral back position. Don’t overarch backwards or forwards.
  • Try to distribute the weight evenly across your foot.
  • Keep your chest up.

Front Squat

Similar to the back squat but performed with the barbell resting on the front of your shoulders. Shifting your centre of mass forwards makes this more of a quad-dominant exercise than the back squat. Many will also find that having the barbell on the front also allows for a more upright posture, making this more comfortable than the traditional back squat.


  • Find the right grip for you. The ‘clean’ grip is ideal but may be uncomfortable depending on your level of wrist flexibility. You can always try the ‘clean with straps’ or cross grip.
  • Keep your core tight by breathing into your diaphragm.
  • Keep your chest and elbows up through the movement.
  • Drive up by distributing force evenly across the soles of your feet.

Overhead Squat

The overhead squat is one of those movements that looks deceptively easy. But it will be sure to test any weaknesses in your squat form and also test your hip, ankle, and shoulder mobility.


  • Breathe deep into your core, keeping it tight.
  • Try to maintain an upright torso throughout the movement.
  • Don’t let your knees cave inward, engage your glutes.
  • Keep your shoulders tight to maintain the bar overhead.

Shoulder Press

This is a great movement to strengthen your shoulders and overall upper body. It’s a key movement in CrossFit, used in Thrusters, Clean & Jerk, and more.


  • Breathe into your core and keep it engaged.
  • Avoid arching your lower back and maintain a neutral position.
  • Keep a shoulder-width stance with your feet
  • Start light and focus on tight form and clean bar path

Push Press

Much like the Shoulder Press, the aim of the Push Press is to move weight overhead. In this variation, you’ll use your body to drive the weight up.


  • When you dip the legs, your hips should move in a straight line downwards.
  • Keep your chest up throughout the movement.
  • Dip your legs slightly when bringing the bar down to absorb the impact.
  • Keep a shoulder-width stance so you have a solid foundation.

Push Jerk

The Push Jerk is an explosive overhead pressing movement that uses speed and velocity to move the bar.


  • Focus on form first before weight. Getting the movement right will serve you better in the future.
  • Catching the bar in the quarter squat position will help absorb the weight.
  • Finish with your head pushed forward in a neutral position.
  • Lower the bar down with dipped knees to absorb some of the impact.


Often referred to as the ‘king of lifts,’ the Deadlift is a great compound movement to work many different muscles. They’re a great way to strengthen your posterior chain and are a key movement in many CrossFit WODs.


  • Maintain a neutral spine by bracing your core through the movement.
  • Keep your arms straight through the lift, it’s not an arm workout.
  • Keep the bar path travelling close to your body.
  • Engage your lats before lifting

Sumo Deadlift High Pull

A compound movement that combines the Deadlift and a high rowing action. It hits a number of different muscle groups and will increase your heart rate.


  • Brace your core and keep it tight throughout the movement.
  • Keep your chest up even when bending down to grip the weight.
  • Keep your knees tracking over your toes.
  • Drive the bar up while keeping it tracking close to your body.

Medicine Ball Clean

The last of our nine foundational movements, the Medicine Ball Clean will help you perform other key CrossFit movements, such as the Snatch and Clean & Jerk.


  • Keep the ball close to your body, don’t let it pull you forward.
  • Shrug powerfully at the top of the pull before quickly dropping down to catch.
  • Maintain straight arms when pulling to avoid bicep curling the ball up.

With these nine key foundational CrossFit movements in your tool belt, you’ll be well equipped to take on CrossFit WODs in your local gym.

While the plethora of CrossFit movements extends well beyond these nine, they’ll provide you with the muscle memory and knowledge to tackle new movements that you will come across.


What are the 9 pillars of CrossFit?

The 9 pillars of CrossFit are Stamina, Speed, Strength, Power, Coordination, Flexibility, Ability, Balance, Accuracy, and Cardiovascular and respiratory endurance.

Why does CrossFit teach the 9 foundational movements?

The 9 foundational movements can be used to make up many other key CrossFit movements such as olympic lifting movements like the Snatch and Clean & Jerk.

Why do I need so many squats in CrossFit?

The squat is a compound movement that strengthens your hips, back, and knees. As well as improving your overall athleticism.

Does CrossFit change your body shape?

CrossFit can indeed change your body shape, but it depends on a number of factors such as training type, frequency, as well as your nutrition and rest.

Samantha Austin

With over a decade immersed in the dynamic world of CrossFit, Samantha (Sammy) Austin, is the driving force behind Crossfitopedia's compelling content. As the Editor-in-Chief, she combines her passion for the sport with a keen editorial eye, ensuring readers are always in the know. Sammy's love for CrossFit is not just about the workouts; it's about the community, the discipline, and the journey. Through Crossfitopedia, she's on a mission to share this love, knowledge, and the transformative power of CrossFit with enthusiasts worldwide.