The CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide – Don’t Sleep on This “Manual”!

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Nobody reads the manuals!” screams William Shatner’s character, lamenting that few, if any, people indulge in the genius prose of his latest work, “How to Program Your New Orion VCR”.

(it’s from the movie Shoot or be Shot…if you haven’t seen it, don’t worry! It sucks.)

While I can’t totally get on board with Shatner’s near-homicidal rage at his lack of takers, after reviewing the CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide, it’s obvious that there are certainly some hidden gems to be found in lightly read manuals.

The most comprehensive CrossFit-related written work out there? One could certainly make that argument! 

Today, I’ll share my thoughts on this document and will make the case that you can learn a lot about CrossFit while saving yourself a lot of time due to the comprehensive nature of the content included.

What Is the Document?

The CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide is the official training manual of CrossFit. It is the main “textbook” that participants in the CrossFit Level 1 Certification program are expected to review and is main reference/“guiding” used during the CrossFit Level 1 Certification seminar.

To call the document a “training guide” is a bit of a misnomer. While the final portion of the document provides a number of visuals, depicting foundational CrossFit movements, and associated coaching cues and points of performance, roughly 70% is comprised of journal articles and transcripts from previous CrossFit Level 1 Certification seminars.

Why CrossFit has gone with the much-less-interesting sounding term “CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide” as opposed to “a collection of interesting Greg Glassman articles” is beyond me. People would (maybe) be much more inclined to read the latter.

As it is, these articles follow a somewhat linear flow, starting with the elusive definition of “fitness”, CrossFit as a system, nutrition (with a very nice and concise breakdown of the Zone Diet), and coaching excellence. The articles are arranged in a manner where the subject matter generally “flows” pretty well from one to the next, but each could easily be read as a one-off for those curious about a specific topic.

Document Length

The Level 1 CrossFit Guide is not a short document. Those looking to “cram” all of the content in prior to attending a L1 CrossFit seminar will find themselves short-changing themselves of really taking in the valuable content included, unable to finish the document, or both. At roughly 240 pages (with a generous splashing of pictures and other visuals throughout) don’t expect a quick read.

What makes the document feel even longer is the very practical nature of much of the content covered. I flew through many of the articles, but in cases where the subject matter really caught my attention or in cases where I wasn’t too familiar with a concept, I stopped and focused. This usually involved taking a deeper dive into the topic, seeking out additional resources, or heading down to the basement to practice a particular movement or technique.

If you’re looking for a short, largely passive text, you’ll have to look elsewhere!

Document Layout

Officially, the CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide is separated into 4 sections: “Methodology”, “Movements”, “Trainer Guidance”, and “Movement Guide”. You can pretty much lump the “Movements” and “Movement Guide” sections together (although the former has much more detailed written explanations of each of the exercises discussed), adding up to about 40 percent of the Guide being dedicated to discussing exercises.

In the “Methodology” section, we are presented with topics that come together in a manner that can be considered to “the story of CrossFit”. Defining fitness gives way to defining technique. Defining technique gives way to discussing nutrition and supplementation. Nutrition and supplementation give way to programming and scaling where “The Girls” of CrossFit are introduced as well as the best practices of running a CrossFit class.

The “Trainer Guidance” section is the shortest of the bunch. Despite it’s low page count, it REALLY delves into the “art” of being a coach/trainer, completely dispelling the “dumb jock” stereotype of the cliche personal trainer certificate holder (like yours truly!) This section also largely discusses the technical and legal considerations associated with licensing and credentialing.

CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide


As I began reading the CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide, I was immediately surprised at the sheer amount of value the document packs in. Between the detailed movement descriptions, to include common faults and fixes, programming methodology, and nutritional advice, one could theoretically construct their own highly effective CrossFit program with few other resources. 

Trainers would benefit by thinking long and hard about the considerations discussed regarding the “professional” aspects of the role.

Considering that the guide is completely free, available on the CrossFit main site (or you can buy a bound copy…your call), it is difficult, if not impossible, to find a better value resource for learning fundamental components of CrossFit and related to fitness in general.

Equipment Needs

The CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide isn’t designed to be a “program” in itself. However, I would argue that those new to CrossFit and interested in working out on their own in their garage or home gym would learn more than enough from the Guide to get started with minimal equipment.

With a PVC pipe, barbell, medicine ball, pull-up bar, and a pair of gymnastics rings, a dedicated individual could drill the foundational movements (with the aid of a camera phone and a friend to cue them) and program their own workouts (or, as the Guide suggests, simply follow the online programming for 6 months). Combined with a focused, but not anal adherence to the Zone Diet principles discussed, they would likely experience excellent progress.

Personal Results

I am purposely writing this review ~2 weeks prior to my attending a Level 1 CrossFit seminar for the first time. I will likely either provide updates to this review or will add my thoughts on how thoroughly reviewing the Guide prior to the seminar impacted me.

(you can read about my rather “meh” experience with the seminar here)

As it is, in recent days I have messed around on the pull-up bar a bit, using the Guide’s cues to work on my notoriously weak kipping movements. Also, as I have recently started a weightlifting program, I have enjoyed comparing the movement descriptions and cues from my coach with how the Guide describes them (they are VERY similar in most cases…which is good news in my book!)

I probably won’t return back to a Zone Diet style of food tracking in the near future, but if I ever want to do more…”lazy” tracking (that is not as precise as one would do with something like Precision Nutrition) it would be my go-to approach.

Yeah…so…not THE most amazing personal results, but 

  • I’m not a complete newb i.e someone who would really benefit
  • I haven’t combined the CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide with the CrossFit Level 1 certification seminar. I have a feeling the “how to be an effective trainer” components take on a much more significant meaning during these live sessions.

Conclusions/My Take

I’m actually somewhat upset that I’ve “slept” on this Guide for so long. Its a free resource that has more and better content than 95 percent of paid CrossFit/fitness resources I’ve come across before.

If you’ve heard Glassman speak before, you might not say he is the most engaging man. However, it is hard to deny that he knows his stuff.

His writing is objectively more engaging than his spoken word and actually allows him to better express his wealth of knowledge. 

Between his writings on foundational aspects of fitness, nutrition, movements, programming, and coaching, his CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide presents more than enough information to go far in the sport.

Also, upon finishing, I’m actually excited to attend the seminar (read my review of how the seminar actually went!) and to get started reviewing the Level 2 Training Guide (also free online).

Being excited to review additional resources after finishing a largely technical, scientific, and…let’s face it…”manual”-like text? That’s more than enough to get Fred’s endorsement!

And mine too!

If you’re an experienced athlete and are looking to review more advanced CrossFit-related content, check out my review of Mat Fraser’s HWPO programming. TLDR: It’s hard…but good!

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Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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