Conditioning vs. Weightlifting for a new CrossFitter

When you first start out, CrossFit can seem complicated. You’re moving your body in new ways, learning new skills, and figuring out what all the acronyms mean…it can be overwhelming. A common question I get asked as a coach is “which one is more important, conditioning or weightlifting?” To answer this question, here is a basic roadmap for a new CrossFitter who is looking to improve in CrossFit safely and effectively.

Let’s answer this question: Should you focus on conditioning or weightlifting?

While every workout is different and every athlete has different goals, a new athlete should start by focusing on conditioning, for a few reasons.

  • SAFETY | Moving heavier weight without proper form or experience can lead to injury. By keeping the weight light and building a strong base in conditioning, you can spend more time becoming familiar with the techniques behind each movement.
  • BUILDING EXPERIENCE | Before an athlete can start lifting more weight, they have to learn the movements. When you are focusing on conditioning, you will be getting in more volume of the same movements. This ensures you are building muscle memory and proper technique with the weightlifting movements.


An indicator to determine if you are building a better base of conditioning is observing how many breaks in a workout you are taking and how long it takes before you are out of breath. 

A goal when starting CrossFit can be getting through a workout without taking a break longer than ten seconds. Another goal could be setting a bar to complete a certain number of reps before resting during a workout, and then slowly raising that bar.


After you become familiar with the movements and are comfortable pushing the pace in a workout, it is time to focus on lifting heavier weights! Start by building the weight slowly and safely. 

Now that you’ve focused on conditioning and having developed proper form with every movement, you’ll be able to increase weight while still maintaining proper form. The safe approach to weightlifting should be to increase weight while being able to maintain form.

Everyone has different fitness goals and comes from different backgrounds. This base approach to CrossFit can work for athletes of all fitness levels. Focus on speed/volume first (conditioning), then you can safely focus on weightlifting. Don’t forget that you can talk to your coach and ask for their input! When in doubt, ask questions.