Testing Aerobic Power and Overall Fitness – The Level Method

CrossFit has four ways to define fitness (and many fitness pros don’t even have a definition…do you?). CrossFit references 4 standards to define fitness:

  1. Performing well in Cardiovascular/Respiratory Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, Accuracy (Basic Physical Skills)
  2. Being able to perform any of an infinitely random number of tasks well (Hopper Method)
  3. Conditioned for short, medium, and long term tasks (3 Metabolic Pathways)
  4. Seeing fitness markers as a step higher than wellness, which means longer protection against decrepitude and disease (“Sickness-Wellness-Fitness” Continuum)

What do you think?

Determining Fitness

Aerobic power is the ability to use oxygen to move muscles. Your aerobic power is limited by your heart’s stroke volume and the amount of oxygen in your blood. Both of these physiological processes can change with exercise and age. Your aerobic power can be scientifically tested with a VO2 Max test, or any number of submaximal tests. This kind of testing is the Holy Grail for many trainers like me who want to have objective measures for our clients. We have ways to determine aerobic fitness changes over time without complex and costly measures: we just apply the same test and see how performance has changed, thereby indirectly measuring fitness.

CrossFit provides a particularly loathesome indirect test of aerobic power with the WOD Fight Gone Bad. If you’ve never done this, please try it. Everything else you do in life will suddenly seem easy.

At my CrossFit box we do The Level Method.

The Level Method

The Level Method is a battery of tests that demonstrate your fitness in all of the ways important to CrossFit (see above). Of course I love the process of fitness and CF in particular, and I don’t really need the competitive addition, but having these tests helps gauge my personal progress. Some days that really does help motivate me. The test I dread most is the AEROBIC POWER INTERVALS. It is, essentially, Fight Gone Bad.

The Level Method blurb: “The Level Method is the world’s most advanced and accurate fitness-based level system and was designed to systematically progress and rank athletes from beginner to elite – delivering tangible, achievable and incremental goals in the process. It offers incredible insight and value to both the athlete and the coach.” You receive an aggregate score of your overall muscle strength, your overall cellular fueling, and your overall aerobic fueling.

My view: The tests are an excellent way to summarize your strengths so you can feel proud about what you’re good at, yet get pushed to address your weaknesses. It’s really easy to avoid doing lunges or running because you hate them, but you’re not gaining better fitness or functionality by doing only what you’re good at.


My baseline, set a few months ago, is Yellow II. These breakdowns are for different aspects of fitness which are explained through the Level Method site when you join.

So today we did our second test of Aerobic Power Intervals. I came to the box expecting to do the WOD as a workout, not aim for beating my last score. Morning work outs are not my thing, but there’s only a 9am on Saturday, so I’m there. I remember well how horrible it was the last time I did the test, when I set my baseline at level Yellow II. This time felt equally as horrible as I did it and finished, but you know what? I gained 20 reps over my last test, which raised me two categories.

I’m still processing what changed for me. How did I do that much better when I felt like I was just doing what I did the first time? I think it’s simple. I’ve been showing up.


I improved by two levels. Wondering how different this will look with the Masters/Teen levels when they’re released.

I attend 4-5/work outs each week. 3 at a minimum on weeks when I have a lot of appointments (I’m the family chauffeur). My conditioning has improved. My strength has improved. I could have told you that was probably the case yesterday, but now I have it in black & white. I’m proud of my new level, especially because I raised one of my lowest of all the tests. I need to lift those lower levels so I can take my overall level up.

Coming soon is the adjusted levels for masters athletes (and maybe teens?). I hit masters level next year at 55 years old. I’m excited to see where I fall in the schema. I feel like I’m doing all right where I’m at, even compared to all these “kids” half my age.

So how do you improve your fitness? You just start by showing up. 

Here are the work outs if you’re not familiar with them:

Fight Gone Bad – CrossFit WOD

Move from each of five stations after a minute. 1 station of rest. 3 Rounds. The stations are:

  1. Wallball Shots: 20/14 pound ball, 10/9 ft target. (Reps)
  2. Sumo Deadlift High-Pull: 75/55 pounds (Reps)
  3. Box Jump: 20″ box (Reps)
  4. Push Press: 75/55 pounds (Reps)
  5. Row: calories (Cal)
  6. Rest

The clock does not reset or stop between exercises. On the minute, the athletes move to next station immediately for good score. One point is given for each rep, except on the rower where each calorie is one point.

Aerobic Power Intervals – Level Method Test

Move from each of five stations after a minute. 1 station of rest. 3 Rounds. The stations are:

  1. Wallball Shots: 20/14 pound ball, 10/9 ft target. (Reps)
  2. Hang Power Clean: 75/55 pounds (Reps)
  3. Box Jump with Step Down: 24″/20″ box (Reps)
  4. Push Press: 75/55 pounds (Reps)
  5. Burpees: (Reps)
  6. Rest

The clock does not reset or stop between exercises. On the minute, the athletes move to next station immediately for good score. Score is total reps. The Level Method has a chart for levels based on men/women and number of reps completed.


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