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Qualitative Versus Quantitative Personal Bests

Posted by: Emily Beers

I’ve been doing CrossFit for more than six years. 

The learning curve isn’t as steep as it once was.

Gone are the days where I surprise myself with a 50 lb. deadlift personal best or a 2-minute improvement on Fran or Nasty Girls.

I wrote a story a while ago about enjoying the plateau. But I realize now that I haven’t been plateau-ing at all. My personal bests and milestone moments have simply changed from being quantitative to qualitative.

I’ve been doing muscle-ups for years, but two weeks ago now, I jumped for joy after doing one single muscle-up.

I looked at Chris Scaalo and I could tell that he, too, knew it was a muscle-up to remember.

“That’s the best muscle-up I’ve ever done!” I said, excitedly.

“It IS the best muscle-up you’ve ever done,” he replied.

For so long, I’ve struggled to turn the rings over fast enough, so I usually end up catching my muscle-ups much deeper than I’d like. And then when I’m fatigued, the problem gets magnified. But two weeks ago, suddenly something clicked: I snapped the rings much harder than normal and found myself eternally higher in my ring dip than I ordinarily am. While it wasn’t a Sam Briggs, straight-armed muscle-up, it was pretty damn easy.

Similarly, I used to do 'pretend strict muscle-ups', where I’d be mostly strict but would bend one knee, shimmy my body and lead with one arm on the transition. Now, I’m able to do true strict muscle-ups, with a tight body and straight knees and not a hint of a shimmy.


While it looks way more impressive to update social media with a hashtag that says #25-pound-back-squat-personal-best than it is to say #muscle-up-quality-and-efficiency-is-improving, I believe qualitative personal bests are as—or even more important—as quantitative ones.

After all, unless there’s a one-rep max back squat event at Regionals, being able to move efficiently with moderate loads for a high number of reps under fatigue might be just as valuable.



Posted by Emily Beers on

Emily Beers, hailing from Vancouver, crosses bridges by being not only a CrossFit athlete, but also a journalist. She has been a regular contributor to the CrossFit Journal since 2011. She qualified and competed at her first CrossFit Games as an individual athlete in 2014.

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