Mark Rippetoe in the CrossFit Journal described CrossFit Total using these words:
Coach Glassman discussed this with me recently, in a conversation about increasing CrossFit’s strength base. We have talked many times about the fact that people who come to CrossFit from a strength-training background tend to perform better in the key aspects of the program. When you’re stronger, metabolic conditioning is easier and endurance stuff (i.e., 5k or 10k runs) is about the same—and workouts like “Diane” (three rounds, at 21-15-9 reps, of 225-pound deadlifts and handstand push-ups) are just not possible without a considerable amount of strength. In essence, it is easier for a lifter to improve his or her time on “Diane” than it is for a runner to develop the ability even to finish the workout without scaling it back to a very light weight. So the conversation focused on a way to work more strength into the program while maintaining the CrossFit approach to it.
Powerlifting has been very successful in its approach to strength testing and training, but it is plagued with what some consider to be significant problems. I have great respect for powerlifting,
having competed, coached, and announced in power meets for 20 years. Without belaboring the issue or attempting any judgment beyond these comments, I see two main problems with it. First, the use of equipment that enables otherwise impossible weights to be lifted inflates the total. “Raw” meets, where the only equipment allowed is a belt, address this issue. But the second problem remains: the bench press. It requires special equipment, it cannot be done with limit weights safely without spotters, and it is not a very functional exercise since it is performed while
lying on a bench that supports the weight during the movement.
The way to bring more strength to the CrossFit approach is with the CrossFit Total. The CrossFit Total is the sum of the best of three attempts at the squat, the press, and the deadlift, the three most effective lifts in existence for developing and testing functional strength.
Find your 1 rep max Deadlift
Find your 1 rep max Back Squat
Find your 1 rep max Shoulder Press
Add them up...this is your total...a measurement of how strong you are :)