What Is CrossFit?

So you’ve heard about CrossFit, but you’re not clear what exactly it is. There’s a lot of information floating around. nSome good, some bad, just like any industry or movement.  So here is some information to help try make sense of it all.


CrossFit is defined as

Constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity.


CrossFit is a fitness regimen developed by Greg Glassman over several decades. Glassman, CrossFit's Founder and CEO, was the first person in history to define fitness in a meaningful, measurable way: increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. He then created a program specifically designed to improve fitness and health.


CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity. All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. These are the core movements of life. They move the largest loads the longest distances, so they are ideal for maximizing the amount of work done in the shortest time. Intensity is essential for results and is measurable as work divided by time—or power. The more work you do in less time, or the higher the power output, the more intense the effort. By employing a constantly varied approach to training, functional movements and intensity lead to dramatic gains in fitness.


The community that spontaneously arises when people do these workouts together is a key component of why CrossFit is so effective, and it gave birth to a global network of CrossFit affiliates that number over 11,000. Harnessing the natural camaraderie, competition and fun of sport or game yields an intensity that cannot be matched by other means.


The CrossFit program is driven by data. Using whiteboards as scoreboards, keeping accurate scores and records, running a clock, and precisely defining the rules and standards for performance, we not only motivate unprecedented output but derive both relative and absolute metrics at every workout. This data has important value well beyond motivation.


Overall, the aim of CrossFit is to forge a broad, general and inclusive fitness supported by measurable, observable and repeatable results. The program prepares trainees for any physical contingency—not only for the unknown but for the unknowable, too. Our specialty is not specializing.


While CrossFit challenges the world’s fittest, the program is designed for universal scalability, making it the perfect application for any committed individual, regardless of experience. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change the program. The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind.




A Basic Understanding

CrossFit is a health and fitness program that achieves a very broad, general fitness that is applicable to everyday life. CrossFit is a blend of nutrition, metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, weightlifting (Olympic and Power), and throwing.

The CrossFit Prescription

CrossFit is a method, a way to do things. Like the workouts, the methods it utilizes continuously change, evolve, and adapt towards best practices. At its foundation, the CrossFit prescription is to perform constantly varied, functional movements, done at a relatively high intensity. But what does that mean? Well, let’s break it down.


Constantly Varied

Have you ever noticed that, when you join a traditional gym, you make amazing leaps and bounds at first but then seem to plateau and not improve? Most people are taught to workout the exact same way week-in and week-out. With the traditional gym training program, your body becomes accustomed to this routine and stops progressing. The other, and probably bigger, problem with this type of training program, is that training begins to become mundane. It’s the same thing over and over and over and….. You get the picture.


With CrossFit, it’s rare that you will repeat the same workout twice. This means your body won’t ever become accustomed to a routine and the workouts will be fun and different. There are only a handful of “benchmark” workouts that are used as a yardstick to measure progress. These workouts even create a bit of friendly competition with yourself, others in your box (CrossFit gym), or those around the world. You’ll often hear people talk about “PR’ing on Fran,” or some other benchmark workout.


Functional Movements

Functional movements are movements you do everyday day or they’re a core element to a common everyday movement. Every exercise, and movement, in CrossFit must meet the following 7 criteria for it to be included:

  1. It must be natural. It’s how we move in real life. In a traditional gym, the majority of equipment is designed to isolate a specific muscle group. Take the Leg Extension machine for instance. It’s designed to target the Quadriceps, but where in real life do you need to only use your quads? You don’t! It’s not a natural movement.
  2. Universal Motor Recruitment Patterns. This simply means to use all your muscles to move in symphony efficiently, effectively, and quickly from one place to another. Everything from the large main muscles used in a specific movement to all the small supporting muscles that stabilize the movement. With machines that isolate, all the supporting muscles sit idle. They don’t get stronger, this causes muscle imbalance which can cause aches and pains and even serious injuries.
  3. Core to Extremity. The movement starts from your core and works its way out. At a traditional gym, “the core” is considered to be the abs. This isn’t true. “The core” is a functional group of muscles that acts on the spine and pelvis. This includes the abs, the glutes, hamstrings, quads, the muscles of the lower back, etc. The stronger this group of muscles is, and the more coordinated they are, the faster an athlete can go and/or the heavier the object can be.
  4. Essential Movement. The movement must be essential to an athletes quality of life. Go to a traditional gym and asked ask people their thoughts on the squat or deadlift. You’ll find that the majority of people there consider these to be dangerous movements, but in reality these are essential movements we all depend on to live. A squat is simply sitting down and standing up efficiently. A deadlift is nothing more than picking something up off the ground, like say a bag of groceries or your kid.
  5. Safe. When compared to non-functional movements. All movements must be safe when utilizing proper form and technique.
  6. Compound, yet irreducible. You can’t break the movement down to smaller exercises or functional movements.
  7. Ability to move large loads (weight) over long distances, quickly. Combined, these three elements (load, distance, speed) uniquely qualify functional movements for the production of work and high power. That means we don’t try to slowly move weight, etc. This can danerously tear and destroy muscles. It also greatly decreases the work and power output of the athlete. However, we believe that speed and power can only come after first learning proper technique and showing consistency with that technique. Reckless movement is just as dangerous as slow movements.


Technique + Consistency -> Intensity

Performed at a High Intensity
Intensity is what brings it all together and this gets the results. Intensity is relative to the person, but at the same time we measure intensity based on power output (Read the next section to learn how we scientifically measure performance through work and power output).

But all you really need to know about High Intensity is:


Intensity = Results 

So push yourself and watch as you lose weight, get stronger, and reach your goals quickly.


Heart Rate, Work, and Power

In CrossFit, we don’t rely on heart rate to determine our fitness level or set our pace. The heart rate is as dependable as a digital clock without a battery. Too many things can affect your heart rate, such as:

  • Did you drink coffee before you came to the gym?
  • How did you sleep last night?
  • When did you last workout?
  • How healthy is your diet and what did you eat last?
  • What’s the weather like? Is it hot out? Is it cold? Is it humid? Is it dry?
  • Are you at sea level or in the mountains?
  • Do you have good genes?
  • Are you on any medication?
  • Are you in a good mood?
There are just to many variables that affect your heart rate. It is an interesting metric, but it isn’t one that you can use to base anything on. So instead, in CrossFit we base our results on Work and Power output.


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