CrossFit is hugely growing in popularity worldwide, but ask someone what it actually is and you’re likely to get “well, it’s hard to explain” followed by a list of exercises. To which, you can’t really blame people for saying “so it’s like circuits then?”
No, it’s not like circuits. It’s not really like anything.
So what is CrossFit?
The Definition of CrossFit
CrossFit is essentially a training method. A training method made up of “constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity”. This doesn’t mean you’re always blowing out of your ass… contrary to common belief! What it does mean is learning a whole raft of new skills and using those to build on your fitness in one of the most efficient ways possible.
The “constantly varied” part is one of the most important elements of the CrossFit training method. CrossFit is designed to make you fit, strong and mobile enough to take on any challenge life throws at you; something that is tested in the annual CrossFit Games.
The element that often surprises people the most about CrossFit is the community. Everyone shares a common goal – to get fitter and stronger – and, despite not primarily being a “team sport”, there is a huge sense of team within CrossFit. Your class mates will encourage and motivate you, cheer you through those final few reps of a WOD, support you through moment of self doubt or disappointment, and become friends in and out of the box.
The Sport of Fitness
CrossFit is often talked about as being “the sport of fitness”. Fitness, using the definition defined on crossfit.com, means “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains”.
Work capacity is measured by force, distance and time – basic physics elements that I discussed in relation to athletic advantages in CrossFit – and the broad time and modal domains are important as the real world can require many different combinations of duration and type of effort.
By using functional movements (real-world situational movements) like lifting, pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging, etc. CrossFit is able to make fitness useful.
CrossFit in 100 Words
There’s no better way to define the CrossFit method, or “world-class fitness” than with the creator’s own words.
“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”
A Typical CrossFit Class
Every box will have its own style of coaching, but in general CrossFit classes tend to follow a basic structure:
- Warm up – this will usually include movements specific to the other training elements you will be performing in that day’s WOD
- Mobility – stretches and exercises to help prepare your joints for the different exercises you will be performing
- Skill – learning or practising a skill, whether that’s one of the Olympic lifts, weightlifting movement or a gymnastic element
- Strength – performing sets and reps of a strength element using periodised training (endurance, hypertrophy, strength, power)
- WOD – the workout of the day
Education is a huge part of CrossFit. When you start, you are not expected to have the knowledge you need – your coaches will teach and support you. The learning curve is gradual at first, but then you’ll experience a steep increase in knowledge, performance and benefits before levelling out.
This is where you really need to put the work in to continue to get fitter, stronger and more mobile – you are now reaching the top of your game!
Finding an Affiliate
True “CrossFit” is only accessible through one of the many affiliate gyms. There are many gyms and trainers living off of the CrossFit name, but to get the full CrossFit experience, you should find an affiliate through the Affiliate Map. Most places offer beginners’ sessions, or may hold trial classes, but every box is different so make sure you look at their website or call them for more information.