What is CrossFit?
You’ve probably heard of CrossFit and wondered what it is and how you can start doing CrossFit workouts.
CrossFit is a branded fitness regimen created by Greg Glassman and is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc. which was founded by Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai in 2000. Promoted as both a physical exercise philosophy and also as a competitive fitness sport, CrossFit workouts incorporate elements from high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, girevoy sport, calisthenics, strongman, and other exercises. It is practiced by members of over 13,000 affiliated gyms, roughly half of which are located in the United States, and by individuals who complete daily workouts (otherwise known as “WODs” or “workouts of the day”).
CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program consisting mainly of a mix of aerobic exercise, calisthenics (body weight exercises), and Olympic weightlifting. CrossFit, Inc. describes its strength and conditioning program as “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains,” with the stated goal of improving fitness, which it defines as “work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” Hour-long classes at affiliated gyms, or “boxes”, typically include a warm-up, a skill development segment, the high-intensity “workout of the day” (or WOD), and a period of individual or group stretching. Some gyms also often have a strength focused movement prior to the WOD. Performance on each WOD is often scored and/or ranked to encourage competition and to track individual progress. Some affiliates offer additional classes, such as Olympic weightlifting, which are not centered around a WOD.
CrossFit gyms use equipment from multiple disciplines, including barbells, dumbbells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, jump ropes, kettlebells, medicine balls, plyo boxes, resistance bands, rowing machines, and various mats. CrossFit is focused on “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement,” drawing on categories and exercises such as these: calisthenics, Olympic-style weightlifting, powerlifting, Strongman-type events, plyometrics, body weight exercises, indoor rowing, aerobic exercise, running, and swimming.
CrossFit programming is decentralized but its general methodology is used by thousands of private affiliated gyms, fire departments, law enforcement agencies, and military organizations including the Royal Danish Life Guards, as well as by some U.S. and Canadian high school physical education teachers, high school and college sports teams, and the Miami Marlins.
“CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program, but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of 10 recognized fitness domains,” says founder Greg Glassman in the Foundations document. Those domains are: cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.
CrossFit appeals to both men and women alike and a recent statistical analysis showed that CrossFit participants were almost equally 50% male and 50% female.
It has been theorized that CrossFit’s combination of resistance and aerobic exercise may benefit muscle size and cortisol levels, but this has not been substantiated by a body of good medical evidence.
The risk of injury associated with CrossFit training has been a controversial question since the program’s popularity began to climb in the early 2000s. Critics have accused CrossFit, Inc. of using dangerous movements, inappropriate levels of intensity, and allowing under-qualified individuals to become CrossFit Trainers.
In response to these criticisms, CrossFit, Inc. claims its methodology is relatively safe even when performed with poor technique. CrossFit, Inc. also claims risk for injury can be reduced by properly scaling and modifying workouts, a concept taught on its website and at the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course.
CrossFit, Inc. supports this position by citing three academic surveys of CrossFit participants. These surveys calculated injury rates between 2.4 and 3.1 injuries per 1000 hours of training, which CrossFit argues is consistent with or below injury rates found in “general fitness training.”
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research entitled “Crossfit-based high intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition” followed 54 participants for 10 weeks of CrossFit training. The study said that “…a notable percentage of our subjects (16%) did not complete the training program and return for follow-up testing.” The authors said “This may call into question the risk-benefit ratio for such extreme training programs…” In 2014, CrossFit, Inc. filed a lawsuit against the National Strength and Conditioning Association for publishing this study, alleging that the data was false and was “intended to scare participants away from CrossFit.” The NSCA denies CrossFit, Inc.’s allegations but has issued an erratum acknowledging the injury data was incorrect. The lawsuit was settled in September 2016 with the District Court ruling in favor of CrossFit Inc.’s claims.
Read Also: CROSSFIT WORKOUTS