CrossFit, Inc. is both a strength and conditioning
program and company. The training philosophy and methodology was developed by Greg Glassman
beginning in the 1970s while the company was founded by him and his wife 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 10,000 affiliated gyms, most of which
are located in the United States, and by individuals who complete daily workouts posted on the
company’s website. Programming and usage
CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program with the aim of improving, among other things,
cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination,
agility, balance, and accuracy. It advocates a perpetually varied mix of aerobic exercise,
gymnastics, and Olympic weight lifting. CrossFit Inc. describes its strength and conditioning
program as “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across
broad modal and time 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”, and a period of individual or group stretching. Some boxes 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 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. Business model and CrossFit culture
CrossFit, Inc. licenses the CrossFit name to gyms for an annual fee and certifies trainers.
Besides the standard two-day “Level 1 Trainer Course”, specialty seminars include gymnastics,
Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman, running and endurance, rowing, kettlebells,
mobility and recovery, CrossFit Kids, CrossFit Football, self-defense and striking. Other
specialized adaptations include programs for pregnant women, seniors, and military special
operations candidates. Affiliates develop their own programming, pricing, and instructional
methods. Many athletes and trainers see themselves as part of a contrarian, insurgent movement
that questions conventional fitness wisdom; besides performing prescribed workouts, they
follow CrossFit’s nutrition recommendations, and favor minimalist footwear.
CrossFit makes use of a virtual community Internet model. The company says this de-centralized
approach shares some common features with open source software projects and allows best
practices to emerge from a variety of approaches, a contention that is disputed by some competitors
and former affiliates. History and contributors
Greg Glassman founded CrossFit, Inc. in 2000. The first affiliated gym was CrossFit North
in Seattle, Washington; there were 13 by 2005 and are more than 10,000 today. Coaches associated
with CrossFit include Louie Simmons, Bob Harper and Mike Burgener.
Glassman retains complete control over the company after a divorce resulted in his estranged
wife, Lauren, attempting to sell her share in the company. Glassman was able to obtain
a $16 million loan from Summit Partners to buy out her share.
Common CrossFit equipment CrossFit gyms utilize equipment from multiple
disciplines. Barbell – standardized to either 20 kg or
15 kg. Bumper plates – rubber bumper plates manufactured
to withstand extreme stress. Gymnastic rings
Jump rope Kettlebell
Medicine ball Plyo box
Resistance band Rower
AbMat Common CrossFit movements
Crossfit is focused on “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement.” Examples
with brief descriptions can be found below. Calisthenics
Air squat Athlete moves from the standing position to
a squatting position with the hips below the knees, and back to standing. One-legged air
squats are referred to as pistols. Push-up
Starting in a plank position with the arms straight, the athlete lowers until the chest
makes contact with the ground, keeping the body straight throughout, and making sure
the elbows track straight back instead of out, then pushes back up into the plank position.
Variations include weighted push-ups and ring push-ups, in which the hands are supported
just above the ground by gymnastics rings. Pull-up
Starting from a hanging position with straight arms, the athlete pulls up until the chin
is over the bar. Variations include: strict, in which no swinging is allowed; kipping,
in which momentum is used to help complete the movement; weighted, in which extra weight
is hung from the athlete; chest-to-bar, in which the ending point of the movement is
higher, and the chest makes contact with the bar; jumping, in which the legs are used to
help propel the athlete upwards; assisted, in which an elastic band allows the movement
to be completed with less than full body weight. Lunge
Athlete takes a large step forward, bends the forward knee until the back knee makes
contact with the ground, and rises. Sit-up
Athlete moves from a supine position, with the shoulders on the ground, to a sitting
position with the shoulders over the hips. The feet are sometimes anchored. An “ab-mat”
is sometimes placed under the lower back. Ring dip
Starting with the body supported on the rings with straight vertical arms, the athlete bends
the arms, lowering the body until the shoulder drops below the elbow, and then straightens
the arms. To scale this movement, an athlete may do assisted dips using an elastic band
or holding positions of the dip to increase stability and strength.
Olympic weightlifting Clean and jerk
In the clean, a barbell is explosively lifted from the ground to a “rack position” in front
of the athlete’s neck. In another dynamic motion—the jerk—the athlete drives the
bar from shoulder to overhead, ending in a standing position, bar directly overhead.
In a squat clean the athlete receives the bar in a squatting position and stands to
finish the lift. In a power clean, the athlete receives the bar in any position that is above
a parallel squat. Snatch
Barbell is raised from the floor to the overhead position in one motion. In a squat snatch
the athlete receives the bar in a squatting position and stands to finish the lift. In
a power snatch, the athlete receives the bar in a partial squat.
Powerlifting Bench press
The person performing the exercise lies on his or her back, lowers a weight to chest
level, and then pushes it back up until the arms are straight.
Deadlift Barbell is lifted from the ground, making
sure to drive with the legs and glutes with a straight back, until the athlete reaches
an upright standing position. Squat
Barbell is supported on upper back, in the rack position, or in the overhead position.
From a standing position with a wider-than-shoulder-width stance, the athlete bends the knees until
the hips are below the knees, and then stands, keeping the heels on the floor.
Strongman Yoke carry
Farmers carry A large weight is grasped in each hand and
walked for a distance. Plyometrics
Box jump From a standing position on the floor, the
athlete jumps and lands with both feet on top of a box, standing fully erect before
returning to the floor. Typical box heights in inches are 15″, 20″, 24″, and 30″.
Squat Jump An air squat combined with a jump.
Body weight exercises Back extension
Using a GHD machine, the athlete moves from an L-shaped position with the head directly
below the pelvis to an extended horizontal position by rolling the back and bringing
the head up last. Burpee and burpee variants
Beginning in a standing position, the athlete drops to the floor with the feet extending
backward, contacts the floor with the chest, and then pulls the legs forward, landing in
a squatting position before standing up, ending the movement with a small jump.
Handstand push-up Beginning in a handstand, with the arms straight
and the heels gently resting against a wall, the athlete bends the arms until the head
touches the ground, and then pushes back up into a handstand position.
Hip extension Using a GHD machine, the athlete moves from
an L-shaped position with the head directly below the pelvis to an extended horizontal
position by keeping the spine straight and rotating at the hip.
Jump rope The most common variation in CrossFit is the
“double under” in which the jump rope makes two revolutions for each jump.
Knees-to-elbows Hanging from a bar, starting in an extended
position, the athlete raises the knees until they make contact with the elbows.
L-sit With the body supported on gymnastics rings
or parallettes, the athlete holds the feet at or above the level of the hips with the
legs straight. This is typically held for a set amount of time.
Muscle-up Hanging from gymnastics rings or a bar, the
athlete pulls up and over the rings or bar, ending with the arms straight and the hands
below the hips. Variations include strict muscle-ups and kipping muscle-ups, in which
momentum is created to complete the movement. Rope climb
Starting from the ground, the athlete climbs a rope and touches a point at a designated
height, often 15 feet. Variations include no feet, and L-sit, in which the feet are
held above the level of the hips during the climb.
Toes-to-bar Hanging from a bar in an extended position,
the athlete brings the feet upward until they make contact with the bar.
Distance movements Rowing
Many workouts include rowing on rowing machines for distances of 500 meters to 2000 meters,
or rowing “for calories”. Running
Typical distances range from 100 meters to 1 mile. Shuttle runs back and forth between
marks 10 meters apart are also common. Swimming
Some affiliate gyms include aquatic distance exercises within workouts.
Miscellaneous Kettlebell swing
A kettlebell is swung from between the legs to eye level or overhead. The kettlebell swing
can be used both as an aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
Press Barbell is moved from the “rack position”
to the overhead position. In a strict press, or military press, the lower body remains
stationary. In a push press, the bar is “jumped” off the body using a “dip and drive” motion.
A push jerk is like a push press, but with a re-bend of the knees to allow the athlete
to drop under the bar and receive it with straight arms. A split jerk is like a push
jerk, but one leg goes forward and the other backward when the athlete drops under the
bar. Sumo deadlift high pull
With a wide stance, a barbell or kettlebell is lifted from the ground to a position just
under the chin. Thruster
A combination of a front squat and a push press: starting with the barbell in the rack
position, the athlete squats and then stands, driving the barbell overhead.
Wallball Holding a medicine ball below the chin while
facing a wall at arm’s length, the athlete squats and stands, throwing the medicine ball
in order to make contact with an overhead target on the wall.
CrossFit Games The “CrossFit Games” have been held every
summer since 2007. Participation and sponsorship have grown rapidly; the prize money awarded
to each first-place male and female increased from $500 at the inaugural Games to $250,000
in 2011-2013. Winning the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games now nets $275,000. Athletes at the Games
compete in workouts they learn about only hours beforehand, sometimes including surprise
elements that are not part of the typical CrossFit regimen; past examples include a
rough-water swim and a softball throw. The Games are styled as a venue for determining
the “Fittest on Earth,” where competitors should be “ready for anything.”
In 2011, the Games adopted an online format for the sectional event, facilitating participation
by athletes worldwide. During the “CrossFit Open”, a new workout is released each week.
Athletes have several days to complete the workout and submit their scores online, with
either a video or validation by a CrossFit affiliate. The top CrossFit Open performers
in each region advance to the regional events, held over the following two months. As of
2013 there are 17 regional divisions, including 12 in North America, and five in the rest
of the world. The top athletes from each region are eligible to compete in the CrossFit Games.
The Games include divisions for individuals of each gender, and for a number of Masters
age groups: 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, and 60+, as well as for co-ed teams comprising
3 men and 3 women. Masters competitors qualify for the Games based on performance in the
CrossFit Open—there are no Masters regional events.
Ties are broken by the best individual event by the competitor, followed by second best,
etc. until the tie is broken. This was needed to declare Craig Howard the winner in the
Men’s 50-54 division in 2013. CrossFit communities organize local, regional
and even international events, workouts and competitions.
Effectiveness A 2010 U.S. Army study conducted during a
6-week period produced an average power output increase of 20% among participants, measured
by benchmark WODs. The average one repetition maximum weight deadlift increased by 21.11%.
Criticism According to Stuart McGill, a professor of
spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, the risk of injury from some CrossFit exercises
outweighs their benefits when they are performed with poor form in timed workouts. He added
that there are similar risks in other high-intensity exercise programs but noted that CrossFit’s
online community enables athletes to follow the program without proper guidance, increasing
the risk of improper form or technique. Makimba Mimms, who suffered injuries while
performing a CrossFit workout on December 11, 2005, at Manassas World Gym in Manassas,
Virginia, under the supervision of an uncertified trainer, claimed that CrossFit poses an elevated
risk of rhabdomyolysis. He successfully sued his trainers and was awarded $300,000 in damages.
Bloggers on many websites allege that CrossFit exercise sequences are illogical and random
and lack periodization. Furthermore, they claim that accreditation standards for trainers
and affiliates provide little quality control. One publication has raised the concern that
CrossFit promotes a potentially dangerous atmosphere that encourages people, particularly
newcomers to CrossFit, to train past their limits, resulting in injury.
Rhabdomyolysis prevalence As early as 2005, the New York Times documented
rhabdomyolysis associated with the culture of CrossFit in an article entitled “Getting
Fit, Even If It Kills You”. “There’s no way inexperienced people doing this are not going
to hurt themselves”, a sports medicine specialist is quoted in the piece.
Crossfit Level 1 trainers are certified through the American National Standards Institute.
Since May 2005, CrossFit has published several articles about rhabdomyolysis in their online
CrossFit Journal. Three of the articles are included in the CrossFit Manual provided to
all prospective trainers. In a further attempt to raise awareness of the problem, CrossFit,
Inc. also used to sell “Uncle Rhabdo” T-shirts. Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center ran
a medical review of USAF basic trainees with a population of 198,399 and witnessed 44 cases
of exertional rhabdomyolysis. These training facilities are located in San Antonio, Texas,
at Lackland AFB, where temperatures in the summer months routinely exceed 100 degrees
Fahrenheit, coupled with the rigors of exercise designed to push recruits to the limit.
Transgender athletes In 2014, Chloie Jonsson, a post-transition
trans woman, pursued a $2.5 million suit against CrossFit, claiming she was barred from competing
in the female division of the 2013 CrossFit Games after her transgender status was anonymously
revealed. CrossFit’s attorneys have released a statement saying that transgender athletes
are “welcomed with open arms”, but that Jonsson “still has the genetic makeup that confers
a physical and physiological advantage over women” and CrossFit’s policy is needed to
“ensure the fairness of the competition”. CrossFit has also stated that Jonsson was
eliminated from the competition for her poor athletic performance.
See also Aerobics
Aerobic exercise Fitness and figure competition
Maximum heart rate Physical exercise
References External links
2009 Critical review by Testosterone Nation CrossFit affiliate map
Introduction to CrossFit Beginner’s Guide to CrossFit
List of Benchmark and hero WODs Choosing the CrossFit Box That Is Right For
You CrossFit: Getting started