What is CrossFit?

Find out what CrossFit is and how you can get involved with this unique fitness community.

Find out what CrossFit is and how you can get involved with this unique fitness community.

Since its inception all the way back in 1996, CrossFit boxes have grown in number to more than 15,000 globally, so it's fair to conclude that this dynamic workout program has been a popular choice for fitness fanatics. With varied workouts, highly skilled trainers, and even a competitive element, there are plenty of reasons to look into CrossFit if you're looking for a rewarding workout solution.

But for those new to the sport wondering 'what is CrossFit training', and 'what is a typical CrossFit workout', we've put together this short guide to give you an overview of CrossFit, and to show you how to get started with CrossFit training.

A CrossFit workout in progress in a CrossFit box

 

Photo credit: CrossFit Pen y Bont

What is CrossFit training?

As its name suggests, CrossFit is a workout that crosses various physical fitness and exercise methods to create a selection of HIIT exercises. The overall fitness programs on offer at a CrossFit gym consists mainly of aerobic exercise, callisthenics, and weightlifting, to give CrossFit gym members "constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains." (CrossFit, LLC)

If you're looking for a workout that mixes cardio, heavy lifts, mobility work, flexibility training, body control, and everything in between, CrossFit could be just the thing for you. The added bonus of training within a system of constantly varied, high-intensity functional movement, is that when you go to a session at your box gym, you'll be able to enjoy an almost completely different workout to the last. Knowing you have constant variation is a great way to stay motivated and keep to your fitness goals.

Keep reading to learn the lingo and about the fun in functional training

Learn the lingo

  • Affiliate - A gym, or "box", that is officially affiliated and endorsed by the CrossFit brand
  • AMRAP - As many reps as possible
  • Box - CrossFit gyms
  • EMOM - Every minute on the minute
  • Fran - Arguably the most famous of CrossFit's workouts. A regimen of thrusters and pull-ups that follows a 21-15-9 sequence (21 thrusters and 21 pull-ups, 15 thrusters and 15 pull-ups etc.), experienced CrossFitters can get this done in less than three minutes.
  • Ladder - Increasing reps each set, for example, 5 squats, 6 squats, 7 squats, etc.
  • PR - Personal record; taking names, making gains, and pushing yourself to get the most out of your WOD.
  • WOD - In keeping with the idea of variety, each time you go to a box, you'll take part in the "Workout of the Day". Many affiliate gyms follow the official CrossFit.com WODs.

What is the purpose of CrossFit? The fun of functional training

At the core of a CrossFit workout is functionality. The exercises used in a session are designed to replicate everyday movements and tasks in a fitness context. When we talk about functional movements, we are talking about moving our bodies in a way that mimics everyday movements. We're talking about carrying your shopping into the house, picking things off the ground, climbing stairs, and more.

What is the difference between CrossFit and gym?

Generally speaking, people who go to the gym will typically be looking for a focused workout. Whether it's weightlifting, using cycling machines and treadmills, or going to a specific class, gyms refer to physical exercise within a fitness centre. On the face of it, a CrossFit box isn't too dissimilar. CrossFit, however, refers to the sport itself and everything that entails, including nutritional plans. Blending elements of gymnastics, weight training, and cardio, promoting functional movements in a fitness context, a CrossFit box is essentially a gym that is for the sole purpose of running CrossFit training sessions.

Where to start

First and foremost, you have to find a box to attend. This is really a case of trial and error, because quite simply, one person's dream gym is not necessarily going to be the right fit for the next person. If you don't know where to start when looking into different options for a CrossFit box, a good place to start is the official CrossFit website. CrossFit boxes that pay the affiliation fee are not just able to use "CrossFit" in their name, but they are added to the CrossFit website so people searching within their area for a box will be able to see what's available.

Another tactic for finding a CrossFit box is looking for a business that has been open for a few years at least and is an established business. At least you'll go along to a session with the confidence that you're attending somewhere with not just experienced, but happy, returning members.

You can attend a CrossFit training session no matter your level. Regardless of your age, experience, or injury history, it's common practice for the staff at a CrossFit box to tailor workouts to fit your needs. Whether you're a seasoned pro or totally new to the discipline, the trainers at your box will show you modified versions of the same workout.

Read about CrossFit workouts and how they could benefit you

What is a typical CrossFit workout?

Okay, what happens in a CrossFit workout? As we mentioned earlier, variety is one of the great things about CrossFit training sessions, so to give a definitive workout isn't really possible. However, if you're wondering what a CrossFit training session looks like, here is an example of a session you could expect to do in a CrossFit box.

  1. The warm-up - an obvious starting point, but don't underestimate its importance. A CrossFit warm-up typically takes 12 to 15 minutes and focuses on various muscle groups. The sort of exercises to expect include jumping jacks, pull-ups, lunges, and squats among others.
  2. This is when the WOD starts. A mix of routines that typically takes 15-20 minutes, your workout will be made up of HIIT and strength training, encouraging you to push your body in different ways. CrossFit members are expected to do as many reps as possible (AMRAP) in the allotted time for the particular exercise.
  3. Skill and strength training is an important part of CrossFit. Designed to improve muscle memory and to help you with form, you can expect to be doing squats, one-legged squats. deadlifts, muscle-ups, and similar exercises through these sessions.
  4. Cooldowns are as important as warm-ups. Reducing your risk of injury, your trainer will lead you through a series of stretches to help bring your heart rate down, ease pressure on your joints and muscles, and have you ready for the rest of your day.

What does CrossFit do to your body?

There are a number of benefits to taking part in CrossFit. The physical benefits speak for themselves. You might just be wanting to increase your current fitness levels a bit, lose weight, or even have some huge gains planned. CrossFit can help you with all of that. Physiologists from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse did a study on the physical benefits of CrossFit. Their results showed that women who took part in two different CrossFit sessions burnt over 12 calories per minute, and they also maintained an elevated heart rate throughout their workout.

The positive effect CrossFit has had on participants mental is also worth noting. Pushing yourself to complete a full session shows you what you are physically capable of. With the right trainer giving you encouragement, the results at the end of your class can leave you surprised at what you are truly capable of.

Competitive fitness paired with physical fitness

Aside from improving our physical fitness and the mental health benefits that being a part of a CrossFit box may have, participants, find that they become part of a community. With everyone pushing themselves, achieving the goals they set themselves, and seeing their progress over time, all while in the same space as like-minded people is always going to bring a sense of inclusive fitness. CrossFit boxes often become a hub for fitness fanatics to be a part of something special, and it's certainly a big selling point for people considering taking up the activity.

CrossFit also offers members the opportunity to get involved with competitive fitness. For many of us, simply working out or going for a run is the perfect way to get some exercise and escape the day-to-day for an hour or so. However, for some, the competitive edge that sport offers is their bread and butter; the chance to compete and challenge ourselves is appealing for many. CrossFit is a great way to become involved in Competitive fitness.

There are a number of CrossFit competitions out there, and your box will more than likely have a team you can become a part of. The pinnacle for CrossFitters has to be the CrossFit Games. An annual competition owned and run by CrossFit, LLC, the CrossFit Games celebrates the sport's global popularity with a competition where competitors across the world vie for the title of fittest man and fittest woman in the world.

How many days a week should you do CrossFit?

As with all workouts and physical exercise, rest days are just as important as your training days. Typically, CrossFitters will head to their box at least three times per week, and sometimes as much as five times in a week. How many times you go to a CrossFit box ultimately depends on your goals. If CrossFit is your one fitness focus, three to five times a week is more than adequate. If you're hoping to add CrossFit to other exercise you do — for example, running, swimming, team sports etc — you'll need to find a balance so that you give yourself at least one full rest day per week. 

But there are some risks involved with doing a CrossFit workout

As with the majority of sports, injuries occur in CrossFit. According to physical therapist Cuyler Hudson, "the injury rate of CrossFit is about 20 percent, meaning 20 percent of people who perform CrossFit branded workouts regularly will be injured at some point, which is high for a recreational activity."

Finding a good coach is obvious yet essential. They won't just monitor your progress and gains, but they will be on hand to ensure your form is correct to prevent any stresses, strains, or injuries. When it comes to doing AMRAP, form is key. If you start doing any HIIT exercises incorrectly, CrossFit or not, you could quite easily find yourself with an injury. Listening to your body is one of those things that as fitness fans we're told quite regularly, but in this instance, you should feel comfortable enough to know and accept when your body has reached its limit.

Pushing yourself to breaking point is only going to leave you sitting out of training sessions for weeks at a time. You should also prepare yourself for a few blisters and bruises along the way, but as your body becomes more accustomed to the workouts, these should become few and far between.

In summary

CrossFit is a dynamic way to work out. With varied disciplines and classes that change and evolve, it is a great way to stay fit in such a way that doesn't feel repetitive. Ultimately, what CrossFit offers that is appealing to athletes, both experienced and those who are just starting out on the fitness journey is a unique sense of community. Everyone is there to push themselves and achieve their fitness goals. Being surrounded by like-minded people who are striving to improve while also offering their support to their fellow CrossFitters is what really makes CrossFit stand out as a popular type of exercise.

To find out more about CrossFit and for some tips and tools to help you get started, check out our CrossFit FAQs and the best CrossFit exercises for athletes.

If you're CrossFit box owner, find out how TeamUp's CrossFit management software can help better organise your business.

Thanks for reading!