What is Crossfit

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program created in 1995 by Greg Glassman, a life-long physical fitness trainer and gymnast from Santa Cruz, CA. The stated goal of the CrossFit program is to develop a broad, general and inclusive fitness, the type of fitness that would best prepare trainees for any physical contingency, to include the unknown and the unknowable.4 As Greg Glassman states in a CrossFit Training Guide, “Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.” Additionally, Glassman states that the CrossFit method is unique in its focus on maximizing “neuroendocrine response, developing power, cross-training with multiple training modalities, constant training and practice with functional movements and the development of successful diet strategies.”

The CrossFit program’s concepts of fitness rest on three standards. Athletes are held up to these standards to determine their level of fitness. The first standard is the 10 general physical skills, which include: cardio respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. By this standard an athlete is as fit as they are competent across these 10 skills. The second standard encapsulates the idea that fitness is about performing well at a broad range of physical tasks. CrossFit refers to this standard as the “hopper.”

If one puts every physical task imaginable into a hopper, spins it around and then pulls out a random task, we would measure an athletes’ level of fitness by their ability to consistently perform well at any of the tasks pulled from the hopper. The third standard is the ability of athletes to perform well across the three metabolic pathways that provide energy for all human activity. These are the phosphagen, glycolytic and oxidative pathways.6 According to this standard, an athlete is as fit as they are conditioned in each of the metabolic pathways.

To achieve the aim of general, broad and inclusive fitness, CrossFit has athletes perform constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements. These movements generally fall into the three categories, or modalities, of gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, and metabolic conditioning or “cardio.” In a typical CrossFit workout athletes conduct a warm-up, a skill or strength development segment and then a “Workout of the Day” or WOD. The WOD by design varies from day to day, but typically includes a mixture of functional exercises conducted at high intensity from anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes. Key to the CrossFit method is the idea that CrossFit is the “sport of fitness” — it attempts to harness the, “natural camaraderie, competition, and fun of sport,” by keeping score, timing workouts and defining rules and standards of performance.