The term Crossfit is faced with mixed thoughts and emotions in today’s world. Crossfit is met with praise and adulation by some and controversy and skepticism by others. What is undeniable about Crossfit is that in a little over a decade it has transformed from a fringe underground way of working out to the forefront of the health and fitness industry. Industry leaders in media, workout equipment, app technology, and athletic apparel have attached themselves to the Crossfit brand and rode the wave to very lucrative cross promotional partnerships.
What is Crossfit?
Crossfit is a strength and conditioning program in which to improve fitness through the use of constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains. Crossfit integrates specific movements and training methods across several fitness platforms to form the foundation for its exercises and programming. Crossfit contains aspects of Olympic powerlifting, plyometric exercises, calisthenics, gymnastics, kettlebell movements, rowing, running and interval training.
Crossfit draws from all of these different fitness disciplines with one specific goal in mind, to increase one’s fitness level in the most functional way possible. The goal of Crossfit is to increase proficiency and capability in areas of physicality such as strength, cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, agility, balance, power and coordination. The wide array of benefits that can be attained through Crossfit is the overwhelming reason it is utilized by law enforcement agencies and military personal around the world.
Crossfit and the Special Forces
Crossfit fit has deep roots with US Special Forces across the country in that one of its famous workouts the “Murph” was named after a Navy Seal operator killed in action, Lt. Michael J. Murphy. Murphy was a huge proponent of Crossfit and probably one of the main reasons it is practiced among Special Forces groups today.
The Creation of Crossfit
Crossfit has a unique creation story. It spawned from the mind of Greg Glassman, a gymnast who weightlifted and cycled. Glassman grew up in Woodland Hills California with his father, mother and sister. Glassman did not excel at school and bounced around different colleges and junior colleges before dropping out entirely and going into the fitness industry as a personal trainer. He became known early on for his unconventional workouts and the confidence he had in their effectiveness. Glassman would often pit his clients against each other to spur them to push themselves further than they thought possible.
Glassman’s difficult and seemingly random workouts caught the attention of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s department and they hired him to train their officers. Glassman was on to something and it was beginning to pick up momentum. First conceived as Cross-fit in 1996 and later trademarked Crossfit in 2000, Glassman and his now ex-wife Lauren Jenai starting building the brand by opening the first Crossfit gym in Santa Cruz California. There are currently almost 12,500 affiliated Crossfit gyms around the globe. That number is expected to continue to grow as more and more people become aware of the growing fitness phenomena.
The Crossfit Brand
The Crossfit community is the brand’s best ambassadors. They eat, sleep and breathe Crossfit on a daily basis. The Crossfit community is tight nit and very supportive of one another, they like to think of themselves as one big fit family.
If you are around them long enough you will inevitably hear certain terms you may not know. Terms like WOD (workout of the day) which is a programmed workout consisting of different exercises and skills. The WOD changes every day and is a combination of certain movements specific to Crossfit. The WOD is usually timed using specific methods such as EMOTM (every minute on the minute), AMRAP (as many reps as possible). The Box is what Crossfit calls the place they meet to workout.
Early on most Crossfit gyms were empty warehouse spaces because of the height and space Crossfit exercises require.
Corssfit and the Paleo Diet
Paleo diet short for Paleolithic diet is the official/unofficial diet that most Crossfit junkies adhere to. The Paleo diet emphasizes the intake of protein, healthy fats, vegetables, nuts and berries with very limited intake of carbohydrates and sugars. METCON (metabolic conditioning) is a certain type of workout where a few exercises are repeated AMRAP style. RX is a Crossfit term that describes the weight in which a specific workout should be performed. This is used as a benchmark for scaling weight up or down for the intended exercise.
Crossfit draws specific exercises from different modalities across a broad range of sports and fitness activities.
Common Crossfit exercises are:
- DU (double under) which is best described as jump rope. The trick to completing a double under is allowing the rope to pass under your feet twice before landing back on the ground.
- The Snatch is a fluid motion using a barbell or kettle bell. The object is to the get the weight from the floor over your head in one unbroken motion.
- A Thruster is a movement that incorporates a squat and shoulder press all while keeping a barbell racked on the front of your shoulder muscles. This exercise is especially loved/hated by many in the Crossfit community.
- A Muscle Up is a gymnastic body weight movement where one starts by hanging on to two gymnastic rings and exploding up into a dip position and then completing a dip in one fluid motion.
These are only a few of the exercises one can expect to see when entering into a Crossfit Box.
Crossfit welcomes you with a warning and waiver form. The Olympic lifting movements and pace at which some of the WODs take place can cause new and inexperienced participants to injury themselves or other people around them. Most Crossfit gyms require a foundation class to be completed in order to start participating in daily group classes. The foundations classes are used to teach new members under supervision how to complete the more complicated movements effectively to avoid future injury.
Crossfit, like any other physical activity if not done properly, can result in injury. The Crossfit headquarters is adamant that Crossfit does not cause injury and there is no legitimate data supporting the claim that Crossfit is not safe.
Crossfit does have its own affiliated websites and publications that individuals interested in learning more about everything Crossfit can pour through. Crossfit Journal, The Journal is the brand’s internal publication where for $25 a year subscribers can have access to a wealth of information. The Journal features new on workouts, brand events, research and inspirational stories. Greg Glassman the creator himself posts daily workouts on Crossfit.com so Crossfit enthusiasts can benefit from glassman’s programming expertise.
The Crossfit Games
Crossfit wouldn’t have the popularity it does today without an avenue to show off its fittest competitors. The Crossfit Games began in 2007 as an open competition for competitors to showcase their talents in various Crossfit skills and exercises. The first Crossfit Games competition took place at a ranch in Aromas, California.
Today the Crossfit games appear on ESPN and sponsored by Crossfit Inc. and Reebok. Competitors have to compete and place in regional qualifiers to gain an invitation to the Crossfit Games. Participation in the Crossfit Games has risen to such a height that now there are several classifications that break up athletes by age, gender and team affiliation (the box they compete out of). There are two youth divisions and a masters division where age groups separate contestants. In 2016, over 300,000 athletes competed in the games from 175 countries. The individual man and woman open champions are crowned “the fittest man/woman on earth” and awarded prize money and sponsorships.
The most recognizable athlete in the Crossfit world today is Rich Froning Jr. Champion of the individual men’s open from 2011-2014, Froning has separated himself from all other Crossfit athletes with four consecutive open Championships. The open champion is decided over the course of a long weekend where the athletes are put through various intense competitive workouts incorporating all of the aspects of Crossfit. A point system is put in place to judge the athletes on reps completed, time frames and weight used. Froning is the only competitor to win the Crossfit Games four times and has cemented his legacy as the first Crossfit superstar in history. There is a documentary out about Rich Froning’s life which is called FroIVing. The film chronicles his beginnings, how he went from early athletics into Crossfit and his family life.
Crossfit exists today because of the age in which it was conceived and reared by its creator and community. Crossfit is entering into its prime and with the help of the internet and social media outlets it continues thrive in today growing fit conscious society.
Following the current Crossfit elite on social media is the only real way to get an in depth view into everything Crossfit. Athletes like Rich Froning, Dan Bailey, Matt Fraser, Samantha Briggs, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir are worth a follow on Twitter or Instagram because they offer what is means to eat sleep and breathe Crossfit.