What Is CrossFit?

So you’ve heard some stuff about CrossFit, but you’re not completely clear what exactly it is. By the very founding principles, CrossFit is an open source technology that leverages the Internet to spread methods and information.

By this very nature, it started as underground movements against the conventional wisdoms of fitness being spread by corporations and government agencies being shaped by the corporation lobbyists. As a result of it being a grassroots, Internet driven movement – there’s a lot of information fragmented floating around the Internet. Some good, some bad, just like pretty much any industry or movement since the advent of the Internet.

Here, I’m going to try to put some of the pieces together for those of you starting your journey into the exploration of a theory that is likely completely inverse to everything you learned at your 24 Hour Fitness.

The Short Definition

Constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity.

The three components that make up this definition will be examined later in this page.  First let’s try to understand how CrossFit even came to this definition.

The Concept

CrossFit is the result of a compilation of research into achieving the most optimal and well balanced level of fitness possible. To do this, CrossFit actually became the first fitness organization to define the word “fitness”, for the needed a definition to fitness before they could measure how to achieve it best.

Open Source Fitness

CrossFit is open source. None of the ideas are under protection. All of the concepts are freely distributed via as well as any affiliate, or person who wishes to question the accepted norms and discuss it. Every movement CrossFit does is available to learn, via video, images or text at

Constantly Evolving Fitness

CrossFit is adaptable. CrossFitters tend to look at fitness the same way a Nascar team looks at racing. If a Nascar driver all of a sudden shaves 1 second off his average lap time, every other Nascar team will find out what that team changed, test it in their own environment, and if it works, adopt it.

CrossFit is NOT married to any one concept or idea. We do what we currently have validated as the optimal process to achieve fitness today. If for any reason, someone can prove that a method they have devised works better, it will immediately be scrutinized by hundreds (if not thousands) or CrossFitters for validity. If results are seen that prove the validity, then the new method will work its way into the CrossFit curriculum.

The Tenets

Constantly Varied

Our bodies adapt to the stimulus we put on them very quickly.  If you only do 30 minute, low intensity runs 5 days a week, your body will not be prepared if you need to do a 800m max effort run or lift something heavy.  Since the only stimulus you trained your body for is a 30 minute jog, your body has adapted to the stresses it encounters there.  It will then begin to give you diminishing returns on your 30 minute investment, as once it’s achieved a semi comfortable balance, it has no need to adjust at a rapid rate.

By constantly varying our workouts, we never let our bodies get comfortable with any set time, movement, intensity level, metabolic pathway, elevation, etc.  We programmatically attempt to change as many environmental and exercise related variables as possible to keep our body working hard to achieve homeostasis.

Functional Movements

Humans were anatomically engineered to perform certain movements at high efficiency.  Remarkably enough, these movements are all those we have done to survive since the beginning of mankind.  Lifting things from the ground, getting them to our chest and then overhead, squatting, jumping, rowing, lunging.  Basic movements that allowed man to survive the perils of nature and recreate.  Never once did doing an isolated lat pull over do anything functional for a caveman.  If he was scaling something, surely he would have used his hips and core in conjunction with his entire upper body to pop himself over the object as well.

These multi joint, full body movements are called functional movements and they are the crux of our fitness program.  We never call for an isolated body movement, as its’ simply not natural nor efficient.

High Intensity

Going back to the argument for why we constantly vary – if you are not pushing yourself to the peak capacity you have on a daily basis, you will never provide your body with the environment needed to achieve maximum growth in minimum time.  By performing for as long and as intense as we can, we set the stage for the body to attempt to adapt to perform well under those conditions.

Once we have slowly adapted to perform well at that duration and intensity, guess what?  It’s no longer relatively intense for you.  Naturally you’ll begin to operate at an even higher level of intensity, and the old “high intensity” is becoming more and more normal work to you.

By pushing the envelope of intensity you give yourself the environment to achieve the biggest gains, and that’s what CrossFit is about.

General Preparedness

CrossFit strives to achieve physical competency across the board. We feel that in the overall game of life, someone who specializes too much creates weaknesses too great to overlook. These weaknesses actually take the overall fitness level of that person lower.

By focusing on staying unfocused, you are able to hone all of your skills and become a better all around athlete who can be physically up to par with substantially more activities (known or unknown) than any specialist can.

Further, the following statement is also true:

A generally prepared athlete will usually lose overall fitness by adding specialization to his training regimen. However, a specialist who adds a constantly varied, functional movement training program at high intensity to his specialized training will generally GAIN fitness ability.

This is due to the fact that once you have achieved a proficient broad based level of fitness, you only stand to allow periphery skills and abilities to deteriorate by adding too much specialized training.

On the other side of that, if you have a mastery level at one or two movements or events, adding a CrossFit like training program will always result in an overall rise in fitness (as measured by any your overall fitness ability, results in hopper activities, or your ability to perform in any of the metabolic pathways).

CrossFit Journal: The Performance-Based Lifestyle Resource

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