Crossfit is one of the biggest fitness booms of the last decade and a half. It has ballooned from a single gym to a worldwide network with more than 4000 participating gyms and a massive yearly competition called the ‘Crossfit Games’. What is Crossfit and what are some of the fitness benefits in doing a workout like it?

Crossfit was built and continues to be an encompassing, varied fitness routine. It uses lots of different types of intense exercises to promote general fitness instead of any sport-specific or mode-specific skills. Crossfit uses weights, but it isn’t weightlifting. Owners of Crossfit Gyms and trainers are certified in the methods of Crossfit and encouraged to keep up with the changes in the program as it grows and evolves.

The Basics

The basic routine for Crossfit is this: athletes show up to the gym, partake in some discussion about the days activities, warm up, then participate in the Workout of the Day (WOD). They may or may not know what the WOD will look like. The idea is to be ready for anything. These workouts involve high intensity exercises for the most part; sprints, lifts, jumps, climbs, pushing heavy objects, almost anything goes. Many exercises are ‘bodyweight’ exercises, using the floor, gymnastic rings, or a pull-up bar alone to give athletes a workout.

WOD: Workout Of the Day

If the WOD involves certain exercises for which records can be kept, each athlete’s number of reps or maximum effort is recorded on a public record board. Athletes who are not part of an organized gym can also do the WOD and compare their results with other Crossfit athletes through an online journal visible to the whole community. The theory behind making records public, whether in a gym or online, is to promote a sense of team, accountability, and sportsmanship with athletic progress. Everyone is making their own progress within the system, and everyone has a reason to keep getting better. Often athletes are encouraged to wear minimalist footwear and try out the Zone or Paleo diets.

Workouts are constantly varied to stress muscles and systems differently all the time. While this sounds a little like Tony Horton and P90X‘s ‘Muscle Confusion,’ the systems are actually structured much differently. There is no long-term periodization in Crossfit, just variation between workouts day-to-day.

What else?

The members of the community of Crossfit is largely responsible for the changes in the system over time. The knowledge base of Crossfit is large, and gym owners and trainers are encouraged to try new things in their gyms and report back with the results. Crossfit prides itself in being a very collaborative endeavor and a system based on tried and true methods, so if a gym incorporates aspects of rock climbing or martial arts that work for their members, it might become part of the worldwide Crossfit curriculum.

Crossfit has proven itself an effective fitness tool and a powerful community builder over the past ten years. Crossfit athletes are a tight-knit group of folks who enjoy a broad type of fitness not found in many other places. Baseball teams and law enforcement groups alike have adopted the program to train their recruits the Crossfit way.

Health concerns over the intensity of Crossfit should be reserved for those trainers who claim to be Crossfit trainers but have no certification. Real Crossfit trainers will train you at a safe pace, probably pushing you harder than you have pushed yourself in a while, but not further than your body can handle. The program presents a cost financially, usually more than double the cost of a simple gym membership, but offers the benefits of community and a focused program to gain strength, speed, and overall fitness in a collaborative, (friendly) competitive environment.

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