What Is Crossfit?

What is CrossFit? If you are interested in fitness or training, it is likely that you have heard of or even tried the recent phenomenon of CrossFit, if not then you probably have heard of WODs, The Girls or indeed ‘The Sport of Fitness’. While many people claim to do CrossFit, not many people can really tell what CrossFit is. Brought about initially by the popularity of the film ‘300’ CrossFit style training was known to have given the Spartans their chiselled bodies, and so a swarm of ‘300 workouts’ hit the internet, and a million and one Spartan Training Specialists crept out of the woodwork. But the reality is that CrossFit is not a series of workouts and exercises designed to give you a 6-pack, CrossFit is a training philosophy that has been developed to achieve ‘complete fitness’. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzD9BkXGJ1M CrossFit is based on theory of ‘General Physical Preparedness’ (GPP) and is designed to improve fitness across the board; CrossFit defines fitness as “work capacity across broad time and modal domains” (http://journal.crossfit.com/2002/10/what-is-fitness-by-greg-glassm.tpl). If you think about that statement, what it really means is that CrossFit is designed to allow you to work harder across varied time scales and different challenges. How does it do this? Well, the official definition of CrossFit is – “constantly varied, functional movements performed at a high intensity” ( http://journal.crossfit.com/2007/04/understanding-crossfit-by-greg.tpl). So the answer is, CrossFit will get you fitter by throwing an almost limitless variety of exercises at you at different weights, rep ranges, sets and styles. Constantly Varied – CrossFit sees routine as the enemy and prescribes changing your workout every time in as many ways as possible. The theory behind this is that the more consistent your routine is, the less likely you will be to deal with the unexpected. Anyone that knows a bit about CrossFit knows that one day the workout of the day (WOD) could be a 1 rep max deadlift, the next day it could be a sprint triathlon! CrossFit explains this variation as a way of creating a fitness that will make your ready for anything. CrossFit combines bodyweight exercises, gymnastics, weightlifting, cardiovascular exercises as well as a variety of different techniques to develop an all round athlete. The aim is not to make a person the strongest in the gym, or make someone run a quicker marathon. CrossFit is simply the middle of the ground, creating a sort of “jack of all trades” in the fitness world; one of the many ways of describing a CrossFitter is that they will out lift a runner and out run a lifter, meaning the best CrossFit athletes are fit, strong, fast, powerful and able to control their bodyweight extremely well. Functional Movements – CrossFit describes functional movements as exercises that ‘prepare you for life’. They include squatting, running, jumping, pulling, throwing and picking things up... All of these movements far pre-date gyms, and take us back to how we used to move to survive. These functional movements (or compound movements) are multi joint exercises that use large muscle groups and body parts, not unlike bulking programmes that include mainly squatting, deadlifts and presses. This is because these exercises are the most effective for producing results on their own; if you want stronger legs, squat! Leg extensions and hamstring curls do have a purpose, but very few people would argue that they work better or as a substitute for a squat. Also the reality is that these compound movements require minimal (and relatively low cost) equipment, a barbell and some plates is a modest investment in comparison to the latest cable machines and isolation stations. High Intensity – High intensity can mean many things to many different people, but CrossFit use a more technical definition to justify the approach it takes to fitness: Work = Force x Distance Work is calculated by multiplying the amount of force you apply to an object by the distance the object is moved i.e. more work is done when squatting something heavy than something light for 1 rep, as more force is required to move the object the same distance. Power = Force x Distance            Time Power is calculated by dividing the amount of work by the tame taken to complete it. Imagine you deadlifted 100kg for 1 rep 10 times with a break between each set, or you just completed 10 reps with no rest between reps, which would be harder? The 10 reps in succession would feel a lot harder than 10 individual, fresh reps. Intensity = Average Power Intensity is equal to the average power of the session. Again, think about it, using deadlifts once more, it would be considerably harder to complete 30 deadlifts at 100kg in 5mins than it would be to complete 30 individual reps with 2-3 mins rest between reps. You are getting the same amount of work done in a fraction of the time. CrossFit can be high intensity in many ways, it can give you a set amount of work to complete as fast as possible, it can give you a set amount of time to complete as much work as possible or it can ask you to lift the heaviest weight possible for that day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSwnt9NWSxc So now you know a bit more about CrossFit, the workouts and how they are developed. Whatever your views on ‘The Sport of Fitness’, please don’t fall into the common misconception that they are random exercises thrown together ‘circuit style’ to make you sweat and vomit. It is much more than that, and there is reasoning behind the coupling of exercises to achieve a result. I for one love CrossFit, I believe it gives the general masses a direction and a programme to follow in the absence of an attainable alternative. I can see why some people disagree with it as a strength and conditioning programme for specific goals, but CrossFit has never claimed to be that. It prides itself in ‘specialising in not specialising’ and is designed to make the general public fitter and healthier, and I am all for it. If it is done in a safe environment, with quality coaches and a good support system in place, I believe that CrossFit could change the way the general masses train in the future. Check out our CrossFit Supplement Section. Written by Mike Catris of Kratos RX'D