What Is CrossFit?

Is CrossFit right for you? Everything you need to know and more.

If you haven’t heard by now, CrossFit is a different way of working out.

It’s never easy. You do a different workout every day that’s called a WOD (workout of the day).

There are “benchmark” workouts that are done every few months so you can see how you’ve progressed. And the way to keep track of how you’re doing is writing your score down.

CrossFit started out with one box (gym) and grew to more than 10,000 affiliated gyms by 2014.

And that’s just the number of boxes. Many more individuals not part of a specific box part-take in WODs.

So what’s so special about CrossFit?

What Is The History of CrossFit?

CrossFit was created by Greg Glassman in 1996.

Then it became a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc.(founded by Lauren Glassman and himself) in 2000.

The original box is in Santa Cruz, California and still, has its doors open.

The first box to become affiliated was CrossFit North located in Seattle, Washington.

By 2005 there were 13 affiliated boxes. Today there are CrossFit gyms located in 142 countries across 7 continents.

The first CrossFit WOD was posted February 10, 2001.

It was a timed workout of:

  • Fast & Heavy
  • Dumbell “Thruster” 21 reps
  • Run 1/4 mile (400m)
  • Dumbell “Thruster” 18 reps
  • Run 1/4 mile (400 m)
  • Dumbell “Thruster” 15 reps
  • Run 1/4 mile (400 m)

CrossFit collaborations

Two well-known coaches associated with CrossFit are:

Louie Simmons (an American powerlifter and strength coach) – Conjugate Methods. Founder of Westside Barbell, Louie has published three books and invented a few exercise machines.

Mike Burgener – Olympic Weightlifting (Level 5 Senior International Weightlifting coach). Mike owns Mike’s Gym which is a Regional Training Center for USA Weightlifting.

CrossFit has two specialty courses that follow Simmons’ and Burgener’s systems in weightlifting and powerlifting.

Looks like CrossFit is here to stay.


CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that involves high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman, Girevoy sport (Russian Kettlebells), gymnastics, plyometrics, calisthenics and other forms of exercises.

According to the CrossFit Journal, published in April 2007, “the CrossFit prescription is “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement.” And the goal is “to forge a broad, general, and inclusive fitness”.

The goal of CrossFit is to gain competence in the 10 fitness domains. They are:

CrossFit Courses And Certifications

CrossFit has many courses to help their coaches grow. The list includes:

CrossFit Level 1 and Level 2

Online: Lesson Planning, Running, Spot the Flaw, Anatomy Course, Judges Course, Scaling course.

Specialty: Adaptive Training, Aerobic Capacity, Competitor’s, Conjugate Methods, Gymnastics, Advanced Gymnastics, Kettlebell, Kids, Law Enforcement Application, Masters, Rowing (Erg), Rowing (Water and Erg), Strongman, Weightlifting, and Weightlifting Level 2

Workshops: Be Your Own Bodyguard, Culinary Ninja, Dumbbell, Flexibility, Running, Striking.

And they also have a CrossFit Coaches Development Program

If a CrossFit coach is not continuing his/her education, it’s time to move on to another box.

How Are The CrossFit Workouts Structured?

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Each class has 3-4 elements. They are:

  1. warm-up where you get your blood flowing and muscles warmed up for the work it’s about to do. This usually consists of dynamic stretching.
  2. Skill development where you work on improving an exercise. Examples are the back squat, handstand walk, or strict pullups. This could also be the time where you work up to your 1 rep max.
  3. The WOD which is the actual workout. This could be a long workout in either time or amount of exercises. Or it could be a short workout.

The WOD is also where you log your results somewhere (electronically or pen and paper) so that you can see the improvements in your fitness.

  1. Stretching. Some boxes allow time for this but depending on how long the WOD is you may be on your own.

Some affiliates also offer “clinics” or seminars where they focus on one exercise or mobility modal such as foam rolling.

What Kind Of Equipment Is Used?

Depending on the WOD, a CrossFit workout will have you using equipment such barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, jump ropes, rowing machinesAir Bikes, climbing ropes, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, slam balls, plyo boxes, and your own body weight.

Not all at the same time, of course.

A WOD can include from one to many pieces of equipment. That’s where the “varied” comes into play.

CrossFit holds annual competitions where individuals and teams compete for the title “Fittest on Earth”.

They’re called Reebok CrossFit Games. Athletes sign up for the event on CrossFit’s website.

The workouts can be done at an affiliate CrossFit gym where a certified judge keeps your score. Or you can make a video yourself doing the workout anywhere.

The Games start with the Open, this lasts five weeks.

The workouts are announced live every Thursday night at 5pm PT.

You have until the following Monday night (5pm PT) to complete the workout and log your score.

CrossFit’s site has a leaderboard where you can see where you place compared to thousands of other athletes.

Then there’s about a month and a half break before moving on to the Regionals.

The athletes with the highest scores move on to the Regionals.

There are six events (or workouts) that need to be completed by athletes in the span of three weeks.

That’s two competitive workouts a week instead of one.

Then there’s another month break before the CrossFit Games. The stakes at this point are much higher. In 2017, the Games lasted four days.

There were thirteen events that athletes had to complete. For each event, the athletes earned up to 100 points.

The CrossFit Regionals and Games are covered live on CBS Sports like any other sport.

Is CrossFit For Everyone?

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CrossFit is not for everyone but is for anyone.
That may not make sense when you first read it so here’s what it means.
Anyone can try CrossFit.
The only people CrossFit is NOT for are those that do not want to challenge themselves with weightlifting.
WODs can be and are scaled for anyone who may not be able to do a certain exercise. The person may be a beginner or of an older generation.
It doesn’t matter because it’s a given that not everyone is at the same fitness level.
In the CrossFit Journal, Greg Glassman states that “The needs of an Olympic athlete and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind.”
He also says “We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.”
So if you wanted to try out CrossFit, give it a whirl. It doesn’t hurt to try.

Is CrossFit Dangerous?

Like any other fitness program out there, CrossFit is as safe or dangerous as you make it. If you listen to the coaches by leaving your ego at the door, you’re safe. 

If you are unconditioned and go all out because you’re trying to prove something, you may not be as safe. There is a medical condition that has been associated with CrossFit called rhabdomyolysis.

PubMed Health defines rhabdomyolysis as “a condition in which damaged skeletal muscle tissue breaks down rapidly. Breakdown products of damaged muscle cells are released into the bloodstream. Some of these, such as the protein myoglobin, are harmful to the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure.”

Rhabdomyolysis is more likely to happen to the person who pushes himself beyond what his body can handle.

What If I Can’t Do The Exercises?

That’s never a problem. All exercises can be scaled.

The purpose of CrossFit is to create a better athlete and the way to do that is to have you start at the fitness level you’re at.

At a CrossFit box, a coach will go over all the movements/exercises to demonstrate proper form. The coach will also scale any exercise that hasn’t been mastered by someone.

How To Find A CrossFit Gym (aka Affiliate)

If you’ve decided to give CrossFit a chance, you can read about finding the right box for you in our article “6 Tips To Help You Choose A Good CrossFit Box”.

Final Thoughts On CrossFit As A Workout Routine

If you’ve never tried CrossFit because you didn’t know what it was, hopefully, you have some knowledge about it now.

And just to recap – the exercises are scalable so don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for clarity or scaling options.

Don’t forget that CrossFit’s goal is to help you become a better athlete.

Ready to start your CrossFit journey?

Check out our expert gear recommendations, Hero WOD guides, and general CrossFit training guides.