Home » Fitness For Beginners » What is CrossFit?

What is CrossFit?


A Brief History Lesson

Before I talk about “what is CrossFit”, let’s jump in a time machine and roll the clocks back all the way to the year 2000 (feels like forever ago doesn’t it?). It was during this year, after all of us survived the over-rated Y2K bug, that Greg Glassman along with Laura Glassman founded an unknown fitness company called CrossFit, Inc.

Glassman focused his exercise programming on constantly varied, high intensity functional movements (more on that in a minute) and allowed other folks to be trained in his “method” and affiliate with him which allowed them to then be paid (by folks like you and I) to teach that method. The first affiliated gym was in Seattle, Washington named CrossFit North.

By 2005, there were 13 gyms affiliated and teaching the CrossFit method. By 2013, that number has exploded to more than 6,500 affiliated gyms (worldwide).

So What is CrossFit?

I mentioned “constantly varied, high intensity functional movements” earlier as one of the pillar principles of CrossFit. Let’s take a moment and break that down, backwards.

functional movements- Think of the movements you do everyday. You sit in a chair or on your toilet: that’s a squat. You bend down to pick something up off the ground: that’s a deadlift. You need to put a heavy box on a shelf above your head: That’s an overhead press. Get the idea? Functional movements are just that: Movements that we perform everyday (sometimes without even realizing it).

high intensity- In a CrossFit workout you will perform functional movements at an intensity that raises your heart rate and gets you out of your comfort zone. Each workout will have a different focus metabolic area that it will be targeting, meaning that the intensity will either be long and sustained: Think of running a 5k or short and intense: think of a 20 yard all out sprint. For more information on how CrossFit targets metabolic areas check out my article on CrossFit and Cardio

constantly varied- Take this just as it’s written. We won’t do the same workout two days in a row. One of the pillars of the CrossFit methodology is the “be prepared for anything” mindset. Meaning a CrossFit athelete shouldn’t be specialized in their fitness. You’re goal is not necessarily to become an expert in one fitness area, but very competent in multiple fitness areas. Working out in this way also discourages your body from adapting to your workout style.

About Adaptation

Imagine you go to the gym 3 days a week. On Monday you do bicep curls and tricep dips. Wednesday you do squats and leg curls and Friday you bench press. Overtime your body will adapt to this training regiment and your gains will actually decrease as your body becomes accustomed to that range of motion and movement. CrossFit workouts maintain a constant variance in such a way that you may end up working the same muscles week to week, but you’ll be working them in different ways. This combats adaptation and helps increase your strength gains.

That’s it. That’s the basis of CrossFit. It’s not some magical cult, although Crossfitters act like it is. It’s just a simple method that will simply change the way that you currently workout. If you’ve never worked out this way before, it can be a shock to the system, so you’ll want to ease in to it.

How You can Get Started with CrossFit

So are you excited yet? Ready to get started with a new level of fitness? Good deal. I can help with that. Here are the 5 steps you need to get started with CrossFit.

  1. Decide Where You Will Workout
    Will you be working out at home? in your garage? at your current gym (think YMCA, Gold’s Gym, etc…) or in a CrossFit affiliate (Sometimes called a “CrossFit box”). There are pros and cons to each of these and you’ll need to choose the one that works best for your current life status. If you’re thinking of joining a CrossFit gym, be sure you read our article on how to choose a CrossFit Trainer and Gym. If, on the other hand, you are thinking about doing CrossFit at home or at your current gym, check out our article about 10 CrossFit Workouts you can do in your Big Box Gym
  2. Find a Workout
    If you’re joining a CrossFit gym, great, they will provide the programming (aka the workouts) for you. If you’re at home then it can be hard to know where to start. Our 10 CrossFit Workouts for your Big Box Gym article can be a good jumping off point but you may also want to consider checking out the main CrossFit HQ website which publishes a workout of the day (also called a WoD). Also look for local CrossFit gyms in your area and check their websites. Most gyms will post their workout online.
  3. Do the Workout (Scaled as necessary)
    The next step is easy. Do the workout. Now if this is your first time, you’ll want to scale as necessary. “Scaling” a workout is simply adjusting the workout to your fitness level. For example: The workout calls for a 95 pound overhead press. If you can’t press 95 pounds overhead consistently for the duration of a workout, drop the weight to a manageable level, that allows you to perform the reps, but it’s not so easy that you aren’t getting fatigued. (In this example, a good scaled weight would be 75 pounds). If you can do the workout as prescribed, then congrats you’ve just gone Rx’ed (or as prescribed).

Having fun yet? Don’t worry, I’m going to expand on this CrossFit for Beginners series and hopefully I’ll give you all the information you need to know to take you from Couch Potato to CrossFit Games competitor (well, maybe not THAT far).