What Exactly is CrossFit? 5 Things You Should Know Before Starting

Have you been struggling to lose weight? Are you interested in strength training but not sure how to get started—or worried about a hitting a plateau? If so, CrossFit could be for you.

What is CrossFit? Oh you know—just that fitness craze people can’t seem to stop talking about. Understanding the CrossFit definition should help you figure out if it’s right for you before you give it a go.

After all, no matter how much your friend/co-worker/family member/milkman gushes about their new routine, there’s nothing like first-hand experience.
What Is CrossFit Training? 5 Things You Should Know Before Starting
CrossFit was founded in 2000 by personal trainer Greg Glassman. By 2014, there were over 10,000 official CrossFit gyms (or “boxes” to use industry parlance) worldwide. Since then, the movement has transformed into a multimillion dollar organization featuring local, national, and multinational competitions.

The classic CrossFit definition is: “Constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity.” What is CrossFit training in this sense? Essentially, it relies on fundamental principles of strength training and conditioning…

…but it’s not your standard routine. Instead, consider it a bare-bones, no-nonsense, and gritty environment complete with barbells, body weight movements, tons of hard-working people, music to amp you up, and more.

Check out the following FAQs to help you understand more about what is CrossFit:

1. What Is CrossFit Training?

What is CrossFit training generally like? Functional and intense.

True to the CrossFit definition, the exercises used in a typical class mirror daily function. This means you’ll do a lot of lifting, pulling, pushing, running, jumping, and the like—all while using multiple muscle groups for maximum physical benefit. While some workouts focus on aerobic conditioning and others focus on strength training, there’s usually a combination of the two. Classic strength training moves include deadlift, clean, squat, press, and snatch. Classic conditioning moves include cycling, rowing, and burpees.

Tired of the step mill and treadmill? CrossFit could be a well-appreciated change in your cardio and strength training routine.

2. What Is CrossFit Training Like From Gym to Gym?

CrossFit boxes are independently owned, so they vary in size, appearance, and management style. That said, most boxes tends to share a few things in common.

For instance, most don’t have mirrors, televisions, elliptical machines, and other “standard” gym equipment. Instead, you’ll find things like jump boxes, barbells, dumbbells, squat racks, pull up bars, medicine balls, kettlebells, and rowing machines. This supports the CrossFit definition as a “functional” cardio and strength training methodology.

Every class is led by at least one CrossFit-certified coach, and a typical class has around 5 to 20+ people. A typical workout (“workout of the day” or WOD) can last anywhere from 10-60 minutes, and every day the workout is different—although there are some named “benchmark” workouts which are repeated periodically.

Most CrossFit classes last an hour, since the coach will take you through a warm-up, skill session, and cool down, too.

3. What is CrossFit Preparation Like?

Do you have to get “in shape” first before trying out a CrossFit class? Not necessarily, although if you’re super-new to exercise, it will be helpful to meet with a certified personal trainer first to determine your current fitness level and to make personalized recommendations prior to starting a CrossFit program.

Fortunately, CrossFit workouts can easily be modified and safely performed by everyone from kids and senior citizens to professional athletes and people with disabilities. Want proof? Go to any CrossFit box around the world—you’ll likely see a huge range of people working out together.

A favorite CrossFit definition is “the needs of your grandmother and an Olympic athlete differ by degree, not kind.” In other words, everyone can benefit from squatting, lifting things up, getting on and off the floor, etc. Not only do these moves help people lose weight, but it helps them stay strong and avoid chronic disease.

4. What is CrossFit Training’s Effectiveness for Weight Loss?

You can definitely lose weight doing CrossFit, especially if you’re going at least 2 to 3 times per week and eating a healthy diet. The intense and challenging workouts of CrossFit allow you build muscle, burn calories, and lose weight in a sustainable way.

Will you “bulk up” if you’re a female? No. This requires hours and hours of strength training per day, plus the vast majority of women are physically unable to build the “bulk” muscle mass. By CrossFit definition, this is not how the typical programming works anyway. If you are still concerned about building muscles where you don’t want them – or just too much of it – then that’s where a certified personal trainer can ensure that the right program is created for just for you and your body.

Will you feel sore after your workouts? Most likely, and especially in the beginning. This is normal, so drink lots of water, work on mobility (a personal trainer can show you how), and take rest days. Your body will get used to the strength training and conditioning over time.

5. Is CrossFit Training Safe?

CrossFit is as notorious as it is popular, with many in the media and fitness industry critical of techniques. The question is: Is CrossFit actually dangerous?

The answer? Yes and no. By CrossFit definition, workouts are performed at high intensity. Because of this, injuries can occur.

Want to avoid injury? Learn the appropriate technique before going hog wild with intensity and load. An NCCA-accredited personal trainer can first assess your current physical state, customize the right plan for you, and coach you to success with proper progression and safety.

Ideally, anyone looking to try CrossFit cardio and strength training for the first time should talk to their physician for an all-clear first.

What Is CrossFit: A Summary

By CrossFit definition, this fitness program is functional, intense, and varied. To understand what is CrossFit training, you’ll likely need to learn some new moves (deadlift, clean, etc.) and some new terminology (box, WOD, AMRAP, etc.). You may also benefit from working with a personal trainer before trying out the program for yourself — helping you to stay safe and get the most out of your workouts.

And while the question “What is CrossFit?” is broad, hopefully the answer seems a bit clearer to you by now. The program can help you lose weight, improve strength, and promote longevity.
And no—nobody can call it a “fad” anymore. CrossFit definitely looks like it’s here to stay.