All the Basics:
CrossFit is a brand, physical exercise philosophy and a competitive fitness sport. CrossFit's workouts combine high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, girevoy sport, calisthenics, strongman and other exercises.
It is practiced by members of over 10,000 affiliated gyms, half of which are in the United States.
The exercises are usually combined to “Workouts of the Day,” or “WODs," which are often short (about 30 minutes) and demanding. Performance is tracked and ranked to encourage competition and measure progress (Muscle for Life).
According to CrossFit's website:
"We offer the world's most useful definition of fitness: increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Capacity is the ability to do real work, which is measurable using the basic terms of physics (force, distance and time). Life is unpredictable (much more so than sport) so real world fitness must be broad and not specialized, both in terms of duration and type of effort (time and modal domains).
The magic is in the movements. All of CrossFit’s workouts are based on functional movements. These are the core movements of life, found everywhere, and built naturally into our DNA. They move the largest loads the longest distances so they are ideal for maximizing the amount of work done in the shortest time (intensity).
By employing a constantly-varied approach to training, these functional movements at maximum intensity (relative to the physical and psychological tolerances of the participant), lead to dramatic gains in fitness. Intensity is essential for results and is measurable as work/time. The more work you do in less time, the more intense the effort.
In implementation, CrossFit is, quite simply, the “sport of fitness.” We’ve learned that harnessing the natural camaraderie, competition and fun of sport or game yields an intensity that cannot be matched by other means.
Muscle Groups Worked:
CrossFit works a variety of different muscle groups, giving both aerobic and strength-building workouts, depending on the daily workout.
CrossFit uses muscle groups from calisthenics, Olympic-style weightlifting, powerlifting, Strongman-type events, plyometrics, body weight exercises, indoor rowing, aerobic exercise, running, and swimming.
Origin + History:
CrossFit was founded by Greg Glassman in 2000 and the original gym is in Santa Cruz, Calif., with the first affiliate gym being in Seattle, Wash. There were 13 by 2005 and today there are more than 10,000.
The "CrossFit Games" have been held every summer since 2007, by which athletes compete in workouts they learn about only hours beforehand, sometimes including surprise elements that are not part of the typical CrossFit regimen. Past examples include a rough-water swim and a softball throw. The Games are said to be styled as a venue for determining the "Fittest on Earth," where competitors should be "ready for anything."
How It Can Help Your Yoga Practice:
CrossFit and yoga are virtually opposite in a lot of ways. Yoga works as the yin to the CrossFit yang and vice versa.
For yogis, CrossFit can work as a way to build strength and for CrossFit practitioners, yoga can provide relief from sore muscles and tightness.
Benefits of CrossFit:
In 2010, the U.S. Army study conducted during a six-week period produced an average power output increase of 20 percent among participants, measured by benchmark WODs. The average one repetition maximum deadlift increased by 21.11 percent.
A 2013 study by exercise scientists at Ohio State University revealed that participation in a program significantly improved VO2 max and decreased body fat percentage in both males and females across all levels of fitness.
A 2013 study by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse's exercise physiology program monitored 16 healthy and fit volunteers as they completed two separate CrossFit WODs, finding that men burned nearly 21 calories per minute, and women burned just over 12. This improved cardiovascular endurance for both males and females.
In general, CrossFit blasts calories, increases joint mobility, and improves strength and fitness levels. It also creates a sense of community and team spirit.
According to Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, the risk of injury from some CrossFit exercises outweighs their benefits when they are performed with poor form in timed workouts. He said that there are similar risks in other high-intensity exercise programs but explained that CrossFit's online community enables athletes to follow the program without proper guidance, increasing the risk of improper form or technique.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded that the incidents of injury are consistent with weight lifting, power lifting and gymnastics—sports with many movements and exercises in common with CrossFit.
Where You Can Find It:
CrossFit locations are found throughout the United States and world. Click here to find a location near you.
Photo Cred: Greg Westfall