“Real” CrossFit vs “Its like CrossFit”
“Real” CrossFit vs “Its Kinda Like CrossFit”
The first CrossFit gym (CrossFit Santa Cruz) opened in the year 2000, the first CrossFit affiliate gym opened in 2002 and in the 20 years that have followed there has been over 15000 CrossFit gyms open worldwide – in that same time there has also been an increasingly large number of “functional fitness” gyms – some franchises, some independent that offer (and often promote it to be) – something that looks a lot like CrossFit, but it isn’t quite CrossFit
So what makes CrossFit “CrossFit”, what defines it and makes it different from other “functional fitness” gyms and programs? Why should you go to an affiliated CrossFit gym and not just your local functional fitness place that has a pullup bar and some kettlebells? How do you know you are going to a quality CrossFit gym? We’ll try and answer all those questions and more below
The best place to start would be with the CrossFit definition of world class fitness in under 100 words –
Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.
Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, clean and jerk, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row etc, hard and fast.
Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense.
Regularly learn and play new sports
Its a definition that has stood the test of time and is just as complete today as when it was written many years ago, for the sake of this article we wont be touching on the diet aspect but just the fitness and training side of things. (Note if you would like to read more about CrossFit’s definition of fitness a more detailed article can be found here – https://journal.crossfit.com/article/what-is-fitness )
We are going to break those 100 words down a little bit more through answering a series of questions to hopefully help you better understand what the CrossFit difference is and if you are already doing “CrossFit” whether it’s the real deal or maybe just kinda a similar thing.
Question 1 – Are you lifting heavy on a regular to somewhat regular basis?
Heavy is a relative term, it doesn’t mean trying to lift weights that are too heavy for you – it means having access to appropriate coaching so you can perform the big compound lifts (Squat, Deadlift, Clean etc) safely and technically correct and being given the regular opportunity to challenge yourself appropriately with the weights you are lifting. If you aren’t getting regular exposure to the big lifts and being coached on how to constantly improve on them – you are not doing CrossFit
Question 2 – Are you learning new skills and treating them as skills?
Skills like a handstand or a strict muscle up shouldn’t be learned as part of a “WOD” with the clock running or combined with 24 different movements. High skill movements should be taught in a manner that allows you to practise, play and develop the skill while focusing on it purely as a skill without the pressure of a running clock There is also an intrinsic value to learning, you can get good at learning through constant exposure to new skills you will pick up other new skills quicker. If your gym doesn’t regularly expose you to skill based movements (particularly gymnastics) and doesn’t encourage you to constantly develop your proficiency with them – you are not doing CrossFit.
A little note with Question 1 + 2 – these are probably the biggest areas that a proper Crossfit gym will differ from a “Its Kinda Like CrossFit” gym – high skill movements like weightlifting and gymnastics require experienced coaches to be able to coach people through them safely and effectively – franchised gyms generally speaking are not able to source coaches / trainers with this sort of specialised experience to utilise these movements properly in their programming
Question 3 – Do the sessions at your gym follow an identical format every day?
This is an interesting one and some people that already train at a CrossFit gym might find themselves answering yes to this question. You wander into the gym on a Monday and you know there is going to be a strength component (say Back Squat 5 x 5) and after that there will be a “metcon” or a conditioning component (say 15min AMRAP 500m Row + 10 burpees + 10 pullups), then on Tuesday there will be a strength component followed by a conditioning component and then Wednesday the same and so on for the week possibly with Saturday getting a bit crazy and being just a longer conditioning piece – this is not variance. If the session structure is essentially the same every day – you are not doing CrossFit, it might be a really good (or bad) strength and conditioning program but it is not CrossFit. CrossFit programming should have a large amount of variance, part of the magic lies in that variance – structure should form the basis of an effective CrossFit program but it is also the element of unexpected variance that helps develop adaptability and overall fitness.
Question 4 – Do you regularly do workouts in varying time domains?
This questions ties back to question 3 in terms of variance but specifically refers to are all the workout at your gym of a similar length, format and utilising similar movement patterns – (10-20min long, AMRAP / Rounds for Time) – if so you are not doing CrossFit, you are doing conditioning workouts but CrossFit involves working not only in those time domains but also going shorter (example 30sec row sprint – rest 3min between) and going longer 40+ min (example 10km run) on a regular basis to expose you to different energy systems,
Question 5 – Does your gym have a head coach that controls the programming that is delivered?
This one could be open to some debate but essentially the programming that makes up the bulk of the sessions should be developed for individuals that are actually training in the facility by someone at the facility.
Having programming that is specific to that facility means more than “scaling” the workouts appropriately, making sure that every workout is altered to meet the specific level of the individual is certainly important but if there are frequently sessions that literally everyone at the gym is scaling from what is written – it shows that those workouts haven’t been written with that specific gym in mind.
The premise of CrossFit is that is it a GPP program (General Physical Preparedness) and that means delivering overall general fitness but that doesn’t excuse not taking into consideration the needs of the specific population that attends that particular gym.
A CrossFit gym is definitely not preordained routines on a tv delivered by cheerleaders telling you when to change exercises. If there isn’t someone at the gym that can clearly explain the intent of each session and what the next few weeks of programming includes (and why) – then this is not a CrossFit gym (or not a very good one)
The last difference between a real CrossFit gym and one that is kinda sorta like a CrossFit gym is community – it should have a genuine local community of people that train there day in and day out, but it is also part of a larger global community of fitness & health that welcomes anyone that wants to be the best version of themselves.
If you or someone you know are interested in starting CrossFit – check out our Intro Offer which is perfect for people that want to get started with CrossFit the right way, otherwise feel free to get in touch to find out more