LeFit Fitness Life

Understanding CrossFit

The aims, prescription, methodology, implementation, and adaptations of CrossFit are collectively and individually unique, defining of CrossFit, and instrumental in our program’s successes in diverse applications.


From the beginning, the aim of CrossFit has been to forge a broad, general, and inclusive fitness. We sought to build a program that would best prepare trainees for any physical contingency—prepare them not only for the unknown but for the unknowable. Looking at all sport and physical tasks
collectively, we asked what physical skills and adaptations would most universally lend themselves to performance advantage. Capacity culled from the intersection of all sports demands would quite logically lend itself well to all sport. In sum, our specialty is not specializing. The second issue (“What is Fitness?”) of the CrossFit Journal details this perspective.


The CrossFit prescription is “constantly varied, high-intensity, functionalmovement.” Functional movements are universal motor recruitmentpatterns; they are performed in a wave of contraction from core to extremity; and they are compound movements—i.e., they are multi-joint. They are natural, effective, and efficient locomotors of body and external objects. But
no aspect of functional movements is more important than their capacity to move large loads over long distances, and to do so quickly. Collectively, these three attributes (load, distance, and speed) uniquely qualify functional movements for the production of high power. Intensity is defined exactly as
power, and intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing favorable adaptation to exercise. Recognizing that the breadth and depth of a program’s stimulus will determine the breadth and depth of the adaptation it elicits, our prescription of functionality and intensity is constantly varied. We believe that preparation for random
physical challenges—i.e., unknown and unknowable events—is at odds with fixed, predictable, and routine regimens.


The methodology that drives CrossFit is entirely
empirical. We believe that meaningful statements about
safety, efficacy, and efficiency, the three most important
and interdependent facets of any fitness program, can be
supported only by measurable, observable, repeatable
facts, i.e., data. We call this approach “evidence-based
fitness”. The CrossFit methodology depends on full
disclosure of methods, results, and criticisms, and we’ve
employed the Internet (and various intranets) to support
these values. Our charter is open source, making
co-developers out of participating coaches, athletes, and
trainers through a spontaneous and collaborative online
community. CrossFit is empirically driven, clinically
tested, and community developed.


In implementation, CrossFit is, quite simply, a sport—
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. The late Col. Jeff Cooper observed that
“the fear of sporting failure is worse than the fear of
death.” It is our observation that men will die for points.
Using whiteboards as scoreboards, keeping accurate
scores and records, running a clock, and precisely
defining the rules and standards for performance, we
not only motivate unprecedented output but derive both
relative and absolute metrics at every workout; this data
has important value well beyond motivation.


Our commitment to evidence-based fitness, publicly
posting performance data, co-developing our program in
collaboration with other coaches, and our open-source
charter in general has well positioned us to garner
important lessons from our program—to learn precisely
and accurately, that is, about the adaptations elicited by
CrossFit programming. What we’ve discovered is that
CrossFit increases work capacity across broad time and
modal domains. This is a discovery of great import and
has come to motivate our programming and refocus
our efforts. This far-reaching increase in work capacity
supports our initially stated aims of building a broad,
general, and inclusive fitness program. It also explains
the wide variety of sport demands met by CrossFit as
evidenced by our deep penetration among diverse sports
and endeavors. We’ve come to see increased work
capacity as the holy grail of performance improvement
and all other common metrics like VOmax, lactate threshold,

body composition, and even strength and
flexibility as being correlates—derivatives, even. We’d
not trade improvements in any other fitness metric for a
decrease in work capacity.


The modest start of publicly posting our daily workouts
on the Internet beginning six years ago has evolved into
a community where human performance is measured
and publicly recorded against multiple, diverse, and
fixed workloads. CrossFit is an open-source engine
where inputs from any quarter can be publicly given to
demonstrate fitness and fitness programming, and where
coaches, trainers, and athletes can collectively advance
the art and science of optimizing human performance


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