"CrossFit." Almost everyone has heard of it, though many don’t quite know what it’s all about. CrossFit gyms – or “boxes,” as they’ve been dubbed by enthusiasts – are usually innocuous on the outside. Inside, though, you'll find a lifters’ heaven: lines of power racks, barbells and pull-up bars. Tires and conditioning sleds often litter parking lots or similar areas behind the buildings. It almost looks too good to be true. Is it?
Let’s start with a brief history of CrossFit, a type of programming created by Greg Glassman.
Glassman was a gymnast at the time he crafted this regimen designed to achieve an overall fitness level that most programs did not. Part sprinting, part strength and a hefty chunk of endurance were the cornerstones. CrossFit as a corporate entity and company followed in 2000, with the end goal of spreading the ideology around the entire fitness community. Since then, the CrossFit community has exploded, as evidenced by the nationally televised CrossFit Games, a competition of timed WODs or “workout of the day."
It's arguably the first fitness corporation to use its particular business model of decentralized online participation as a means of growing so quickly. On the surface, this innovative approach has allowed CrossFit to explode. But therein lies the problem. The rapid expansion has strained quality control, with many trainers new to the game.
For example, the Level 1 Certificate designed to allow trainers to start guiding others takes only two days to earn. Once trainers complete their certification program, they are free to begin working in a CrossFit Box, or open one of their own. The CrossFit company receives a licensing fee for the name, as well as annual fees. This isn’t necessarily bad, as many certification courses do not require much training.
CrossFit is not, however, the same as most physical-training programs. Some of the most complex movements in weightlifting – the power clean, snatch and overhead squat – are staples of the CrossFit regimen, and they are done to complete exhaustion. Doing such movements to absolute failure is extremely dangerous for lifters, especially those untrained.
Some of the leading CrossFit boosters from its early days are beginning to distance themselves from the programs as a result. Mark Rippetoe, author of Starting Strength and well-known power lifter, posted online, “I tried CrossFit for 2 years. It exacerbated my injuries and produced some significant health problems.” Once a certified instructor of CrossFit trainers, he has since separated himself from the company.
But there are two sides to every coin. CrossFit has nevertheless managed to accomplish something the entire fitness industry has been attempting to do since its inception: It has made fitness a community.
There has always been an air of superiority around gyms, something that scares away newcomers. CrossFit has eliminated that. Instead, the program welcomes all. Classes scale easily to allow anyone to compete – not against each other, but themselves – to constantly show improvement. It’s a nationwide program where everyone is always on the same page, doing the same things. It fosters an unprecedented sense of fitness community. Additionally, the CrossFit Games provide an empowering opportunity for anyone – from novice to professional – to compete.
With a little research, it's certainly possible to find a coach with several years of experience who can properly train even newbies to excel in the complex lifts. If you find a coach with a pedigree, CrossFit can be for you exactly what Greg Glassman wanted when he created it: the perfect way to achieve all-around fitness.