CrossFit: Everything You Need to Know About One of Our Current Fastest Growing Sports

 Francesca Cavallo


Starting any new exercise practice can be discouraging, and it’s no different when entering into a CrossFit gym, which can be a nerve-wrecking experience. Although in the current sports environment everybody is talking about CrossFit, there are those who don’t even know what kind of sport it is. CrossFit is a complete and efficient training package. Created by Greg Glassman in the USA in the seventies, CrossFit started gaining popularity when the first CrossFit gym (called Box) opened in 1995 in Santa Cruz (California), before reaching its height in popularity after 2008.Today, there are more than 8,000 gyms and fitness centers spread around the world where CrossFit is performed.

CrossFit is commonly advertised in four words as “the sport of fitness” with a combination of constantly varied, high-intensity functional movements. It can be thought of as a training philosophy that coaches people of all shapes and sizes to improve their lifestyle and cardiovascular fitness within an encouraging environment. A CrossFit gym is unlike a normal gym. There is only one work out, called “WOD” (described below), performed each day that is completely scalable based on your skill levels.

How is a CrossFit class organized?

  1. Warm up/ Mobility

Usually it starts with a warm up and mobility phase, which is conducted as floor exercises to activate different muscular groups in preparation for the workout. It’s important that this phase includes the use of small tools like foamrollers, elastic bands, and backballs for muscular massage. This phase is essential because it prevents injuries and makes the subsequent movements more fluid.

  1. Skill/Strength

Within this phase different exercises that will be in the workout are explained then performed (see Table below), including instructions on the techniques underlying specific movements.

  1. WOD

This phase represents the real workout. In this phase there is no time to sharpen your technique or to rest. Following the CrossFit principle of high intensity, athletes have to exert maximum effort in the given timeframe. Typically, this phase has different time periods of activity from five minutes up to 30 minutes. It’s considered the metabolic part of the workout, often called Metcon.

  1. Recovery/Flexibility

This phase is dedicated to exercise recovery, muscular lengthening and cool down. Under coach guidance stretching exercises are conducted, with a general duration of about ten minutes.

What are the CrossFit exercises?

A fixed list of exercises does not exist, instead during the training sessions different disciplines are interchanged with different functions and characteristics (see below).

Gymnastic Cardio Weightlifting
Squat Run Deadlift
Pull-up bike Clean
Push-up rowing Press
Dip Jump rope Snatch
Rope climb Clean and jerk
Muscle-up Kettlebell swing


In particular, CrossFit combines different sports and movements. You can move from weightlifting to gymnastic routines, or from cardio to running and climbing, amongst others. A variety of tools are used including barbells, medicine balls, rings, kettlebells, box jumps etc.

It’s important to remember that CrossFit’s goal is not aesthetic, like bodybuilding, but rather aims to achieve a good health performance base. The improvement seen in the body is a pleasant consequence of CrossFit and not the sole purpose.