Cross-Training For Dummies
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CrossFit, in its simplest definition, is a fitness routine that personal trainer Greg Glassman developed over several years in the mid- to late-1990s. CrossFit is designed to improve your overall physical abilities, including your endurance, strength, flexibility, speed, coordination, balance, and more.

But CrossFit is also a few more things — it's an exercise philosophy, a competitive sport, a corporation, and a community. You can't find a CrossFit class in just any gym you step into, CrossFit is offered only by gyms that undergo special certification by CrossFit, Inc. to become CrossFit-affiliated.

CrossFit workouts typically include a combination of elements from other exercise styles, including high-intensity interval training, gymnastics, weightlifting, calisthenics, powerlifting, and strongman competitions. The "CrossFit community" is a key part of the overall philosophy of CrossFit — members of the same class typically become close by sharing fitness goals with one another, pushing each other to break personal records and overcome fitness plateaus, and praising each other for reaching milestones.

CrossFit is a scalable workout that's accessible to everyone. The stereotype about a CrossFit class is that it's full of the kind of chest-pounding, lifelong athletes who scale mountains or jog from St. Louis to Albuquerque just for fun. In reality, that same class may have a 60-year-old grandmother who's just completed the first pull up of her life. The intensity of each exercise can be customized to suit the lifestyle and fitness level of every class member.

Many CrossFit trainers (often called coaches) see themselves as part of a new movement in fitness that rejects some longstanding and conventional fitness wisdom. For example, a regular personal trainer may have you repeat a movement with a dumbbell 10 or 15 times, but a CrossFit Coach could ask you to keep going to exhaustion — until you simply can't perform the movement again. Most CrossFit coaches also encourage their students to follow CrossFit, Inc.'s nutrition recommendations, including a Paleo diet.

The structure of CrossFit

To become a CrossFit affiliate, a gym's personal trainers must complete a standard two-day course and a variety of additional seminars on topics like gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, endurance training, kettlebells, self-defense, rowing, and more. Once this training is complete, CrossFit, Inc. licenses the CrossFit name to the gym for an annual fee and certifies the trainers. Each CrossFit gym is then free to develop its own exercise classes and pricing.

What a CrossFit workout looks like

A typical CrossFit workout will involve various equipment from other workouts, including
  • Barbells

  • Dumbbells

  • Kettlebells

  • Gymnastic rings

  • Jump ropes

  • Medicine balls

  • Resistance bands

  • Rowing machines

  • Squat machines

  • Abdominal mats

  • Pull up bars

Additionally, a CrossFit class may incorporate some less conventional fitness equipment, including
  • Ropes, for climbing

  • Boxes, for performing jumps

  • Tractor tires, for flipping

Each class is led by a certified CrossFit instructor, called a coach, and the gym is called a Box (CrossFit has its own language). CrossFit classes usually last one hour and include a warm up, a skill session, an explanation and example of the Workout of the Day (WOD, in CrossFit lingo), and the actual workout.

Some of the exercises you can expect to do in a CrossFit class include

  • Push ups

  • Pull ups

  • Squats, with and without a barbell

  • Bench press

  • Deadlifts

  • Farmer's carry, where you pick up some heavy object and walk with it as far as you can

  • Box jumps, where stand in front of a secured box or platform, jump onto the box, and immediately back down to the floor

  • Back extension

  • Toes-to-bar, where you hang from an overhead bar (or pull up bar) and bring your toes up to touch the bar

  • Kettlebell swing

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