The CrossFit program is unique in its aims, prescriptions, methodologies, and implementation, writes Coach Greg Glassman in “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.
Prescription & Methodology
The CrossFit prescription is “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement.” Functional movements = universal motor recruitment patterns; performed in a wave of contraction from core to extremity; and are compound movements. They are natural, effective, and efficient locomotions of body and external objects. No aspect of functional movements is more important than their capacity to move large loads over long distances, quickly. 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. This approach is “evidence-based fitness.” The CrossFit methodology depends on full disclosure of methods, results, and criticism, and we’ve employed the Internet 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 can not be matched by other means. The late Col. Jeff Cooper observed that “the fear of sporting failure is worse then the fear of death.” It is our observation that men WILL die for points. Using whiteboards and Wodify as scoreboards, keeping accurate scores and records, running a clock, and precisely defining the rules and standards for performance, we will 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 programing. What we have discovered is that CrossFit increases work capacity across broad time and model 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. We have come to see increase work capacity as the holy grail of performance improvement and all other common metrics like VO2 max, 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. . . . Read More from the CrossFit Journal.