Crossfit Q&A

An effective approach
In  gyms  and  health  clubs  throughout  the  world  the  typical  workout
consists  of  isolation  movements  and  extended  aerobic  sessions.  The
fi tness  community  from  trainers  to  the  magazines  has  the  exercising
public believing that lateral raises, curls, leg extensions, sit-ups and the
like combined with 20-40 minute stints on the stationary bike or treadmill
are  going  to  lead  to  some  kind  of  great  fi tness.  Well,  at  CrossFit  we
work exclusively with compound movements and shorter high intensity
cardiovascular  sessions.  We’ve  replaced  the  lateral  raise  with  push-
press,  the  curl  with  pull-ups,  and  the  leg  extension  with  squats.  For
every long distance effort our athletes will do fi ve or six at short distance.
Why? Because compound or functional movements and high intensity or
anaerobic cardio is radically more effective at eliciting nearly any desired
fi tness result. Startlingly, this is not a matter of opinion but solid irrefutable
scientifi c fact and yet the marginally effective old ways persist and are
nearly universal. Our approach is consistent with what is practiced in elite
training  programs  associated  with  major  university  athletic  teams  and
professional sports. CrossFit endeavors to bring state-of-the-art coaching
techniques to the general public and athlete who haven’t access to current
technologies, research, and coaching methods
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Is this for me?
Absolutely! Your needs and the Olympic athlete’s differ by degree not kind. Increased power, strength, cardiovascular
and respiratory endurance, flexibility, stamina, coordination, agility, balance, and coordination are each important to
the world’s best athletes and to our grandparents. The amazing truth is that the very same methods that elicit optimal
response in the Olympic or professional athlete will optimize the same response in the elderly. Of course, we can’t
load your grandmother with the same squatting weight that we’d assign an Olympic skier, but they both need to
squat. In fact, squatting is essential to maintaining functional independence and improving fitness. Squatting is just
one example of a movement that is universally valuable and essential yet rarely taught to any but the most advanced
of athletes. This is a tragedy. Through painstakingly thorough coaching and incremental load assignment CrossFit
has been able to teach anyone who can care for themselves to perform safely and with maximum efficacy the same
movements typically utilized by professional coaches in elite and certainly exclusive environments.
Who has benefited from CrossFit?
Many  professional  and  elite  athletes  are
participating  in  the  CrossFit  Program.  Prize-
fighters, cyclists, surfers, skiers, tennis players,
triathletes and others competing at the highest
levels  are  using  the  CrossFit  approach  to
advance their core strength and conditioning,
but that’s not all. CrossFit has tested its methods
on the sedentary, overweight, pathological, and
elderly and found that these special populations
met the same success as our stable of athletes.
We call this “bracketing”. If our program works
for Olympic Skiers and overweight, sedentary
homemakers then it will work for you.
Your current regimen
If your current routine looks somewhat like what we’ve described as typical of the fitness magazines and gyms don’t
despair. Any exercise is better than none, and you’ve not wasted your time. In fact, the aerobic exercise that you’ve
been doing is an essential foundation to fitness and the isolation movements have given you some degree of strength.
You are in good company; we have found that some of the world’s best athletes were sorely lacking in their core
strength and conditioning. It’s hard to believe but many elite athletes have achieved international success and are still
far from their potential because they have not had the benefit of state-of-the-art coaching method
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Just what is a “core strength and conditioning” program?
CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program in two distinct senses. First, we are a core strength and
conditioning program in the sense that the fitness we develop is foundational to all other athletic needs. This is the
same sense in which the university courses required of a particular major are called the “core curriculum”. This is the
stuff that everyone needs. Second, we are a “core” strength and conditioning program in the literal sense meaning
the center of something. Much of our work focuses on the major functional axis of the human body, the extension
and flexion, of the hips and extension, flexion, and rotation of the torso or trunk. The primacy of core strength and
conditioning in this sense is supported by the simple observation that powerful hip extension alone is necessary and
nearly sufficient for elite athletic performance. That is, our experience has been that no one without the capacity for
powerful hip extension enjoys great athletic prowess and nearly everyone we’ve met with that capacity was a great
athlete. Running, jumping, punching and throwing all originate at the core. At CrossFit we endeavor to develop our
athletes from the inside out, from core to extremity, which is by the way how good functional movements recruit
muscle, from the core to the extremities.
Can I enjoy optimal health without being an athlete?
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No! Athletes  experience  a  protection  from  the  ravages  of  aging  and  disease  that  non-athletes  never  find.  For
instance, 80-year-old athletes are stronger than non-athletes in their prime at 25 years old. If you think that strength
isn’t important consider that strength loss is what puts people in nursing homes. Athletes have greater bone density,
stronger immune systems, less coronary heart disease, reduced cancer risk, fewer strokes, and less depression than
non-athletes
What is an athlete?
According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, an athlete is “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises,
sports, or games requiring strength, agility, or stamina”.
The CrossFit definition of an athlete is a bit tighter. The CrossFit definition of an athlete is “a person who is trained or
skilled in strength, power, balance and agility, flexibility, and endurance”. The CrossFit model holds “fitness”, “health”,
and “athleticism” as strongly overlapping constructs. For most purposes they can be seen as equivalents.
What if I don’t want to be an athlete; I just want to be healthy?
You’re in luck. We hear this often, but the truth is that fitness, wellness, and pathology (sickness) are measures of the
same entity, your health. There are a multitude of measurable parameters that can be ordered from sick (pathological)
to well (normal) to fit (better than normal). These include but are not limited to blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate,
body fat, muscle mass, flexibility, and strength. It seems as though all of the body functions that can go awry have
states that are pathological, normal, and exceptional and that elite athletes typically show these parameters in the
exceptional range. The CrossFit view is that fitness and health are the same thing. It is also interesting to notice that
the health professional maintains your health with drugs and surgery each with potentially undesirable side effect
whereas the CrossFit Coach typically achieves a superior result always with “side benefi
t” vs. side effect.
What is the CrossFit method?
The CrossFit method is to establish a hierarchy of effort and concern that builds as follows:
Diet - lays the molecular foundations for fitness and health.
Metabolic Conditioning - builds capacity in each of three metabolic pathways, beginning with aerobic, then lactic acid,
and then phosphocreatine pathways.
Gymnastics - establishes functional capacity for body control and
range of motion.
Weightlifting and throwing - develop ability to control external
objects and produce power.
Sport  -  applies  fitness  in  competitive  atmosphere  with  more
randomized movements and skill mastery.
Examples of CrossFit exercises
Biking,  running,  swimming,  and  rowing  in  an  endless  variety
of  drills.  The  clean&jerk,  snatch,  squat,  deadlift,  push-press,
bench-press, and power-clean. Jumping, medicine ball throws
and catches, pull-ups, dips, push-ups, handstands, presses to
handstand,  pirouettes,  kips,  cartwheels,  muscle-ups,  sit-ups,
scales, and holds. We make regular use of bikes, the track, rowing
shells and ergometers, Olympic weight sets, rings, parallel bars,
free exercise mat, horizontal bar, plyometrics boxes, medicine
balls, and jump rope.
There isn’t a strength and conditioning program anywhere that
works with a greater diversity of tools, modalities, and drills.
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What if I don’t have time for all of this?
It is a common sentiment to feel that because of the obligations of career and family that you don’t have the time to
become as fit as you might like. Here’s the good news: world class, age group strength and conditioning is obtainable
through an hour a day six days per week of training. It turns out that the intensity of training that optimizes physical
conditioning is not sustainable past forty-five minutes to an hour. Athletes that train for hours a day are developing skill
or training for sports that include adaptations inconsistent with elite strength and conditioning. Past one hour, more is
not better!
“Fringe Athletes”
There is a near universal misconception that long distance athletes are fitter that their short distance counterparts. The
triathlete, cyclist, and marathoner are often regarded as among the fittest athletes on earth. Nothing could be farther
from the truth. The endurance athlete has trained long past any cardiovascular health benefit and has lost ground in
strength, speed, and power, typically does nothing for coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy and possesses little
more than average flexibility. This is hardly the stuff of elite athleticism. The CrossFit athlete, remember, has trained
and practiced for optimal physical competence in all ten physical skills (cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina,
flexibility, strength, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy). The excessive aerobic volume of the
endurance athlete’s training has cost him in speed, power, and strength to the point where his athletic competency
has been compromised. No triathlete is in ideal shape to wrestle, box, pole-vault, sprint, play any ball sport, fight fires,
or do police work. Each of these requires a fitness level far beyond the needs of the endurance athlete. None of this
suggests that being a marathoner, triathlete or other endurance athlete is a bad thing; just don’t believe that training
as a long distance athlete gives you the fitness that is prerequisite to many sports. CrossFit considers the Sumo
Wrestler, triathlete, marathoner, and power lifter to be “fringe athletes” in that their fitness demands are so specialized
as to be inconsistent with the adaptations that give maximum competency at all physical challenges. Elite strength
and conditioning is a compromise between each of the ten physical adaptations. Endurance athletes do not balance
that compromise.
Aerobics and Anaerobics
There are three main energy systems that fuel all human activity. Almost all changes that occur in the body due
to exercise are related to the demands placed on these energy systems. Furthermore, the efficacy of any given
fitness regimen may largely be tied to its ability to elicit an adequate stimulus for change within these three energy
systems.
Energy is derived aerobically when oxygen is utilized to metabolize substrates derived from food and liberates energy.
An activity is termed aerobic when the majority of energy needed is derived aerobically. These activities are usually
greater than ninety seconds in duration and involve low to moderate power output or intensity. Examples of aerobic
activity include running on the treadmill for twenty minutes, swimming a mile, and watching
TV.
Energy is derived anaerobically when energy is liberated from substrates in the absence of oxygen. Activities are
considered anaerobic when the majority of the energy needed is derived anaerobically. These activities are of less
than two minutes in duration and involve moderate to high power output or intensity. There are two such anaerobic
systems, the phosphagen system and the lactic acid system. Examples of anaerobic activity include running a 100-
meter sprint, squatting, and doing pull-ups.
Our main purpose here is to discuss how anaerobic and aerobic training support performance variables like strength,
power, speed, and endurance. We also support the contention that total conditioning and optimal health necessitates
training each of the physiological systems in a systematic fashion.
It warrants mention that in any activity all three energy systems are utilized though one may dominate. The interplay
of these systems can be complex, yet a simple examination of the characteristics of aerobic vs. anaerobic training
can prove useful.
Aerobic training benefits cardiovascular function and decreases body fat. This is certainly of significant benefit.
Aerobic conditioning allows us to engage in moderate/low power output for extended period of time. This is valuable
for many sports. Athletes engaging in excessive aerobic training witness decreases in muscle mass, strength, speed,
and power. It is not uncommon to find marathoners with a vertical leap of several inches and a bench press well below
average for most athletes. Aerobic activity has a pronounced tendency to decrease anaerobic capacity. This does not
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bode well for athletes or the individual interested in total conditioning or optimal health.
Anaerobic activity also benefits cardiovascular function and decreases body fat. Anaerobic activity is unique in its
capacity to dramatically improve power, speed, strength, and muscle mass. Anaerobic conditioning allows us to
exert tremendous forces over a very brief time. Perhaps the aspect of anaerobic conditioning that bears greatest
consideration is that anaerobic conditioning will not adversely affect aerobic capacity! In fact, properly structured,
anaerobic activity can be used to develop a very high level of aerobic fitness without the muscle wasting consistent
with high volume aerobic exercise!
Basketball, football, gymnastics, boxing, track and field events under one mile, soccer, swimming events under 400
yards, volleyball, wrestling, and weightlifting are all sports that require the majority of training time spent in anaerobic
activity. Long distance and ultra-endurance running, cross-country skiing, and 1500+ yard swimming are all sports
that require aerobic training at levels that produce results unacceptable to other athletes or individuals concerned with
total conditioning or optimal health.
The CrossFit approach is to judiciously balance anaerobic and aerobic exercise in a manner that is consistent with
the athlete’s goals. Our exercise prescriptions adhere to proper specificity, progression, variation, and recovery to
optimize adaptations.
The Olympic Lifts, a.k.a., Weightlifting
There are two Olympic lifts, the clean and jerk and the snatch. Mastery of these lifts develops the squat, deadlift,
powerclean, and split jerk while integrating them into a single movement of unequaled value in all of strength and
conditioning. The Olympic lifters are without a doubt the world’s strongest athletes.
These lifts train athletes to effectively activate more muscle fibers more rapidly than through any other modality of
training. The explosiveness that results from this training is of vital necessity to every sport.
Practicing the Olympic lifts teaches one to apply force to muscle groups in proper sequence, i.e., from the center of the
body to its extremities (core to extremity). Learning this vital technical lesson benefits all athletes who need to impart
force to another person or object as is commonly required in nearly all sports.
In addition to learning to impart explosive forces, the clean and jerk and snatch condition the body to receive such
forces from another moving body both safely and effectively.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the Olympic lifts unique capacity to develop strength, muscle, power, speed,
coordination, vertical leap, muscular endurance, bone strength, and the physical capacity to withstand stress. It is also
worth mentioning that the Olympic lifts are the only lifts shown to increase maximum oxygen uptake, the most important
marker for cardiovascular fitness.
Sadly, the Olympic lifts are seldom seen in the commercial fitness community
because of their inherently complex and technical nature. CrossFit makes
them available to anyone with the patience and persistence to learn.
Gymnastics
The extraordinary value of gymnastics as a training modality lies in its
reliance on the body’s own weight as the sole source of resistance. This
places a unique premium on the improvement of strength to weight ratio.
Unlike other strength training modalities gymnastics and calisthenics allow
for increases in strength only while increasing strength to weight ratio!
Gymnastics  develops  pull-ups,  squats,  lunges,  jumping,  push-ups,  and
numerous  presses  to  handstand,  scales,  and  holds.  These  skills  are
unrivaled in their benefit to the physique as evident in any competitive
gymnast.
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As important as the capacity of this modality is for strength development it is without a doubt the ultimate approach to
improving coordination, balance, agility, accuracy, and flexibility. Through the use of numerous presses, handstands,
scales, and other floor work the gymnast’s training greatly enhances kinesthetic sense.
The variety of movements available for inclusion in this modality probably exceeds the number of exercises known to
all non-gymnastic sport! The rich variety here contributes substantially to the CrossFit program’s ability to inspire great
athletic confidence and prowess.
For a combination of strength, flexibility, well-developed physique, coordination, balance, accuracy, and agility the
gymnast has no equal in the sports world. The inclusion of this training modality is absurdly absent from nearly all
training programs.
Routines
There is no ideal routine! In fact, the chief value of any routine lies in abandoning it for another. The CrossFit ideal is
to train for any contingency. The obvious implication is that this is possible only if there is a tremendously varied, if
not randomized, quality to the breadth of stimulus. It is in this sense that the CrossFit Program is a core strength and
conditioning program. Anything else is sport specific training not core strength and conditioning.
Any routine, no matter how complete, contains within its omissions the parameters for which there will be no adaptation.
The breadth of adaptation will exactly match the breadth of the stimulus. For this reason the CrossFit program embraces
short, middle, and long distance metabolic conditioning, low, moderate, and heavy load assignment. We encourage
creative and continuously varied compositions that tax physiological functions against every realistically conceivable
combination of stressors. This is the stuff of surviving fights and fires. Developing a fitness that is varied yet complete
defines the very art of strength and conditioning coaching.
This is not a comforting message in an age where scientific certainty and specialization confer authority and expertise.
Yet, the reality of performance enhancement cares not one wit for trend or authority. The CrossFit Program’s success in
elevating the performance of world-class athletes lies clearly in demanding of our athletes total and complete physical
competence. No routine takes us there.
Neuroendocrine Adaptation
“Neuroendocrine adaptation” is a change in the body that affects you either neurologically or hormonally. Most important
adaptations to exercise are in part or completely a result of a hormonal or neurological shift. Current research, much of
it done by Dr. William Kraemer, Penn State University, has shown which exercise protocols maximize neuroendocrine
responses. Earlier we faulted isolation movements as being ineffectual. Now we can tell you that one of the critical
elements missing from these movements is that they invoke essentially no neuroendocrine response.
Among the hormonal responses vital to athletic development are substantial increases in testosterone, insulin-
like growth factor, and human growth hormone. Exercising with protocols known to elevate these hormones eerily
mimics the hormonal changes sought in exogenous hormonal therapy (steroid use) with none of the deleterious
effect.  Exercise  regimens  that  induce  a  high  neuroendocrine  response  produce  champions!  Increased  muscle
mass and bone density are just two of many adaptative responses to exercises capable of producing a significant
neuroendocrine response.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of the neuroendocrine response to exercise protocols. This is why it is one
of the four defining themes of the CrossFit Program. Heavy load weight training, short rest between sets, high heart
rates, high intensity training, and short rest intervals, though not entirely distinct components, are all associated with
a high neuroendocrine response.
Power
Power is defined as the “time rate of doing work.” It has often been said that in sport speed is king. At CrossFit “power”
is the undisputed king of performance. Power is in simplest terms, “hard and fast.” Jumping, punching, throwing, and
sprinting are all measures of power. Increasing your ability to produce power is necessary and nearly sufficient to
elite athleticism. Additionally, power is the definition of intensity, which in turn has been linked to nearly every positive
aspect of fitness. Increases in strength, performance, muscle mass, and bone density all arise in proportion to the
intensity of exercise. And again, intensity is defined as power. Power is one of the four defining themes of the CrossFit
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Program. Power development is an ever-present aspect of the CrossFit Daily W
orkout.
Cross-Training
Cross training is typically defined as participating in multiple sports. At CrossFit we take a much broader view of the
term. We view cross training as exceeding the normal parameters of the regular demands of your sport or training.
The CrossFit Program recognizes functional, metabolic, and modal cross training. That is we regularly train past the
normal motions, metabolic pathways, and modes or sports common to the athlete’s sport or exercise regimen. We are
unique and again distinctive to the extent that we adhere to and program within this context.
If you remember the CrossFit objective of providing a broad based fitness that provides maximal competency in
all adaptive capacities, cross training, or training outside of the athletes normal or regular demands is a given. The
CrossFit coaching staff had long ago noticed that athletes are weakest at the margins of their exposure for almost
every measurable parameter. For instance, if you only cycle between five to seven miles at each training effort you
will test weak at less than five and greater than seven miles. This is true for range of motion, load, rest, intensity,
and power, etc. The CrossFit workouts are engineered to expand the margins of exposure as broad as function and
capacity will allow. Cross training is one of the four CrossFit defining themes.
Functional Movements
There are movements that mimic motor recruitment patterns that are found in everyday life. Others are somewhat
unique to the gym. Squatting is standing from a seated position; deadlifting is picking any object off the ground.They
are both functional movements. Leg extension and leg curl both have no equivalent in nature and are in turn non-
functional movements. The bulk of isolation movements are non-functional movements. By contrast the compound or
multi-joint movements are functional. Natural movement typically involves the movement of multiple joints for every
activity.
The importance of functional movements is primarily two-fold. First of all the functional movements are mechanically
sound and therefore safe, and secondly they are the movements that elicit a high neuroendocrine response.
CrossFit has managed a stable of elite athletes and dramatically enhanced their performance exclusively with
functional movements. The superiority of training with functional movements is clearly apparent with any athlete
within weeks of their incorporation.
The soundness and efficacy of functional movement is so profound that exercising without them is by comparison a
colossal waste of time. For this reason functional movement is one of the four dominant CrossFit themes.
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Diet
The CrossFit dietary prescription is as follows:
Protein should be lean and varied and account for about 30% of your total caloric load.
Carbohydrates should be predominantly low-glycemic and account for about 40% of your total caloric load.
Fat should be predominantly monounsaturated and account for about 30% of your total caloric load.
Calories should be set at between .7 and 1.0 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass depending on your activity
level. The .7 figure is for moderate daily workout loads and the 1.0 figure is for the hardcore athlete.
What should I eat?
In plain language, base your diet on garden vegetables, especially greens, lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch,
and no sugar. That’s about as simple as we can get. Many have observed that keeping your grocery cart to the
perimeter of the grocery store while avoiding the aisles is a great way to protect your health. Food is perishable. The
stuff with long shelf life is all circumspect. If you follow these simple guidelines you will benefit from nearly all that can
be achieved through nutrition.
The Caveman or Paleolithic Model for Nutrition
Modern diets are ill suited for our genetic composition. Evolution has not kept pace with advances in agriculture and
food processing resulting in a plague of health problems for modern man. Coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer,
osteoporosis, obesity and psychological dysfunction have all been scientifically linked to a diet too high in refined
or processed carbohydrate. Search “google” or “Alta Vista” for Paleolithic nutrition, or diet. The return is extensive,
compelling, and fascinating. The Caveman model is perfectly consistent with the CrossFit prescription.
What Foods should I avoid?
Excessive consumption of high-glycemic carbohydrates is the primary culprit in nutritionally caused health problems.
High glycemic carbohydrates are those that raise blood sugar too rapidly. They include rice, bread, candy, potato,
sweets, sodas, and most processed carbohydrates. Processing can include bleaching, baking, grinding, and refining.
Processing of carbohydrates greatly increases their glycemic index, a measure of their propensity to elevate blood
sugar.
What is the Problem with High-Glycemic Carbohydrates?
The problem with high-glycemic carbohydrates is that they give an inordinate insulin response. Insulin is an essential
hormone for life, yet acute, chronic elevation of insulin leads to hyperinsulinism, which has been positively linked to
obesity, elevated cholesterol levels, blood pressure, mood dysfunction and a Pandora’s box of disease and disability.
Research “hyperinsulinism” on the Internet. There’s a gold mine of information pertinent to your health available there.
The CrossFit prescription is a low-glycemic diet and consequently severely blunts the insulin response
Caloric Restriction and Longevity
Current research strongly supports the link between caloric restriction and an increased life expectancy. The incidence
of cancers and heart disease sharply decline with a diet that is carefully limited in controlling caloric intake. “Caloric
Restriction” is another fruitful area for Internet search. The CrossFit prescription is consistent with this research.
The CrossFit prescription allows a reduced caloric intake and yet still provides ample nutrition for rigorous activi
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