CrossFit: A Beginner’s Guide

what is CrossFit

A brief history and general FAQ for all the CrossFit-related questions that you're too afraid to ask.

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a trademarked brand and fitness system based on high intensity training. It incorporates exercises from different disciplines such as gymnastics and Olympic weightlifting in addition to aerobic and functional strength exercises. CrossFit combines these elements to form workouts known as WODs (Workout of the Day).


CrossFit was first established in 2000 in Santa Cruz, California, by Greg Glassman. In 2002 CrossFit North, a Seattle-based gym (known as a box) became the first affiliate. CrossFit saw a boom in 2016 when it reached a staggering 13,000 affiliates worldwide. As of 2020 there are 15,000 CrossFit affiliates in over 150 countries.

Creator of CrossFit Greg glassman
Greg Glassman

As CrossFit’s reach continues to expand, so does the company CrossFit LLC. Since its humble beginnings, CrossFit has branched out into media production, continued education, and hosting large scale events.

Since the inauguration of the first CrossFit Games in 2007, CrossFit has grown to become a spectator sport. The unique process by which any athlete can qualify to compete at the highest level has contributed to drawing a rift between CrossFit as a recreational activity which emphasizes health and the more extreme “sport of fitness”.

What are the benefits of training CrossFit?

CrossFit boasts constantly varied workouts designed to develop 10 physical skills:
cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.

Following a workout program that focuses on improving these skills can help you to manage your weight, reduce your risk of injury, and improve your quality of life.

benefits in crossfit

Who should train CrossFit?

When done correctly, CrossFit can be accessible to everyone. Even though it is based on high intensity, anyone can participate in this type of training regardless of age, ability, or experience. That said, deciding what is “high intensity” may look different for a 20-something ex-gymnast than it does for someone in their 60s that is exercising for the first time.

Anyone new to this type of training methodology should work out under the supervision of a certified coach or trainer.

Do I have to be in shape to start training CrossFit?

You don’t have to get in shape in order to start getting in shape! The beauty of CrossFit is that it’s scalable. Exercises and workouts can be adapted so that everyone reaches the same stimulus while working within their abilities.

If you have any previous injuries or health conditions, get the approval of a doctor and talk to the coach of your training center to make sure you’re all on the same page.

If you’re just starting out, attending classes, or getting a personal trainer is the best way to make progress. Pay extra attention to learning proper technique and learning to gauge your exertion level.

What is a class like?

Workouts are generally given by a trainer or coach as 1-hour classes to groups of up to 16 people. Although groups are mixed level, everyone follows the same structure:
– The warmup,
– a strength or skill development part,
– a WOD,
– and perhaps a guided cool down.

Since the workout is different every day, the coach will brief the athletes for the first few minutes of the class.

Don’t be alarmed if you don’t understand everything at first, CrossFit is big on abbreviations and slang but if you’re new, your coach will talk you through it.

The coach will demonstrate the exercises that you’ll have for the session and offer advice and corrections. Think of it as sharing a personal trainer with 15 friends.

questions about CrossFit

Many centers offer a trial class (sometimes even for free!) so if you’ve been thinking about giving it a try, just go for it!

Is CrossFit dangerous?

Since it’s rise to popularity, CrossFit has developed a reputation for being needlessly dangerous.

These criticisms often come from those who haven’t tried CrossFit or have had a negative experience after having brief contact. From the outside, CrossFit appears to be using big weights and technical exercises to move as quickly as humanly possible.

While this may be the case at the professional level, those who practice CrossFit recreationally know a different reality: Classes and training programs designed for recreational athletes are based on mastering the fundamentals of movement and then gradually making them more challenging.

Athletes practice and perfect these skills with control and attention to quality before they can incorporate heavier loads and more complicated movements into the high intensity part of the workout.

In fact, practicing CrossFit can be safer than going to the gym or lifting weights unsupervised.

Think about it:
The classes are planned so that the athletes can make progressive improvements, and each session is led by a coach or trainer who monitors and corrects you as you work out.

The coach also adapts exercises, makes recommendations to make sure that you work within safe parameters while still reaching high intensity.

Considering these factors, it's more likely that you'll see results faster by doing CrossFit than by participating in an average gym workout.

Like any activity, there are risks, however the majority of those who practice CrossFit are not more likely to suffer injuries.

How fast will I see results?

Success can be measured in different ways. Accounting for health-conscious diet, a new CrossFit athlete can see changes in their body within 3-4 weeks of training regularly. Other factors such as sleep quality, and stress level will also influence how quickly you observe these changes, but it’s important to note that they are small and gradual.

There isn't a single type of diet or exercise that will give sustainable long-term results overnight. If you stay consistent, eat clean, and train with your best effort, the results will come.

Will I get bulky from training CrossFit?

Only if you make an extraordinary effort to maintain a caloric surplus. And even then, becoming bulky would still be challenging because of the effectiveness of high intensity training for fat loss.

The combination of high intensity exercise and resistance training make it a potent tool for burning fat, so unless you're consuming excessively more calories than your body needs, you will not get bulky no matter how heavy you lift.