CrossFit is one of the most popular workouts around right now and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s brand new. In reality, CrossFit has been around for nearly 15-years but its popularity has literally exploded in the last couple of years.

With CrossFit being a fitness industry buzzword right now, it’s a good idea to clarify exactly what CrossFit is (and what it isn’t!).

CrossFit is the brainchild of American coach Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai and has been in existence as a company since 2000. From very humble beginnings, there are now over 10,000 affiliated CrossFit gyms called boxes, over 50-percent being located in the USA.

Every day, CrossFit HQ issues a workout known as the WOD – short for workout of the day – which followers can choose to do or are free to do past workouts or create new ones. Workouts are generally short but very intense and often involve an element of competition as they are normally performed against the clock. The brevity and intensity of the workouts has made CrossFit very popular with the armed forces, law enforcement, emergency service personnel and athletes.

CrossFit has borrowed elements form a wide variety of sources including gymnastics, weightlifting, kettlebells, powerlifting, athletics, the military, martial arts and just about every other form of exercise around. In doing so, CrossFit has attempted to create a training method that develops total fitness. CrossFitters aren’t just fit like runners or strong like weightlifters; they can do both!

According to founder Greg Glassman, optimal fitness is best achieved by doing a wide variety of training and so CrossFit workouts are very multi-disciplinary both within the workouts themselves and across the training week. Workouts come in various shapes and sizes and tax anaerobic fitness, aerobic fitness, strength, muscular endurance, balance, power or, quite often, all of these characteristics simultaneously.

CrossFit workouts, which are often given girls names like Fran or Helen or named after deceased service personnel, use a variety of workout equipment although some workouts are completely equipment free. Common equipment used in WODs include barbell - standardized to either 20 kg or 15 kg, bumper plates, gymnastic rings, jump rope, kettlebells, medicine balls, plyo boxes, resistance band, rowing machines, back extension machines called glute/ham raises and ab mats.

Example workouts include… Fran For time: 21 thrusters 21 pull-ups 15 thrusters 15 pull-ups 9 thrusters 9 pull-ups Fight Gone Bad Three rounds of… 60-seconds wall-ball, 20 pound ball, 10 ft. target (Reps) 60-seconds sumo deadlift high-pull, 75 pounds (Reps) 60-seconds box Jump, 20" box (Reps) 60-seconds push-press, 75 pounds (Reps) 60-seconds row (Calories) Sham 7 rounds for time of: 11 body-weight deadlifts 100-meter sprint

In addition to “regular” CrossFit, there is also competitive CrossFit where athletes are pitted against each other. Local, regional and national level competitions all lead to the CrossFit Games – an international event designed to find the fittest athletes on the planet. The CrossFit games has been contested since 2007 and is now a major event on the sporting calendar.

There is no denying CrossFit will get you very fit, moderately strong, help you lose weight and provide an outlet for any competitive urges you might have. You’ll also learn some new skills like Olympic weightlifting and several gymnastic movements such as handstands and rope climbing. The one thing CrossFit isn’t is boring; workouts are repeated infrequently and there is such a large pool of exercises that even common exercises like press-ups may not appear in more than a handful of workouts. Workouts can usually be “scaled” which is CrossFit-speak for made easier for beginners.

However, CrossFit does have some detractors…

Complaints levelled at CrossFit include no real planning or progressions for workouts and lack of specialist training for CrossFit coaches – courses for CrossFit coaches being only a few days long. Other complaints include the performance of high repetitions of technically demanding exercises like power cleans - an exercise that many strength coaches believe was never meant to be performed for an extended period of time.

While these criticisms are reasonable, it’s important to realize that not all CrossFit boxes are the same and for every so-called CrossFit horror story (usually depicted in a video showing terrible exercise technique) there are dozens of success stories. Many CrossFit boxes do not follow the sometimes controversial HQ-designed WOD but, instead, devise more reasonable, logical workouts that are progressed over time. This is usually because the coach has experience of training outside of CrossFit.

Despite its detractors, CrossFit is popular, effective and here to stay. Just make sure you seek out a box where the coaching staff is sufficiently experienced that they are able to modify the WOD to suit you and your individual level of fitness and experience.