Understanding CrossFit

What is CrossFit, Functional Movements, Moving Large Loads Long Distances Quickly, and Intensity

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is defined as, “Constantly varied, high-intensity functional movement.”

Functional movements are universal motor recruitment patterns; natural, safe, and efficient movements that we use in our daily lives.

At home or at work, we may squat to sit in a chair. In CrossFit, we do all different kinds of squats, all varying in difficulty.

Squatting is a universal motor recruitment pattern that we need to be “functional’ – to live without the assistance of others.

A workout’s given prescription will determine our intensity level. So, every workout will elicit a varying degree of intensity. Our coaches are able to properly dose intensity level based on your current skill and strength level, to ensure that the workout stimulus is achieved.

What is Functional Movement?

The bulk of the exercises that we perform are functional movements, which are universal motor recruitment patterns. Functional movements are “…performed in a wave of contraction from core to extremity; and they are compound movements–i.e., they are multi-joint” (Understanding CrossFit, 2007).
Functional movements are natural, effective, and safe movement patterns that we recruit every day. Some examples of functional movements include…

  • Squatting,
  • Pressing,
  • and picking things up off the floor.

A key differentiator of functional movements is their capacity to move large loads over long distances and to do so quickly. A clean and jerk produces a greater amount of power compared to a calf raise or shoulder shrug.

Our coaches instruct, demonstrate, and provide correct form coaching for all functional movements.

Greater functionality = greater quality of life.

Moving Large Loads Long Distances Quickly

Perhaps the most distinctive element of functional movements is their ability to move large loads over large distances quickly.
Functional movements such as the air squat, deadlift, and pullup create a great amount of power. Non-functional movements such as the calf raise do not generate a lot of power.

We can use a mathematical equation to calculate our power output for any particular exercise. 

Power = Force x Distance / Time

Let’s take a 200lb Man performing as many air squats as possible in one minute.
The force is equal to the weight of our individual, so it would be 200lbs.
To find the distance, we need to measure the range of motion from our center of gravity, which is right around our belly buttons. This measurement comes out to be about two feet.
Let’s fill in what we know.

Power = (200lbs x 2ft) / (1 minute) = 400 
During that one-minute AMRAP, the 200lb individual performed 60 air squats, so we would multiply our 400 by 60 to get a power output of 24,000 feet/lbs.

We can use this formula for a deadlift, pullup, clean-and-jerk, or any functional movement that we do in CrossFit.

Intensity and How to Scale It

Intensity is relative to everyone. 

Performing the workout, “Grace” which is 30 Clean + Jerks at 135 / 95lbs under 2:00 is extremely difficult, even for extremely fit individuals. 

For a CrossFit Games athlete, this workout is a breeze. 

Our perceived level of intensity or RPE (Rate of perceived intensity) is different for everyone.

If I struggle with running, I might perceive a 400m run to be a 9-10 on the intensity level, because it will jack my heart rate up and leave me out of breath.

On the other hand, if I am a powerful weightlifter, I may perceive a set of 10 deadlifts at 225 / 155lbs to be 3-4 on the intensity scale. 

Every workout we do has a stimulus, which is the intended reaction in our bodies. 

“Grace” is supposed to take less than 5 minutes, regardless of the prescribed weight of 135 lbs for guys and 95 lbs for girls. It is supposed to be a sprint-style workout, so the RPE here should be 9-10. 

We want to choose a barbell load that will allow us to move the barbell consistently until we complete all 30 reps. If we go too heavy, then we will exceed the 5-minute goal. If we go too light with our bars, then we are missing the stimulus of a high-intensity level.

Let our coaches guide you through your fitness journey so you can get the most out of your workouts!