I have a background in bodybuilding training and functional training for climbing. In both cases it has been crucial to keep certain fixed amounts of repetitions within series, numbers of series per exercise, times of breaks etc.

When I learned about crossfit or saw so-called ghetto workouts on youtube - these seemed to lack such theory or even counter the patterns I had met before. I would like to know the theory behind those approaches and other alike general fitness trainings like those conditioning for the police, military or parkour.


1 Answer 1


Crossfit seeks to increase fitness in many domains simultaneously. This includes training different metabolic pathways and increasing overall strength and agility. Crossfitters would say that an elite marathoner who can not lift an average amount of weight is not really fit. Similarly, an elite weightlifter who has trouble with a 5k is also not fit.

Although it isn't mentioned as much these days, one of the driving ideas behind crossfit was how to get as fit as possible with the least amount of work. By changing the workouts constantly, crossfit hopes to gain from physical adaptation before you become really good at something, your body is more efficient at it, and it takes more time to make smaller gains.

Crossfit tends to turn people into very good generalists who can do well in most situations. Crossfit is not a methodology which creates elite athletes in a particular discipline by itself (though it is used by olympic rowers, UFC competitors, NFL athletes, and others) because it is not specific. But it does help provide a very strong base to build upon for practically any sport.

There is not an official template on how to do crossfit, but an average 1 hour class might be made up of 30 minutes of focused strength work (squats, dead lift, press, olympic lifting), followed by a metabolic conditioning workout that combines multiple types of lower weight work.

The strength portion of the workout can follow methodologies such as Wendler 5-3-1 or West Side barbell. Sets and reps at my gym might be 3x5@80%, 3x3@85%, or 5x1@90% with timed rest between sets.

The metabolic conditioning workouts will range in length from 2 minute sprints to 60+ minute endurance workouts, which intentionally train different metabolic pathways and different aspects of muscular strength, power and endurance. These are timed workouts which are compared for improvement by either the increase in weight used, the number of reps performed, or the time to completion. Some classic workouts include the couplet 21-15-9 95lbs thrusters/pullups, 3 rounds of Run 400m/21 kettlebell swings/12 pullups, 1 mile run/100 pullups/200 push-ups/300 squats/1 mile run.

Good crossfit coaches keep up with current exercise research and use cycles to build a base, increase strength, increase speed, and deload. This is both a strength and a weakness of crossfit; because coaches have control over methodology, they can adapt and improve, but bad coaches can also do a poor job with programming.

  • I still think this is too general. As you are a practicing crossfitter, please post the workout patterns you use. I mean number of repetitions per exercise, number of exercises per circuit and so on. Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 19:28
  • Comparing to what rules I managed to grasp out of the crossfit pages and posted above - you stress another rule, namely constant changing of exercises. The importance of changing the exercise set before muscles get accustomed to it is a well known rule to every serious bodybuilder. However crossfit seems to take it to the extreme through having no fixed set of exercises for more then one workout at all, which seems strange and unnecessary to me. Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 19:29
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    @infoholic_anonymous For strength work, I know of a gym that follows Wendler. My coach follows a West-Side barbell template. Because I have a coach, I don't have to know all of the details. In a strength phase we do things like 3x5@80%. 3x3@85%. 5x1@90%. In a speed phase we might do 9x3@50% while trying to move quickly, or with bands.
    – michael
    Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 19:45
  • @infoholic_anonymous For the metcons, the actually movements tend to compliment the strength work (press for strength might suggest pull-ups in the metcon). These workouts have quite a bit more variety, so it's hard to describe a pattern day to day, but we do sprint, medium, endurance, and deload phases which last 3 weeks to a month apiece. I'm sure other gyms do things differently. But, take whatever philosophy for strength and conditioning, and it can be applied within crossfit. I think the main different from other programs is that it is less focused on one area.
    – michael
    Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 19:49
  • Your one before last comment was precisely what I wanted to know. If you added that data to your main answer and maybe elaborate on that a bit more, it would make a perfect answer to my question (deloading is a standard practice, please do not focus on that). Thank you! To be sure, in both phases the exercises are made in circuits with no rests between them, right? Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 19:57

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