We all CrossFit. We talk about CrossFit, we post about CrossFit, but can you define CrossFit? How many times have your friends asked you what CrossFit is and you spew out a million different things and they look at you like, “what?” This is Part 1 of 4 (possibly 5) part series.

Technically, CrossFit is functional exercises performed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains. Yup, that’s what it is and no one really understands it unless they Coach CrossFit. And to be honest, some Coaches don’t even understand it. This is a huge problem. If you don’t understand it, you can’t Coach it.

In this first part, we will break down that sentence so you can better understand this crazy thing we do called CrossFit.

What are Functional Exercises?

According to CrossFit, functional exercises move large loads quickly across large distances. We aim to focus the majority of our training on movements that involve multiple joints and require large amounts of muscle to complete. This does not mean curls (for the girls), leg curls and tricep extensions are useless, it just means that they should not be the meat and potatoe of what you do if you plan on being “fit.” Functional exercises also require the body to move from core to extremity. So when doing a push-up, your midline needs to get tight before you move through your shoulders and then bend at the elbows. If you don’t get your midline tight first, it turns into one ugly push-up. It is also important to keep in mind that large loads are relative. CrossFit’s definitions are the first to be all inclusive in defining fitness. Whether you are 10 years old or 80 years old, this definition can be applied to you.

What does High Intensity Mean?

One of the factors that attracted me to CrossFit was that it is an evidence based fitness system. They use physics instead of the mirror. They measure work output instead of some other unit of fitness that does not cause your fitness to increase. Measuring your heart rate change is great, but causing your heart rate to go up doesn’t always mean you are getting fitter. When you watch a scary movie your heart rate goes up, but it has zero effect on your fitness. Again, high intensity is relative. Rich Froning’s max intensity is vastly different than mine, but we are both working at high intensity when we do Fran. Allow me to geek out for a moment. According to physics, intensity(I) is equal to power. Power (P) is equal to the amount of Force(F) multiplied by the distance(d) divided by the time(t) of the event. Force times distance is equal to work. So, now that you are confused, here is it in simpler terms: I=P=Fx d / t. Using this, we can actually measure the horsepower you generate in a WOD. Increase your horsepower, increase your fitness. If you focus on increasing your power output, you will sleep and eat better to get there.

Why Broad Time?

CrossFit’s specialty is not specializing. We want to be pretty well adapted at moving at intensity during short time frames as well as long time frames. As the time frame increases, your ability to keep intensity high decreases. Think about your speed while running 200m vs running a 10k. We want to train the short time domains as well as the long. The trick is learning how to not put too much emphasis on one over the other if you are seeking general fitness.

Modal What?

Modal domains just means keep it varied. Vary the loads, the distances, the time frame, the time of the day, vary everything. Heck, try to WOD with some food in your stomach, but please don’t puke in the box.

So if we put all this together, Greg Glassman, the Founder of CrossFit said it best in his ‘World Class Fitness in 100 Words.’


CrossFit SOAR is a CrossFit Affiliate serving Bergen and Passaic Counties, including the towns of Fair Lawn, Glen Rock, Hawthorne, Paramus, Ridgewood and Wyckoff. At SOAR, you will find an inclusive community offering more that a workout; we’ll provide you with a CrossFit Family. We provide a range of programs, including traditional CrossFit, Boot Camps and Kid/Teen fitness programs. The first class is always free, and there are never any long-term commitments.


17 Passaic Avenue
Hawthorne, NJ 07506

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