The Rise of CrossFit

To women jumping on boxes

Hunter Bennett

Over the last few years, we have seen a resurgence in both high-intensity interval training, and barbell-based strength training – which is undoubtedly a good thing.

These types of exercise have been shown to cause large increases in aerobic fitness and muscular strength, thus eliciting huge improvements in health, while also staving off things such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

The introduction of these training methods into the general population is undoubtedly a good thing. And to be honest, CrossFit is responsible for a large part of it.

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a specific type of fitness regimen that is suggested to have been developed over several decades, by a man who goes by the name of Greg Glassman.

CrossFit is a modality of exercise that was created with the intent to optimize physical competence in ten specific domains of fitness (Claudino, 2018):

  1. Cardiovascular and respiratory endurance
  2. Stamina
  3. Muscular Strength
  4. Flexibility
  5. Muscular Power
  6. Speed
  7. Neuromuscular Coordination
  8. Agility
  9. Balance
  10. Accuracy

CrossFit is typically comprised of a variety of exercises that are performed for high repetitions and at an extremely high-intensity, with little or no recovery time between sets.

Within this, there is a focus on constantly varying functional movement both within sessions and between sessions.gym high five

As a such, CrossFit training regularly uses gymnastics exercises (such as handstand and ring exercises), weightlifting exercises (such as barbell cleans and snatches), traditional strength training exercises (such as barbell squats, deadlifts, and presses), and cardiovascular activities (such as running and rowing) as exercise tasks

Training sessions are typically broken up into what is known as a ‘workout of the day’ (or WOD, for short), which is ultimately an amalgamation of different exercises performed for either repetition or for time, at a very high-intensity.

This style of training is said to maximize the amount of work completed in the shortest amount of time, thus causing dramatic gains in fitness and function. To top it all off, CrossFit is renowned for its sense of community.

Training sessions are most often perfumed in a group environment, with participants of that workout both encouraging and competing with one another. This is said to create a training culture that is supportive, competitive, and unrivaled.

Related Article: 3 Benefits of CrossFit

How did CrossFit form?

While CrossFit as a company was formalized in the year 2000, Glassman has previously suggested that CrossFit truly originated years before then.

Greg Glassman was a teenage gymnast, who – like many other teenage athletes – wanted to become stronger. After a bit of exploration, he found that by integrating dumbbell and barbell strength exercises into a training routine, he could get stronger than just training with his bodyweight alone. However, again like most teenagers, Glassman didn’t really have a single outlet for his athleticism.

With his strength and gymnastics training, he also liked riding his bike with friends, going for runs, and doing general aerobic exercise. Activities that required a combination of strength, endurance, and athleticism.

But he quickly realised that while some people certainly excelled in one of these areas, there were very few individuals who could maintain a high capacity in more than one of these areas… Which prompted the question – ‘What price are we paying for a certain expertise’.

Over time glassman played around with the training that not only built aerobic capacity, power, strength, and endurance, but also revolved around key functional movements that had the capacity to improve people’s ability to perform tasks of daily living. In short, an exercise that had relevance to life and performance.

In 1995, Glassman created a gym in Santa Cruz that prioritised this unique style of training. Then, that same year, he was hired to train the Santa Cruz Police Department. And through this combination of high intensity training, highly competitive individuals, and an unbelievably supportive and educational environment, CrossFit was born.

How do Functional Movements Mimic Everyday Survival in CrossFit?

I have already discussed about how the movements used in CrossFit revolve around a unique combination of compound barbell lifts such as cleans, squats, and deadlifts, and powerful bodyweight movements such as pull ups, push ups, and muscle ups.

It is easy to see how these movements carryover to both tasks of daily living and athletic movements such as jumping, bounding, and sprinting (Smith, 2013). But what about for everyday survival?

You see, everyday survival itself is an interesting concept.

Currently (as in today), survival is very much dictated by your ability to get to work and earn an income. This may be through manual labour, working at a desk, or collaborating with other professionals.

Whatever it may be, most would admit that it isn’t all that physically demanding. However, there is a current train of thought among environmental health experts that suggests that in as little as 20 years, everyday survival may become something very different.

The end of the world as we know it?

This fall, the United Nations stunned the world when they chose to release a report stating that if no immediate action was taken, climate change could have a huge impact on life as we know it by as early as 2040 (Kreuger, 2018). What sort of impact?

Picture a world plagued by increasingly frequent storms and fires, constant food shortages, extreme heat, droughts, floods, and rampant disease.

The stipulation was that entire population may have to migrate away from coastal or Southern cities to limit the impact of this change. Subsequently, there would be a strain on resources, resulting in unprecedented economic damage.

Some also believe that prices on Northern land will rise exponentially as a result. In response, a small number of professionals have recently begun preparing homes away from those places where climate change is expected to impact the most and hit the hardest.

They are moving to regional areas that have cooler climates and high-quality spoil. Places where solar is cheap and food can be grown easily and efficiently. This has been done with the intent to manage the impending decline in resources, ensuring safety, health, and comfort in the process.

And how does CrossFit fit into this?

By enhancing your ability to survive every single day. The movements performed in CrossFit sessions will improve your ability to perform tasks of daily living in nearly every scenario (Mallia, 2016). Think about digging into the ground, pulling vegetables, chopping wood, and even hand washing clothes?

All improved by the development of strength through functional movement. Not to mention that fact that CrossFit builds aerobic capacity and muscular endurance to such a degree that you can literally work from dusk until dawn without breaking a sweat. So in terms of everyday survival under any circumstance? You could certainly make a case for CrossFit.

Does CrossFit Build Resilience, Mental Toughness, and Confidence?

Resilience and mental toughness are often considered to be types of character traits – a type of grit that allows you to cope with challenging situations and difficult times. In my mind, they essentially determine your ability to push through anything with determination to succeed.

The ability to keep going no matter what. Similarly, confidence describes feeling sure of your own capabilities. A belief that you can do anything that you set your mind to.

Now, while most character traits would be considered inherent and unchangeable, there is actually a growing body of evidence to suggest that through certainwoman recovery from run methods of training, things such as resilience, mental toughness, and confidence can all be improved (Murawska-Cialowicz, 2013; Childs, 2016; Gucciardi, 2016; Sani, 2016). And it comes from hard work and then seeing results from that hard work.

With this in mind, CrossFit is the perfect modality of exercise for improving all three. By forcing you to work hard and compete in demanding environments, and then succeed in those demanding environments, you build belief in your own capabilities. This comes with the knowledge that as long as you persist and keep working, you will eventually achieve your goals.

This cycle then repeats itself, where you come up against greater obstacles, and proceed to overcome them. Your resilience grows. Your mental toughness increases. You become increasingly confident in your physical and mental capabilities.

Related Article: Crossfit For All Ages

The perfect home CrossFit workout for resilience

Taking the above into consideration we have put together the perfect CrossFit workout to build your resilience (and everything else that comes with it).

This is a short, sharp, and shiny workout that only requires the use of two pieces of equipment – a skipping rope and a kettlebell – meaning that it can be performed anywhere, and of course, at any time.

infographic for CrossFit home workout

CrossFit workout table
Now a bit of a disclaimer – this will be tough!

But I can guarantee results.

Take Home Message

CrossFit is a mode of exercise that has literally taken the world by storm.

While its impact on your body is apparent (increases in strength, functional movement, and physical capacity anyone?), there is also reasonable to suggest that the mental benefits of CrossFit could have an even bigger impact on your life.

This makes it the perfect mode of exercise to increase reliance, mental toughness, and confidence while allowing you to survive in literally any situation. So what are you waiting for? Give the CrossFit workout outlined in this article ago, and be sure to get back to us with your thoughts!


Claudino, João Gustavo, et al. “CrossFit Overview: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” Sports medicine-open 4.1 (2018): 11.

Smith, Michael M., et al. “Crossfit-based high-intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition.” J Strength Cond Res 27.11 (2013): 3159-3172.

Kreuger, Alyson. “Climate Change Insurance: Buy Land Somewhere Else.” New York times (2018).

Mallia, Sharon. Retaining physical function in older adults: the crossfit® approach. MS thesis. University of Malta, 2016.

Murawska-Cialowicz, E., J. Wojna, and J. Zuwala-Jagiello. “Crossfit training changes brain-derived neurotrophic factor and irisin levels at rest, after wingate and progressive tests, and improves aerobic capacity and body composition of young physically active men and women.” J Physiol Pharmacol 66.6 (2015): 811-821.

Childs, Emma, and Harriet de Wit. “Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults.” Frontiers in physiology 5 (2014): 161.

Gucciardi, Daniel F., et al. “When the going gets tough: Mental toughness and its relationship with behavioural perseverance.” Journal of science and medicine in sport 19.1 (2016): 81-86.

Sani, Seyed Hojjat Zamani, et al. “Physical activity and self-esteem: testing direct and indirect relationships associated with psychological and physical mechanisms.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment 12 (2016): 2617.

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