Unparalleled Efficacy: Understanding the CrossFit Methodology

The CrossFit methodology is the driver of our unparalleled efficacy. What I mean by this is:

Not only does CrossFit make people fit, but arguably we make them fitter faster and more safely than any other program out there. Our results are universal, predictable, and repeatable. Our methodology works for everyone, can be scaled for anyone, and the results accrue over the long term.

The results our methodology drives are what pulls people into CrossFit and gets them hooked. It’s not magic; it’s just what happens when you put in the work — results follow. And once you experience it, you want more of it. This is how we revolutionized an industry and changed millions of lives — and will change millions more.


CrossFit Believe

CrossFit Believe

The Core

CrossFit’s methodology is founded on the first precise, scientifically rigorous definition of fitness, and the program produces results that can be measured and replicated. Our methodology is a set of universal principles and definitions that can be applied in many different contexts and that make CrossFit accessible to both athlete and coach.

The stimulus — what CrossFit is: constantly varied functional movement executed at high intensity combined with eating meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no added sugar in quantities that support exercise but not body fat.

The adaptation —what CrossFit achieves: increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Pursuing this goal is pursuing fitness, and aiming to maintain your work capacity over your lifetime is pursuing health.

These elements are the basis of the CrossFit methodology, and we’ve precisely and comprehensively defined each element — from work capacity to fitness to health — in quantifiable terms.

These definitions did not exist before CrossFit. Our contribution to fitness is that we have defined fitness and health in a way that can be measured.

A Graphical Representation of One’s Fitness (Work Capacity) at a Certain Time in His or Her Life.

A Graphical Representation of One’s Fitness (Work Capacity) at a Certain Time in Their Life  


A Graphical Representation of One’s Health (Fitness Throughout His or Her Life).

A Graphical Representation of One’s Health (Fitness Throughout Their Life)

We have referred to these elements that form the basis of the CrossFit methodology as CrossFit’s DNA and also as the L1 kernel. “Kernel” is a term borrowed from computer science that refers to the core components of a computer operating system. The kernel is fundamental to making the computer work, provides a platform for software to be created specific to that kernel, and is a universal interface that allows many different users to access software running on the computer. In this sense, the CrossFit kernel is the same. It is the fundamental knowledge that makes CrossFit work — for a variety of people in equally varied contexts.

The kernel — both in terms of stimulus and adaptation — enables the CrossFit methodology to produce observable, measurable, and repeatable results. It is the scientific foundation and explanation for the entire program.

Putting It Into Practice

What we call “the kernel” should look familiar to many people, as it is what we teach at the CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Course. Its elements make up the heart of who we are and what we do. It is our North Star.

The kernel also determines our methods; how to implement CrossFit. It provides objective definitions trainers can utilize in practice along with methods for implementing:

How to Build an Athlete

The CrossFit practitioner’s athletic development comes from performing constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity in combination with sound nutrition. Each of these elements is critical for optimizing fitness and health.

A Theoretical Hierarchy for the Development of an Athlete

What we eat is so important that nutrition forms the base of the Theoretical Hierarchy of Development for an athlete, which provides an explanation of how athleticism should be built. Consuming the right types of foods in the proper quantities is how we maximize all the levels of athletic development and is the critical component in longevity and protecting your health.

The next three levels in the Theoretical Hierarchy of Development include functional movements that represent the backbone of CrossFit workouts and programming. These are safe, natural movements that duplicate muscle contraction patterns found in sport, combat, and everyday life. They safely generate high amounts of power, taking advantage of the body’s ability to produce force and move at high velocities due to their core-to-extremity nature and ability to move large loads through complete ranges of motion.

Over time, adherence to our nutritional recommendations and methodology will lead to increased power output. An athlete’s ability to produce power determines their workout intensity level, and it is intensity that breeds results. CrossFit is a high-intensity program, but we are not focused solely on moving faster, farther, or heavier at all costs. Instead, we emphasize technique, the importance of proper mechanics, and consistency and proficiency of movement before increasing intensity. We also ensure intensity is relative to the physiological and psychological tolerances of the individual and that no matter who walks into the gym, they will do CrossFit. This means there is an intended stimulus for each movement in a workout. If an athlete is unable to perform a specific movement, the coach will not offer a random substitution. Instead, the coach will offer a scaled option that preserves the intended stimulus and is accessible to the athlete. In this way, CrossFit is accessible to anyone who wants to do it. This is what makes CrossFit infinitely scalable.

CrossFit Cornerstone

CrossFit Cornerstone — Photo by The Michael Patrick Studio

These are the keys to balancing safety, efficacy, and efficiency and are the necessary pathway to athletic development and long-term results.

In sum, CrossFit’s simple yet potent nutrition prescription is combined with a general-physical-preparedness program based on functional movements and intensity. This prescription can be modified to challenge people of all ages and abilities — an Olympic athlete or an elderly, overweight, chronically ill individual who has never worked out before.

How This Sets Us Apart

CrossFit’s methodology differs from other fitness programs in its commitment to defining its stimulus and results. It is precisely these definitions, and the elements within them, that provide our athletes a clear and distinct understanding of what CrossFit is and the results they will achieve.

The methodology is the mechanism that enables coaches to understand the what, how, and why of CrossFit in order to optimally apply the methodology to an individual in service of their health and fitness goals. It also provides a framework for our education that makes developing professional coaches a robust, repeatable, and scalable process.

A Level 1 Certificate Course in Ohio — Photo by The Michael Patrick Studio

A Level 1 Certificate Course in Ohio — Photo by The Michael Patrick Studio

Many programs try to market familiar elements of our model — the experience of community, nods to high-intensity workouts or functional fitness — but without our methodology, they cannot deliver the same results. They see the ecosystem but don’t understand the kernel that drives it.

The kernel and the methodology born of it are the heart of why we are so good at producing and predicting results. In fact, we have yet to find anything that comes close to CrossFit in producing a broad, general, and inclusive fitness; for forging elite fitness; and for staving off or reversing chronic disease as safely, effectively, and efficiently as CrossFit.

The Right Thing for the Right Reasons

Our steadfast commitment to our methodology and the results it produces has made us an arbiter of truth in an industry rife with get-fit-quick hacks.

Most importantly, the proven efficacy of our program that is born of our methodology allows our coaches and affiliates to actually change lives while building tight-knit, supportive communities which, quite literally, make the world a healthier place.

CrossFit offers an open invitation to anyone interested in joining a thriving community at a local box anywhere in the world — boxes filled with weights, racks, ropes, and rings athletes can use to complete uniquely challenging workouts composed of truly functional movements under the watchful eye of a skilled trainer. People from all walks of life, old and young, fit and deconditioned, training together in the same workouts with coaches who skillfully adapt those workouts to their levels and cheering each other to new levels of performance.

We’ve been given all this. All we really have to do is not mess it up.

— Nicole Carroll, GM of Education, CrossFit