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The Purpose of CrossFit: Parts 1-2 by Greg Glassman - CrossFit Journal
Video Article

In this two-part video, CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman explains the purpose of his program. Fitness throughout life is health, and the CrossFit community is leading the way toward transforming the world’s view of health and people’s ability to achieve it.

“CrossFit is constantly varied, high-intensity functional movement,” says Glassman. At Reebok CrossFit One, Glassman defines CrossFit and fitness and discusses the direction CrossFit is headed.

Part 1 will be familiar to those who have been to a Level 1 seminar. It is the classic explanation of what CrossFit is. Glassman also defines fitness and explains the models used to measure it.

Glassman says CrossFit is successful because it’s hard—that is the nature of intensity and why so many other programs lack intensity.

“Successful people pursue hard things. Unsuccessful avoid them,” he says.

Part 2 takes that original explanation and looks toward the future. Glassman describes his “eureka moment”: finding that the area under the power-duration curve was the first “scientifically rigorous” measurement of fitness and encompassed all the other models perfectly. It can even be used to measure health.

“Your fitness is a snapshot of your health,” Glassman says.

CrossFit HQ has begun a massive endeavor to collect a wide variety of relevant health, fitness and business metrics through the affiliates and the global community. That data will be analyzed by scientists and physicians who will be looking to find best practices by answering this question: “Which of these things is causal, which is correlative?”

Video by Again Faster.

Part 1

Part 2
25min 13sec

Additional reading: What Is CrossFit? by Greg Glassman, published March 1, 2004.

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26 Comments on “The Purpose of CrossFit: Parts 1-2 ”


wrote …

Brilliant. These videos show Coach explaining the most elemental and profound aspects of CrossFit in ways we can all understand. His thoughts and insights have changed my life. Nothing else to say.


wrote …

I love CrossFit. But I wish that Coach and other CFers were more tolerant and understanding of the rest of the physical culture world. Coach jokes about bodybuilding in this video as though bodybuilders are doing lateral raises and bicep curls to improve their fitness. They aren't. Fitness is not their goal. Getting bigger muscles is. The pursuit of non-specific fitness is no better or worse than any other goal. Being a jack of all trades is fine if you are willing to accept the fact that you won't be best you can be at any one particular aspect. If you want to maximize your potential in one aspect you will have to compromise other aspects of your fitness, and that's okay. As long as you have a goal and you are doing what it takes to get there, then you should receive props, not hate.


wrote …

I'm 63 in a few weeks. I found crossfit almost exactly four years ago. My health is dramatically better than before. I tell my family "Crossfit is the manual you never got for your body." My doc says "keep doing whatever it is you're doing." Thanks so much Coach.


wrote …

I'm watching paradigm shift right before my own eyes. Has Glassman found the proverbial fountain of youth? It looks like yes.


wrote …

@Jeff Chester
The objection Coach raises is that bodybuilding training is presented as a means to fitness. The competitive bodybuilder may not be striving for fitness as you say, but the people who are, who need to be more fit to have a better quality of or length of life are being told by a large portion of the "fitness industry" that bodybuilding is the way to achieve that.
I doubt that Coach has a problem with bodybuilders who just get on and do their thing without bothering anyone else. He thinks they're wasting their time just like the bodybuilder thinks a CFer is overtraining and a powerlifter thinks both the bodybuilder and CFer need to get stronger. What Coach has said often is that what he objects to is what the isolation movements, fixed routine crowd have done to his industry and his chosen career.
Way too many people think healthy and fit means large muscles and a 6 pack. Coach has a different measure, one that actually has value as a measure and a predictor.

In this case Coach was filmed talking to a crowd of CrossFitters. He's naturally going to smirk about people who don't "get it", it's no worse than you and a group of friends making a joke about the person who vandalised your car. It's one social group making fun of another social group. In person, outside of a group solely composed of CrossFitters? Coach is frighteningly intelligent, genuine, personable, friendly and very easy to talk and relate to. For a large part of his life his livelihood depended on his getting along with people and he is very good at it. In some ways it's a shame the at the main view we see of Coach is when he's talking like this because it's very easy to think that all he is, is bad tempered, foul-mouthed and pig-headed. He's all of those things, but he's also all of the positive things (and more) that I listed before.

What you saw in this video was no worse than the view you'd get of CF if you heard a group of opinionated bodybuilders having a discussion where CF came up.
Ask anyone who's manned a CF booth at a Fitness show if you don't believe me.
A common question asked by people at the Arnold Fitness Expo was "Why are CrossFitters so small". At the LA Fitness Expo a guy who didn't appear to have any personal acquaintance with regular exercise rudely put down CF and took on 3 female CFers in a mini Cindy. To his credit he fronted up and did it and was soundly beaten by two women who were old enough to be his mother (one only just). The opposing crowd is out there Jeff and amongst themselves or where they feel secure they're far more damning of CF than Coach was of the views he's had to fight against for decades to gain acceptance.

It's a little small-minded on my part, but I say that Coach has more than earned the right to put down the people who tried to put him down.


wrote …

Nice Video! I wish I could live forever, by being part of Crossfit I hope I can show that at 100 years old I will still be in shape, being doing Crossfit for the last 2 years and I love it! I need to watch what I eat though! because I love pizza. :) any way I like how coach explain everything, he breaks it down in Caveman terms that even a caveman can understand, I am not the smartest guy here and I understood the whole thing. Nice Video! Keep them comming! Yes!



wrote …

Wow, Mr. Glassman's vision for crossfit is bigger than I could have ever imangined. Its great to see the people you are bring into the group to take it futher.


wrote …

I find this topic fascinating. It has come up before. Glassman repeatedly describes the importance of accurate and precise definitions. But then says fitness is a measure of health - one of the most subjective concepts. Diet and exercise certainly play a role in numerous aspects of your health. There is no denying that. It's just not all encompassing the way it is described in the videos. There are so many aspects of your wellness that are irrelevant to your functional capacity. Furthermore, while things like resting BP or bone density might lie on a continuum of fitness-health-illness, but again there are countless things in medicine that your functional capacity plays no role in.

It just leads to more questions though. Take bone density, for example. On the surface level, you could argue that more is better than less. But, is there a ceiling where the advantage gained no longer accumulates despite an increase? As in, once your bones become dense enough, do you need them to be more dense? Is it really a continuum or is there a level that puts you in the 'safe zone' to prevent hip fractures. Thus, are you more healthy because you have femurs like Wolverine or like Mikko, Khalipa or Holmberg's? If both prevent the hip fracture then no. The same question can be applied to all of these metrics. BP, HR, cholesterol. Is having a resting heart rate of 50 better than 60 or 70? What about 30?

The project seems like a massive undertaking. I'm excited to see what they come up with.


Chris Sinagoga wrote …

Coach Glassman's analogies have always been excellent. But a few he used in this video are some of the best I've heard from him. I have found using them an effective way to get a point across


wrote …

Charismatic and correct; never in my experience a bad combination... Thanks Coach


wrote …

great videos, thanks Coach


wrote …

Wow, the simplicity and the accuracy of Greg Glassman's explanation of fitness and health is profound. I am an ER physician practising 10yrs and 2.5yrs of crossfitting. The metaphor of Lifeguard:Swim Coach to Doctor: Crossfit Trainer is brilliant. I had struggled to conceptualize this topic clearly with my experience in both worlds of medicine and crossfit. In our trade, ER docs often talk "we're not saving lives, we defer death".
Thanks very much for this Greg.
I have no research credentials, I'm just a community ER physician, but if you want any help in Toronto,Canada for this ongoing research, I'm there !


wrote …

I am with @Jeff Chester on this one.
I am also aware of @Craig Massey's response.

Bodybuilders are not interested in CrossFit Fitness. They are interested in symmetry and size. Same with triathletes, they care about extreme cardiovascular endurance.

The bodybuilding model has not “tricked” anyone into thinking fitness is this or that. It’s a bunch of tiny high school kids, who decided they want to get bigger, that pack the gyms in an attempt to do so. People are not as dumb as we (crossfitters) make them out to be. They are perfectly aware that they may not be able to do what we do, but they love their 20 inch biceps and would not trade it for anything. I have friends who do triathlons all the time and they a perfectly aware that they cannot over head squat 135#. But I also couldn’t hold a candle to them in the water or on a bike.

People are not brainwashed. Most people have found the “fitness”, more of a general term for them, that they love and that is what they want to do. CrossFit is just another category, unfortunately.

That is why the CrossFit Games were created. I have heard Glassman say he wants the top triatheletes or bodybuilders to compete in the Games. However, you take the top ironman and put him in the games he may not do so well. But how would Graham Holmberg finish in the ironman or in a bodybuilding competition?

The world has to accept the CrossFit definition of fitness to gain any further merit, until then it will always be a debate.


replied to comment from Jerred Moon

I agree. The only sport that is probably similar enough is the decathlon. There is some pretty compelling evidence by checking out numbers that they would shred CF. There was one guy a few years back who did Fight Gone Bad as his first CF workout and churned out a 407 or something. The CF Games only proves who is the best at CF. Sure it's broad and inclusive fitness, but it isn't a requirement to have that complete fitness to be good at basketball, football, rugby or basically every sport except CF.

There is also this notion that there are three cut and dry ways to workout: 1) Bodybuilding. 2) LSD/Triathlon 3) Crossfit. Obviously CF is great for what it sets out to do, but for an exercise program that adopts and/or tweaks a variety of other workout styles - it is very insulting to the rest.

Who considers pro-athletes out of shape? (Charles Barkley aside!) MJ, Kobe, Derrick Rose, Reggie Bush, Jerry Rice, Karl Malone, David Robinson. Half those guys retired before Crossfit even existed (and certainly before CF became popular). Mysteriously, they managed to get fit without Crossfit. You're crazy if you don't think Derrick Rose couldn't learn any of the CF moves. There are some sport specific studs, like Micheal Phelps, who admit to being awkward at on-land sports, so he might never be elite at CF, but he's got a badass trophy cabinet. Strong people might be harder to kill but he'll survive when the floods come...


wrote …

Those who argue that bodybuilders are good at bodybuilding and crossfitters are good at crossfit are missing he point I think.
Crossfitters pursue the 10 psysical skills and through that they not only get good at crossfit but they get good at life in general since life is full of functional movements.

Btw. I love coach Glassman, can listen to him all day long...truly an inspiration!


wrote …

Wow! Part 2 is Epic! Great insight into the future of CrossFit. I'm proud to say that I'm a small part of it (history).


Dan Mielke wrote …

Hands down the best speach you've done Coach! Hurry and get this up on youtube to share with the world!...Thanks.


replied to comment from Jeff Chester

Absolutely agreed...BUT....the whole objective to CF as you know is overall fitness. I think Coach's argument/comments is geared more toward the gym zombies that go through those types of workouts in pursuit of "fitness", not necessarily toward body-builders specifically.


replied to comment from Jeff Chester

Too true. While I think CrossFit is as good as it gets, that does not mean that all other forms of exercise are to be derided. Unless your exercise is patently unsafe, then it is better than nothing. Anything that promotes even a little bit of health should not receive derision; it should receive applause. While I happen to rank CrossFit as "better" than other forms of exercise, that does not mean that P90X, eliptical trainers, body-building, ultra-marathoning, etc are "bad". Great to shout out to your chosen form of exercise; but don't call down any other form. If it gets you off of the couch and moving it is good, even if not optimal.


replied to comment from Matt Solomon

@ Matt Solomon

I never thought about decathletes having an edge at Crossfit. I always figured elite level gymnasts would have the upper hand what with the emphasis on bodyweight movements. They have the strength required to lift light and fast and have good cardiorespiratory endurance to boot. The fact that the bench press has never showed up at Sectionals, Regionals, or the Games makes it even easier for them too.


wrote …

Fucking awesome!! Thanks Coach


wrote …

Coach, I truly appreciate your striving for continued application, replication, and expansion of the science behind crossfit. I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist and I am consistently inspired by you and the life philosophy behind crossfit. I emphasize everyday to my clients that is only by working harder for longer than everyone else that anyone can become fully successful. Honest appraisal of weaknesses and a structured plan for improving them is the message I try to preach every day. This has made me more humble, more tolerant and at the same time more successful. Your explanation of sickness, health, and fitness on a continuum really rings true with me. It reminds me of the Erikson stages of child development. Looking forward to following your development of crossfit. Thanks


wrote …

Thank you for this entertaining and instructive video. A suggestion: it would be very helpful if the original 2002 'what is fitness?' article could be updated with CG's latest insights. I got a bit lost during the 'science' part about power generation and being under the curve. I reckon I need to see it in writing to get the full benefit (yep, I should have learned to pay attention in school). Keep up the good work.


replied to comment from Matt Solomon

Matt, if you use an objective measure of fitness, or 'in shape', you might find that they (pro basketball players) are not. They are adapted to their sport, but for the crowd that worships at the altar of VO2 max, how would Nowitski fare running around a track? "Fit for what" is the question, and pro ball players are fit for pro basketball, which requires speed, power, agility, coordination, accuracy, balance, stamina, and some flexibility and strength (more or less depending upon position). I think I'd be more fit playing pro b-ball than if I were pro-bodybuilding or a pro-endurance sport athlete.

But there's another question to consider, which is, were they to use CrossFit as a core S&C program, could they be more fit? Could they perform their sport better with fewer injuries? And how many of CF's elements are they already using - perhaps less randomization, but certainly many pro athletes use functional movements and definitely high intensity. In many ways, the "fitness" of pro basketball players is an endorsement of the CF framework rather than a contesting model.

Another quesiton: do you think I would become more fit, faster by using CrossFit or by training like a pro-basketball player?

Lastly - does Coach have to say, every time he speaks, "it's OK if you don't want to be fit, what I find to be ridiculous is those who claim fitness but have neither defined it and are training in ways which will not generate fitness."

He's said on tape before, more or less, it's OK if you want to lift 800 pounds or compete for Mr. Olympia, but for those who wish to be fit, don't be confused that fitness is what those folks are after.

I for one was under the mis-impression all my life that bodybuilding would make me physically capable - now I better understand the limits of that type of training and like many, wish the distinction were better known 30 years ago!

Coach - your delivery on this speech improves over time, awesome. As for part 2, that's an incredible vision, I think I finally get it.


wrote …

What I love about this video is that Coach has (again) put his intuition about a health model out for everyone to see and shoot down. Further, he and Crossfit are pursuing the rigorous testing of that intuition like a dog on a bone. I love the absence of excuses and apologies! I think this is an indication of a very high moral code. Check out this video about how groups respond together (positively and negatively) to moral standards.

Thanks for setting the bar high!


replied to comment from Jeff Chester

"Being a jack of all trades is fine if you are willing to accept the fact that you won't be best you can be at any one particular aspect"

Glad I'm not the only one thinking this.

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