CrossFit is a workout methodology that consists of heavy, intensive lifting, cardio training, and movements involving multiple joints, such as box jumps, pull-ups, and rope jumping. It was created in 2001 by a former gymnast called Greg Glassman.

According to the official CrossFit guide book, the discipline aims to “forge a broad, general and inclusive fitness.”

Intensity is the main feature of CrossFit. The programs are very difficult. The guide book says that CrossFit’s purpose is to achieve constantly varied, intensive functional movements that will improve physical competence in the following physical domains: stamina, cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, strength, power, flexibility, speed, agility, coordination, balance, and accuracy.

Why is it effective?

The centerpiece of CrossFit is a huge digital clock. It takes center stage in most CrossFit facilities. You can’t stop until the clock hits zero. The coach and other participants push you to complete your set even as you lose stamina and your muscles fail.

Uncle Rhabdo and Other Risks

Uncle Rhabdo, short for rhabdomyolysis, is a well-known character in the CrossFit community, a failing old man with blood bursting out of his body. Rhabdomyolysis is a severe kidney condition induced by excessive exercise (in the vast majority of cases). This is a potentially life-threatening state, which occurs when muscle breaks down and a by-product of muscle fiber called myoglobin is released into the blood stream uncontrolled, clogging up the kidneys. They can’t filter the toxin, and blood poisoning occurs. Rhabdo can cause kidney failure and electrolyte imbalances that can lead to heart failure.

In Praise of CrossFit?

Despite the obvious risks, CrossFit has proved wildly successful. Unlike other gyms, which struggle with poor customer motivation and even take measures to punish their patrons, CrossFit gyms struggle with excessive motivation. If you look up “CrossFit” on Twitter, you will invariably get hundreds of posts praising it, and the search term will appear along with the word “pain” a lot of the time.

According to Joe Dowdell, founder and CEO of Peak Performance in New York City, it is a challenge to push an athlete to the point of discomfort. He says patrons vomit very often. “We pull the reigns back. Vomiting is a sign that you’ve hit a point when it’s just too much,” he concedes.

Final Say

Most people who do CrossFit are used to the painful muscles and overall strain. In fact, it’s something of an adrenaline rush, leaving them wanting more. “It gets hard to say oh, that’s pain, I need to stop,” says David Geier, Jr., an orthopedic surgeon. “I think the benefits of CrossFit outweigh the risks—but the risks are real.”