The Language of Crossfit

When implemented correctly, Crossfit is fun, challenging, mentally and physically taxing, elating, humbling, and a very effective way to get fit and improve across a broad spectrum of skills. To some people it can be very intimidating. It has an undeserved reputation for being excessively dangerous and/or cult like. I believe part of this problem stems from the language used in Crossfit. If you are unfamiliar with it, it can be confusing and even a bit pretentious.

The purpose of this “secret” language is not to confuse you, to exclude you, or to be elitist. The purpose is simple, for us owners and coaches who spend a lot of time programming and either putting workouts into Wodify, some other software, or onto a whiteboard it is meant to be a shorthand that saves us time. So let’s take a look at some of the common terms and acronyms used in Crossfit and hopefully it will help give you some insight and take away some of the intimidation. (yeah yeah…..I know English Nazis….it’s not an acronym if it doest actually spell a word. Get over it!)

Common terms and acronyms:

WOD: (workout of the day) This generally refers to the workout on the whiteboard or posted online that you will be performing for the day. I’ve seen boxes refer to the entire workout as a WOD and Iv’e seen boxes refer to the portion after weightlifting as the WOD. At our box we tend to refer to the entire thing as a WOD and then subcategorize as strength training or weightlifting and metabolic conditioning.

Box: Crossfit gyms are called boxes. They started in garages and warehouses. Most of them are still in warehouses. They are boxes. Square rooms. Not fancy. Rarely are there mirrors or anything cushy and cute. Square rooms filled with heavy shit and chalk and meant to be a breeding ground for hard work and nothing more.

Rx: Doing a workout as suggested or “prescribed.” Frequently WODs are assigned a particular weight to use. This is called “Rx.” Rx isn’t easy. It isn’t supposed to be. If you can’t do a workout at Rx don’t feel bad. It’s a goal. It’s not necessarily meant to cater to brand new people or anyone with limitations. It isn’t intended to be like no child left behind. You have options. This is the beauty of Crossfit. Can a 70 year old grandma do Crossfit? Yes! In a special silver sneakers addition right? No! Right next to you. Same class. Crossfit is “scaleable.” There are always options and modifications. If you aren’t given them then your coach/box sucks and go somewhere else. So….I repeat……DON’T FEEL BAD! I own a box and there are plenty of workouts I can’t do Rx. I scale. I have some strengths too. This is where I can go “Rx+” This is meant for the elite. The strongest and fastest. (I have a VERY short list of things I can do at Rx+) Another goal. That’s all. Just something to work towards. This is all about measurable progression. Scale where you need to. Relish in Rx when you can. Silently and privately strut your stuff at Rx+. It’s all hard work. THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS!

AMRAP: (As many rounds as possible. OR As many Reps as possible) Simple. The clock runs. Maybe 7 or 10 minutes. You have movements. Do as many reps or rounds of those movements as possible inside the given time. No scheduled rest. 7 minutes???? Is that all??? Piece of cake right!?!? Just you wait…..

EMOM (every minute on the minute) You are given a time frame. (10 minutes) You are given a task or tasks. (push ups) You are given a certain amount of reps (12) You have all the info you need. Now….for 10minutes you will perform 12 push ups per minute starting a new 12 at the top of every minute. If you do 12 push ups in 20 seconds the  you rest 40 seconds before you start your next 12. Repeat for 10 minutes or essentially 10 rounds.

Death by: Another format used on minute schedules (usually) You have a movement (barbell squat.) In the first minute you do 1 squat. In the second minute you do 2. 3rd minute 3. Are you seeing a pattern here? Bueller?….Bueller?… Anyone??? (If you aren’t at least 35, you may not get that joke. Be glad. You aren’t old.) So…..death by…. the first 5 or 6 minutes is easy peasy! Get back to me by minute 10.

Weightlifting: Lifting weights and weightlifting are not the same thing. Wait……what??? Yes…they are NOT the same. Picking heavy things up and putting them down. That’s lifting weights. Weightlifting is a sport. Have you seen the Herculean men and women lifting ungodly amounts of weight overhead in the olympics? That’s weightlifting. Two movements specifically. The snatch and the clean and jerk. (If your crossfit crazed friend comes into work bragging about their snatch or how much they like to clean and jerk, it’s probably not as interesting as it sounds.) So is weightlifting lifting weights? Technically yes, it is. Is lifting weights weightlifting? Only if you are performing some version of snatches, cleans, jerks, or the clean and jerk.

“Girl” workouts: (AKA: benchmarks) There is a list of WODs that have girls’ names.(i.e.: Elizabeth, Fran, Grace, Jackie etc) They are “benchmark” workouts. You will do them. Score yourself on time, weight, rx or non rx, reps etc. You will do them again in the future and try to beat or improve upon your previous performance. They generally (not always) consist of 1-3 movements that are somewhat easy to understand or implement. They are brutal in their simplicity and can destroy you in minutes! Ya know……in the good “man that kicked my ass” kinda way.

There are a lot of little terms and sayings that get throw around in a crossfit box. Once you know what’s going on it can be kind of fun to join in the banter. (Many a funny t-shirt has come out of this language to say the least.) These are some of the most commonly used ones. Hopefully this sheds a little light on Crossfit and makes it seem a bit more accessible. So what are you waiting for? Grab your nanos, your olys, your rock tape, your speed rope, slap on your favorite rogue tank, and head to your local box for a Wod. If you’re lucky you’ll get to clean and jerk and maybe do Barbara or Jackie! (To soon?)

Go forth and lift all the heavy things!


Brad Preslar