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The Ultimate Guide to CrossFit Lingo

Ready to tackle CrossFit head-on? Get pumped for a whole new level of intensity with Greatist’s guide to the must-know CrossFit terms and phrases.
The Ultimate Guide to CrossFit Lingo
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For some, it’s the ultimate quest for physical preparedness; for others, the very thought of CrossFit makes them want to puke. Either way, CrossFit is making an undeniable impact in the fitness world, with followers tackling muscle-ups, Fran, and the infamous Filthy Fifty. So whether you're off to the nearest “box” or tuning in to the CrossFit Games on ESPN, here’s the need-to-know lingo for any and every WOD.

Photo by Ben Draper
The Fundamentals

Box: A box is a barebones gym to some, but heaven to a CrossFitter. While many CrossFitters train on their own from home or non-CrossFit gyms, “boxes” have all the equipment necessary for the range of WODs (more on those below) without the bells, whistles, and bicep curl bars of a “chrome-and-tone” gym.

AMRAP: As Many Reps/Rounds as Possible,” that is, given a specific time period. Often lasting 10, 20, or 30 minutes (though it’ll feel a LOT longer) AMRAP workouts challenge athletes to complete as many rounds of a series of movements in the allotted time. Just be careful not to lose count…

Ass to Grass: Get low! Also called “Ass to Ankles,” or ATG for short, this term denotes a full-depth squat. (Wondering if that last rep was deep enough means it probably wasn’t.)

For Time: Think you’re fast? See how you stack up with the rest of the CrossFit world by measuring the time it takes to complete a prescribed workout. Though not all CrossFit workouts have a timed component, the protocol is famous for pushing athletes to race against each other and the clock.

Score: Think you’re elite? Better bring a calculator. The score denotes the total number of reps completed during a given workout.

Affiliate: An affiliate is a gym, or “box,” that’s officially affiliated with the CrossFit brand (and thus given CrossFit Headquarters’ blessing to spread the brand’s gospel). In order to become an affiliate, gyms must have CrossFit-certified trainers on staff.

10 General Physical Skills of Fitness: CrossFit workouts are designed to improve this list of skills, believed to encompass the full spectrum of fitness: cardiovascular endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance. Too bad “appetite” didn’t make the cut.

CrossFit Games: The sport of fitness has arrived (or so claims Reebok, the official sponsor of the CrossFit Games). Each summer the CrossFit Games test participants with a barrage of physical challenges and workouts, ranging from swimming and running to pull-ups and handstand walks (sorry, Kobayashi, hot-dog eating has yet to make an appearance). Participants accrue points over the events, and the male and female winners are crowned World’s Fittest Man & Woman. Sectional and Regional qualifiers narrow the field before the annual Games Weekend.

CrossFit Open: A sort of virtual CrossFit Games, the Open allows competitors to register online and compete on their own or at local CrossFit boxes.

CrossFit HQ: Owned and operated by founder Greg Glassman, the first CrossFit gym is located in Santa Cruz, CA. The location is a sort of Mecca for the compulsively fit, and the location still serves as the brain of CrossFit methodology and CrossFit.com’s daily workout.

CrossFit JournalThe Journal is CrossFit’s internal publication featuring information on workouts, movements, inspirational stories, and news. Updated daily, the online publication charges readers $25 a year for unlimited access to research, articles, videos, and more.

The Players

Greg Glassman: A former gymnast, Glassman developed CrossFit out of his Santa Cruz, CA gym in order to prepare clients for the “unknown and unknowable.” A prominent figure in CrossFit media and special events, Glassman continues to coach and train instructors across the country.

Games Competitor: These athletes aren’t in it just for fitness. They’re hell-bent on success at CrossFit’s highest level, prepping hard (and sometimes working out multiple times a day) to hone their skills, increase their stamina, and build their strength to blast away the competition.

Firebreather: Whether it’s courage, chutzpah, or just plain cojones, firebreathers have enough tenacity to get them through the toughest workouts— and then some. Expect to see these ultra-dedicated athletes finishing their workouts in record time and then catching a breath to cheer on their winded compatriots still hustling through.

Pukie the Clown: An unofficial (and undeniably gross) mascot, Pukie symbolizes what happens when athletes push a bit too hard for their own good (and digestive systems).

Uncle Rhabdo: Another unofficial CrossFit mascot, Uncle Rhabdo represents perhaps the CrossFitter’s worst nightmare: rhabdomyolysis, a rapid breakdown of muscle fibers that can occur when the body is pushed too hard. If left untreated, rhabdo can lead to serious long-term kidney and muscle damage.

The Movements

Burpees: One of the most dreaded moves in fitness, burpees make up a cornerstone of CrossFit workouts. Starting from standing, athletes bend down and plant their hands, kick back into a plank position, and perform a push-up. The legs are then brought back in, and the movement culminates with a slight jump up and hands clapped overhead. (The feet have to leave the ground for it to count!) Now repeat 100 times, just for funsies.

Double Under: This ain’t your mama’s double-dutch. A double under is when a jump rope passes under an athlete’s feet twice with only one jump. Don’t think it sounds much harder than normal jump rope? Try 50 (or heck, even 15) of these bad boys in a row and see if there’s any breath left to complain.

Bodyweight/Air Squat: Standing straight up, an athlete squats down until their hips are below their knees, then stands back up until the hips are once again fully extended. Expect upwards of 150 bodyweight squats in many CrossFit workouts, and remember, keep that chest up!

Knees to Elbows: Hang on! In this movement, athletes hang from a pull-up bar and then shoot their knees up toward the torso until the elbows and knees touch. For a harder version, try bringing the toes all the way to the bar.

Kipping Pull-Up: Watch almost any video on CrossFit and you’ll likely see people swinging from bars like sweaty, fitness-oriented orangutans. But there’s a rhythm to that swinging, letting athletes transfer horizontal motion to vertical force and allowing for more (and quicker) pull-ups.

Pistol: Also known as single leg squats, pistols require half the legs, but twice the effort.

Band-Assisted Pull-Up: Forget fancy machines. CrossFitters who can’t quite get all the way up loop stretch bands over the bar and use them as a low-tech (and cheaper) alternative to assisted pull-ups.

Walking Lunge: Using bodyweight, a barbell on the shoulders, or a weight plate held directly overhead, athletes step forward with one foot and bend both legs until their back knee taps the ground. Repeat for the reps prescribed or until the legs turn to jelly— whichever comes first.

Rope Climb: Couldn’t get enough of high school gym class? Grab on tight and shimmy upwards with this staple of CrossFit workouts.

Sumo Deadlift High Pull: In this movement, athletes take a wide stance over a barbell and explosively pull from the ground upward until the bar comes up to shoulder height— no 400-pound wrestlers required.

Thruster: One of CrossFit’s most deceptively tiring movements, the thruster is— “simply”— a front squat straight into a push press. Try them once and prepare to cringe next time they show up on the schedule.

Handstand Push-Up: These are a basic movement for gymnasts— but a real challenge (and an awesome bar trick) for most regular folks. In most CrossFit workouts, athletes can kick up to a wall for stability while they perform this movement. Just remember these don’t count unless the head touches the ground at the bottom and arms are fully locked at the top.

Muscle Up: In one of the most advanced CrossFit movements, athletes hang from gymnastic rings and explosively pull their chest above the rings to the bottom of a dip position. From there they push up until the arms are fully locked (of course, the tricky part is figuring out how to get down from there).

GHD Sit-Up: Don’t underestimate this super sit-up, one of the main culprits behind workout-induced rhabdomyolysis. Sitting face-up on a glute-ham developer (see GHD entry below), athletes reach back until their hands graze the ground, then explosively extend their legs and sit up.

Box Jump: No running starts allowed. Athletes jump up onto a box of a given height from a two-footed stance. Pro tip: Pretend your legs are springs (or consider investing in some Kangoo shoes).

Snatch: Get your mind out of the gutter. The snatch is one of two Olympic lifts where athletes explosively lift a weighted barbell from ground to overhead in one movement, often squatting under the bar and then standing up— or “recovering”— to allow for heavier weights.

Clean & Jerk: The other Olympic lift, the clean & jerk actually encompasses two separate movements. Athletes start by explosively lifting a weighted barbell from the ground to the shoulders, often squatting under and then standing to recover. After a brief pause, athletes take a shallow dip and then drive upward to propel the bar overhead, often landing in a split position and then bringing their feet back in line.

Ring Dip: It’s just like a conventional bodyweight dip, only on gymnastic rings. The rings are unstable, making it harder to keep the hands close to the body (like dips needed to be any harder).

Wallball: Holding a 20-pound (for men) or 14-pound (for ladies) medicine ball, athletes squat down and explosively stand up, throwing the ball toward an eight- or 10-foot target above their heads.

The Workouts

WOD: The “Workout of the Day” is the workout CrossFitters perform on a given day. Many individuals and affiliates follow CrossFit.com’s WODs, though others do their own programming (or “bro”-gramming, for the muscle lovers out there).

CrossFit Total: The total is CrossFit’s benchmark strength workout in which athletes have three attempts each (in order, please!) to find their max back squat, standing press, and deadlift. It’s the most exhausting nine reps anyone could ask for.

Hero WODs: Named after military servicemen, police, or firefighters who have died in the line of duty, these difficult workouts are intermittently programmed in CrossFit to provide an extra challenge and reminder of their sacrifice.

Metcon: Short for “metabolic conditioning,” metcons are designed to train stamina, endurance, and conditioning. Unlike WODs— which can also include purely strength or skill-based workouts— metcons generally include some sort of timed component performed at high intensity.

Fran: Don't let the sweet name fool you. Perhaps CrossFit’s most famous workout, Fran is a 21-15-9 rep scheme of thrusters (95 pounds for men, 65 for women) and pull-ups. For those keeping track at home, that’s 21 thrusters and 21 pull-ups, followed by 15 thrusters and 15 pull-ups, and so on. Elite CrossFitters can finish this monstrosity in less than three minutes, but don’t expect to break twice that during the first try.

Murph: One of CrossFit’s toughest WODs, this workout consists of a one-mile run followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 bodyweight squats. Oh, and then another one-mile run. Yeah, have fun with that.

Grace: Athletes must complete 30 clean & jerks at 135 pounds (95 for women) as fast as possible. Think of it like a sprint with a barbell.

Isabel: These ladies won't let up. This one's the same as Grace, only 30 snatches for time instead of clean & jerks.

Filthy Fifty: For time: 50 Box Jumps, 50 Jumping Pull-ups, 50 Kettlebell Swings (35 lbs), 50 Walking Lunges, 50 Knees to Elbows, 50 Push Press (45 lbs), 50 Back Extensions, 50 Wallballs, 50 Burpees, 50 Double Unders. Phew!

The Equipment

GHD: A medieval looking device that also resembles a Transformer, the Glute Ham Developer is used for a variety of movements including glute-ham raises, GHD sit-ups, and back extensions.

Paralettes: Portable parallel bars around eight inches high. For those who’ve mastered regular handstand pushups, try performing them on paralettes for an added challenge/ego bruiser.

C2 Rower: Don’t expect to find any ellipticals in this dojo (er, gym). But do expect to find the C2, the rowing machine of choice for many CrossFit athletes.

Rings: While they likely won’t be going for Olympic gold, CrossFitters regularly use gymnastic rings for a wide range of movements including dips, rows, muscle-ups, and just hangin’ around.

Abmat: A contoured foam wedge placed behind the back during sit-ups, the abmat allows for a greater range of motion while providing some padding against the hard ground.

Bumper Plates: CrossFitters love to drop weights, and these rubberized barbell plates allow them to do just that. Watch out!

Have you tried CrossFit? What are your favorite terms and phrases for the “sport of fitness?”

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