Why Does CrossFit Work?

I was going through some old piles of paper (my ‘filing’ tray lol) recently and came across a CrossFit Journal article from 2007 that I’d printed out and obviously meant to read but never did (who reads physical things anymore?).

It’s entitled ‘Principles of Physiologic Conditioning’, which probably means almost nothing to most of us with no exercise science background. However, the opening reads:

Athletes, coaches, and trainers familiar with CrossFit know that it works. However, I find that some are nonetheless hungry for more explanations of why it works.

The term “physiologic conditioning” refers to a planned program of exercise directed toward improving the functional capacity of a particular bodily system.

OK. So, that sounds more like something I’m interested in reading about. If you want to read all 5 (five!!) pages, click the link above but here’s my summary for those with an Instagram story length attention span:


If you work the body harder than it is used to, it will adapt and improve in that area. You simply have to stress the body to realize any fitness gains. This is known as Overload. Sitting on a stationary bike or ‘jogging’ on a treadmill for 20 minutes is not going to provide effective overload unless you’ve done absolutely nothing for several years.

Overload will also vary by person. An experienced athlete will find gains will come a little more slowly as they are already close to their genetic potential. An inexperienced athlete will see results very quickly.

How do we overload? There are 3 factors at our disposal – frequency (how many times you workout), intensity (how hard you push yourself in your workout), and duration (how long you workout for). At JCFit, our daily programming will vary in intensity and duration, and our coaches will work with you to determine the appropriate frequency.

Avoiding routine

I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met in the last 4 years who came in to the gym for a No Sweat Intro (you can book yours here) and told me they were bored or not seeing the results they wanted from their regular gym workouts: running a mile or two on the treadmill, doing some bicep curls, and staring at row after row of machines, wondering how they worked and what they did for them. How many times did they do the things they weren’t very good at or didn’t like: ZERO! But they thought they were ‘fit’ until their first CrossFit workout, which hit several of the 10 General Physical Skills, and not just the 2 or 3 they’d been working on week after week.

The constant variation of our programming prevents a) boredom and b) specificity i.e. a focus on one or two things. If you want to focus on something in particular, we can help with that too through our Personal Training program, but the majority of us who are looking just to ‘get fitter’ will get all the benefit we need from consistent attendance at our CrossFit group classes.

Use it or lose it

Once you’ve reached a desired level of fitness, you need to maintain it with a regular program of activity. What’s somewhat unique to JCFit is our members are constantly redefining their ‘desired level of fitness’! I don’t recall anyone leaving the gym after a class proclaiming “I’ve conquered CrossFit, what’s next?”

One of our roles as coaches is to push you to your limits, not beyond them. But, we also want to help you raise those limits and do more of what you are actually capable of, which is often a lot more than you think!


Every group class will be made up of members with different goals (or different reasons for the same goal) and at different stages of their journey toward those goals. Some will be stronger, others will be better conditioned or have greater mobility. At JCFit, we use a system called The Level Method to Assess our members’ current levels of ability across a very broad fitness spectrum, Address any relative weaknesses, and make overall Progress towards their goals. It also allows us to appropriately modify all the movements in our daily workouts to each individual and their specific needs and ability.  

In summary, CrossFit works because it allows us to consistently get fitter (whatever that may mean to you) through varied programming (avoiding routine) that will push you to your limits (overload) and keep you wanting to do more (you won’t want to lose it!) through either 1:1 Personal Training or our Group Classes, which are effectively personal training in a small group environment (individuality).

If you’d like to find out more about what we do, how we do it, and how we can help YOU achieve your health and fitness goals, please visit one of our two Jersey City locations (Downtown and Journal Square) and hit the blue BOOK A FREE INTRO button.

The original article, written by Tony Leyland, can be found in the CrossFit Journal.

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