Fitness Culture: Pseudo-Crossfit

Last Fitness Culture post: History, Icons, and the Waterfall Effect


A fascinating shift is taking place in the Fitness industry. Things are changing. Some would say for the better, and I agree, for the most part. But there is hardly ever a positive change without some sort of drawback, its the way the universe works, a sort of counter-balance or yin-yang. As discussed earlier in previous posts, quick changes in fitness from machines and isolation to high intensity interval training and free weights, has given the rise to Crossfit. I’ve also discussed in previous posts my concerns with Crossfit from injuries to the effects of mass producing fitness(more on that in a future post). My concerns are only echoes of what a great deal of the industry leaders are saying.

Amazingly, you have coaches hopping on the pop-culture trend, while trainers on the other end sticking there feet firmly in the corporate gyms. In the middle, you have a lot of amazing coaches, some even ex-Crossfit coaches. While this middle territory lacks any real unity, a lot of them have very similar styles. There is a heavy push on functional training, correctives, and strength and conditioning. But there is also a sub culture that has branched off of Crossfit, the Pseudo-Crossfit.


No one will doubt Crossfit is greatly influential. The style has brought upon many great concepts to the fitness world. The influence for my gym came modestly from Crossfit. But, I chose to pull from various styles to create our own unique style(always comparing Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do). As I network and catch a glance at the surrounding industry, you begin to see more and more of these (functional) gyms opening up. At the same time you see what we will define as Pseudo-Crossfits rising up.

What is the Pseudo Crossfit?

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

crossfit gym 2

Simply stated, a Pseudo Crossfit, is not an official Crossfit. Yet, on the inside, the methodology, is Crossfit. It lacks its own identity. Instead, choosing the replicate Crossfit without direct association for a variety of reasons.

Influence vs Pseudo


Early I stated that my approach and my gym is influenced by Crossfit. I am always willing to give credit where credit is due. Crossfit has paved a road towards fitness that is becoming increasingly popular. But if you look at that road and where its headed (injuries, health, market), I personally, had to choose a separate path. On the good side, Crossfit taught me to step away from the machines. Which I am forever thankful for. But on the opposite side, Crossfit taught me that high rep structural exercises like deadlifts and olympic lifts can lead to injury and should be respected as opposed to abused. Learn not only from your mistakes, but the mistakes of others. This is influence. Pseudo on the other hand is replication, non-real, and lacking identity.

Why go Pseudo?

The realization that the ‘old Crossfit’ was the good Crossfit, and the ‘new Crossfit’ is over the top.

I agree with this statement. The old Crossfit programming was very good. Gyms that identify with this statement often resort to old school Crossfit. What has occurred in Crossfit is this need to continually raise the bar. The higher you raise the bar, the harder the task, and the more injuries that take place. This is not exclusive to Crossfit, but other extreme sports, like Obstacle Course Races and (Ultra)Marathons. But, Crossfit has done something to reign these gyms back in. Instead of breaking away from the philosophy of Crossfit and creating an individual identity, these gyms are confined to the Crossfit ways because of one simple word. Competition.

crossfit comp

Often ‘boxes’ host competitions to compete with surrounding Crossfits. Bring your fittest athletes and go toe to toe with other CF’ers. The problem that exists due to competition is that if you are attempting to go ‘old school’, often times you will not be able to keep up with the competition (Crossfit). Why? Specificity. Old school was shorter bouts of relatively easier circuits. Newer Crossfit is much more extreme. For example, if you have an athlete that trains for 5k races, and an athlete that trains for ultra-marathons which one is going to do better at an ultra marathon? Put this way, in order for gyms to keep up in competitions, they need to replicate the norms. So, while the original statement of separation from Crossfit was a legitimate reason, ultimately, these gyms follow programs just as extreme in order to keep up. They become Pseudo Crossfits.

While we will leave this subject up for a later post, it is interesting to note that, if these Pseudo Crossfits programmed and thought outside of the box(of Crossfit), they could manage to train and host fitness competitions that would ensure their wins. Because while Crossfit trains for fitness and is the ‘sport of fitness’, what you do see time and time again is Crossfitters getting tangled up and winded during routines that are beyond what Crossfit programs for. I’ve personally have seen this many times. You would expect any Crossfitter that claims elite-ness at fitness to crush its non-Crossfit competition. But this is usually not the case. I’ve had many of my own clients run laps around Crossfitters. Strange it is that both my approach and Crossfits approach is to train for fitness, yet, there are great differences in programming. Those differences result in the conclusion that ‘elite in fitness’ is really just ‘elite at crossfitness’. With all of that said, if a Pseudo Crossfit was to think beyond the restrains of Crossfit, they could build identity, and host comps that would destroy the competition, but the goal is to separate yourself from the rest, so this would be counter-productive, but wildly entertaining at least.


Playing Both Sides of the Field

What these gyms and coaches have learned to do is play both sides of the field for whatever best suits them. Meaning, they will claim to be Crossfit, as this is an accurate description(based on methodology), to draw in clients which is a wise choice since Crossfit is heavily marketed (meaning free advertising), yet, they will claim they are not Crossfit when they need to. Example of this is when a potential new customer is being sold to. To counter a competing market, they will choose which direction to sell from. If the person is not looking for a Crossfit style routine, they will claim to not be Crossfit. If the person is looking for Crossfit, they will claim the name.

Stated again, these gyms lack identity. Choosing to ride the coat tails of Crossfit, but when the situation calls for it denying its use and even shooting down local Crossfits to separate themselves from the pack. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, if you look at style, programming, methodology, and demeanor, you cannot differentiate between a Crossfit and Pseudo-Crossfit. Despite the differences in boxes and branding, corn flakes are all just corn flakes. Ducks are ducks. Turds are turds. And while a gym may not have the Crossfit brand, if the appearance and methodology is Crossfit, then there is little to no difference, its Crossfit (just without having to pay the fees).

Saving Money


The Pseudo Crossfit exchanges identity for money. They do not have to pay association fees, they do not need to get level 1 certified, they have unlimited Crossfit resources via free online videos, articles, and forums. Pseudo Crossfits also get free marketing and advertising through tv ads, Reebok, the Crossfit games, online venues, and magazines. Also a distinct advantage that they are taking is the ability to separate themselves from Crossfit by selling to individuals not looking for Crossfit, or shooting down local CF’s, etc. Despite essentially being a Crossfit.

Ultimately, You Have to Shop Carefully

Don’t settle on the first gym you find, shop around. Look beyond just the challenging workouts and selling points, its the job of the gym owner and the coaches to sell their product. Investigate the underlying philosophy of the gyms approach. Do they value individual attention through program personalization? What content are they putting out there, their own intellectual content or regurgitated media from various sources that only verify their brand? Is the gym and the coaches following a path that has already been laid out or are they making their own path? Are the competing in Crossfit comps, posting Crossfit material, and programming like Crossfit?

As Robb Wolf stated in his 2011 podcast about Crossfit- “One in every 100 Crossfits is an actual good gym”. The trend being that as the brand grows, the ratio of bad:good gyms expands due to its cheapness is intellectual growth and monetary priorities. It may be predicted now that one in every 500 CF’s is actually a good gym with quality coaching, decreasing your likelihood that the gym and coaching you choose will be of higher grade. But what about the Pseudo-Crossfits? They fall into the same category, since they are merely replicating the brand. The chances of finding a quality gym and coaching are still slim.

The lesson: Don’t settle on the first gym you find. Absorb the information being published from various local coaches and gyms. Don’t fall for the fluff of cheap, mass produced workouts that kick your ass, there is nothing challenging about kicking someones ass. Find a coach/trainer/gym that incorporates individual attention (Remember, the most important part of training is the individual, not the program.). Also look for a gym that produces quality intellectual content, and is not simply following the trends but is sticking with the science and the wisdom of the some of the best coaches in the world.