How Did CrossFit Become Popular? Here’s How.

How CrossFit became popular (and with such explosive speed) is an interesting question with a simple answer. Here’s what you need to know.

The CrossFit training regime was new and innovative at the time, becoming a movement in its own right, being likened to a cult by some. The popularity was proliferated by being what’s known as ‘infinitely scalable’, and accessible to people of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels. The convenience of consistent, pre-programmed workouts available every day, along with a semi-personal training feel and a strong sense of community was a unique and winning formula, meaning CrossFit grew much more rapidly than many other known sports.

Community vibes

The CrossFit ‘Box’ (gym) feels more like a club than a gym. It’s a place where people make friends and bond with people they otherwise wouldn’t in any other setting, thus creating a ubiquitous sense of camaraderie. It made exercise fun for 10’s thousands of people, almost overnight.

CrossFit has a desire for an aggressive growth strategy with a goal of over 100 million members in the next decade. You can read more on the popularity of CrossFit in the year 2022 here.

CrossFit made exercise fun

The Founding of CrossFit Inc.

Greg Glassman and his (now divorced) wife Lauren Jenai founded the early roots Cross-Fit in 1996. In 2000, they incorporated the company CrossFit Inc, and opened the first-ever CrossFit Gym (AKA Box) in Santa Cruz, CA.

To find out how CrossFit works, check out this Best Gym Hacks article here.

It became more widely known, initially in the USA, by internet postings of Glassman’s workouts on The US Army, Police Forces and Fire Fighting Services started using the training methodology in their exercise and training prescription.

So a very reasonable inference as to why it became popular so fast is that it made exercise fun for hundreds of thousands of people


After Glassman developed a primitive training manual, a huge spike in CrossFit gym affiliations sprang up in the USA, particularly after the 2007 CrossFit Games. This was a 2-day event and consisted of only 3 events.

It was extremely basic and humble, but the ethos was the same then as it is now – a test of fitness.

What Country Has The Most CrossFit Gyms?

The USA has the most number of CrossFit gyms, followed by France, UK, Italy, Spain, then Brazil.

The Morning Chalkup reported last month that France is the “biggest success story outside of the USA“, which has recently overtaken the UK.

The popularity of CrossFit in each country is likely down to a number of things such as affluence, accessibility, suitable building stock, demographic propensity and culture.

1USA – 5,034
2FRANCE – 712
3UK – 695
4ITALY – 584
5SPAIN – 532 (Excluding the Belaric Islands)
6BRAZIL – 525
Top 6 approximate CrossFit affiliate numbers and their country as of August 2022

Fact Hack 1: The country with the smallest number of CrossFit affiliates is Mauritus, with 2 CrossFit Gyms.

Fact Hack 2: The USA has the highest number of CrossFit Gyms and CrossFit members than any other country. Because of this, the leaderboard at the CrossFit Games each year is heavily populated with American athletes both men and women.

Fact Hack 3: Despite the American dominance in the sport, this year Mallory O’Brien – who is trained by 5x champion, Mat Fraser – came 2nd at The CrossFit Games. This is the highest placing by an American Female athlete since the year 2013!

What Made CrossFit Innovative?

The movements that Glassman utilised, in the beginning, were not new or original.

However, the format, intensity and ultimately the environment became a huge factor in the sport’s innovation within the fitness sphere.

Buzzwords and terms such as functional and infinitely scalable helped rocket-fuel interest in otherwise disinterested exercise adults.

The CrossFit Games itself was somewhat innovative, evolving each year in size and stature as more revenue was making its way into the sport.

It became the Super Bowl of CrossFit, with the leadup and qualifiers known as Regionals helping to perpetuate interest in the sports side.

More quality with loved one’s time – something we could all do with.

A large portion of CrossFitters will tell you they go – and have been going for a number of years – due to the community and the fun it brings.

When polling our members at the 2 affiliates that I co-own, we found Having Fun was very important to them (62.2%), with an emphasis on Making Friends being important too.

So a very reasonable inference as to why it became popular so fast is that it made exercise fun for hundreds of thousands of people, disbanding the long-held view that gyms and exercise are a chore.

The below shows the results from our in-house survey. Some of the results throughout the survey were expected, or even predictable. However, every day is a school day and got some really useful feedback from our members, allowing us to improve both of our facilities.

Having Fun was highly important to most members in our 2 affilates

Exercise With Loved Ones

The market had space, too, for children and teens. This meant parents could see their children enjoying exercise, and go even further doing exercise with them too.

Teens in a friendly CrossFit competition with their parents

The concept of exercise with your children again is of course not unique to CrossFit, but it’s another reason the success has been vertical as well as horizontal. For example, parents would normally drop their teenage kids at football or swimming, but many CrossFit gyms offer mixed teen and adult classes, enabling them to train together. More quality with loved ones time – something we could all do with.

We see our adult members bringing their teenage kids to the gyms. We’ve seen 4 of a family of 5 in classes before!

Further, there are a huge number of couples that train together. I’ve lost count of the couples in our affiliates.

Normally one joins, and then another follows. But we’ve seen many unions being established at one of the gyms. I myself met my wife of 4 years a the CrossFit gym I now co-own!

How Easy Is It To Open A CrossFit Gym?

This question has a direct correlation to the meteoric growth and popularity of CrossFit.

In real terms, and in an age of entrepreneurship, the barrier to entry is not particularly high.

You need a CrossFit Level 1 which is relatively easy to obtain. You need a suitable property. Obviously some capital. And some business acumen wouldn’t go amiss. Also, drive.

It’s easy enough that over 15,000 other people have opened one.

But it’s very easy to get it wrong and ungracefully implode.

The formula is simple. Get as many members as possible, the revenue of which is greater than all your outgoings (rent, staff costs, utilities, affiliation fee, insurance etc). This equates to your profit.

Hard work pays off

Having been part of a buyout of a CrossFit affiliate and carrying out a total refurbishment, and then establishing, building and furnishing a second CrossFit affiliate, I’ve learned so many valuable lessons.

Things such as importing equipment and materials direct from manufacturer suppliers; branding flavour; acceptable cost p/sq/footages; membership pricing; popular and not so popular revenue streams for the gyms; along with a metric tonne of other things that will help make your fitness business successful.

Upcoming resource for you

From this, I plan to make a very valuable e-book resource. It will contain the do’s (and do-nots) for any fitness entrepreneur, that is translatable for all types of gyms and many other startup businesses in the leisure sector.

The eBook will be brimming with insider knowledge on everything you need to know when thinking, planning, building and opening a gym of any sort.

I also plan to include other useful tools such as spreadsheets which will do the nitty-gritty stuff like project your cash flow, profits and expenditures, plus other spreadsheets that will track your gym’s performance.

Business sense

I also founded and sold a CrossFit / lifestyle e-commerce brand in the fitness space, which dovetails nicely into gym ownership.

Many of the hacks I used in that project have been deployed in my share of the 2 CrossFit affiliates, which has ultimately helped them both achieve success.

Be sure to look out for this as it comes out later in the year. I will post a further article breaking this down and explaining the e-book’s content, with how to best get the most out of it.

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