Is CrossFit A Sport? Here’s Why It Is.

This question has polarised responses on whether CrossFit is not a sport. Nevertheless, here’s a useful answer, founded upon the definition of ‘sport’ by the Oxford English Dictionary.

CrossFit, by its own merit, is recognised as a sport because it fulfils the parameters of the definition of ‘Sport’. Namely, “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes“. Much of the emphasis of CrossFit gravitates largely around competition and its entire philosophy and methodology rest on physical exertion and skill. Thereby, it does in fact qualify as a sport.

Nationwide friendly competitive CrossFit goes on every week of the year

“The Sport of Fitness”

This is the strap-line and a large proportion of the brand of CrossFit.

It’s the public and ever-growing competitive side of the brand, where each year CrossFit LLC seeks to find the ‘Fittest on Earth’ by a series of tests from a pool of athletes who earned a ticket to compete at the event.

The right to compete at the finals (The Crossfit Games) is by way of competing at the CrossFit Open, quarter-finals, and semi-finals / CrossFit sanctioned events such as this.

What are Sanctioned CrossFit events

Sanctioend CrossFit Events are those which have been approved by CrossFit LLC to be utilised by the highest level athletes as a means to access the CrossFit Games.

These replaced the CrossFit Regionals, whereby the winners and or podium finishers of the competition punch a ticket to The CrossFit Games.

There are a total of 21 Sanctional Events held all over the world.

To read about Greg Glassman’s sacking off of regionals, check out this Best Gym Hacks article here.

Some examples of CrossFit Sanctioned events:

  1. Torian Pro – Austrialia
  2. Syndicate Crown – Knoxville TN, USA
  3. Fittest in Cape Town – South Africa
  4. Strength in Depth – UK
  5. Atlas Games – Montral Canada

For a full listing, you can find them here, along with all the associated website for each competition.

CrossFit Utilises Other Sports

CrossFit utilises a number of recognised sports, movements and exercises within its training methodology, but that does not negate the fact it’s a sport on its own terms.

How so?

Comparing to Athletics

As an illustration, athletics is a sport recognised by the Olympic Committee.

A heptathlete will partake in 7 events, including sub-sports such as running. A heptathlon is recognised as being a sporting event, and a heptathlete is recognised as being a sports person.

By the same token, CrossFit follows this manifestation of singular events to make up a group of events, with a ranking from 1st to last, the same as any other sporting event.

Examples of sports

Some examples of sports that CrossFit utilises include, but not limited to:

  • Running (long and short distance)
  • Rowing (long and short distance)
  • Olympic weightlifting (Clean & Jerk and Snatch)
  • Powerlifting (Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press)
  • Swimming
  • Callisthenics
  • Gymnastics
  • Kettlebells

Constantly varied

There is an infinite number of combinations of movements, repetition numbers and rounds, with many further permutations of workouts constantly manifesting as the sport continually grows.

An abundance in evolution of both the hobby and competitive side of the sport can be observed. This keeps things interesting and fresh.

Parallel Bars seen at 2022 Games

New movements

A recent example of this is the many new movements we saw in the 2022 Crossfit Games.

Some examples of things not seen before being brought into action:

  • Double Cross Overs (skipping with double rotations with arms crossed for one rep)
  • Pirouette Handstand Walk
  • Parallel bar traverses (with dips)
  • Sandbag ladder (we’ve seen sandbags but not an ascending ladder before)
  • Block Handstand Push Ups with reverse approach
HUSAFELL Strongman bags
This is a husafell strongman weighted bag

New Equipment

New equipment is introduced often in high-level competitions, which then finds its way into everyday CrossFit Gyms. A good example of this is when Dave Castro introduced the dumbbell to the Crossfit Games in 2017.

Since then, the dumbbell is a staple item in any CrossFit gym and competition, with movements such as DB Snatch, Man Makers, Bent Over Rows and Overhead Lunges being utilised, just to name a few.

Handstand Walking apparatus

Fresh gear

This year in the 2022 CrossFit Games, we saw:

  • Jerry bags
  • Husafell (weighted sack usually held in a bear hug)
  • The Pig (this has been seen before but is a more obscure piece of equipment)
  • Blocks for the handstands used in reverse fashion
  • Parallel bars
  • Squares laid out for Handstand courses

Affiliate equipment

Some affiliates will begin stocking their facilities with the new equipment after seeing it at The Games. A good example of this was the Handstand Walking assault course.

A ramp and steps make from soft matting. Some gyms took to constructing their own from ply wood and lined with vinyl.

The hex Dumbbell is now widely used in a variety of ways

Sporting backgrounds of the Elite

There are many Elite or professional athletes that are known to have a strong background in other sports, then come into CrossFit and dominate. Here’s just a small selection:

Mat FraserOlympic Weightlifting
Rich Froning JrField Football and Baseball
Annie Thorisdottir Gymnastics
Patrick Vellner Gymnastics
Katrin DavidsdottirTrack & Field and Gymnastics
Some of the better-known athletes and their sporting backgrounds

Strong link to Athleticism and CrossFit

So there is a direct correlation between a strong – and often varied – sporting background from the highest level of competitive athletes in the sport of CrossFit. The crossovers are huge and extremely important in providing an upper hand in many cases.

For example, Mat Fraser was known to be an extremely good weightlifter before starting CrossFit. An injury setback then transition into CrossFit from Olympic Lifting put him in good stead as being one of the most dominant in the field, after only Rich Froning.

With a heavy emphasis on Olympic Weightlifting, Fraser had a huge head start when coming into CrossFit.

Likewise with Annie Thorisdottir, a gymnastics background and good genetics meant she had a natural aptitude and propensity to be good at the sport, as it naturally lends itself nicely to her wheelhouse.

Can CrossFit be a professional Sport?

Since the stepping down of Greg Glassman and buyout by Eric Roza, a key objective for CrossFit LCC is a massive professionalisation of the sport from 2021 onwards.

Roza compared CrossFit to UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), in that was less mainstream – even underground – yet UFC has achieved mass success worldwide, with huge sums of money being pumped into the sport from sponsorships, and media coverage taking it to the mainstream.

Do may people watch CrossFit?

The metrics from CBS of how many people watched the CrossFit Games 2022 final was interesting.

It was up to over 600,000 this year, which is double from 2021’s 308,000.

However, when compared to say a smaller PGA Golf competition or 1.7m, or Bull Riding at 700,000+, there I still room for growth professionally.

Viewers means money

Certainly many more eyes can be on the Sports side of CrossFit. And eyes means more money from revenue. This then has a positive impact on athletes being compensated more on par with other professional sports.

I’m personally excited about where it will go as my strong belief is it will only become bigger.

High aspirations for the ‘Sport of Fitness’

CrossFit’s new goal is one of noble endeavour, in that they believe the Elite athletes at The CrossFit Games should be compensated fairly for their efforts.

The prize money is peanuts in reality, compared to many other sports.

The majority of the Elite athletes actually make a living from owning an affiliate or ancillary work in the field – (not prize money or sponsorship). That is how they fund their way to The Crossfit Games.

Bucking the trend

Competing is fun

Eric Roza and the team want to change this and have all the high-level professional athletes on sponsorship deals that match other sports.

This is an emphasis of the professionalisation of the sport. Big brands already work in the space (Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, Reebok?!).

So with this mentality from the top brass, the meteoric rise of the sport and massive inclusivity with demographics which is hard to emulate in other sports, there is absolutely no reason why it cannot be a more professionalised sport.

This BBC article talks briefly on the matter, and really how the sport changes lives.

You can read more on this topic about the takeover in the Best Gym Hacks article here.

Questionable Sports

Have you had that argument with your mate that something such as darts is not a sport? But he thinks it is, and drinking a beer mid-competition is actually a prerequisite for taking part.

Back Levers – an example movement practiced in CrossFit, but yet to be seen in the competitive side.

There are a few out there which raise eyebrows but given the Oxford Dictionaries’ definition earlier, some sports definitely are questionable, as this article explains.

There is Dance Sport, which is the sports version of dancing, but other dance types physical activities such as ballroom and jazz do not make it as a sport…..Breakdancing is in line to be included in the 2024 Olympic Games, which would catapult it from the streets into the realms of elite sports.

Is it a sport though?

Other questionable sports include things like:

  • Chess
  • Hiking
  • Walking
  • Canyoning
  • Skyscraper climbing
  • Capoeira
  • Pole Dancing

There are many more out there when you really start analysing it. Don’t go down the rabbit hole as you won’t stop!

Is Bodybuilding A Sport?

Some people liken CrossFit to Bodybuilding, but the two are nothing alike really, as this article explains.

Here’s a succinct response to that question (source unknown) which puts it simply and plainly.

All sports compare physical exertion or the athletic prowess of the competitors.

Bodybuilding contests do not compare the physical exertion or athletic prowess of the competitors; they are not criteria for winning.

Therefore, competitive bodybuilding is not a sport.

Source Unknown

(Please get in touch if this is your citation)

There are many other complexities such as the open use of PEDs which also help disqualify Bodybuilding from ever being a sport.

But when looking down the same lens with the same overarching question as to whether CrossFit is a sport or not, the answer unilaterally points to yes it is.

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