What Is CrossFit: Functional Movements

CrossFit = Constantly Varied + Functional Movements + High Intensity

Continuing our series on “What is CrossFit?”, we come across part 2 of the 3-part definition: Functional Movements.  What are functional movements exactly?  Think naturally occurring.  Think practical.  Dictionary.com’s definition for practical, I think, is rather fitting: “designed for actual use”.  The movements you find us doing in the gym are designed to improve your quality of life outside of the gym, in the real world.  Out there, on any given day, you’ll find yourself picking things up off of the ground,  jumping over a puddle of water, or sitting down.  The deadlift, box jump, and squat will improve your ability to do each of those.  CrossFit’s functional movements will get you doing as close to the real thing as possible.

This is in stark contrast to the vast array of globo gym machines that twist, turn, and contort your body into odd positions, all for the sake of isolating a certain muscle.  Remember this one (butterfly machine)?

Now think about the last time you were in that position outside of the gym.   Can’t?  That’s because it isn’t functional!  That’s not to say these types of movements don’t serve a purpose.  They are great additional exercises that can help strengthen some of your weak areas, but they should supplement your functional movements.  They shouldn’t make up the bulk of your workout program.   Instead, we’ll use the push-up to help strengthen your chest.  Let’s think about the push-up for a second.  When was the last time you used that out in the real world?  Probably the last time you found yourself laying down on the floor.  You had to get up some how, right?  Odds are you used a push-up, or at least the beginning stages of one, to help stand back up.

What most people also don’t realize is that you’ll be getting more bang for your buck with functional movements.  Functional movements recruit multiple muscle groups all at once.  The next time you do a bunch of deadlifts be sure to take note of your sore areas the following day.  The hamstrings, the glutes, your lower back, and your forearms will all be smoked.  It’ll take 5 or more machines at a globo gym to get that same effect.

As you age, these types of movements become even more important.  We often take for granted the ordinary activities we participate in today, but those same activities become especially important when we get older.  Nobody wants to be immobile and dependent on others for life’s basic necessities.  Functional movements will keep you on track for a long, active lifestyle.

Below is another great, simple video explaining CrossFit’s functional movements.  Enjoy!



Jake is a Head Trainer at CrossFit Kinnick. He has been CrossFitting for 8 years and has been a Trainer at CrossFit Kinnick for 6 years. His Certifications include: CrossFit Level 2 Instructor, USAW Sports Performance Coach. He earned his BA in Political Science from Cal Poly Pomona.