Testing the Validity of CrossFit

An Overview of CrossFit

III. Testing the Validity of CrossFit Training

Many of the proponents of CrossFit have worked with or studied CrossFit and have drawn conclusions in a non-scientific method. Conversely, the Royal Canadian Infantry performed one of the most well-known scientific studies of the effectiveness of CrossFit methodology. They tested the validity of the CrossFit concept against the extant Canadian Army fitness program. In 2005, the Royal Canadian Infantry School was authorized to test CrossFit, using the current AFM (Army Fitness Manual) as a baseline model. The Royal Canadian Infantry School is testing CrossFit to see if it satisfies their self-determined requirements; as opposed to a CrossFitter testing CrossFit to see if it fulfills CrossFit standards. The Royal Canadian Infantry School has no confirmation bias and they don’t “need” CrossFit to work. If anything, there exists a certain bias against CrossFit; which adds credibility to this study. First, the physical testing favored the AFM since the events were the AFM fitness checks. Second, neither group was tested on a CrossFit workout, which a CrossFitter would obviously be better at simply because he or she could have experience. And third, all data was collected, entered, processed by a third party (Validity of CrossFit). 

The effectiveness of the two programs was gauged using the following measures: Physical Testing (PT) improvement, student perceptions of each program, and injury rate during the trial. Two groups were used, “CAP,” and “DP 1.2.” The CAP group received the first course military members go through, very similar to basic training for the US forces. DP 1.2 is a branch of the Canadian Military similar to Special Forces that has stricter enrollment requirements, requires higher fitness levels, receives specialized combat training, has a more difficult obstacle course, etc. Testing these two groups was done to facilitate testing of both new and experienced military members. Each group was divided in half, with half the participants doing the established AFM regimen and the other half doing CrossFit WOD’s  as posted on CrossFit.com. Physical testing was done prior to and after eight weeks of training. This testing consisted of: max sit-ups in two minutes, vertical jump - two minutes for two attempts, max push-ups in two minutes, max deadlift reps in two minutes with two 40 pound dumbbells, max pull-ups in one minute, 2.4 km run, and outdoor obstacle course. 

To summarize the results, CrossFit training served to increase numbers of max reps and decrease time on the run and obstacle course more than the established AFM workout regimen. CrossFit also induced greater leg and core strength, and developed equal or greater cardiovascular improvements while performing less than half the running. Also, both CrossFit groups made equal or greater strength gains than the AFM with shorter workouts (Validity of CrossFit).