One of the secrets to success of programmes such as F45 and CrossFit is the intrinsic motivation that comes with working out in a group of like minded individuals. Both programmes develop tight knit communities, labelled by many outside these communities as cults. Both programmes also use high intensity as one of their hallmarks, claimed to develop superior levels of fitness over traditional training methods.
CrossFit, founded in 2000 by Greg Glassman in the USA now has over 14,000 affiliates worldwide and over a million dedicated fans. CrossFit has always freely published a “workout of the day” on their website and still continue to do so, as well as offer loads of other fitness related information (most of it free too). CrossFit gym owners (affiliates) pay an annual fee to use the CrossFit brand name and then are free to develop and promote their own training and workouts based on the CrossFit methodology. This freedom allows for a high level of variability between different CrossFit gyms in terms of how they approach their training, workouts, community etc. However, the core CrossFit elements will be instantly recognisable. All trainers in a CrossFit gym must be at a minimum certified L1 CrossFit Trainer with many holding additional qualifications. Most CrossFit affiliates custom design their programming to suit their members, weaving in appropriate skill development and accessory exercises as well as creating their own workouts.
F45 commenced in Australia in 2011 and is a franchise model where franchisees buy a franchise and then pay monthly franchise fees to F45 HQ. There are approximately 300 franchises in Australia. All of the marketing and workout programming is supplied by F45 HQ and served to the gym via television screens. In a similar fashion to a McDonalds franchise, what you experience in one F45 is identical in another. The television screens are supported by in-house trainers to guide participants through the circuit style workouts.
CrossFit incorporates gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more in a constantly varied programme. Some days will be high intensity, lower weight or bodyweight sessions that leave you gasping on the floor, whilst other days might be dedicated strength days with more rest and heavier loads. Whilst there is an occasional circuit, most CrossFit workouts are performed individually with your own dedicated equipment. Despite its fierce reputation, the CrossFit philosophy is not to leave you huffing and puffing in a pile of sweat on the floor every time you train, recognising that this creates unnecessary stress on the body for no additional improvements in fitness. The broad aim of CrossFit programming is to develop fitness across all areas and to prepare individuals for any contingency in life. CrossFit is also meticulous in the collection of data, recording and measuring your performance in every workout so that a true measure of fitness and improvement can be visualised as well as highlighting areas for your improvement.
F45 favours lower skill movements than CrossFit and avoids maximal strength efforts. They label their workout programmes with catchy (cheesy? aka Hollywood, All Stars, Flamingo etc!) titles in a similar fashion to Les Mills and other styles and run continual “challenges” throughout the year for member engagement. F45 cycle through 27 different programmes throughout the year and each session runs as a circuit style for 45 minutes.
F45 can be a useful starting point for those that have perhaps been unfamiliar with or intimidated by the functional training environment. As with most cookie-cutter circuit style gym classes and bootcamps however, initial improvements in fitness can be expected to plateau after a few months with limited scope to pursue individual strengths or weaknesses.
Many CrossFit gyms (ours included) take new members through individual one-on-one training before letting people participate in the group classes. This allows superior early development of skills and confidence before transitioning into the hustle and bustle of a group setting.
CrossFit is a complete strength and conditioning programme and remains unparalleled in its ability to continue to develop lifelong fitness across all ages and abilities. With programming customised at the individual gym level CrossFit delivers a much more personal experience than any mass produced gym class. In addition, a CrossFit Trainer will become more than just the name of a cheerleader for your class. They will get to personally know your strengths and weakness and work with you in the context of the group environment to ensure you garner as much benefit as possible from the session. Often additional individual skill work will be prescribed to members to undertake around their workouts and the focus is on reaching performance based goals, rather than simply draining you of sweat for an hour.
At the end of the day, with a country facing an obesity epidemic, just getting people off the couch and moving is what we are all trying to achieve. Only a very small fraction of the population undertake sufficient exercise to stave off metabolic disease and protect themselves from a variety of lifestyle and ageing related maladies. F45 is just one more player in that effort to get more people moving more often – and when they tire of F45, we know they will come to CrossFit 😉