The Definitive Guide to Debunking Misconceptions About CrossFit

How do you get your grandmother, coworker, dad, etc. to try CrossFit? Bring them to the box. Or have them try a highly scaled WOD at home.

Admittedly, this can be challenging. There are a lot of misconceptions about CrossFit. So here’s a guide to debunking those common myths.

“The news said CrossFit will kill me”

You probably saw headlines like Outside Magazine’sIs CrossFit Destroying the World” and “Is CrossFit Killing Us?”

Outside based these outrageous headlines on a fake paper that was retracted after a federal judge ruled that it made false claims. CrossFit informed Outside that it based its entire series on a paper written under false pretenses, but Outside refused to issue a correction or update. A similar thing happened with ESPN.

“But I saw a study …”

Pardon the interruption, but it was probably the fraudulent one we just mentioned. The National Strength and Conditioning Association, a competitor of CrossFit’s, published fake injury stats. The subjects testified to the court that they were not injured doing CrossFit and never told anyone they were. So what are you worried about?

“OK. What does real research actually say about CrossFit and injuries?”

Other papers published about CrossFit have reached a common conclusion:

“The injury incidence rate associated with CrossFit training was low, and comparable to other forms of recreational fitness activities.”

Another found,

“CrossFit is comparable to other exercise programs with similar injury rates.”

“What were the injury rates, and how do they compare to those of other activities?”

CrossFit’s injury rates have been lower than the rates recently found in Zumba. Researchers generally found between 2.1 and 3.1 injuries per 1,000 hours of participation in CrossFit.

“But I heard CrossFit trainers are not properly qualified …”

Every CrossFit trainer has at least earned CrossFit’s L1 certificate, which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute.

I’m really looking for an experienced, proven trainer though.”

Great. CrossFit’s Level 3 certification is the only major fitness certification that requires its trainers to have trained others and received hands-on instruction themselves.

If this sounds like what you’re looking for, click here to find a Certified CrossFit Trainer (CF-L3) near you.

See the comparison graph below. Other organizations, such as ACSM, ACE and NSCA, certify trainers without requiring any experience or hands-on instruction at all.


“Isn’t that the stuff I saw on TV? That’s crazy!”

Not trying CrossFit because you saw the CrossFit Games on TV is like not jogging around the block because you saw a marathon in the Olympics.

CrossFit affiliates know how to scale each movement to your fitness level, ensuring a gradual progression. If an elite athlete can do a movement with 400 pounds, you may do the same movement with a PVC pipe or your own body weight. Or, you may be even do a simpler movement that develops the skills and attributes needed to later progress toward the more advanced exercise.

“But isn’t CrossFit just for intense / young / lean / elite / male athletes?

Tell that to Constance

Or see Elaine, below. Now you have no excuse.


(If we missed a common misconception, please let us know in the comments.)


  1. Mark Chen

    “Definitive” is misleading. The study you mentioned to state a “common conclusion” is a cohort study with a low sample size and covered only 12 weeks. There’s better quality evidence available such as the meta-Analysis this Feb 2018. That analysis concluded something similar HOWEVER it also stated that the current research is weak. Of all the research collected (>32) , ( only 2 (!!) had a low risk of bias. On top of that, there are NO randomized clinical trials or any other high-level research available. That’s important to mention if you want to be accurate.

    • Russ Greene

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Mark. I cited two studies and also summarized the range of all the research done so far in the injury rate range I provided. While you are correct that the work done so far on this topic is not perfect, it is sufficient to disprove the hype-ridden headlines about CrossFit and injuries, such as “Is CrossFit Destroying the World.” Not a single legitimate piece of research has supported the idea advanced by some that CrossFit presents an especially high risk of injury. On the contrary, all of it, found rates comparable to or less than other forms of physical activity. If someone were still to cling to the idea that CrossFit is especially risky at this point, it’s notable that not a single researcher has been able to find it in their sample. Some are still holding out hope that they’ll find Sasquatch, too.

      To be sure, I am concerned with bias, as you are. But it is likely that bias has pushed the injury rate trend upwards, and not downwards, for two reasons. First, there is a marked publication bias against CrossFit. Take the two main American exercise science institutions, ACSM and NSCA. The former published an official position paper warning of CrossFit, before any research had even been published (Consortium for Health and Military Performance and American College of Sports Medicine Consensus Paper on Extreme Conditioning Programs in Military Personnel). And a federal judge determined that NSCA published false injury claims about CrossFit and committed perjury to cover up its efforts. Many researchers have told me that they had trouble getting objective research on CrossFit published due to unreasonable peer review pressure.

      Secondly, this research is plagued by a definitional issue. There is no consistent definition of “injury.” Some consider sore muscles to constitute an injury, for example. So cases of sore muscles, torn calluses, or minor shin scrapes would be counted as injuries, unless the researcher defined injury in a more specific way, such as something that prevents an athlete from participating for a week or longer, and/or that requires medical attention.

  2. Pingback: CrossFit Rebuttal Published in “Military Medicine” Journal | Keep Fitness Legal

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: