Urban Surfer’s CrossFit Dictionary

There is a lot of terminology that is unique to CrossFit, to help we have made a list of the most common abbreviations and terms used.

Walking into a CrossFit gym for the first time can be overwhelming! The combination of loud music, classes going on and the indecipherable jargon scribbled all over the place can make it all seem a bit intimidating! Language can be a very powerful tool, and not understanding a language can make us feel lost and overwhelmed. CrossFit is a great way to get fit, meet people, and to improve our overall health, don’t let the barrier of CrossFit lingo stop you!!

The Basics

Box: this simply refers to a CrossFit gym. The name arose due to the fact that many CrossFit gyms are located in industrial areas, or warehouses.

Affiliate: is a CrossFit box that has officially been affiliated, or linked, with the CrossFit brand. On the CrossFit website you can find a list of all the official affiliates worldwide. (This is a great tool to use if you travel regularly and want to find your local box!) There is an annual affiliation fee to pay to CrossFit HQ in order to maintain your box as an official affiliate.

Athlete: This is referring to YOU. All of those who take part in CrossFit are referred to as athletes.

CrossFit Games: is an annual competition held by CrossFit every summer. Think of it as the ‘Olympics of CrossFit’. The Games are a venue for determining the “Fittest on Earth,” where competitors should be ready for anything.


AMRAP: is an acronym for ‘as many reps as possible’. This means within a given time period (often between 10-30 minutes) athletes will have to complete as many repetitions as possible of a given series of movements. In order to count your score, you must count your total reps.

For Time: This differs from an AMRAP style workout where there is a prescribed time limit. A workout done for time means that you have to complete a given workout as quickly as possible and record your time. CrossFit athletes often like to record their scores for workouts, thus allowing them to measure their progress.

EMOM: another acronym! Every minute on the minute. In this instance a workout will be prescribed with a set time and a set task to perform every time the clock hits :00. If you complete the exercise prescribed within the minute the remaining time is rest!

Girls: CrossFit is all about quantifiable improvements. The “girls” are a series of benchmark workouts created by CrossFit to test fitness. These workouts always stay the same and the names are globally recognised.

Heroes – Several CrossFit Benchmark Workouts are named after actual military, law enforcement and firefighters that have died in the line of duty. These workouts honour the men & women who serve to keep all of us safe, CrossFit dedicates workouts to our fallen heroes. These workouts tend to be extremely hard, and unfortunately this list continues to grow.

WOD –another good old CrossFit acronym which stands for Workout of the Day. Every CrossFit box will have a prescribed workout of the day. CrossFit HQ also has a daily WOD of their own.

RX– As Prescribed. The suggested parameters for a given exercise. Every WOD is written with certain standards for movements and weights in mind. If you complete a WOD in accordance with all of the standards, this is described as RX.  If you adapt or scale a WOD or movement, it is not RX.

The Movements

Burpees: A gymnastics movement dreaded by most where you drop to the ground, perform a push up, jump back into a squat position on your feet, and jump up. The movement then culminates by clapping the hands overhead.

Double Under: A double under is when a skipping rope passes under an athlete’s feet twice between each jump.

Bodyweight/Air Squat: is a squat performed with no weights. These are referred to as bodyweight or air squats in CrossFit to differentiate them from their weighted counterparts!

Kipping: is a movement derived from gymnastics where athletes use their whole body to complete a movement. This can be used with pull ups, handstand push ups, muscle ups, toes to bar and ring dips. When I first started CrossFit this is the movement that I was most fascinated by as I had never seen it before!

Dead Lift: essentially teaches you how to pick things up from the floor correctly! The dead lift is a weight training exercise in which a loaded barbell or weight is lifted off the floor to the level of the hips, then lowered back to the ground.

Box Jump: an exercise where you jump onto a box of a given height and then back down again.

Ring Dip: exactly like a bodyweight dip, just performed on the gymnastic rings. The rings are unstable which makes it a lot harder to maintain the hands close to the body.

Wall Ball: this movement is performed using a weighted medicine ball. Athletes squat down and explosively stand up to a push press that in turn sends the ball up and forward to a target. The ball rebounds back to the athletes open arms where it is then absorbed back down into a squat.

Thruster: one of CrossFit’s most deceptively exhausting movements! The thruster is a front squat (with a weight in rack position) return to standing position and immediately push the weight overhead.

Toes to Bar: hanging from the pull up bar, you lift your legs up to touch your toes to the bar.

Handstand Push-Up: As the name suggests, these are push ups performed in a handstand position. Kick up into a handstand (against a wall if necessary) and lower your head to the ground, then push back up into a handstand.

Muscle Up: this is one of the most advanced movements in CrossFit. Athletes hang from either the bar or the gymnastic rings and explosively pull themselves into a dip position, from there they push up until their arms are fully locked.

This link here provides detailed demos of all of CrossFit’s basic movements.

Olympic Lifting

Olympic Lifting refers to the two specific weightlifting movements used in CrossFit.

Snatch: athletes dynamically lift a weighted barbell from the ground to overhead in a single movement.

Clean & Jerk: is made up of two separate movements. The clean refers to lifting the weighted barbell from the floor to a rack position. The second part of this movement (also referred to as the jerk) involves moving the weight from racked position to overhead.

Both Olympic Lifts have a number of variations: (these threw me for a long time and I always felt a bit too embarrassed to ask what they really meant!)

Power (used as either Power Clean, Power Snatch):

“Power” denotes a catching position for the Olympic lifts (Clean or Snatch), with bent knees, a little above a full squat. If it does not say “power” or “muscle” before “clean” or “snatch,” that specifies that you catch it in a full squat for each rep. These drills can also be referred to as a “squat snatch” or a “squat clean”.

Hang (used as either Hang Clean, Hang Snatch):

“Hang” denotes a starting position for the Olympic lifts (Clean or Snatch) with the barbell starting OFF the ground. To reach hang position, you will need to deadlift the bar to standing position, and then bend your knees to get to a hang position.

The Equipment

Paralettes: Portable parallel bars usually around eight inches high.  These can be used for a variety of gymnastics movements, such as handstand push ups, or L-Sit work.

Concept 2 Rower: There is very rarely any cardio equipment in a CrossFit box other than the rowing machine! C2 tends to be the rower of choice for CrossFit.

Rings:  CrossFit frequently makes use of gymnastic rings for a wide range of movements including dips, rows, and muscle-ups.

Abmat: A contoured foam wedge placed under the back while performing sit-ups. The abmat allows for a wider range of motion while offering some padding against the hard ground.

Kettle Bell: A common CrossFit weighted piece of equipment used for a variety of exercises such as snatches and swings.

Racks: the tall things in the gym that hold up your barbell!

Assault Air Bike (or Airdyne): is a newer take on the traditional fan bike. This is a nasty piece of equipment that scales automatically to how hard you are pushing. The harder you pedal, the more the resistance!

I know starting CrossFit can be intimidating, much like starting any new sport. Walking into a completely new environment, where everybody already knows each other, and everyone already knows that they are doing can seem terrifying! Just remember that everyone has to start somewhere! I was intrigued about CrossFit for a long time before I actually tried it out, and I quickly learned to love it! If you don’t want to do it alone, grab a buddy and start together! Let me know how it goes! And please feel free to get in contact for any advice!

Hopefully see you in the box! 😉

New sport, new gear? Be sure to check Urban Surfer for the latest gear! Here’s a sneak preview of some of my favourite items!

Stephanie Contomichalos

Stephanie Contomichalos is a sports enthusiast. She is an avid crossfitter, wakeboarder and has recently qualified as a Level 1 CrossFit coach. She is also an advocate for women’s sport and for using sport as a tool for development. She is currently living in Athens, Greece.

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