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Learn the Language: Crossfit Terms Explained

Crossfit has quickly become a workout phenomenon, sweeping the country and taking the exercise world by storm. But just like any insular world, Crossfit has a lot of terms that seem strange to anyone who’s just dipping their toes into the world of Crossfit.

Instead of just nodding your head and smiling, hoping you’re not agreeing to a wild idea, get to know some of the most popular Crossfit terms so you can follow along at your next session.

The breakdown is simple and once you understand some of the basics, you’ll be able to breeze through the workouts!

Basic Crossfit Term Categories

Just like you would when you learn any language, understanding the different categories of items or descriptions will give you a good basis for learning the specifics of the language itself.

Crossfit can be broken down into three different term categories: core, workouts and movements, and equipment.

All of the unique terms fall under these categories. Once you understand the categories, the terms come easily.

Crossfit Core Terms

Let’s get started with the good stuff! The CrossFit core is all about the central components of the Crossfit movement.

These are things that help guide you to the best Crossfit workout places and the best way to get in a workout routine even if you can’t make it to the gym.


When you’re getting started with CrossFit, you’re going to need to get into the movement and join a community of CrossFit enthusiasts.

The most effective way to do this is to join an affiliate or gym that’s officially affiliated with CrossFit. These will be required to have certified trainers on staff to be considered an affiliate.


This is just another name for a CrossFit gym! When you join, you’re joining a “box” in your community rather than just a gym.


CFT stands for CrossFit Total which is the best of your three attempts at a press, deadlift, or back squat.


Simple to remember, CF stands for CrossFit and CFHQ just stands for CrossFit Headquarters. Rather than always be typing or writing it out, the abbreviations give you more time to spend at the “box”!


CFWU stands for CrossFit Warm Up which is usually 2-3 rounds of 10-15 reps each of Sampson stretches, overhead squats, GHD sit-ups, hip extensions, pull-ups, and dips. These all work different muscle groups which get you warmed up for the main workout event.

CrossFit Open

Not quite ready to head back to the box and be around tons of people? You’re in luck! CrossFit Open is a virtual version of the CrossFit Games.

You can register while online and then compete from the comfort of your CrossFit box.

CrossFit HQ

The first CrossFit gym in the country is where CrossFit HQ was born: Santa Cruz, CA.

CrossFit HQ is run by the founder of the program, Greg Glassman and the original gym and HQ is widely known and respected throughout the fitness community.

CrossFit Games

Want to be known as the best CrossFitter in the business? The CrossFit Games is a fitness competition where men and women battle it out to see who’s the fittest in the entire world.

CrossFit Journal

The program has grown so rapidly and is so popular that they have their internal publication called The Journal.

The Journal is full of stories and testimonials from other CrossFitters around the world. As a member, you can read through the Journal and learn new workouts or techniques from others within the community.


Unless you’re a fitness guru, you’ll probably experience this one yourself. DFL means you came in Dead F****** Last!

When you’re just starting, there’s no shame in finishing last as it means you persevered and kept going!


DNF means Did Not Finish. When it comes to learning a new workout, there may be some moves you won’t finish. Don’t let it stop you! Keep practicing!

Fire Breather

Every good gym needs someone who is super pumped and enthusiastic about seeing everyone else succeeds. A Fire Breather finishes their workout with optimism and sticks around to cheer everyone else on.


Greg Glassman

The founder of the CrossFit program, Glassman runs CrossFit HQ in Santa Clara, CA. His programs have and continue to be cutting edge, encouraging people to have fun and get fit.


A good exercise plan also requires a steady and consistent diet. One way that CrossFit enthusiasts get fit is by intermittent fasting or IF. You spend your dieting time cycling between eating and fasting to help your body burn calories better.


CrossFit lingo can feel like another language in and of itself, but Pd brings in one more language: Russian. Pood or Pd is a measurement for kettlebells. Since the weights originated in Russia, the measurements are all in Russian! 1 Pood is the same as 36.1 pounds.

CrossFit Workouts and Movements

Now that you’ve got the history and the basics, it’s time to move on to the main event: workouts and movements.

CrossFit is unique in the way it teaches your body to move so keeping these in the back of your mind is crucial to get through a workout.

Air Squat

Most of the time when you envision squats, they’re with heavy barbells and plate weights. Air squats are squats without weight but you end up doing a lot and it starts to build muscle quickly!


Since CrossFit is based on circuit training, you’ll end up doing AMRAP or as many reps as possible during a certain time limit.


For many, squats end far below the time they touch your ankles. In CrossFit, you’ll end up doing squats as ATG or “ass to the ground” in a full-depth squat position.

Band-Assisted Pull-Up

Assisted pull-ups at your typical gym are often done with a complicated machine. Within the program, you’ll do them with just a simple resistance band that gives you the help you need to complete the progression.

Box Jump

With a sturdy box in front of you in a wide variety of heights, you’ll jump from a two-footed stationary stance up on top of the box, step down, and repeat the cycle. Simple yet so grueling!


CrossFit relies a lot on bodyweight movements and this is one of the best. BS means back squat and it’s designed to give you a workout your thighs and glutes won’t soon forget.


This is a CrossFit staple! Start in a standing position, bend over and put your hands on the floor in a stable position, kick your legs and feet back so you’re in a plank hold, then do a push-up. You’ll hop up from the push-up and start the cycle all over again!


This is a set of moves that are completed in a specific sequence. You’ll end up “chipping” away at the routine and the goal is to do the Filthy Fifty, another CrossFit classic.


CLN is just a shortened abbreviation for clean or in the clean where a participant moves the bar from the floor to the racked position on the shoulders.


A progression of the clean or CLN, C&J stands for Clean and Jerk where after you’ve finished the clean move you lift the bar above your head to finish.


One exercise is never enough! Couplets are exercises that complement each other. These are then combined into a specific formation that forms your daily workout.

CrossFit Total

The Total is where you get to show off how much you’ve grown and gauge where you need to continue to grow. You’ll have three chances to determine your max back squat, standing press, and deadlift. This total then gives you a starting point for your growth in the program.


DL stands for the deadlift, one of the most basic moves in this program and at any gym across the world.


You’ve probably attempted this as a kid in grade school but now it’s part of your routine! Double-unders are where the jump rope passes underneath your feet twice in one jump. You’ll need quite a bit of coordination, skill, and finesse to accomplish it in your new program.


If you’re ready to sweat, Every Minute On the Minute or EMOM is the place to be. With each new minute, you start a new exercise. If you complete the exercise before the minute is up, you get a chance to rest!

Filthy Fifty

This is the pinnacle of any program attendees’ goals. The Filthy Fifty is 50 reps of box jumps, jumping pull-ups, kettlebell swings, walking lunges, knees to elbows, push press, back extensions, wall balls, burpees, and double-unders. If you weren’t sweating before, you will be when you attempt this one!


Fran just happens to be CrossFit’s most well-known workout! This is a 21-15-9 rep ladder of thrusters and pull-ups set at 95 pounds for men and 65 for women. It’ll take time for you to learn the entire procedure and even longer to get your overall time down to where you want it but it’ll quickly become a familiar workout during your time with the program.


You’ve already learned the BS or back squat, so FS or front squat will be a familiar sight! This simple move is one that’s repeated over and over during a CrossFit routine. Instead of adding the bar behind your shoulders, you’ll put it in front of your chest to keep your body in line and finish the move.

The Girls

This is a series of three different workouts that form the foundation of CrossFit. It starts with Fran, then you’ll add Chelsea, and Annie which increase in difficulty. You will end up doing this many different times in the program so get used to the names!


Get ready to get a little competitive! The goal of this Grace move is to complete 30 C&J or clean and jerks at 135 pounds for men and 95 pounds for women as fast as you can. You’ll then keep working to reduce your time.

Handstand Push-Up

If you want to show all your friends how far you’ve grown, this handstand push-up is the one to pull out at parties! You’ll start by going into a handstand and then perform push-ups while maintaining the handstand position.


Finally, you’ll want to keep in mind the HC or hang clean. Instead of a full clean where the bar starts on the ground, you’ll start with the bar and weights right above the knees and end in a front rack position.

CrossFit Equipment

CrossFit is based around lots of different bodyweight and calisthenics moves but several different exercises require specific equipment.

When you join a box you won’t need to purchase all of the equipment yourself but you’ll want to have a familiarity with the equipment you need.

Familiarity will help keep you safe and moving through your workout with the greatest efficiency!


Working your abs is always a challenge. To lessen the trouble that seems to always come from laying flat on the hard ground to do sit-ups, an abmat is used. This is a foam wedge that is put behind your back and increases your range of motion while keeping you off the cold hard ground.

Bumper Plates

While many plates that go on the end of the barbell are made of metal, bumper plates are rubberized so they can be dropped back on the floor without doing damage. No need to worry about scuffing up the floor of your box when you’re setting those weights back down after a stellar C&J!

Concept II

The Concept II or C2 is a rowing machine that’s widely used by almost every CrossFit box. Rows and rowing machines work your pectorals, shoulders, biceps, and deltoids very efficiently.


The GHD or Glute Hamstring Developer is used to facilitate posterior chain exercises like hip extensions, sit-ups, or back extensions. Doing these without a machine is possible but the machine itself helps you build these muscles more efficiently.


These are some of the most common pieces of equipment used in boxes around the country. KB or kettlebells were developed in Russia and look a lot like a cannonball with a looped handle above them for users to grasp.

These are used to help accomplish everything from cardio to strength training for your arms and core.


Parallel bars are often seen in Olympic events but the paralettes are portable versions of that very thing.

They usually stand only about eight inches high and will develop moves that may already be difficult.

Making these moves more difficult will help you continue to progress through the entire movement rather than plateauing after just a few weeks.


Another Olympic favorite! Gymnasts regularly use these rings for flips and twirls that wow and impress audiences and judges alike. In your local box, they’re used to complete moves like dips, rows, and muscle-ups.

The gymnastic rings add another level of flexibility and complexity to the moves you may be able to do with ease on solid ground.

Frequently Asked Questions

So you’re ready to join your local CrossFit box and you’ve got all the lingo memorized. But there are still a few questions lingering in the back of your mind.

Rather than just diving in headfirst and hoping for the best, get your questions answered first so you can start off running when you get to the gym!

What are the 9 Foundational Moves of CrossFit?

The 9 foundational moves of CrossFit build and develop each other to create complex workout programs for every fitness level.

The moves are the air squat, overhead squat, front squat, shoulder press, deadlift, push jerk, medicine- ball clean, sumo deadlift high pull, and the push press.

Each of these can have more weight added as you progress to keep them challenging throughout your time in the program.

What Do the Numbers in CrossFit Mean?

There are lots of different numbers used during a CrossFit training time and they indicate different programs and movements. The typical numbers used at 18.1, 19.1, and 20.1. Other common numbers used are 19.5, 16.4, and 20.5.

For example, a 16.4 workout is used when people want to increase the number of reps they do during a short period.

The method starts with a chipper done over 13 minutes. You’ll do 55 reps for each movement in the session which includes handstand push-ups, rowing, wall balls, and deadlifts.

You can substitute different moves into this workout to make it more beginner-friendly or advance it further for those farther along in their journey.

What is Amrap 15?

Amrap or as many reps as possible followed by any number indicates the amount of time you’re given when performing the move.

If you’re working through handstand push-ups, and the instructor calls for an Amrap 15, you’ll do as many handstand push-ups as possible in 15 minutes.

What is 18.4 CrossFit?

This is a very specific workout that has been developed over a long period and has remained popular despite its difficulty. There’s a specific set of movements that switches between deadlifts and handstand push-ups as they follow in succession.

In the middle of the session, the handstand push-up is switched to a handstand walk.

What is 15.1 CrossFit?

This workout is divided into two distinct parts, Open 15.1 and CrossFit 15.1A.

You’ll start with Amrap for the first 9 minutes then do toes-to-bars, deadlifts, and snatches. You’ll finish with a single rep at max intensity for a clean and jerk to complete the workout.

What is WOD’s?

The box is governed and run by the CrossFit trainer and when you arrive for the class, they’ll call out a WOD or workout of the day.

Once you learn the pattern and understand what the trainer is looking for, you’ll be able to run through the workout of the day without any pauses!

What Does PB Mean?

This program is a mix between bodyweight workouts and weight lifting regimens and they rely a lot on what your PB or personal best for a certain move may be.

Your trainer will encourage and coach you to push past and exceed your PB each time you start a new workout. You’ll be able to keep track of your personal bests so you can continue to progress through it all.

What Does RDS Mean?

RDS is used to indicate to the entire class how many rounds of a specific exercise they’ll be performing during the workout for that day.

The entire workout as well as the type of regimen being undertaken are taken into account when the trainer gives out the day’s RDS.


CrossFit can feel like a world unto itself with a language to match. But with a little bit of understanding and some new vocabulary, you’ll be able to join in with the fun and reach your fitness goals without feeling like you’re lost.

The workouts themselves will take some getting used to and the words used to describe the exercises you’re doing will come with time.

Practice your handstand push-ups and learn the vocabulary and you’ll be an expert in no time!

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Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Alexandria university and is a practicing plastic surgeon. He’s our expert on all things nutrition, medicine, rehabilitation, and flexibility. Dr.Ahmed has been a medical content writer for more than 11 years and his work reached top publications such as the HuffingtonPost

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