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Cross-training and CrossFit are two popular exercise formats and are sometimes confused because of their similarity in name. While both cross-training and CrossFit are technically exercise formats, the terms are not interchangeable.

While the names of these two exercise methods make them sound similar in function, they’re very much not. Let’s talk a bit about cross-training vs. CrossFit.  

What is cross-training? 

In short, cross-training “describes any physical activity that’s done outside of an athlete’s chosen sport.” Cross-training is more of a concept and guideline than an exact type of workout. While “cross-training” may have been coined with athletes in mind, it also works for hobbyist athletes. For example, if you’re a runner, you may benefit from cross-training by folding in some weight-lifting or HIIT sessions between your runs, always remembering to leave appropriate time between workouts for your body to rest and recover. Similarly, if you’re a weight-lifter, you may benefit from inserting more aerobic exercises between deadlift sessions at the gym. 

Man running along bridge walkway

Something as simple as running can be effective cross-training for people who are primarily focused on building muscle.

When we exercise, we experience varying levels of impact, depending on the type of workout. These levels are classified as high, low, and no-impact. The critical to successfully incorporating cross-training into your workout routine is finding a good mix of high, low, and no-impact workouts. High-impact exercises, like running or HIIT, are great for your power body and increasing bone strength. Low-impact exercises, like walking or weight training, are great for your metabolism. And no-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, or gentle yoga place minimal stress on the body while allowing you to remain active. 

The benefits of cross-training include full-body conditioning, agility and balance, flexibility in training plans, and being able to continue training while injured. Alternating between workout types to work different muscle groups in the body puts beneficial strain on different muscle groups, endurance, and even lung and cardiovascular function. Cross-training has even been shown in studies to increase longevity drastically 

What is Crossfit?

Crossfit, on the other hand, is a company, fitness brand, and workout methodology. While cross-training can be as nebulous or scheduled and organized as you’d like, CrossFit is a branded workout method with licensed workout facilities (called “boxes”), certified instructors, and a program filled with “time-bound, randomized, and often high-intensity sessions.” The company has even created its own competitive event called the CrossFit Games. 

While you can achieve a CrossFit-style workout independently, it’s also a branded term. It’s common for CrossFitters to attend licensed workout facilities to get specialized instruction and motivation from licensed coaches, as well as a sense of community. Still, some CrossFit enthusiasts prefer to work out on their own.

Small group of people doing CrossFit style box jumps

Box jumps are one of the classic CrossFit workout activities.

CrossFit programs are touted as a full-body workout in every workout—almost the opposite of cross-training. CrossFit is a training regimen focused on cardio, strength, gymnastics, and mobility—often all in the same workout. CrossFit workouts have also been described as strength and conditioning workouts comprising typical functional movements (that you regularly perform in your day-to-day life) like squatting, pulling, and pushing—but at a more strenuous, high-intensity level. 

Speaking of strenuous, CrossFit’s website makes an important suggestion. Because CrossFit workouts can be much more laborious than other methodologies, they highly recommend giving your body ample time to rest between workouts. They also recommend not practicing CrossFit without a specifically trained mentor or instructor, warning that injury is more likely without someone to guide you.  

Cross-Training vs CrossFit: Benefits of Both

While both are effective fitness approaches, cross-training and CrossFit offer distinct benefits. Cross-training provides an appealing variety of activity choices and is touted for its customization possibilities and its promotion of overall fitness. At the same time, CrossFit is a structured program of high-intensity workouts with a strong sense of community among those who practice. Cross-training is more of a school of thought than a set of rules and can be implemented by anyone who works out regularly. CrossFit involves significantly more intensity than cross-training and more of a commitment to a specific ideological framework.  

Practical Tips for Cross-Training and CrossFit

If you’re interested in cross-training, I’d suggest looking up some example cross-training schedules online—there are some great resources out there that you can use as a basic structure to go off of. Begin slow, and listen to your body. Remember not to load up on high-intensity workouts without mixing in low and no-impact workouts and full-on rest days—one of the most crucial elements for achieving your fitness goals through cross-training is changing things up regularly. 

If you’re interested in CrossFit, you should be able to find an introductory CrossFit class at a licensed gym near you. If you prefer to work out solo or try it before committing to a class, check out YouTube for a great selection of beginner CrossFit workout videos. Because CrossFit workouts are higher intensity and your risk of injury is higher, I recommend that you only try CrossFit if you have already built muscle and endurance through several months of regular exercise. 

Ultimately, the choice between CrossFit and cross-training will depend on your preference, fitness goals, and the desire for variety or more structure. Hopefully, this blog post has given you a good foundation to start when you want to practice either type of workout.  


Bateman, Oliver. UnHerd. (2023, August). The Cult of CrossFit. Published August 2023. 

CrossFit Johns Creek. The Importance of Recovery. Published January 2018.  

Dvorak, Amanda. Fitbod. Cross Training vs CrossFit: What’s the Difference? Accessed November 2023. 

Guardado, Albert. Live Fit. High Impact vs. Low Impact Exercise: What You Need to Know. Accessed November 2023.  

Polish, Alex. BarBend. How to Build Your Own CrossFit WOD. Last updated August 2023. 

Verywell Fit. Cross-Training: What It Is, Benefits, and More. Published  

Weeks, Annika. High-Intensity Interval Training: Top HIIT Workouts from 2023. Accessed November 2023. 



Julie Wilding

Julie Wilding is a seasoned copywriter with over a decade of experience in researching and writing about the tech and natural products industries. She is ardent about natural wellness and loves delving into deep insights on niche topics. When not writing, Julie can be found cooking, reading with her dog and cats nearby, thrifting, or enjoying long solo walks.


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