11 Signs of a Great CrossFit Gym

Use this checklist to determine the quality of your current CrossFit gym (and if you need to make a change).

A new client came in last week who had been doing CrossFit for over six months and was unable to do a good push up. This got me thinking, “What had he been doing for the last six months?” It obviously wasn’t push ups. But I don’t believe the fault lies at the client’s feet, but rather at the warehouse door of the CrossFit gym where he had been training.

This gentleman had been paying good money on the assumption he would receive a quality service – and his gym failed him. With the market as saturated as it is, customers have choice, lots of choice. If you are not happy, then choose to walk and take your business elsewhere. Here are eleven signs of a good CrossFit gym.

A good CrossFit gym does more for its clients than simply posting a workout on the board.

1. Goals

After your initial enquiry, there should be an opportunity for you to discuss your goals with a member of the coaching team. Before you do any training, the trainer should ask you some questions. Why are you here? What do you want to achieve? How will you know when you have achieved it? The trainer should be attentive and listen to what you have to say. Any concerns or worries should be appeased at this stage.

2. Movement Quality

How is your movement? The trainer should assess your movement for any flexibility or motor control issues. You should be asked about any pain you experience. Progressions and scaling options for different movements should be covered, as well as the next steps to achieve the full movement. Are you given mobility exercises to do to assist in achieving quality movement?

3. Beginners Program

Gone are the days when beginners were thrown into a regular class. Not only was that dangerous, but it demonstrated a lack of care for new client safety and for the quality of service to existing clientele.

“Before you do any training, the trainer should ask you some questions. Why are you here? What do you want to achieve? How will you know when you have achieved it?”

A beginners program should provide an opportunity to assess your ability and address any limitations you may have. It bridges the knowledge gap for the newbie and shows your instructors care about your experience. Any new experience can be daunting and a beginners program shows the gym recognizes this and wants you to succeed on your journey.

4. Structured and Varied Programming

Quality CrossFit gyms recognize the value in structured programming with an objective. A strength program doesn’t have to be Smolov or Westside Barbell, but you should be squatting, hip hinging, pulling, and pushing on a regular basis.

And there needs to be a reason behind the workout or WOD. Maybe the exercises complement the strength, e.g. box jumps after you back squat. Then ask: Do the workouts vary during the week in duration or are they all the same? Are all the workouts performed at maximum intensity or is there a focus on quality of movement?

crossfit, gym, coach

Your program should be varied, yet goal driven with a focus on continual skill development.

Skills should be practiced regularly, both in a workout and as a separate component within the session. If the workouts appear to be thrown together at the last minute, then your next workout should be to leave as fast as possible.

5. A System for Dealing With Injury

Injuries happen. What separates the good from the ugly is how injuries are dealt with. Every gym should operate within a network of other health professionals. This shows confidence in both what your coaches do know and what they don’t know. No CrossFit gym should be a jack-of-all-trades. Professionalism is demonstrated when they can refer you to a qualified health professional for treatment of injuries.

 “If you are not getting better, then something needs to change. That something could be your gym.”

It should go without saying that if you are told to work through pain, then you should leave immediately. Pain is an indicator that something is not right and that you need to be assessed by a qualified professional.

6. Regular Contact

The coaching team should be in regular contact with you. A quality CrossFit gym doesn’t operate a revolving-door business model with long-term contracts and quick turnarounds like conventional globo-gyms. CrossFit is about building relationships with its athletes and checking in with them regularly.

Does your trainer remember what you talked about last session? Does he or she care about you and want to see you succeed or are the gym’s trainers just going through the motions?

crossfit, coach, warm up

A quality CrossFit gym doesn’t just see dollar signs – it sees an individual with his or her own goals and needs.

7. Quality Coaching

This can mean different things to different people, but the number-one priority of a CrossFit gym should be to keep the clients safe. That means not getting an elderly man to do a max-height box jump or teaching kipping handstand push ups to someone who can barely hold him- or herself inverted.

Each trainer needs to have good communication skills and a range of coaching cues to suit the clients. The coaching should be clear, concise, and use a varied tone to suit the activity. e.g. a max-effort back squat requires aggression and the coaching should reflect that. In contrast, a 5km row requires the athlete to remain calm and focused, which would be helped by coaching cues that support this.

8. Clean and Tidy

This can be taken for granted if you have never trained at another CrossFit gym. There are no excuses for operating a dirty gym. Fear of tripping over equipment or catching hep B should not be concerns while training. Equipment should be set up in some kind of order during classes to ensure safety of athletes and ease of group control and coaching.

gym, organization, clean

Bars should be put away, the floor should be clear of debris, and there should be some level of gym organization.

9. Success

Are you seeing an improvement? Are you better today than you were yesterday? Second on the list of priorities for gyms after safety are results. Done correctly, CrossFit works. If you are training consistently, eating well, and sleeping well, then things should be changing for the better.

Is your back squat improving? Can you do more push ups and chin ups than when you started? If you are not getting better, then something needs to change. That something could be your gym.

10. Fun

I’m not talking about Disney World fun, but if are not enjoying your training, then what’s the point? If getting out of bed every morning is a chore, then why are you doing it?

“Your training should be about longevity. Being able to train regularly needs to be a part of your lifestyle in order to remain happy and healthy.”

Do you compete or do you have ambition to compete? Maybe you use CrossFit for general physical preparedness as a base level of fitness to participate in other activities. Training in a group with other like-minded people helps motivate you. Focus on your why and use that to keep you motivated. The experience of a gym should be challenging, yet enjoyable.

11. Longevity

Your training should be about longevity. Being able to train regularly needs to be a part of your lifestyle in order to remain happy and healthy. If this is not the case, something needs to change and that something could be your CrossFit gym.

Does your gym meet these eleven criteria? What do you look for in a good gym? Share your thoughts and experiences to the comments below.

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Photos 1, 2, and 3 courtesy of CrossFit Empirical.

Photo 4 courtesy of Breaking Muscle.

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