Coach of the Decade: Greg Glassman, CrossFit’s Founder

In an interview with CNBC, Greg Glassman, the 63-year-old founder of CrossFit, said that CrossFit's success was without a business plan and without marketing. Dave Werner, founder of CrossFit North, the first partner.


In an interview with Box Pro Magazine, Werner recalled how Glassman first reacted to CrossFit as the name of his gym: "No, no, no, I won't take any money from you." From random beginnings, CrossFit became the most influential force in relation to it on strength and condition as well as fitness training over the past decade.

For this reason, it was touted as an open source model for fitness training in the early days of CrossFit. Many of the first CrossFit partner companies started out as gyms that developed into the "boxes" that we see around the world today. For this reason, the word community is still widely used to refer to followers and members of a CrossFit gym.

Breaking Muscle started around the time when CrossFit was a handful of partners before the rapid growth of CrossFit gyms began at the beginning of this decade. To make it a bit clichéd: CrossFit was a breath of fresh air in a fitness industry that had almost no real innovation in training methods that fluctuated between bodybuilding and aerobics, with little in between.


Greg Glassman should be recognized for using an apparently unconventional mix of ideas and putting them into a format that has in fact become standard group training for strength and conditioning.

If CrossFit hadn't been there, would we have seen the same interest in Olympic weightlifting, kettlebells, and now gymnastics? Everything that went into CrossFit training was there before Glassman came along. However, he managed to do a number of things at the same time that helped define a generation of coaches and trainers and changed the face of gymnastics forever.

First, Glassman has announced a level of intensity and training that doesn't shy away from his intentions: to leave you as extensive at the end of a short, intense session as if you were in the struggle of a lifetime. CrossFit's high-intensity interval training appealed to first responders, the military, fighters and university athletes, all of whom had a keen interest and desire to work under enormous pressure.

Second, Glassman's personality and presentation were a template for trainers and instructors who, until he appeared, could not really indicate a charismatic guru, and who managed to avoid a dogma for exercise routines while at the same time handling stamping them with his brand

After all, Glassman never told his coaches and coaches what to do. He provided a framework and provided sample training every day on the CrossFit website, but each partner developed their own training program.

Third, Glassman was unscrupulous in protecting his brand and promoting CrossFit without ever owning anything other than his company's brands and licenses. There was no liability, no actual product, no uniforms, no property or anything substantial that could bring the company to its knees. There was only the CrossFit way and the myth of CrossFit, which ended in the CrossFit games with the ultimate award "Fittest on Earth".

CrossFit does not have the same shine and appeal as at the beginning of the decade. It is growing internationally, but has received a significant amount of criticism in the United States, and many affiliates have come and gone to never be replaced.

CrossFit has probably only ever managed to penetrate 10% of public gyms. Average partner membership is over $ 100 a month, compared to an average gym membership of $ 20 a month.

It is more like a martial arts model than a franchise gym, and therefore requires a dedicated, motivated coach / trainer / owner to work. But all of these things don't matter considering how CrossFit's colloquial language found its way into popular culture.

When I first certified, I remember this relaxed, almost carefree guy who didn't look like a fitness guru at all. And yet there was a certain level of self-confidence and inner knowledge that he had.

For example, the first time he presented the work "Helen" – he did so in a relaxed, relaxed tone with a slight smile, as if he knew something that the five of us were not there for the first time. He knew that although we might have done it at home it would be different here, and he knew he didn't have to do anything to get the best of us. He also knew the level of "whoop-ace" that it would unleash on us.

I really had no idea until that moment. My own version of CrossFit was comparatively subdued. I also remember the first time I worked with him on my squat. At that point I was crouching and training customers for years and he said, "Give it about 5 years, child."

I thought he was crazy … 5 years?! But he was 100% right. I became a believer (and then a partner) after doing my own CrossFit test. I was a professional, sponsored endurance athlete at the time, and here was this guy who said I could build endurance with short, intense workouts with strength training, weights, and a little cardio. I thought it was crazy.

But I decided to try it on my own (all my friends thought I was crazy) in a small personal training studio and in the neighborhood. No one in this gym had ever seen anything I did before. I have to admit it seemed crazy. I planned and ran a 5k. Then for three months I did nothing but CrossFit workouts (per main site in 2004).

After this time, I ran the same 5 km course and was almost 3 minutes faster in my time (from 10 p.m. to just over 7 p.m.). My training volume had dropped dramatically. From about 8-10 hours a week to less than 4 hours a week. My strength had increased dramatically and I was able to move with great volume. I became a great believer! Shortly afterwards, I attended my first 3-day certificate and immediately joined it. I opened the CrossFit LA doors in November 2004.

Andy Petranek from Whole Life Challenge

You are looking at social media these days and the impact of CrossFit should not be underestimated when it comes to the number of people who do weight lifting, kettlebells and handstand walks. Was there a burpee or wall ball before CrossFit came? Nowadays you can find functional fitness areas in more and more mainstream gyms. This is a direct result of CrossFit's influence. Lifts, pull-ups and box jumps, kettlebells and barbells, lots of barbells.

Glassman and CrossFit have redefined strength and stamina. People are more likely to offer CrossFit-like exercise programs than bodybuilding. Here you will find local gyms that focus on weight lifting. Even if a small box-type gym isn't a CrossFit partner, you'll find someone who started CrossFit or was influenced by CrossFit.

Greg Glassman and CrossFit have helped change my views on strength, stamina and training in general. I was a university athlete and have successfully trained high school and university athletes myself. I actually had a great career.

But Glassman created something special. I felt that. I knew how innovative it was, I applied the same principles and succeeded with my athletes. I wanted to do the same for as many people as possible.

So I thought I was lucky that he also created a business model that changed my life drastically. Before CrossFit, it was just a dream to own a gym. It felt like it was going well above the head of a coach or trainer. It is a significant investment associated with a unique fitness modality.

However, here I am with my own CrossFit partner. I've been doing this for almost a decade. I have a small gym full of other great coaches, a community that I appreciate, and I feel responsible to everyone. It is very satisfying. I don't think it would have happened without CrossFit.

Michael Tromello, coach and owner of Precision CrossFit

Greg Glassman has defined fitness, strength and stamina, and the way people have gone to the gym over the past decade. Whatever you think about the organization that is CrossFit or the man who is Glassman, you can never deny the influence that they have had in the past decade.

It has been unmatched since the 1970s when Arnold shaped the growth of bodybuilding around the world. There are many reasons why Breaking Muscle can appoint Greg Glassman as coach of the decade.

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