F45 vs CrossFit …(Hint: CrossFit is Better)

I’ll admit that up until a few months ago, I didn’t really know what F45 was.

I mean, fitness organizations of all type seem to be throwing the letter “F” in front of all types of products and, to be honest, they all seem to run together.

As fate would have it, I was planning an international trip and noticed that the closest “functional fitness” gym to my hotel was an F45 franchise.

f45 vs crossfit
Next time I’ll stay at the Hilton…

Knowing that the hotel’s gym was essentially non-existent and not ideal for even the most basic hotel CrossFit workouts, I took a look at what F45 was all about…

…and opted to do a modified version of “Cindy” in my hotel room.

F45…ain’t for me…but maybe it is for you…but…how does it stack up against stalwart, CrossFit…?

F45 vs CrossFit: Is CrossFit or F45 Training The Best Workout?

One of the newer “vs battles” in the fitness world, CrossFit vs F45 has nevertheless drawn some interest from fitness inquiries as well as CrossFitters, CrossFit coaches, and pretty much every person working out in an F45 gym.

Interestingly enough, as much as adherents might have a “team” that they may be “on” or that better appeals to them, ultimately, the F45 fan-girl might just think CrossFit is about heavy weights and movements like “cheating” pull-ups. At the same time, CrossFit cult members giggle at the whole “F45 is programmed centrally” i.e. every gym does the same thing on a given day…while not knowing much more about what the discipline is all bout.

Let’s take a look at the specific aspects of CrossFit and F45 before expanding on the pros and cons of each system.

What Is F45?

F45 Training, the “new kid on the block” (okay..it’s over 10 years old at this point, but you get the point) stands for “Functional 45”. Based on the idea of functional training—a combination of circuit and HIIT style workouts—workouts include a number of different exercises that are deemed as being “functional” in nature. 

F45 revolves around fast-paced 45-minute sessions (get it…Functional 45?!). Think less bench pressing and bicep curling and more push-ups (oftentimes at…interesting angles). Instead of pretty much ever trying to find a one rep max, F45 is much more aimed at getting participants “fitter”.

Typical F45 studios have up to 30 different workout stations. The workout plan, referred to as the “F45 Challenge,” changes daily with different areas of emphasis constantly changing. 

As alluded to above, F45 is a brand with standardized workouts. Whether you’re working out in Bangkok, New York, or Lagos, the workout for a given day will be the exact same. With a slightly emphasized focus on cardiovascular development as opposed to learning new skills, it emphasizes the “welcome workout environment” as a key brand ideal.

What Is CrossFit?

As you probably already know (we’re doing this for the newbs in the crowd!) CrossFit is a high-intensity fitness program that combines elements of several different fitness regimens and sports. CrossFit aims to build strength and increase conditioning through workouts that combine a variety of elements and challenging components. Each Workout of the Day (WOD) is designed to test a range of physical skills such as stamina, strength, flexibility, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy (read more about these in the iconic What is CrossFit? manifesto).

The structure of a typical CrossFit class includes:

  • Warm-up: A series of dynamic exercises to prepare the body for the session. Usually includes a “general” and a “specific” warm-up.
  • Skill/Strength Work: This segment focuses on practicing a specific skill or building strength, often involving a specific power or Olympic lift and/or a gymnastics movement.
  • WOD or Metabolic Conditioning (“Metcon”): What many consider to be the highlight of the workout, where different exercises are completed as quickly as possible or within a set time limit.

CrossFit prides itself in its community-driven approach. Participating in classes often creates an engaging atmosphere where screams of encouragement (or rage…in the instance of a missed lift or something) motivate participants to push beyond their perceived limits. Workouts  are highly intense by nature.

CrossFit affiliates, also known as ‘boxes’, are all unique/individually-franchised entities. Each box has its own character, largely based on the personalities and preferences of owners and coaches. Other than during the CrossFit Open (or during special days like “Memorial Day Murph“) no two gyms are doing the same thing at any given time. However, the core ethos of CrossFit—community, coaching, and challenging workouts—remains the tie that binds each CrossFit gym, as well as the overall CrossFit community, together.

Appealing Aspects of F45

F45 is mainly characterized by circuit training sessions that blend the challenging pace of HIIT with a variety of functional exercises. Some of it’s main “selling points” are:

  • Structured Workouts: With sessions planned down to the minute, you never have to worry about “going over time”.
  • Diverse Routines: The workouts switch daily, ensuring that participants don’t get stuck in a workout rut.
  • Guidance and Support: Coaches lead each session, offering guidance and motivation.
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Some of the more intriguing aspects of F45 are:

  • Facility Layout: With a consistent design featuring padded floors and artificial turf, it fosters a safe workout space. F45 spaces are also designed to be stimulating and engaging for participants.
  • Exercise Variety: Besides the diversity of the routines, the exercises themselves are constantly switched out, to include variations of common exercises (ex. different types of pushups)

Appealing Aspects of CrossFit

Like F45, CrossFit is fantastic for those of us who thrive on variety with workouts seldom being preferred twice (other than Hero workouts and other CrossFit benchmark workouts). 

Besides this variety, a few other appealing aspects of CrossFit are:

  • All Levels Welcome: From brand new participants to elite athletes, workouts are scalable to our abilities.
  • Focus on Functionality: Emphasis on movements that mimic daily life and/or enhance our daily functioning capabilities.
@hwpotraining

The biggest appeals of CrossFit, though? The strength and conditioning aspects. The inclusion of compound movements with barbells and free weights, creates the best method of building strength and muscle. That much of the time these lifts are incorporated with conditioning components (rowing, running, high-rep sets) ensures that CrossFit is truly the best of both worlds.

Additionally, CrossFit workouts are measurable. Progress is tracked through benchmark workouts and major lifting PRs. There isn’t anything quite as motivating as seeing your squat max jump by 50 pounds in a year or shaving a couple of minutes off of your Fran time!

F45 vs CrossFit

Now for the main event; these two beasts are about to go head to head!

F45 vs CrossFit – Facilities

  • F45 Studios: Uniform design and implementation across all franchises. Creates an extremely consistent experience.
  • CrossFit “Boxes”: Each has its unique character, influenced by the owners’ and trainers’ personalities and preferences as well as the local surroundings, culture, and environment.

F45 vs CrossFit – Equipment

  • F45: Focuses on a mix of functional training equipment such as kettlebells, rowers, and resistance bands.
  • CrossFit: Offers a more diverse range of equipment, including Olympic weightlifting barbells and plates, gymnastics rings, plyo boxes, and “erg” cardio machines.

F45 vs CrossFit – Programming

  • F45: Pre-designed workouts created and implemented solely by the F45 HQ, ensuring complete standardization.
  • CrossFit: Workouts can vary greatly from one gym to another, with individual coaches bringing their creativity and programming preferences and priorities into the equation.

F45 vs CrossFit – Movements

  • F45: Emphasis on less-complicated, “simple”-to-perform movements.
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  • CrossFit: Known for highly-technical Olympic lifts, high-skill gymnastics, and a broader range of complex movements.

F45 vs CrossFit – Class Structure

  • F45: Runs on a strict timetable with classes lasting ~45 minutes.
  • CrossFit: Class lengths can vary with a typical session including a warm-up, skill development, and the metcon/WOD.

F45 vs CrossFit – Costs

  • F45: Membership fees can be rather high, reflecting the brand’s premium positioning and franchise model.
  • CrossFit: Costs are variable (although normally not as high as F45). often depending on the gym’s location and the level of coaching provided (ex. “Open Gym” vs. a highly technical, coach-led class).

F45 vs CrossFit – Popularity

  • F45: Has been gaining (some) traction due to its structured system and global franchise.
  • CrossFit: Boasts a larger, established following with a head start of about a decade over F45.

F45 vs CrossFit – Community

  • F45: Encourages team workouts and a supportive atmosphere, fostering a strong sense of community within the studios.
  • CrossFit: Is renowned for its passionate community…with many participants citing “community” as the main draw of CrossFit for them.

Alternatives to F45 and Crossfit

When we look beyond F45 and CrossFit, there are a number of somewhat similar, but different and diverse alternatives available. Let’s take a quick look at some of these:

OrangeTheory Fitness (OTF)

  • Focuses on “heart rate-based interval training” (…whatever that means)
  • Utilizes technology to monitor performance throughout workout sessions
  • Sessions often blend cardio with (light) strength training

Traditional (“Bro”) Gym Memberships

  • Offers freedom to construct your own workout routines
  • Typically includes a variety of equipment
  • Less structured but can be very budget-friendly

Martial Arts or Boxing Gyms

  • Builds discipline, agility, and strength
  • A number of different disciplines to choose from
  • Combines fitness with self-defense skills

Functional Training Studios

  • Similar to F45 with a mix of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength
  • Oftentimes offers more personalized coaching
  • Appropriate for beginners and more experienced participants alike

You actually have a lot of options to choose from (but the constantly varied aspects of CrossFit make it the “winner” in my book!)

Frequently Asked Questions

When considering a new fitness regime and comparing F45 and CrossFit, there are a number of questions that come to mind (besides, like, “am I using the correct form?” and “will it help me reach my fitness goals?”). Let’s take a look at a few of them here:

While F45 sessions emphasize constant movement, CrossFit typically involves a really intense metcon portion which can lead to serious calorie burn. Ultimately, your weight loss potential with either program will hinge on your diet, workout consistency, and the intensity with which you approach each session.

Transitioning from F45 to CrossFit or vice versa can be a refreshing...sometimes. "Switchers" almost instantly notice a difference in community dynamics and workout style. While F45 focuses on station-based exercises with lighter weights and more repetitions, CrossFit engages its members through individual and team workouts that incorporate lifting weights (like, heavy weights) and a skill component. Both F45 and CrossFit have supportive communities, but  CrossFit is a bit come of a "competitive" support environment.

F45 workouts can definitely contribute to muscle building, since they do involve using resistance and body weight. However, CrossFit often includes heavier weightlifting and a wider variety of exercises which will usually lead to greater muscle hypertrophy and strength gains. The key to muscle building lies in progressive overload, and while F45 provides a foundation for strength, CrossFit offers a more extensive range of tools and techniques for those looking to significantly increase their muscle mass.

F45 (if you must) vs. CrossFit – Post-game

At Garage Gym Revisited, we’re all about helping people get fit. Whether this takes the form of some kind of barbell work, “functional fitness” or rucking, if it gets you off the couch and moving, it’s a win in our book.

However, you’re never gonna do F45 in your garage or basement gym. Heck, even the F45 trainers are powerless to program their own workouts since everything comes from HQ.

$175+ monthly memberships to be told exactly what to do (making it hard to learn to structure and perform workouts on your own) is…well…you do you.

Call me biased, but CrossFit destroys F45. Like, it isn’t even close.

If you’re honestly debating between the two and don’t have some kind of special reason for giving F45 a try…well…this is how I would treat any F45 thought that entered my mind:

Now, if you want a legit “CrossFit vs.” battle, check out our breakdown of Hyrox (“the CrossFit killer”) vs. CrossFit. Now that is a showdown!

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AUTHOR

Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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