Science on CrossFit: What motivates people?



Being a science geek, I regularly survey Pub Med for new articles on CrossFit. In my latest search, I found 2 new publications – one on injuries that I’ll share later and then this one about motivation. What I find interesting about this article is, that it is concerned with motivation in CrossFit – a completely new topic in scientific research. The aim of this study (performed by researchers at Southern Illinois University, US) was to examine how gender and membership time influence motivation and goal setting in CrossFit boxes.

The study:

  • Participants: 144 members of two different CrossFit facilities (88 female; 56 males)
  • Method: Questionnaires assessing the participants’ perceptions of CrossFit goal structures and the motivational climate encouraged by the trainer within their CrossFit box
  • Variables examined: Gender and duration of membership period

Results (high-lights):

In terms of goal structures, the study differentiated between performance-based goals (wanting to be better than others) and mastery-based goals (self-improvement). The hypothesis was that men would report more performance-based goals and that women would report more mastery-based goals.

This assumption was partly supported by the data, in that female members reported a higher percentage of mastery-based goals. Put in another way, women are typically driven by goals such as “avoiding to appear incompetent” or “being able to get through the WOD in an acceptable fashion”. Furthermore, the authors speculate that the dominant position of “weight-training” exercises in CrossFit mean that men feel more confident than women, and are thus more likely to pursue performance-based goals.

Furthermore, the authors also hypothesized that a long membership period would mean that people are more likely to shift their focus towards performance-based goals. This hypothesis was supported by the data. The findings could arise from the fact that new members will have to adapt to a lot of new skills and exercises (including scaling options), and for that reason the dominating focus will be mastery-based goals.

Their third hypothesis was related to the way people perceive the motivational climate in the CrossFit box. This was found not to differ between groups. This is probably due to the prominent roles of CrossFit coaches in creating the climate, which remains relatively static.

Practical applications

The study basically demonstrates that different types of motivation can drive men and women. In addition, people who are new to CrossFit tend to have a different focus than that of experienced practitioners.

This can be used to create the most motivational climate for everyone. Disregarding gender, CrossFit coaches should always strive to accommodate the goals and expectations of the individual member.

Encouraging mastery of skills can be beneficial for more self-referent individuals; however, some members will benefit from setting goals and standards that are based on others’ performances and should be encouraged appropriately.

– Ditte

Link to the full article:


4 thoughts on “Science on CrossFit: What motivates people?

  1. Really interesting Ditte!
    Fantastisk læsning, og jeg er også helt opslugt af sådanne artikler 🙂

    Du må sige til, hvis du har lyst til at lave nogle gæsteindlæg for mig, engang imellem. Jeg er ved at starte en blog op, som skal understøtte min webshop!

    Mvh. Haris 🙂

    • Tusind tak for kommentaren – synes også at det er rigtigt spændende, selvom jeg normalt er mere på ‘hjemmebane’ i det naturvidenskabelige 🙂 Kh Ditte

  2. Pingback: I Have Some Work To Do | Live Fit and Sore

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