For the past 20 years, the CrossFit craze has taken the fitness world by storm, and gym enthusiasts from across the globe have taken their functional fitness philosophy to heart. As a result, gyms, studios, and CrossFit competitions (such as the CrossFit games) have started operating worldwide.
Lately, another exercise craze with a similar philosophy has garnered interest and challenged CrossFit’s status as king of the functional fitness hill. Since its birth in 2011, F45 Training has quickly become one of the hottest new fitness trends in the world.
F45 follows similar principles to CrossFit, but also has some key differences that boost its appeal to a much broader audience. Both differ from a traditional gym full of treadmills and weight machines, thanks to their functional fitness philosophy.
The biggest differences between F45 and CrossFit include the types of equipment used, central programming vs individualised workouts, cardio vs strength focus, and the variety of movements. Online reviews suggest many more women prefer F45 over CrossFit, since the atmosphere is less competitive and suits a wider variety of fitness goals.
This article looks into what each program offers, the difference in training style and the kind of crowd that tends to favour one gym or the other. Once you’re finished reading, you’ll have a better understanding of whether F45 or CrossFit is the right choice for you.
What is F45?
F45 Training is an Australian fitness gym franchise founded in 2011. While only ten years old (and ten years younger than CrossFit), it has grown rapidly in recent years. With nearly 600 clubs in its home country, it is now spreading worldwide as well.
In case you were wondering, the F stands for Functional, and the 45 is the number of minutes in a regular session.
What is CrossFit?
Founded in the USA in 2001, CrossFit is the poster child of the functional fitness franchise. It rakes in billions of dollars in revenue every year with over 15,000 boxes (what CrossFit gyms are called) throughout the world.
F45 vs CrossFit: What Are The Differences?
While both of these popular training methods focus on functional fitness, there are some key differences that you should be aware of.
For example, in F45 gyms, you won’t see any big, heavy equipment like treadmills or other machines. Instead, you will see a lot of free weights, exercise balls, and TRX straps arranged in stations that you will work through in a circuit. These gyms also make use of technology, such as TV sets mounted on every wall and at each workout station to enhance the workout experience.
A CrossFit gym does not look like your typical gym either, looking more like a rugged warehouse instead. While some gym staples like barbells, dumbbells, rowing machines, etc., are present, you will also find equipment from other sporting disciplines, such as gymnastics rings and plyo boxes.
When you compare the training philosophy and workouts of F45 and CrossFit, there are some significant differences.
Central vs. Individual Programming
F45 Training is very centralised – not just in its home country, Australia, but amazingly, it is centralised globally. It is almost like fast food, since each F45 gym worldwide facilitates the same workout. So, no matter which F45 gym you go to around the globe, you’ll do the same thing, with more or less the same equipment.
On the other hand, CrossFit is quite the opposite. While, for the most part, all Boxes have the same eclectic set of equipment, the routine itself is very individualised. The Boxes have the freedom to come up with their own programming or use the programming from another (well-established) Box. The best CrossFit coaches create their own programming, which is tailor-made to suit your needs.
Balance of Strength Training and Cardio
Both gyms offer functional fitness programs and provide all the necessary training elements to create a fit physique: strength, movement, and cardio. However, where they each focus their primary training efforts is different.
F45 focuses more on cardiovascular health and therefore there is less emphasis on weights. Pushing your body to a certain heart rate is key in F45 training. Many enthusiasts will even buy the brand’s heart rate monitor that plugs into the gym’s system and displays your heart rate on the television. When you reach and maintain a certain heart rate zone, you earn a certain number of points, creating a fun and motivational competition.
CrossFit, on the other hand, specialises in strength training. So along with gymnastic routines and cardio, you will also be asked to lift some pretty heavy weights – often your five rep maximum or even one rep maximum.
F45 does not rely on heavy weights in its programming. This is not to say that F45 Training neglects strength training or CrossFit neglects cardiovascular health. On the contrary, both products are good at covering all the bases, but the primary focus is different.
Variety of Movements
There is an extensive number of circuit stations in an F45 workout, and the sheer number of exercises incorporated is enormous. However, thanks to the incorporation of TVs around the gyms, you are never lost or overwhelmed. All you need to do is follow what the person on the screen is doing, and you’ll be fine!
CrossFit also has a set of go-to movements that people go through, but it ensures diversity by including a handful of variations that can change the monotony. However, it isn’t nearly as large as the movement variations of F45.
Another difference to note between the two methodologies is that CrossFit focuses on mobility and technique. In other words, a goal in CrossFit is not only to improve strength but also to increase agility, mobility, and skills, and stress how these functional movements can help you in everyday life.
With F45 having a greater focus on cardiovascular fitness, it does not emphasise technique as much. A participant may be called out on poor form, but this is usually the extent of it. The focus of the training is for you to increase your fitness, not to be more mobile or athletically skilled.
Lighter vs Heavier Weights
As mentioned earlier, CrossFit is the more dedicated of the two in terms of strength development. Therefore, alongside the cardio and movement focused workouts, expect to lift bigger and heavier weights here. You will often pump out five rep and one rep max Olympic style lifts, such as cleans or snatches.
Being centred around fitness rather than strength, the programs at F45 employ lighter weights, and in fact, you have complete freedom in choosing the weight you would like to use. The trained coaches will speak out to correct your form but won’t go far beyond that. This is not to say F45 coaches pamper their clients, but it does see F45 to be a less aggressive workout and, therefore, community than CrossFit.
Number of Stations
Another significant difference between CrossFit and F45 is the number of stations each method employs. CrossFit does not have many. Depending on the day, a typical CrossFit workout will include a session of cardio and one or two heavy exercises using weights, involving two to four stations max.
F45 Training has a much different approach and employs 15 to 20 stations, sometimes even 30, per workout. You might think this is overwhelming, but remember that TVs are stationed all over the gym broadcasting the activity you are supposed to be doing at each station and where to go next, making it easy to follow.
F45 vs CrossFit FAQs
F45 vs. CrossFit: Which Is Better for Beginners?
Both programs are established and highly rated brands, so they have a proven track record with clients from all levels of expertise. Choosing which one is better for beginners would largely depend on the beginner themselves.
If the beginner doesn’t mind being in a competitive environment and is willing to be pushed hard, CrossFit is ideal. On the other hand, if the beginner wants a less competitive environment and more of a focus on cardio fitness, F45 is the better choice (“Team Training, Life-Changing” being the program’s motto).
Is F45 More Aggressive Than CrossFit?
While F45 will have its share of rabid enthusiasts obsessed with results, it is usually the less aggressive of the two. While both programs have the intensity you would expect from such high-profile fitness brands, CrossFit tends to be on the more competitive end of the spectrum and is regarded as more hardcore. The coaching styles will probably, but not always, reflect this too.
Is F45 Better For Your Fitness Than CrossFit?
Both fitness brands have proven to get results but choosing which one is better for you will depend on your own definition of fitness.
F45 Training is more focused on cardiovascular exercise. So if your definition of fitness means you can handle the rigours of aerobic activity without needing to stop and catch your breath as much as the next guy, then F45 is your thing. However, if your definition of fitness is to have more strength, power, and athletic skill, CrossFit is better suited to your needs.
Does F45 Help You Build Muscle Compared to CrossFit?
F45 Training emphasises cardiovascular fitness, while CrossFit is more dedicated to strength training. While both can build an excellent, well-toned physique, if building muscle is your goal, strength training is what you are looking for. CrossFit has a distinct advantage in this area, with an array of heavy lifting incorporated into its programs.
Although training for hypertrophy (think bodybuilders instead of other athletes) is still the ideal way to build maximum muscle, many of the best muscle-building exercises are present in CrossFit – such as its variations of snatches and lifts. Going heavy on these (CrossFit pushes you to do these movements in 5 to 1 rep max outs) will surely add slabs of muscle to your frame.
Of course, if your motivation is all about getting the body you’re dreaming of, then weight loss may be a priority to you as well. F45’s goals are probably more aesthetically focused than CrossFit’s in this sense. In other words, CrossFit helps you build muscle primarily for function, with an improvement in looks being the icing on the cake. While F45 is less focused on building muscle, it has a greater emphasis on getting fitter to look leaner.
Is F45 or CrossFit Better for Women?
These two well-established brands are famous across the world, attracting male and female fitness enthusiasts alike. However, F45 attracts considerably more women than CrossFit does, and the typical F45 class will be female-dominated, whereas CrossFit will often have more men present for classes.
Based on online reviews, F45 is much less intimidating to women when compared to CrossFit. Of course, every person’s ideal training environment is different, and there are plenty of women who are hardcore CrossFit devotees. But many more women report being put off by CrossFit’s hyper-competitive vibe and Women’s fitness goals are often more diverse and individual, and it’s not all about getting buff or trying to lift more than the rest of the bros. If your approach to fitness is more holistic, F45 fits this mindset much better.
CrossFit is typically very “macho” and therefore attracts people who have that particular killer-instinct-like mindset. Unfortunately for this specific brand, plenty of women just plain don’t enjoy such a gung-ho environment – it can really distract from what fitness means to you and how it benefits your lifestyle.
But in the end, the best training style for you is what helps you achieve your goals (and keeps you coming back week after week). If it works for you, work it!
Alternatives to F45 and CrossFit
As great as CrossFit and F45 Training are, they are still not everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe the classes and team atmosphere, no matter how friendly and supportive, are too similar to boot camp for some fitness enthusiasts. Or perhaps the monthly costs for participating in these big-brand gyms are hard to stomach.
Decades before the functional fitness craze became a phenomenon, people worked out at the gym. If building muscle and strength is your primary goal, then the tried and true program of lifting weights is still king. There’s no shame in working out solo if you’re able to stay motivated!
The same is true for those who love the team atmosphere, more low-impact exercise and for the long-beloved aerobics, Zumba, and Pilates classes. While all eyes are on the functional fitness methodologies like the cool new kid at the school playground, the old exercise stalwarts will not go away anytime soon. For many women, dancing a routine in class is still a lot more fun and rewarding than grinding it out in a workout.
But if you are still into kinetic, fast-paced, functional fitness programs along the lines of CrossFit and F45, but you are looking for local alternatives, then there are many out there that may be less established but are still effective. These include up and coming functional fitness brands as well as local fitness businesses like Pretty Brave Fitness.
As an all-girls gym, Pretty Brave Fitness sidesteps a lot of the issues and uncomfortable moments you can run into with co-ed workouts. Choose between their signature circuit-based and HIIT classes, all of which are beginner-friendly and adaptable to suit your fitness level.
Supporting a local small business can be a great alternative to big-box franchises like CrossFit and F45. So look around in your area and you might just find that functional fitness high you have been craving.
How Many Times Should I Do F45 a Week?
While you can choose to do F45 classes as many (or as few) times as you want in a week, a solid commitment to the program is encouraged, and that includes attending at least four to five classes a week.
How Much Does F45 Cost a Month?
F45 operates on a membership basis, and prices will vary widely between studios and localities. However, $50 to $70 a week is the ballpark price range in Australia.
This article is published for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your individual circumstances, medical conditions or abilities. Always consult a medical professional before beginning any program of exercise. A fitness industry professional can provide personalised advice to suit your needs.
Caity Dungey founded Pretty Brave Fitness in 2017 with one simple mission: giving everyday women the chance to be fitter and stronger, ready to tackle whatever life brings. Our workouts can be adjusted to challenge the fittest of gals or to go easy on first timers. As soon as you walk in the door, you’re a valued part of our fitness fam.