A Comparison of Muscular Strength, Power, and Endurance Between CrossFit and Traditional Weight Training Classes

Kansas State University
Manhattan, Kansas
DOI: 10.18258/9745
Raised of $1,300 Goal
Funded on 9/30/17
Successfully Funded
  • $1,300
  • 100%
  • Funded
    on 9/30/17

Project Results

Hi all, I am excited to share our latest findings! Preliminary findings showed that the CrossFit group (CF) significantly improved lower body muscular endurance (squats, +12.0%, p<.001) while the traditional weight training group (TWT) had a significant increase in both push-ups (+22.7%, p<0.001) and squats (+10.7%, p<0.001). However, after controlling for age and gender, there were no significant differences on any of the outcome variables. Body composition (% fat mass) did not change significantly for either group. Though preliminary power analyses suggested we were powered to detect differences between the two groups, after controlling for age and gender, our sample size proved to be a bit small to detect significant changes. The time course (classes were only 8-weeks) may also have been a bit short to detect changes in fitness or body composition. Further investigation is necessary to examine muscular adaptations associated with different college fitness classes. 

About This Project

Though CrossFit has exploded in popularity over the past 17 years, little research has examined improvements in fitness due to CrossFit training. This study aims to examine the differences in muscular strength, power, and endurance between CrossFit and traditional weight training classes at the college level.

This research is not associated with CrossFit Inc or CrossFit Headquarters.

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What is the context of this research?

People who are physically active tend to live longer and have lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers. Physical activity can also help with weight control, and may improve academic achievement in students. The benefits of Traditional Anaerobic Resistance (TAR) training are widely understood and accepted by a variety of health professionals and organizations. CrossFit, however, is not as widely researched, especially when examining changes in strength (Bellar, 2015). This study aims to examine the differences in strength, muscular endurance, and power between two different types of college fitness classes, a CrossFit-based high intensity functional training class and a traditional weight training class.

What is the significance of this project?

CrossFit has exploded in popularity since its initiation in 2000. Its design allows participants to get a full workout in about an hour, much less time than other fitness domains. CrossFit training has been shown to increase maximal aerobic capacity (VO2max). Traditional anaerobic resistance training (TAR) consists of high-intensity intermittent bouts of exercise such as weight training, plyometrics, speed/agility, and interval training. The benefits of TAR training are specific to individualized program designs; some of these benefits include muscular strength, power, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance. College students are a relevant population to examine as weight gain and unhealthy habits are common ; CrossFit might provide a healthy alternative.

What are the goals of the project?

With little research examining the benefits of CrossFit training, it should be examined as an alternative exercise prescription for the college population. Physical activity has been linked to improved mental health and can also improve academic achievement in students. This study will examine differences in muscular strength, power, and endurance associated with CrossFit training compared to traditional strength training programs in the college setting. A secondary aim of this study is to examine the difference in motivational factors of participants. This pilot study will document fitness improvements associated with CrossFit training. We will provide lab notes as we progress, and plan to present on this material at conferences and will submit a manuscript.


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There is little research funding for graduate student projects that are NOT directly part of their dissertation work and state universities have cut research funding due to state budget issues. Therefore, I am looking for outside funding for a small research project. Working with human subjects is difficult and they are much more motivated to complete tasks when there is an external reward. I would like to offer traditional weight training participants a $10 gift card and CrossFit participants a jump rope (valued at $10) for their participation in the study. In order to be fully powered, we will be looking to recruit about 65 participants (about 33 in each group). I am also seeking a small amount of funding to assist with conference travel to present our research findings at academic conferences. Travel funds will support conference registration, airfare, and lodging. Additional funds will cover tax, shipping, platform, and processing fees.

Endorsed by

I enthusiastically support this project as it will address a critical time period in the life of young adults where they tend to experience large decreases in physical activity and fitness. The project will provide necessary data for applied exercise research and answer some key questions regarding the effectiveness of CrossFit training as compared to traditional weight training. Having already led a successful intervention study for her master's thesis, Brittany is the perfect person to lead this study.

Project Timeline

The IRB was submitted to Kansas State's Institutional Review Board for approval August 1, 2017. After approval from IRB, the study will begin in the fall semester (August 2017). Classes are 8 weeks long. Data will be collected at the beginning and end of each 8-week session. Data will be shared through lab notes. Once data collection has ended, data analysis will be conducted and results will be disseminated. We plan to present our findings at AAHB on March 4, 2018 and ACSM May 29, 2018.

Aug 16, 2017

Project Launched

Aug 22, 2017

Project Launch: 1st 8-week sessions begin

Oct 10, 2017

First 8-week sessions end, post-class data collection

Oct 10, 2017

2nd 8-week sessions begin

Dec 18, 2017

Data Analysis Begins

Meet the Team

Brittany Hollerbach
Brittany Hollerbach
Graduate Research Assistant


Kansas State University
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Brady Kurtz
Brady Kurtz


Kansas State University Kinesiology
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Sarah Cosgrove
Sarah Cosgrove
Postdoctoral Research Fellow


Kansas State University, Department of Kinesiology, Functional Intensity Training Lab
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Justin DeBlauw
Justin DeBlauw
Graduate Student


Kansas State University
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Team Bio

Research conducted in the Functional Intensity Training laboratory is focused on the effects of high-intensity functional training (HIFT) on fitness, health and psychosocial outcomes delivered in a group-based context. The FIT Lab also promotes education and service by providing opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and community members to participate in exercise training through CrossFit. FIT LAB

Brittany Hollerbach

I completed my Master’s Degree in Kinesiology at Kansas State University in December, 2016 with a focus on physiology and behavioral science. I am currently a Ph.D. student in the Kinesiology Department. My research focuses on tactical athletes including firefighters, military, and police officers with a focus on health and wellness. Our lab examines high intensity functional training (HIFT) such as CrossFit and its relevance for different populations. My background is in the fire service. I attended a regional fire academy in Kansas, became state certified as a Firefighter/EMT, and served as a volunteer firefighter for four years. I also have my Fire Service Instructor I certification and taught at a regional fire academy for 6 years before attending K-State to further my education. I am dedicated to bettering the lives of firefighters and the communities they protect all across the nation by increasing awareness and research regarding these important tactical athletes.

Brady Kurtz

Brady is an undergraduate in our lab and is excited to begin working on a research project.

Sarah Cosgrove

I believe that health is an individual's greatest asset, and this has become the focus of both my educational and research training. A consistent theme in my research interests is the psychology behind, and motivation to engage (and remain engaged) in physical activity and exercise. Most recently, I have become interested in the examination of physical activity and exercise habits of women and mothers in the labor force.

My current position is as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Functional Intensity Training (FIT) Lab in the Department of Kinesiology at Kansas State University. My primary responsibility in this position is to work on an NIH-funded project examining the differences between High Intensity Functional Training (HIFT; e.g., CrossFit) and traditional Army physical training (PT).

Additional Information

This study has been approved by the K-State IRB and will begin in the fall (2017). Fitness classes are eight weeks long. We plan to examine classes over multiple semesters in order to ensure a broad sample. Researchers will conduct baseline and follow-up assessments including: height, weight, body composition, hand grip strength, push-up test, curl-up test, vertical jump, and a short psychosocial questionnaire.

This study is not associated with or funded by CrossFit Inc or CrossFit Headquarters. The research will be carried out by undergraduates and graduate students at Kansas State University Manhattan campus.

Project Backers

  • 25Backers
  • 100%Funded
  • $1,300Total Donations
  • $52.00Average Donation
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