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Long & Steady vs. Short & Fiery: The Science Behind Hyrox vs. CrossFit (Skill, Fuel, & Body Differences)

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

This article is based on a recent YouTube video from the experts at WOD-Science, where they delve into the differences between Hyrox and CrossFit. 

Both sports use functional movements performed at high intensity, combining aspects of strength and endurance. 

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Despite their similarities, different types of athletes tend to excel in the top competitions of each sport. 

This article explores the distinctions between Hyrox and CrossFit from a physiological and nutritional perspective, offering insights for athletes considering which sport might be the best fit for them. 

Let’s dive into the key differences and what they mean for training and nutrition.

Key Differences Between Hyrox and CrossFit

Event Duration and Focus

Hyrox events typically last between 60 to 90 minutes, focusing primarily on conditioning. These longer durations require sustained energy output, making endurance a critical component of an athlete’s success in Hyrox.

CrossFit, on the other hand, involves shorter, high-intensity bursts of activity. Workouts can range from a few seconds to around 20 minutes, emphasizing power output and the ability to perform complex movements under fatigue. This shorter, more intense format places a premium on anaerobic capacity and strength.

Predictability of Workouts

Hyrox offers a high degree of predictability. Athletes know exactly what to expect in terms of workout structure, allowing them to tailor their training specifically to the demands of the competition.

CrossFit is known for its unpredictability. Athletes often face “known and unknowable” challenges, where the specifics of the workout are revealed only shortly before the event. This element of surprise requires athletes to maintain a broad and versatile skill set, preparing for a wide range of possible movements and intensities.

Skill Level and Movement Complexity

Hyrox involves movements that, while challenging, are generally less complex than those in CrossFit. The focus is on sustained, repetitive efforts like running, rowing, and functional movements, which are more accessible to a broader range of athletes.

CrossFit demands a higher skill level, incorporating advanced gymnastics and Olympic weightlifting techniques. Movements like muscle-ups, snatches, and handstand walks require significant technical proficiency and practice, adding a layer of complexity to training and competition.

Athlete Physique

Hyrox tends to attract taller athletes. The biomechanics of movements such as sled pushes, wall balls, and rowing are more favorable for individuals with longer limbs, giving them a mechanical advantage in these events.

CrossFit often favors shorter athletes, particularly in workouts that involve bodyweight movements and high-repetition lifts. Shorter athletes typically have a lower center of gravity and shorter range of motion, which can be beneficial for movements like burpees, pull-ups, and Olympic lifts.

Physiological Differences

Energy Systems Utilized

CrossFit primarily relies on anaerobic energy systems. These include the alactic (creatine phosphate) system for very short, high-power efforts and the glycolytic (lactic acid) system for sustained high-intensity efforts up to several minutes. Typical CrossFit workouts, ranging from a few seconds to about 20 minutes, demand rapid energy release, which these anaerobic systems are best equipped to provide.

In contrast, Hyrox events require a predominantly aerobic energy system. The longer duration of Hyrox competitions, lasting from 60 to 90 minutes, necessitates a steady, sustained energy supply. This is achieved through aerobic pathways, such as fat oxidation and aerobic glycolysis, which can continuously generate ATP over extended periods.

Aerobic Base

The aerobic base is generally more developed in Hyrox athletes due to the endurance nature of the sport. A strong aerobic base means that athletes can sustain longer periods of activity without fatiguing quickly. This is crucial for maintaining performance throughout the lengthy Hyrox events.

CrossFit athletes, even at the elite level, often display a lower aerobic base. Their training focuses on high-intensity, shorter-duration efforts, which builds a powerful anaerobic capacity. This allows them to excel in short, explosive workouts but might leave them less prepared for prolonged endurance activities.

Lactate Production

Lactate production is another significant difference between the two disciplines. In CrossFit, the emphasis on high-intensity efforts leads to higher lactate levels. This is because anaerobic energy systems are more active, producing lactate as a byproduct of glucose metabolism without oxygen. The ability to tolerate and manage high lactate levels is a key performance factor in CrossFit.

Hyrox athletes typically produce less lactate during their events. The extended duration and lower intensity of Hyrox workouts rely more on aerobic metabolism, which produces minimal lactate. Consequently, Hyrox athletes’ lactate curves shift more to the right, indicating a greater reliance on aerobic energy systems and better endurance capacity.

Implications for Training

CrossFit Training

Training for CrossFit emphasizes short, high-intensity intervals that develop both strength and anaerobic capacity. Given the unpredictable nature of CrossFit workouts, athletes must prepare for a wide range of movements and scenarios. This includes:

  • High-Intensity Intervals: Short bursts of maximum effort followed by rest or low-intensity recovery. Examples include sprint intervals, heavy lifting with low reps, and gymnastics movements.
  • Skill Development: Regular practice of complex movements such as Olympic lifts (e.g., snatches, clean and jerks) and gymnastics skills (e.g., muscle-ups, handstand walks). These require dedicated technique sessions to ensure proficiency and efficiency.
  • Randomized Workouts: Incorporating a variety of movements and workout formats to simulate the unpredictability of competitions. This prepares athletes to adapt quickly to new challenges and combinations of exercises.

Hyrox Training

Hyrox training focuses on longer, structured intervals that build endurance and aerobic capacity. The predictability of Hyrox events allows for a more specific training approach, including:

  • Long Intervals: Extended periods of moderate to high-intensity effort, such as 5×8 minutes or 4×12 minutes with brief rest intervals. This builds the aerobic base needed for sustained performance.
  • Movement Efficiency: Practicing and refining the specific movements used in Hyrox events, such as sled pushes, wall balls, and rowing. This helps athletes perform these movements more efficiently and with less fatigue.
  • Structured Training Routines: Following a consistent training plan that incorporates known event formats. This allows athletes to optimize their performance for each specific task they will face in competition.

Physiological Adaptations

CrossFit requires athletes to develop both strength and conditioning. This often involves a combination of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), weightlifting, and metabolic conditioning (metcons). The goal is to enhance both anaerobic power and aerobic capacity to handle a variety of workout formats.

Hyrox athletes need a strong aerobic base and excellent movement efficiency. Training typically includes a mix of steady-state cardio (e.g., long runs, cycling) and interval training focused on endurance. Emphasizing longer, moderate-intensity efforts helps build the stamina required for the extended duration of Hyrox events.

Nutritional Requirements

Hyrox Nutritional Needs

Hyrox competitions last between 60 to 90 minutes, necessitating a strong focus on endurance and sustained energy levels. This requires athletes to carefully manage their glycogen stores and fuel intake:

  • Carbohydrate Loading: Prior to a Hyrox event, athletes should increase their carbohydrate intake to maximize glycogen stores in muscles and the liver. Consuming complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can help build these reserves.
  • Intra-Event Nutrition: During the competition, consuming carbohydrates can help maintain energy levels. Depending on the athlete’s gut tolerance, consuming 60 to 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour, from sources such as sports drinks, gels, or energy bars, can be beneficial.
  • Hydration: Staying hydrated is critical. Athletes should drink water or electrolyte solutions before, during, and after the event to replace fluids lost through sweat and maintain performance levels.

CrossFit Nutritional Needs

CrossFit workouts are shorter in duration but high in intensity, demanding a different nutritional approach to support rapid energy production and recovery:

  • Pre-Workout Nutrition: Eating a balanced meal 2-3 hours before a workout, containing carbohydrates, protein, and some fat, provides sustained energy. Closer to the workout, a small snack rich in carbohydrates can provide an immediate energy boost.
  • Post-Workout Recovery: Consuming a meal or shake with a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrates to protein within 30 minutes after training helps replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue. This can include options like a smoothie with fruit and protein powder, or a chicken and rice meal.
  • Daily Protein Intake: Maintaining a high protein intake throughout the day supports muscle repair and growth, crucial for CrossFit athletes who often train multiple times a day. Sources include lean meats, dairy, eggs, and plant-based proteins like beans and legumes.

Key Differences in Nutritional Strategies

  1. Duration and Timing:
    • Hyrox: Emphasis on carbohydrate loading before the event and carbohydrate intake during the competition to sustain energy over a longer period.
    • CrossFit: Focus on balanced pre-workout meals for quick energy and post-workout nutrition for recovery, given the shorter, high-intensity nature of the workouts.
  2. Macronutrient Focus:
    • Hyrox: Greater emphasis on carbohydrates to fuel endurance.
    • CrossFit: Balanced intake of carbohydrates and protein to support both energy needs and muscle recovery.
  3. Hydration:
    • Both sports require diligent hydration practices, but Hyrox athletes might focus more on continuous hydration strategies throughout their longer events.

Physiological Adaptations and Implications

Energy Systems in Hyrox vs. CrossFit

The energy demands of Hyrox and CrossFit workouts significantly differ due to the nature of their activities, impacting how athletes’ bodies adapt:


  • Primary Energy Systems: Hyrox relies heavily on aerobic pathways due to the longer duration of events. This means athletes primarily use aerobic glycolysis and fat oxidation for sustained energy production.
  • Aerobic Base: A strong aerobic base is crucial. This involves well-developed cardiovascular efficiency and endurance, allowing athletes to maintain a steady pace for extended periods.
  • Adaptations: Hyrox athletes typically develop increased mitochondrial density, enhanced oxygen delivery and utilization, and improved metabolic efficiency in using fat as a fuel source.


  • Primary Energy Systems: CrossFit workouts demand a combination of anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. Short, high-intensity efforts rely on anaerobic pathways, such as creatine phosphate and anaerobic glycolysis.
  • Anaerobic Capacity: High-intensity efforts require a well-developed anaerobic capacity, enabling athletes to perform explosive movements and recover quickly.
  • Adaptations: CrossFit athletes often see increased muscle power, strength, and anaerobic endurance. Their bodies adapt to efficiently manage and clear lactate, a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism.

Training Implications


  • Long Intervals: Training often includes long intervals (e.g., 5×8 minutes) to build endurance and improve aerobic capacity.
  • Zone 2 Training: Incorporating Zone 2 training—low-intensity, long-duration exercise (e.g., 45 minutes at 75% of functional threshold power)—helps enhance aerobic efficiency and endurance.
  • Movement Efficiency: Focused training on event-specific movements (e.g., sled pushes, wall balls, running) ensures athletes can perform these efficiently and effectively during competition.


  • Short Intervals and High Intensity: Emphasizing shorter, high-intensity intervals (e.g., 30 seconds to 3 minutes) builds anaerobic power and capacity.
  • Mixed Modal Training: Including a variety of movements (e.g., gymnastics, weightlifting) in workouts helps athletes prepare for the unpredictable nature of CrossFit competitions.
  • Strength and Power: Regular strength training and explosive power exercises are essential for developing the necessary muscle strength and power for CrossFit workouts.

Athlete Profiles


  • Taller Athletes: Hyrox often favors taller athletes due to biomechanical advantages in movements like running, sled pushes, and lunges.
  • Aerobic Specialists: Athletes with a strong background in endurance sports (e.g., running, rowing) tend to excel in Hyrox competitions.


  • Shorter Athletes: CrossFit competitions often benefit shorter athletes, particularly in movements requiring bodyweight control and agility (e.g., burpees, pull-ups).
  • Well-Rounded Athletes: Successful CrossFit athletes possess a balance of strength, power, endurance, and technical skill across a broad range of movements.

Physiological Testing and Observations


  • Lactate Threshold: Athletes typically exhibit a high lactate threshold, indicating strong aerobic conditioning and the ability to sustain high-intensity efforts for longer periods.
  • VO2 Max: High VO2 max values reflect the athletes’ aerobic capacity and efficiency in oxygen utilization during prolonged exercise.


  • Lactate Production: High lactate production during intense efforts indicates a reliance on anaerobic energy systems, requiring efficient lactate clearance and recovery mechanisms.
  • Anaerobic Power: Measurements of peak power output and anaerobic capacity highlight the athletes’ ability to perform explosive movements and sustain high-intensity efforts.

Skill Requirements and Training Focus

Skill Complexity and Movement Proficiency


  • Lower Skill Complexity: Hyrox involves functional movements that are generally less complex than those in CrossFit. The focus is on efficiency and endurance in movements such as running, rowing, sled pushes, and wall balls.
  • Movement Efficiency: Training for Hyrox emphasizes perfecting these movements to maximize efficiency and reduce fatigue. Athletes often practice these exercises in the exact sequences they will face in competitions to optimize their performance.


  • High Skill Complexity: CrossFit includes a broad range of movements, many of which are highly technical. This includes Olympic weightlifting (e.g., snatches, clean and jerks), gymnastics (e.g., muscle-ups, handstand walks), and high-skill cardio movements (e.g., double-unders).
  • Technical Proficiency: Regular practice and coaching are essential for mastering these complex movements. Athletes must develop precise technique to perform these movements safely and effectively under fatigue.

Training Focus and Programming


  • Structured Training Plans: Given the predictability of Hyrox events, athletes can follow highly structured training programs tailored to the specific demands of the competition. This includes predetermined intervals and movements.
  • Endurance Building: Training routines often include long, steady-state cardio sessions and interval training to build aerobic capacity and endurance.
  • Specific Movement Practice: Athletes frequently practice the exact movements and sequences found in Hyrox competitions, such as sled pushes, wall balls, and running intervals.


  • Randomized and Varied Workouts: CrossFit athletes must prepare for a wide range of possible movements and combinations, often using the CrossFit programming method of constantly varied, high-intensity functional movements.
  • Mixed Modal Training: Incorporating multiple fitness modalities—strength, cardio, gymnastics, and flexibility—ensures comprehensive preparedness for any workout.
  • High-Intensity Intervals: Regular high-intensity interval training (HIIT) helps develop the anaerobic power and capacity needed for shorter, explosive workouts.
  • Skill Development Sessions: Dedicated time for practicing technical skills, such as Olympic lifts and gymnastics movements, is crucial. This often includes drills, progressions, and technique refinement under the guidance of a coach.

Adaptation to Competition Demands


  • Predictable Movements: The known structure of Hyrox events allows athletes to train specifically for the movements they will encounter, optimizing their performance through repetition and refinement.
  • Aerobic Conditioning: Emphasis on building a strong aerobic base to sustain long-duration efforts.


  • Adaptability: CrossFit athletes must be ready to tackle a wide variety of movements and workout formats, often without prior knowledge of the specific workout.
  • Balanced Training: Developing a broad range of skills and capacities ensures readiness for any challenge presented in competition.

Key Takeaways for Athletes

  1. Hyrox:
    • Focus on building endurance and movement efficiency.
    • Follow structured training plans tailored to the specific demands of the competition.
    • Regularly practice the exact movements and sequences of Hyrox events.
  2. CrossFit:
    • Emphasize high-intensity interval training and technical skill development.
    • Prepare for a wide range of movements and combinations.
    • Balance training across multiple fitness modalities to ensure comprehensive preparedness.

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