The Köhler Effect

Ever wonder why you push yourself so hard on a WOD with your 6am classmates? Or ponder why that 120-lb snatch felt so much lighter when ten people were cheering you on vs. when you tried to muscle it up by yourself? The training atmosphere in a CrossFit gym created by the group dynamic and interpersonal interactions of its athletes is one of the most powerful elements behind the effectiveness of CrossFit. If you did not know already, there is science behind the positives of working out in community. This concept of individuals raising their level of effort and performance in a group setting is very real and observable phenomenon in psychology, known as the Köhler effect.
The Köhler effect: phenomenon that occurs when a person works harder as a member of a group than when working alone. Much research suggests that the Köhler effect may have at least two causes, one rooted in the process of social comparison and the other in the effects of individual members being indispensable to the group. For further reading, see here.
We’ve all experienced the Köhler effect, likely without even realizing it, every time we come to the gym for class. Many of us are regularly confronted with the need to train solo. Think about the types of exercises, weights, volume, and intensity of those workouts done on your own. Now, compare that to doing your toughest group WOD last week, or setting a deadlift PR, or crushing the WOD on a day you weren’t even sure you had the energy to train.
The Köhler effect is one of the big reasons we encourage all of our athletes to get into group classes. Through no magic of our own as coaches, we are able to leverage the momentum & energy of the group to help everyone raise their level of effort. This is also why we say the most important thing for you to do is show up to the gym. Once you’re here, your fellow athletes will ensure sandbagging is kept to a minimum since no one likes to be the weakest link.

More People=More Endorphins

In addition to the Kohler effect, there is the added benefit of increased levels of endorphins which occur in a group exercise setting.

It has long been known that physical exertion releases endorphins and that these are responsible for the sometimes euphoric sensations experienced after exercising. They have a protective effect against pain. But researchers from Oxford University’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology found this response was heightened by the synergistic effect of rowing together.

The researchers speculated that this endorphin release may be the mechanism that underpins the sense of communal belonging that emerges from activities such as religious rituals, dancing or laughing. After 45 minutes of either rowing separately or in a team of six, the researchers measured their pain threshold by how long they could tolerate an inflated blood pressure cuff on the arm. Exercise increased both groups’ ability to tolerate pain, but the difference was significantly more pronounced among the team rowers.

This, they said, was a measure of an increased endorphin release.

You would do well to keep this concept in mind next time you travel: why go through the motions in your hotel gym (or likely not workout at all), when you can instead drop in to a local CF box and get a real push of motivation there. Do not seek out sources of inspiration; seek out guaranteed renewable sources of motivation in the form of training partners here at CrossFit Hard or abroad.

But more generally we know from experience that exercising in groups is good for people at many levels, it’s motivational, it’s social. Groups sessions really do work.

So if anyone asks why you CrossFit and what the whole “group thing” is all about, go ahead and give them them the scientific answer: the Kohler effect and increased endorphins. Then go back to your favorite CrossFit class and high five all the people who continue to help push you to the next level. The CrossFit community is more powerful than you already knew.

To team work!

Coach Graham


WOD 050216

What's your favorite Workout ever?

Warm-up 16

3 x 10 Lunges
3 x 10 Good Mornings
3 X 10 Supermans

Hope (3 Rounds for reps)

3 rounds: 
Perform AMRAP in 1 minute of each of the following movements:   
Power snatch, 75# / 55#  
Box jump, 24" / 20"  
Thrusters, 75# / 55#  
Chest-To-Bar Pull-ups  

"Hope" has the same format as Fight Gone Bad. In this workout you move from each of five stations after a minute. This is a five-minute round from which a one-minute break is allowed before repeating. The clock does not reset or stop between exercises. On call of "rotate," the athlete/s must move to next station immediately for good score. One point is given for each rep.

Cut Season Cash Out

Tabata Squats with your eyes closed

Out of Town WOD



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