The GRID—The Team Sport Version of CrossFit—Explained

Learn about the GRID, the fitness sports league that started last year and is attracting athletes of every stripe.

CrossFitters are doing it. Firefighters are doing it, too. So are gymnasts and ex-rugby players. Even former NFL running back and two-time Pro Bowler Willis McGahee is trying to get in the National Pro Grid League, or just the GRID. But what exactly is it?

The GRID is a fitness competition in which two teams of athletes go head-to-head in a series of exercises, which often include Olympic lifts (like Snatches and Cleans) and gymnastics moves (like Muscle-Ups on suspended rings). It's essentially a team-sport version of the CrossFit Games.

The first official match took place last August at Madison Square Garden, drawing about 4,000 fans. NBC Sports televised the GRID playoffs and last October's championship match. The DC Brawlers won the sport's first title.

Today, the eight (soon to be 10) professional GRID teams are hosting Pro Days across the country, allowing anyone to showcase their skills for the sport's scouts. If you're interested in seeing whether you could make one of the teams, or just want to know more about this curious sport that you might've seen on TV, here are answers to some of the questions you might've had.

So wait, how did GRID get started?

Former CrossFit executive Tony Budding sought to turn fitness into a fast-paced, high-intensity sport. Budding hoped the GRID would garner attention, not only from athletes, but also from investors, sponsors, broadcasters, and most importantly, fans.

How do the competitions work?

Each match is two hours long. Two teams go head-to-head on a 94-by-50-foot mat divided into sections. The teams make their way across the mat, racing from one exercise to the next in a series of events. Each station on the Grid is worth two points for the winning team (the losing team gets one), except for the last exercise, which is worth three.

Depending on the opposing team, the match formula and the types of exercises, Grid strategy ends up being very important. Unlimited substitutions are allowed. Two-time CrossFit champion Annie Thorsidottir, captain of the New York Rhinos, told the Daily Burn, "When you're competing as an individual you can find your own pace. But on the Grid, everything is so fast and high-intensity that . . . if you start slowing down, it's time to rotate and change out. You need to be moving full speed all the time."

The team with the highest number of points at the end of the competition wins.

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Who's on these teams?

Each team must have seven men and seven women. At least one male athlete and one female athlete must be over the age of 40. There were eight active teams in the GRID's first season, and two more will be added this year.

The GRID has its own draft and combines. The 2015 Grid Pro Days are already underway, and anybody can apply to showcase their skills for Grid scouts and potential sponsors. Including Boston and L.A., which already hosted their Pro Days, GRID will have a total of six Pro Days across the country.

GRID seems to be drawing athletes from all over the spectrum, including former gymnasts, ex-rugby players and firefighters.  Willis McGahee recently took part in Pro Day testing in Los Angeles. McGahee noted his strengths, like the Power Clean, and confessed a major weakness, the rope climb that gave him "bloody fingers."

The top 200 men and women from the Pro Days will be invited to the GRID Combine in April. Teams will then hold a draft in the summer.

Why are athletes doing it?

You mean besides the spirit of competition and thrill of victory? Well, money seems to be a factor. Lindsey Valenzuela, a former CrossFit Games finalist and current GRID athlete signed to the L.A. Reign, said that if CrossFit is the Olympics, then GRID is like the NBA, where athletes who have qualified for the Olympics can "make a living."

So, I should expect to see more of the GRID?

Fitness as sport is having a moment right now, and with backing from a major television network, GRID should enjoy more visibility, at least in the short term. How long it lasts is anyone's guess, but the sport's athletes are optimistic. "I think GRID in the future will be on another level," McGahee said. "You're going to see a whole lot more."

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: CROSSFIT | FITNESS | EXERCISE