How Reebok Caters to Extreme CrossFit Bodies

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How Reebok Caters to Extreme CrossFit Bodies

By Jordan K. Speer, Apparel Editor in Chief - 05/10/2016
In 2010, CrossFit® signed a 10-year partnership with Reebok to produce the brand's apparel and footwear. As Reebok's experience with the sport's athletes grew, it became clear that the CrossFit athlete had a different body shape from other athletes, and that athletic wear designed for other sports was not meeting the unique needs of this group.

"If you talk to any CrossFit athlete, they'll all say they have a tough time finding clothing that fits their bodies, whether athletic wear or jeans. They have an extreme body shape," says Michael Morganti, director of pattern apparel.

Most athletes have a somewhat standard chest-to-hip-to-waist ratio, he explains, but this proportion is more extreme for a CrossFit athlete than for the general athletic population, which has a lot to do with the movements performed in wods (that's CrossFit parlance for workout of the day). "There's a lot of squatting and lifting and other exercises that build a big upper body and big lower body, but in their core, they become very lean."

The bottom half, with its defined glutes and quad muscles, presents the most challenges when it comes to fit. "CrossFit athletes have to have almost everything altered. If it fits the hips, they have to take the waist in, and vice versa. You'd go into a CrossFit box [that's CrossFit parlance for a CrossFit gym] and see them working out in tights or elastic-waistband shorts, because they have trouble finding woven shorts that fit."

As the relationship with CrossFit evolved and Reebok began to understand that the sport produced a different body type, it decided to take a closer and more scientific look at the body shapes and sizes of the sport's athletes with the goal of fulfilling its customers' needs across all ranges of fitness or athletic ability.

While it had anecdotal evidence, there was no hard, empirical data about body variations, and that's when Reebok decided to tap the expertise of Alvanon and Sizestream so that it could understand the CrossFit body — not only how it differed from athletes in other competitive disciplines, but also how CrossFit bodies themselves were similar and different from each other — and develop clothing to match.

In gathering data, Alvanon scanned the bodies of more than 500 CrossFit athletes, both amateurs and professionals, many of whom were competing in the Reebok CrossFit games. The scanner's 16 infrared light points scanned each body, generating more than 80 measurements, from which were generated 3D electronic avatars of each person's body shape.

The company knew going in that the CrossFit athlete had a small waist, big hips and a big chest, but body scanning allowed Reebok to see distribution of muscle in detail.

For example, says Morganti, "we knew that [CrossFit athletes'] waists were small, but their waists aren't smaller than other athletes; it's just that the ratio is greater. Their waists are actually getting bigger, but not at the rate that their chests are, so they have a very tapered V shape." Generally speaking, the CrossFit athlete has a much more extreme distribution of muscle, he says.

Once it had collected the data, Reebok worked with Alvanon to analyze it and develop a unique proprietary fit standard that accommodated the CrossFit body's differences.

"It wasn't just about increasing, but enlarging in specific places," explainsn Morganti. For example, he said, "How doyou make a pair of woven board shorts fit the hip and thigh, but also the waist when you have that extreme [variance between them]? You have to make sure the back rise isn't plunging down. Often, you'd see that the athletes would be fine when they squatted down, and then when they stood up, the shorts would be stuck around the thigh. If you're squatting with heavy weights, the last thing you want is to be uncomfortable," he says.

The companies worked together to create new pattern blocks and grade rules, and from the data, Reebok was able to determine such factors as the ideal placement for cut seams, where a garment needed unrestricted movement and where it required the insertion of more specific zoning in terms of heat regulation and anti-abrasion protection.

Reebok launched with the reworked line in fall 2014, and since then has been continuing to refine and develop it, performing wear testing with its CrossFit athletes — this is "for CrossFitters by CrossFitters," says Morganti — and also employing both live models and fit forms (developed specifically for the CrossFit body by Alvanon) to ensure it is meeting the needs of athletes in this popular sport, which is growing rapidly around the world, says Morganti.

"The amount of time and energy we put into developing this line is really paying off," he says. "It's the only apparel line developed specifically to fit, and enhance the performance of the CrossFit athlete."
— Jordan K. Speer

Editor's Note: Hungry for more innovation? Check out all of our 2016 Top Innovators here