What is CrossFit? Plus 5 Reasons to Try It!
Andreea Macoveiciuc | On 18, Dec 2013
If I were to choose three words to define the perfect workout, I’d say it has to be time-efficient, tough and varied:
- Time-efficient, for all the busy people out there who want to stay in shape and exercise regularly, but without having to spend 2 hours per day at the gym.
- Tough, as unless it’s hurting, it’s not working. A great workout pushes your body to its limits and forces you to use 110% of your energy and strength, both physical and mental. If a training session is not challenging enough, it’s quite unlikely to change your body and provide significant results in short time. So the greater the soreness, the better the results.
- Varied, as this confuses the body and forces it to work harder in order to adapt to the new movements and to the speed and form variations. If you do the same workout day after day, your body will get used to it a lot faster and after a while, you’ll no longer see improvements in your appearance or fitness level. On the contrary, if you keep the workouts as varied as possible and continuously increase the difficulty, by changing the speed, adding weights, changing the patterns and so on, results will come faster.
There are lots of workouts that check all these boxes, but today I’ll introduce you to CrossFit, one of the most popular forms of training these days and no.1 in the Fitness Trends Top for 2014, as part of the HIIT category.
What is CrossFit?
The principle behind CrossFit looks like this:
CVFM @ HI + Communal Environment = Health
Too complicated? Let’s translate it then: constantly varied (CV) functional movements (FM), performed at high intensity (HI), in a communal environment, create health.
This form of workout is very intense and incorporates dynamic exercises, like plyometric jumps, as well as lifts with non-traditional equipment, such as sand bags, water-filled implements or kettlebells. Each workout consists in a limited number of exercises, performed several times, in a specific time frame.
Still, this form of training is not geared only towards athletes or people with a high fitness level. Anyone from completely untrained people to beginners can do CrossFit, as long as they learn how to perform the moves correctly.
Keeping the right form and warming up is very important in this type of workout, as the risk of injury is high when the exercises are not done the right way.
Workout of the Day
CrossFit, as its name implies, is meant to build fit bodies, through extreme strength and conditioning exercises. The varied and challenging workouts keep boredom away and turn the exercise programs into fun and effective calorie-burning sessions. Each day comes with a different workout (Workout of the Day or WOD), focused on a different part of the body or group of muscles.
Through this method, all the major components of physical fitness are targeted: muscle strength and endurance, stamina, cardio fitness, flexibility, speed, agility, power, accuracy, balance and coordination. Given that the workouts are very intense, they typically take 5 to 20 minutes and should be performed 3 to 5 days a week. Each workout is built in a circuit format, which means you get very little or no rest between sets.
What exercises are included in a typical CrossFit workout? Jumps, burpees, thrusters, pull-ups, push-ups, squats, snatches, exercises on the medicine ball, climbing ropes or rowing machines, jump ropes and many others.
The WOD are uploaded daily on the CrossFit site, so you can find a daily challenge there, if you’re ready to try this type of training. Some of the workouts are “classical”, and you’ll easily recognize them by their names:
- Cindy – 20 minutes AMRAP (as many rounds as possible): 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squats
- Barbara – 5 circuits of 20 pull-ups, 30 push-ups, 40 sit-ups, 50 squats, with 3-minute breaks after each circuit
- Angie – 100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, performed during the entire workout and not in a row, unless you’re really in great shape
For beginners, there are lots of variations of the WOD – instead of the classical Cindy for example, you can do:
- AMRAP 10 minutes 1 pull-up, 4 push-ups, 7 squats
- AMRAP 12 minutes: 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squats
- AMRAP 12 minutes: 1 pull-up, 4 push-ups, 7 squats
- AMRAP 20 minutes: 3 pull-ups, 6 push-ups, 9 squats
If you find these too easy, increase the speed without compromising form. You’ll be amazed how your body will change after a few weeks!
Who is CrossFit for?
- Untrained people and beginners to weight training, as longs as the workouts are done with a great coach. You can do the exercises at home as well, but keep in mind that this form of training uses lots of fitness tools, from kettlebells to pull-up bars, so if you don’t have these at home, you’ll probably change the routines and do your own versions of the workouts. This isn’t necessary a bad thing, in fact it’s still better than doing no physical activity at all, but make sure to do the exercises correctly and to warm-up before the training sessions.
- People who love community workouts – this is what defines CrossFit, in the end
- Fitness junkies – if you’re already doing daily workouts but want an extra push, switching to CrossFit can be a great challenge. Still, keep in mind that CrossFitters get addicted to their workouts pretty fast, so you might end up doing two rounds of heavy training per day.
CrossFit provides so many benefits that it’s hard to find some reasons not to try it, at least once. Still, assuming you’re hard to convince and picky when it comes to physical activity, here are 5 reasons you should give CrossFit a try.
5 reasons to try Crossfit
1. Anyone can do it
There are no age restrictions for CrossFit, and unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from doing such workouts, it’s surely worth giving it a try. You can start from zero, as all the movements can be quickly learned and the more you’ll practice, the better you’ll get.
2. Boosts the metabolic rate
CrossFit focuses on high intensity exercises, and as you already know, these are the most effective in speeding up the metabolic rate and kicking the calorie-burning machine into high gear. So not only will you burn a lot more calories during the workouts, but your body will continue to use higher amounts of energy after the WOD, for proper recovery. Did I mention your energy levels will increase as well?
3. Works the entire body
CrossFit is excellent because it targets all body areas and helps you put on lean mass while trimming down fats. Your arms, shoulders, back, core, glutes and legs will be forever thankful for the tough and thorough workouts, as your muscles will get stronger, more toned and leaner. Obviously, if you prefer to focus on a certain body area, you can incorporate more exercises for that group of muscles, but in general, CrossFit workouts (the complete training sessions) target all major muscle groups.
If you’re just starting out, you can do the movements without weights at the beginning, to make sure you’re doing them correctly, and then start increasing the difficulty by adding kettlebells, dumbbells or barbells, as the routines require.
4. It’s fun and social
A big problem with classical workouts is that lots of people find them boring after a while. CrossFit is not just varied but also fun and it’s a social activity, so you’ll get lots of new buddies once joining a CrossFit community. Then, you’ll get to enjoy your training sessions again, as you’ll never do the same routine two days in a row. These regular changes not only keep boredom away, but also improve fitness, as the body doesn’t have enough time to become accustomed to the workout.
5. You get stronger and healthier
CrossFit enhances the health of your muscles, bones, joints, reduces stress, improves coordination and flexibility, improves circulation and cardiovascular resistance, and builds a positive mindset, as it makes you compete against yourself and complete challenge after challenge. It improves one’s self-confidence and overall health state.
If you’re willing to give it a try, make sure to check with your health care provider and get his or her approval for this form of training. Also, before starting, take some time to research the classical movements and watch some WOD videos; although it’s quite unlikely to find the daily workouts not entertaining or tough enough, it’s recommended to learn how to properly do the individual movements before starting with WOD.