Here's another topic that I get a lot of questions on...
CrossFit. Personally, I like the way that people
embrace the "next best thing". Hey, anything that gets
people excited about working out... obsessed even... has got
my vote. Still, there are some things that I like and
don't like about the TRUE CrossFit methodology and how it is
Cross training is not a new thing. Varying your
training modality and doing different types of exercises is
something that athletes have done for ages. Circuit
training has been around forever too. Lifting odd
objects... doing olympic lifts... kettlebells... medicine
balls... not new stuff. CrossFit has provided a
formalized culture around it that has got people interested
again... and that is a good thing.
My main concern about CrossFit is, like anything else, how
thorough an instructor is teaching it. Olympic bar
snatches and related lifts that entail quite a bit of form
and instruction that can often take a significant amount of
time to learn. If the time is not put in to establish
the proper form, the risk of serious injury is drastically
I'm also not a big fan of short, intense workouts.
While a 15-20 minute CrossFit circuit can certainly
challenge your muscles and cardiorespiratory system... it's
still only 15-20 minutes. That is certainly better
than nothing. However, I may be somewhat old fashion,
but I prefer a solid 45 minutes to an hour for my standard
workout duration. An extended calorie burn period will
burn more calories, providing the intensity is there.
Here are some pieces from an interesting article that I found on WebMD
regarding a review of CrossFit...
By Michael Esco, PhD, HFS, CSCS*D - WebMD
Preparing the body “not only
for the known, but also the unknown” is the mantra for
CrossFit, one of the fastest growing strength and
conditioning programs today. It is not a traditional,
specialized training program like doing isolated weight
lifting for a certain muscle or aerobics.
“Our specialty is not
specializing," says CrossFit founder and former gymnast Greg
Glassman. It's also a very tough workout -- not one to
take lightly, especially if you're not active right now.
Here's what you should know
before you get started.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit combines strength
training, explosive plyometrics, speed training, Olympic-
and power-style weight lifting, kettle bells, body weight
exercises, gymnastics, and endurance exercise. By
doing this, CrossFit targets what it calls the major
components of physical fitness: cardiorespiratory fitness,
stamina, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility,
power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.
Training the CrossFit way
requires you to work out 3 to 5 days per week. The workouts
are highly intense and short, taking about 5 to 15 minutes
to complete. CrossFit workouts typically combine
explosive exercises done in a circuit format: One exercise
follows right after the next, with very little rest in
The main CrossFit exercises
involve the whole body and include pushing, pulling,
running, rowing, and squatting. There are hundreds of
The CrossFit WOD
CrossFit posts a Workout of
the Day (WOD) on its web site. Some of the WOD are specially
named after women or military heroes. The WOD changes each
day and there are a lot of them. And they can be quite
- The Barbara
involves five circuits of 20 pull-ups, 30 push-ups, 40
sit-ups, and 50 body weight-only squats performed in
order, while only resting at the end of each circuit for a
- The Angie - 100
pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 bodyweight-only
squats to be accumulated (not performed in a row, unless
you are fit enough) during the entire workout.
- The Murph - a timed
1-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300
body weight squats, finished off by another 1-mile run.
- The Jackie - 1,000
meter row, 50 thrusters with a selected weight, and 30
pull-ups: preferably performed without any rest between
The CrossFit program can be
performed in two ways: on your own or at a CrossFit
affiliate. Going at it on your own requires a base
level of good physical fitness, as well as knowing how to
safely perform each movement. The WOD can be done at almost
any fitness facility or at home, if you have certain pieces
of exercise equipment. Details on how to set-up a CrossFit
“Garage Gym” can be found on the CrossFit web site, which
also has an extensive video library that shows the proper
technique for all of the exercises.
If you are not comfortable
doing CrossFit by yourself or you want extra motivation from
performing the workouts in a group setting, then you can
join a CrossFit affiliate; there are about 2,500 locations
worldwide. CrossFit affiliates are not your typical
health and fitness clubs. You will not see the endless
supply of cardio equipment or resistance machines, and
members don't perform their own personal routines.
Instead, it’s a warehouse-like facility where the exercise
equipment consists of a bunch of bumper-plated Olympic
weights, plyometric boxes, medicine balls, dumbbells, and
kettlebells. Pull-up bars, climbing ropes, gymnastics rings
hang from the ceiling. The only cardio equipment you’ll see
are rowing machines. If you want to run, hit the road of the
surrounding area. The workouts are completed in a group
setting. Everyone does the same WOD and it’s probably a
different daily workout than what's on the web site.
Each affiliate has a
one-month initiation course, which newcomers must complete
to learn proper training technique for all of the major
exercises performed in CrossFit’s program. For a few
days after a CrossFit workout, you may experience a certain
degree of muscle soreness. If that happens, you might need
to rest a day or two before the next WOD so that your
muscles are fully recovered.
CrossFit workouts are highly
intense and do not take a long time to complete. You can get
a great workout in a short period of time. Athletes
and ex-athletes will enjoy the challenges of each WOD, as
they are similar to sports conditioning. There are a
large number of WOD routines and they are always changing.
This adds to the excitement of each CrossFit workout and
decreases the risk of becoming bored.
The WOD can be done at home,
without a lot of expensive equipment. The exercises can be
very tough. However, there are a number of videos and
written descriptions on the web site that can help you
modify each movement according to your current level of
fitness. You do not have to be a member of an
affiliate to view the free CrossFit web site. However,
subscribing to the online CrossFit Journal costs $25 a year.
Bodybuilders and powerlifters
will not get the results they need for their specific
competitive purposes by just performing CrossFit. But these
types of athletes may benefit from training this way for
brief periods during their off-season, for the sake of
variety. Marathoners, triathletes, cyclists, and
long-distance swimmers should dedicate most of their
training time on their sport's specific needs. However,
CrossFit may be a good way endurance athletes can train with
weights and not interfere with their main objectives, due to
the short amount of time needed to complete each WOD.
The possibility of injury is
an increased risk with participation in anyhigh-intense
fitness regimen like CrossFit, especially if you are new to
Olympic-style weight lifting and plyometric workouts, or
have a previous injury. Not only are the exercises
themselves risky, but performing them under a fatigued
state, such as during an intense circuit, increases the risk
of injury even further.
If you are interested in
CrossFit but are new to weight lifting or exercise in
general, you should visit a CrossFit affiliate to receive
the necessary personalized attention before attempting a WOD
on your own. If you take that route, however, be aware
that the CrossFit coach may not have an appropriate
educational background in sports conditioning. Strength and
conditioning specialists spend years learning proper
technique of explosive exercises and some have degrees in
exercise science, biomechanics, or kinesiology.
Make sure you ask about
credentials and references for any coach or personal trainer
who is responsible for teaching you proper lifting
technique. Be sure to let them know if any exercise makes
you feel uncomfortable or causes pain. It's best to
have a sufficient strength base before starting a
high-intensity, power-based training plan. If you are not
strong enough to perform a certain exercise by itself, let
the coach know so he/she can modify the regimen accordingly.
CrossFit is mostly suited for
healthy people who enjoy vigorous exercise. People with
injuries, health conditions, or other special needs should
follow the specific guidelines for physical activity
recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine.
CrossFit claims that the
system is “empirically driven and clinically tested” which
insinuates that the methods are scientifically supported. A
review of the current scientific literature, however, shows
no published studies about CrossFit in top-rated
peer-reviewed strength and conditioning or exercise
physiology research journals.
CrossFit: Bottom Line
Like most other exercise
routines, CrossFit has advantages and concerns. The workouts
are fast-paced, challenging, and constantly varied. If
you are healthy and can endure grueling workouts, then give
it a try. You will probably enjoy it, just like most “Crossfitters.”
If you are out of shape or
just beginning an
exercise program, be sure to join a CrossFit affiliate to
receive the appropriate personalized attention. Check with
your health care provider before starting any new fitness
program, especially if you are not active now. The
CrossFit website is