CrossFit. You’re probably familiar with the term, but may still be struggling with a coherent definition of what it actually is. Since its routines are many different exercises all wrapped up in one, this phenomenon is completely understandable. So let’s get specific. Here’s everything you need to know about the CrossFit fitness craze and how it can benefit you.
What Is CrossFit?
CrossFit is a workout program that’s more (team) sport than traditional bodybuilding or aerobics. It’s comprised of constantly varied functional movements performed at a high intensity and oftentimes takes place in small groups led by an instructor.
What makes CrossFit so unique is how it incorporates the best aspects of multiple disciplines (i.e., gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing) for an approach that enables athletes from across a broad spectrum to thrive. Seen in this light, its popularity really isn’t all that much of a surprise.
The Science Is In: Why CrossFit Works
CrossFit.com furthers the insights above when it says: “Overall, the aim of CrossFit is to forge a broad, general and inclusive fitness (community) supported by measurable, observable and repeatable results.”
Those results include improving all aspects of individual fitness, especially a person’s cardiovascular conditioning.
But don’t take our word for it, take a look at the hard science instead.
The Military Medicine Study
A study regarding the effectiveness of High-Intensity Functional Training Programs (or HIFT programs like CrossFit) was conducted on military personnel.
In this article, researchers reviewed the scientific data on the practical health and fitness benefits of HIFT exercise programs on military populations. Of course, there’s no reason why any of the positive results/benefits detailed below should be limited to military personnel; If CrossFit works for our military, there’s a good chance that it can work for you as well.
In the study that appeared in Military Medicine researchers found that:
- A 12-week HIFT program conducted 3 times per week for 20 minutes per session in overweight males resulted in significant improvements in body composition. Those in the high-intensity exercise condition significantly reduced their weight (−1.5 kg, p < 0.001) and fat mass (−2.0 kg, p < 0.005), as compared to the control group who experienced no changes.
- A 16.2% improvement in body composition (i.e., reduction in body fat percentage) after 8 weeks of training among Combat Controller trainees using a HIFT approach.
- CrossFit’s perks included decreased training time minus any reduction in health and fitness benefits.
- 45-minute-per-session HIFT programs resulted in significant fitness improvements on the Army Physical Fitness Test vs. the previous 60-minute session training programs.
- HIFT programs were ideal for incorporating activities and functional movements that simulated combat tasks, and effective HIFT programs could be conducted with minimal exercise equipment.
- HIFT programs typically do not include high-volume endurance training, and so result in fewer problems that are associated with the use of high-volume endurance training (e.g., injury)
- HIFT programs appear to be safe and effective for promoting fitness in those with unhealthy body composition
Who Should and Shouldn’t Be Doing CrossFit Training?
CrossFit training may be a good fit if you:
- are looking to add versatility to your workouts/fitness routine
- have a short attention span and appreciate the increased focus that comes with training in a group
- want to maintain your muscle gains while also losing weight
- aren’t a fan of the responsibility that comes with developing your own workouts from scratch
- are an athlete
- are either a social person/extrovert or looking to become more of one
- are looking to bust through a “fitness plateau” by shaking things up
- desire a sport-like approach to fitness
Conversely, CrossFit training may not be a viable option if you:
- are looking for a more specialized approach to fitness (i.e., bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc.)
- want to get as big/developed as possible
- are in poor health/shape
- have achy or weak joints
- are on a budget (classes are relatively pricey)
- Find yourself feeling burned out each week already due to your more conventional workouts (attempting to add CrossFit sessions to these may simply burn you out further)
- don’t like working out until failure/extreme fatigue
Pros vs. Cons
CrossFit training has been trending hard over recent years—but does that mean it’s right for you? Here are some pros and cons to help you decide:
- Convenience/(Relative) Lack of Equipment Needed
- Wide variety of exercises/lack of monotony
- The opportunity to train in a group environment/gain support from a community
- The nutrition aspect. CrossFit emphasizes the importance of healthy nutrition as part of its overall fitness strategy
- The option of splitting your week—exercise-wise—with CrossFit training AND other types of fitness
- Workouts are universally scalable (e.g., adaptable to all kinds of abilities and sensibilities)
- Very strenuous/demanding workout program
- Significant injury risk/ joint strain for certain exercises (despite the fact that a CrossFit program enables you to avoid risky high-volume training)
- You need to be at a significant level of physical fitness PRIOR TO initiating a CrossFit regimen (you and your doctor would be most qualified to determine if you meet necessary requirements)
- Challenging technique
- The tendency for CrossFitters to think that “their way is the only way.”
15 Effective CrossFit Exercises Plus Sample Program
Here’s a list of 15 of the best CrossFit exercises:
- Power Clean
- Kettlebell Swings
- Jumping rope
- Box Jump
- Front Squat
- Double Unders
- Handstand Push-Ups
- Runs at various meter intervals
Looking to get certified as a CrossFit trainer? Maybe you want to watch a few exercise demos, schedule a class, or get in touch with the CrossFitter community. Here’s another helpful resource for you to check out: https://training.crossfit.com.