The newest kid on the fitness block is CrossFit. Currently, more than 6,000 CrossFit gyms around the world offer the high-intensity functional workouts that people are talking about. CrossFit was originally designed to provide a broad fitness offering to people of all ages and abilities, but has been quickly adopted by fitness enthusiasts and (former) athletes. Because of this, CrossFit has been perceived as an extreme workout that may not be for everyone. Let’s look at the facts about CrossFit to set the record straight.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is a type of workout designed to include functional movement exercises that are constantly varied and performed at a high-intensity. Functional movements involve many joints and are made up of universal motor recruitment patterns that involve muscles from the core to the extremities. The exercises you will find in a CrossFit workout are those you would find in sports performance and athlete development programs. These exercises are used to effectively train the body for exceptional performance in sport. Essentially, CrossFit gyms provide broad, general and inclusive fitness (inspired by sports training programs) to people of all ages and abilities.
CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program designed to optimize all components of fitness (cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance and accuracy). A CrossFit workout program is designed to include three modalities (in addition to diet and involvement in a wide variety of sports):
- Metabolic Conditioning – to effectively train the different energy systems (ATP-CP, anaerobic and aerobic)
- Gymnastics – to improve total body control and enhance joint range of motion
- Weightlifting, Powerlifting & Olympic Lifts – to control external objects and produce power
Examples of common CrossFit exercises for each modality include:
- Jump Rope
- Air Squat
- Back Extension
- Handstand Push-Up
- Press to Handstand
- Rope Climb
Weightlifting, Powerlifting & Olympic Lifts
- Air Squat
- Front Squat
- Overhead Squat
- Shoulder Press
- Push Press
- Push Jerk
- Sumo Deadlift High Pull
- Medicine Ball Clean
For more information on these CrossFit exercises, click here.
The CrossFit Workout
Although there are thousands of CrossFit gyms to choose from, they all offer at least three types of classes/programs:
1. Introductory Class: for people new to CrossFit and interested in joining the gym. It includes an overview, a basic workout using body weight movements and a group discussion about the training fundamentals program.
2. Fundamentals Program: a mandatory course for all new members of a CrossFit gym. The program is designed to teach the 9 fundamental movements of CrossFit (see list above). This program includes several classes and is meant to ensure each new member can demonstrate proper form and technique in the exercises (with and without additional weight).
3. Regular Class: classes lasting 45 to 60 minutes. The format of each class typically includes the following:
- Dynamic warm up – functional movements, stretches and joint mobility work to prepare the body for the exercises in the workout component.
- Skill/strength work – body weight exercises (ie. one-legged squats or muscle ups) or weightlifting/powerlifting exercises (ie. deadlift or push press), depending on the theme of the workout.
- WOD – (workout of the day) a series of exercises with an established number of sets/reps or where you must complete as many as possible in a set amount of time.
- Cool down/stretching – total body stretching and recovery from the high intensity WOD.
Finding the Right CrossFit Gym
- Does the gym offer a FREE introductory class?
- Does the gym have a mandatory training fundamentals program for new CrossFit members?
- Is the gym is clean, free from clutter and well organized?
- Do the participants get individualized attention from the CrossFit trainers (small group sizes)?
- Does the class schedule provide a wide variety of classes and programs (at times that work with my busy schedule)?
- Are the CrossFit trainers certified (and current on their certifications)?
- Are there participants of all ages and abilities attending the various classes?
Next Steps …
Is CrossFit for everyone? Not necessarily. The best way to determine whether CrossFit is right for you (and the fitness goals you wish to accomplish) is to try it for yourself. Because CrossFit trainers, CrossFit classes and the experiences of each CrossFit member is different, the opinions of others may not be the best way to find a CrossFit gym. It’s important to remember that CrossFit (or any type of exercise or sport) is not for everyone. There isn’t a single exercise program that is perfect for everyone. One person may hate it while another person may love it and do it everyday. If CrossFit is something that you enjoy doing, that is safe and well supervised, and is something that you will do on a regular basis to get results … it just might be the right fit for you!