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What is CrossFit and is it Right for Me?

Last updated: June 6, 2022

Over the last decade, CrossFit has soared in popularity as more people realize its body transformation benefits. Today, there are nearly 13,000 CrossFit affiliated gyms in 120 countries, and over 7,000 of those gyms are in the U.S. With more than 4 million CrossFit members across the globe, it’s a burgeoning community that isn’t losing popularity any time soon.

If you’re new to CrossFit, it may seem daunting to get started. When you think of the typical CrossFit athlete, you might think of someone with ripped abs and big muscles. While many CrossFit athletes have a sculpted, muscular appearance, CrossFit is truly a sport for everyone. You can get started by learning the foundational elements of strength and conditioning and join a supportive community to help you achieve your fitness goals.

CrossFit: What You Need to Know

CrossFit has been in the headlines for being unsafe, due to the higher than average injury rate. One study found that 2 out of every 10 CrossFitters surveyed experienced an injury from CrossFit workouts. These injuries were typically caused by overuse and fatigue. When participants overloaded the body, their form failed and the loads shifted to weaker parts of the body.

CrossFit is defined as high-intensity functional fitness, or strength and conditioning workouts performed much like interval training. Workouts involve squatting, pulling, pushing, jumping, lifting, and more, and have an emphasis on quick, powerful movements. The goal is to combine loads, distance, and speed to help people increase their power output and endurance.

The CrossFit community is an extremely devoted group of people, so much so that the brand has been described as having a “cult-like” following. This is likely because CrossFit develops a welcoming environment in their CrossFit boxes (another word for gym), and they put out a daily WOD (workout of the day) that the entire CrossFit community can follow. This develops camaraderie, competition, and a sense of belonging for athletes completing the same workout across the globe.

CrossFit has its own set of terms that define their workouts. EMOM, for example, stands for “Every minute on the minute” and challenges you to finish your reps within 60 seconds before moving on to the next set. AMRAP challenges athletes to do “as many reps as possible” within a given time frame. CrossFit workouts usually involve one of these two routines, and you’ll use equipment such as kettlebells, rowing machines, bikes, medicine balls, battle ropes, plyometric boxes, and barbells. CrossFit workouts are designed to challenge various muscle groups at a high-intensity speed.

Is CrossFit Safe for Me?

CrossFit has been in the headlines for being unsafe, due to the higher than average injury rate. One study found that 2 out of every 10 CrossFitters surveyed experienced an injury from CrossFit workouts. These injuries were typically caused by overuse and fatigue. When participants overloaded the body, their form failed and the loads shifted to weaker parts of the body.

While injuries are very much possible with CrossFit, they are usually a result of poor coaching and training, or when participants push themselves too hard without factoring in recovery. In general, CrossFit can be very beneficial for the average person, provided that they are gradually increasing the intensity of their workouts, refueling properly, and getting plenty of sleep. You can significantly reduce your risk of injury by having a good coach and learning proper lifting form.

If you’re not sure how to get started, many CrossFit boxes offer beginner classes where you can learn the foundations of training. A good CrossFit coach will know how to make modifications to your workouts based on what your body can handle. A huge plus about CrossFit is that it’s completely customizable based on your age, experience, and fitness level. You can adjust weights, reps, and time to create the workout that’s right for you.

CrossFit Workouts to Try

CrossFit Endurance Workout

A CrossFit endurance workout is designed to increase your VO2 Max and lactate threshold. That means you are increasing your ability to handle cardiovascular loads and your heart rate can stay higher, longer. Unlike traditional endurance activities, such as running or biking for an hour, CrossFit focuses on high-intensity functional fitness to keep the heart rate high with little rest. You’ll go through a rotation of activities and movements and use lower weights (50-70% of your 1 rep max, so you can do plenty of reps).

Try this 20-minute AMRAP workout from Men’s Journal.

  • 10 burpees
  • 20 wall balls
  • 250m row

You’ll go through these sets as many times as possible within 20 minutes, keeping the heart rate high and taking little rest between each activity.

Try this 20-minute EMOM:

  • 10 Russian kettlebell swings
  • 8 back squats

On the odd minutes, you'll do the first exercise. On the even minutes, you'll do the back squats.

CrossFit Upper Body Workout

A CrossFit upper body workout can help define your biceps, triceps, back muscles, pectorals, and shoulders. When doing an upper body workout, it’s important to learn proper form first. A CrossFit coach or gym partner can help guide your form, so you can reduce risk of injury and putting unnecessary stress on your joints.

CrossFit upper body workouts include a variety of the following:

  • Deadlifts
  • Bent over barbell rows
  • Push press
  • Hang power cleans
  • Bench press
  • Push jerks
  • Pull-ups
  • Dumbbell exercises (thrusters, rows, push press)
  • Push-ups

The goal is to blend functional movement while building the upper body muscles. Typically, you will do multiple reps of several of the above exercises.

FAQs

What’s the best CrossFit workout gear?

Every CrossFit athlete needs the basics–comfortable workout gear, a water bottle, towel, and sturdy shoes designed for lifting and HIIT movements. Nike and Reebok sell some of the most popular CrossFit shoes. You’ll also want to get grips (gloves or wraps) for heavy lifting exercises to keep your hands protected. Weightlifting belts may also help if you’re lifting very heavy weights.

How does CrossFit change your body?

CrossFit can increase your muscle mass and help you appear more toned. The high-intensity workouts increase power and stamina. Many women who go through a CrossFit female body transformation experience fat loss and stronger glutes, quads, upper body, and core. Many CrossFitters also follow a high-protein, high-fat, and low-carb diet to accelerate weight loss.


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