A beginner’s guide to a workout phenomenon
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
CrossFit is one of the biggest fitness trends in North America. Discover what the craze is all about.
Does the word CrossFit strike fear in your heart? Does the very thought of squatting, jumping, pulling, and pushing make your soul hurt? Does anybody really know what CrossFit actually is? Read on for information about the fitness phenomenon that is CrossFit, and determine whether or not it’s right for you.
If there’s a more hotly debated topic in health and fitness than CrossFit, I have not heard of it. The fitness community is firmly entrenched in two camps: those who sing the praises of CrossFit’s core values and principles, and those who oppose them. However, even the most fervent protestors can agree upon the sense of community that CrossFit has built among its members.
The all-for-oneness that CrossFit fosters within its boxes (a term for the barebones CrossFit gyms) is nothing short of amazing. They are inclusive, welcoming, and supportive. This reason alone is the biggest draw, and the number one reason for CrossFit’s success and staying power.
CrossFit is most frequently defined as a combination of Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, and calisthenics. It’s common to exercise two to six days per week, and each Workout of the Day (WOD) is prescribed. This means that you don’t have to create your own program; rather, you just need to show up and sweat. This also means that everyone does the same workout, without consideration for individual needs and constraints.
Each WOD is given a name—such as “Fran”—and is a circuit-style workout, with usually only a handful of exercises, broken down into a certain time or amount of rounds and/or repetitions. Workouts can last anywhere from five to 40 minutes, depending on the workout and your abilities. Each box (gym) is different, but a one-hour session will often consist of a warm-up, skill work, the WOD, and then a cool-down/stretch.
Each box will have its own rules, but here are some of the things you can expect when you walk in the door for the first time:
|box||a CrossFit gym|
|WOD||workout of the day|
|AMRAP||as many reps or rounds as possible|
|double under||skipping rope so that it revolves twice per jump|
|kipping||full body pull-up using your momentum|
The CrossFit community prides itself on pushing its limits and its bodies to the brink. This can lead to fast results, but it can lead to even faster injuries.
If there are only two pieces of advice that a newbie should heed, they are:
Like any exercise program, it is strongly recommended that you consult a knowledgeable professional on the form required for all the foundational exercises (such as squats and deadlifts), as well as the more complex exercises that CrossFit demands (snatches, box jumps, et cetera). What makes CrossFit more dangerous than a regular workout program is the fact that the lifts are often more dynamic and are under the self-imposed stress of speed and time.
Along with a supportive fitness community, CrossFit offers wonderful cardiovascular training. It introduces exercisers to Olympic lifting, a style that most casual exercisers will never experience, and makes workouts simple by providing a workout of the day.
CrossFit, for all intents and purposes, is circuit training. If you are interested in trying a CrossFit-style workout, but are still unsure about thrusting yourself directly into a class, try this workout to get a feel for the pace.HomeFit
As this style of exercise is physically and mentally demanding, be sure that you are cleared for vigorous activity and, as always, practise proper nutrition and supplementation to support your training goals.
Do as many rounds of the following circuit as you can in 12 minutes:
Do NOT jump right into a WOD unless you have mastered the foundational lifts, such as squats and deadlifts, as well as Olympic lifts such as barbell snatches and cleans. Because of the intensity that CrossFit encourages, it’s important not to do too much too soon. After you have already established a good working knowledge of each exercise, you may want to ease into a program, exercising twice per week. Listen to your body, fuel, hydrate, and allow for adequate rest.
To increase the difficulty of this exercise, add a jump on your way back up to starting position.
To increase the difficulty, begin this exercise from your toes.