CrossFit 101: Your Complete Guide to the High Intensity Workout

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You’ve probably heard someone talk about CrossFit at some point. It’s everywhere; gyms talk about it, commercials advocate for it, and users (CrossFitters) swear by it. So, what exactly is it? It’s a training program that builds strength and conditioning through high intensity workouts. “Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist,” the CrossFit website states. It’s a combination of running, rowing, weightlifting, and gymnastics and is used by police academics, military special operations units, and athletes everywhere. The workouts take place in “boxes,” or what non-CrossFitters call gyms, which have the bare necessities — everything you need for CrossFit, but little else, says Greatist.

Sounds intense, right? It is, but there’s a reason this workout is so popular: it gets results, and it pushes you. Here’s what you should know before embarking on your CrossFit journey.

Who is CrossFit for?

Anyone and everyone. The program adjusts scale load and intensity based on the participant, but the actual program stays the same no matter what, meaning the particular workout prescribed that day is designed for everyone who comes to the class, according to Nerd Fitness. There aren’t separate classes in which skill levels or age groups are divided — it’s you and everyone else, no matter what. It may not be up your alley if you are a looking for a specialized workout (let’s say you only want to focus on running or power lifting) because CrossFit’s motto is just the opposite: it refuses to specialize.

In addition, sport-specific athletes who are training for a certain sport may not want to do CrossFit (at least in their on-season), and people who like working out solo may be a little leery of the group-oriented training (unless you use the website), writes Nerd Fitness.

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Things to Consider Before Beginning

This list, as shown on Huffington Post, contains key items to consider before leaping into CrossFit.

Do you want to choose a box or train alone? If you are athletic, self-motivated, and have access to certain equipment, you can use the CrossFit website, which programs workouts of the day for people to complete on their own. But, if you want to be around other people or prevent yourself from possibly slacking off, it’s time to choose a box. “No CrossFit box is created equal,” Zach Forrest, co-owner of CrossFit Max Effort, tells The box. “No CrossFit affiliate is alike.” Take time to check out your options, and schedule some time to talk with the coaches or owners about your personal goals. See if they’ll be able to help you meet those goals, and determine whether the gym’s motto fits with your own.

Figure out your goals. Ask yourself: Why do you want to join CrossFit? What are you hoping to gain from it? Have these ideas and thoughts in mind before beginning — it will help you determine what you’re looking for in a CrossFit box.

Build a foundation. Before beginning CrossFit, get up and get moving. Whether it’s dancing, walking or running, be active. It’ll help you build a solid foundation to take with you to your CrossFit class.

Key Terminology

Your CrossFit classes may use some abbreviations during class. Take a look at a few of these common terms, as shown in Greatist, and you’ll head into your first class feeling a little less overwhelmed.

AMRAP: It stands for “As Many Reps/Rounds as Possible.” This often lasts 10, 20, or 30 minutes, and it challenges participants to complete as many rounds of a series of movements in the allotted time.

For Time: This is when you’re asked to measure the time it takes to complete a prescribed workout. It’s designed to push you to race against your group members while on the clock.

Score: “Think you’re elite? Better bring a calculator. The score denotes the total number of reps completed during a given workout,” writes Greatist

WOD: The “Workout of the Day” is the workout that CrossFitters will perform on that given day. 

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The CrossFit Necessities

If you plan to do the CrossFit workouts on your own, you’ll need a few pieces of equipment to complete the workouts, according to A Gym Life.

Pull-up bar: Simple and effective, this is a key component in CrossFit workouts. If you’re new, you’ll focus solely on pull-ups. But, once you gain experience, you’ll take on moves such as skin-the-cat, inverted rows, and bar muscle-ups.

Olympic barbell and set of bumper plates: This is a key CrossFit component. You could find yourself using the barbell  in almost every one of your workouts. 

A set of gymnastic rings: Pick up a hanging set of rings to incorporate into your CrossFit routines. In fact, A Gym Life says that if you’re going to pick just one piece of equipment to have, it should be a set of rings.

Jump rope: Another must have is a personal jump rope. If you’re looking for recommendations, check out the Ultra Speed Jump Ropes, Rx Ropes, or the Rogue Speed Rope.

The Pros of CrossFit

With a workout as challenging and popular as CrossFit, there are definitely positives that go along with the class. It will certainly push you, and you’ll see results. Here’s a list of some of the perks, per VPX.

  • CrossFit uses multi-joint movements, which helps keep your nervous system sharp, while also having a positive effect on your bone density.
  • It challenges every one of your muscles by incorporating your own body weight, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, and Olympic weightlifting.
  • It increases your body’s ability to burn more calories even while you’re resting.
  • It can help increase muscle mass and strength.

The Cons of CrossFit

As with many things, there are certainly some negatives you should be aware of with CrossFit. This workout can easily lead to injuries if not done right, and the competitiveness can end up driving you to push yourself too far. Here’s a list of some of the negatives, as shown on She Knows.

  • Not all trainers are created equal. If your teacher isn’t teaching proper form and isn’t ensuring that you’re working at your own level, you could end up getting hurt. This is somewhat avoidable, though, as long as you do your research prior to joining a box. It’s important to make sure that your coaches are all highly trained before joining.
  • The workouts can be addictive. It’s wonderful if you love doing CrossFit and are regularly doing it. However, you also need to give your body a break. Don’t work out in excess or feel guilty if you occasionally miss a workout. Make sure you’re not centering your life around your CrossFit classes. Just make sure there is some balance.
  • Beware of injuries. “One of the biggest complaints about CrossFit is that it leads to injury, and it’s a fair complaint. It’s not that the exercises performed during CrossFit are ‘bad’ in and of themselves but that many of the movements require a baseline level of strength, flexibility and power. While all moves can be scaled to a person’s fitness level, it’s incumbent upon the individual and the instructor to make sure this happens,” says She Knows. If you’re competitive, you may be tempted to try moves you’re not ready for in order to keep up with someone else. But, don’t — wait until you’re ready.

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