By now anyone who is remotely interested in the world of fitness knows of CrossFit. We know the basics: it combines strength training with cardiovascular work in a high intensity format, there is an annual competition sponsored by Reebok where the fittest man and woman on earth are crowned, and it will turn us into absolute beasts – or at least that it what we have been lead to understand.
Many people praise CrossFit for providing great results, but as with any exercise program CrossFit is not resistant to criticism. CrossFit has sold itself as a one size fits all exercise routine, assuring that people of all skill levels will benefit from it and love it. Let’s be real: not everyone is going to love it and not everyone is going to benefit from it.
But is CrossFit actually worth it? We are going to break down CrossFit’s effectiveness as a workout routine by answering a few simple questions.
Is CrossFit Good for Losing Weight?
When discussing the worthiness or effectiveness of a workout routine, inevitably we must discuss its effectiveness for weight loss. While this may not be everyone’s goal, it is important to consider CrossFit’s effectiveness as a weight loss tool in order to define how effective it is as an overall training regime.
Most will concur that CrossFit is a serious workout – all of those pull ups, pistol squats, burpee box jumps, and double unders get your heart rate flying and help to build up your muscles. But, will this lead to weight loss?
As with anything, if done correctly (in conjunction with other things such as diet) then it most certainly will. CrossFit work outs are designed to burn calories, and you will not need to make any modifications if this is your main goal. The combination of both cardio and weightlifting burns huge amounts of calories. While steady state cardio (a long cycle for example) will burn more calories during the activity itself, this stops when you stop. Conversely, weightlifting activates a recovery response in your body that permits you to carry on burning calories long after you have stopped.
This may not always translate into lower numbers on the scales, however. One thing that needs to be clarified is that losing weight and leaning out are not always the same thing. The result of a decrease in body fat will of course lead to a slimmer overall physique but may not show on the scales.
Bear in mind that if your goal is weight loss, the key is consistency, and this refers to both nutrition and exercise. If you are new to CrossFit perhaps try starting with three days a week, supplement this with a little yoga or some gentle active recovery, and a balanced diet. Weight loss will depend on a number of factors beyond the physical including sleep quality and stress levels.
Regardless of your goal, enjoy your CrossFit classes, be ready to push yourself, meet new people and most importantly have fun!
Is CrossFit Better Than Traditional Weightlifting?
How does CrossFit compare to traditional weight training? Whether you are new to the fitness world or you are looking for your next physical challenge you might be wondering whether one is definitively more effective than the other. Ultimately, if I want to get strong is CrossFit an effective tool?
Both are great ways to burn calories and get stronger but differ in their structure and even equipment.
In traditional weightlifting people may be looking to work on strength or to increase their muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so logically if we have more lean muscle, we can burn more fat. Generally, this is achieved by completing a fixed number of repetitions (reps) within a set, and they may do anywhere between one to five sets of each exercise per training session.
CrossFit was conceived with a more general set of goals towards attaining general fitness. The programming does include a number of traditional weightlifting moves (including power lifting and Olympic lifting) but the focus is different. The goal is not purely on adding weight, but also on completing more reps of a move in a set amount of time.
Is CrossFit Better than a Traditional Gym?
How does CrossFit compare to big chain gyms such as LA Fitness? There is very little equipment in a CrossFit box, will that not limit what can be done? Let’s have a look at a few pros and cons of CrossFit vs a traditional gym.
- The Power of the CrossFit Community. Much like being part of a team, having constant support and people to cheer you on will boost your motivation to keep coming back. In a big gym like LA Fitness you will often be working out almost incognito, people around you won’t care if you achieve a goal or need cheering up. In CrossFit everyone trains together and regardless of whether it is a team workout or not there is always a sense of camaraderie amongst a group who are all undergoing the same tasks. CrossFitters tend to celebrate each other’s victories.
- Coaching and Care. In a CrossFit box there is always a coach on hand to help out. This applies whether you are taking part in a set workout or have gone in to do your own thing (open gym). While in commercial gyms you will most probably be left to your own devices unless you ask for help. This can be seen as a positive and a negative, some people prefer to be left to their own devices, but one thing that appeals to many (and in turn makes it more effective for them) is the team atmosphere.
- Avoid Boring Routines. This is particularly beneficial for people who find the gym boring, or struggle to come up with creative routines. CrossFit takes care of this for you and keeps the program both functional and varied.
- Increased Chance of Injury. By far and away the biggest criticism of CrossFit. At the core of the CrossFit values is the notion of high intensity workouts that continuously test different muscle groups. There are a number of complex (and fairly advanced) moves that CrossFit encourages people to complete under timed conditions. For most people this can be too fast to control technique, poor form or technique is often the cause of many CrossFit related injuries.
- CrossFit makes it very easy to over train. This can also of course lead to injury. Like many sports CrossFit is not exempt from ego, and if you let ego get in the way of your training it can be easy to push yourself beyond your limits and overdo things.
- Not Individualized Enough. There is no one size fits all training program and while CrossFit does sell itself as a program that everyone can do this is not always the case.
Is CrossFit Worth The Money?
Why is it so expensive??
This is dependent on several factors:
- Location – price will range massively based on location (as will any gym).
- Higher Costs – CrossFit box owners pay an annual affiliation fee of $3000 to CrossFit HQ.
- CrossFit Offers Different Value – the typical commercial gym will have a huge array of cardio machines, weight machines and an area for free weights and stretching. The base rate does not include a trainer or specialty classes. A CrossFit box offers much less in terms of options but you will have hands on coaching, clearly defined programming and access to other add ons such as nutritional guidance.
So, what is the experience that you are buying with CrossFit?
In a CrossFit Box, you can expect the following:
- Coaches available to give personalized advice who will help you to set achievable goals and will help to keep you on track.
- A group training environment, that encourages friendship, support and working together.
- Daily workouts, these will vary throughout the week, you will not be repeating the same movements, and more importantly – no more tedious treadmill jogs!
- Results. CrossFit can have a serious impact for those who are careful not to overdo things, who listen to coaching advice and who live the lifestyle!
Should You Do CrossFit?
This of course is dependent on your goals. If your goal is get fitter, have fun while working out with a group of people who will encourage you, and more significantly, if you have a good coach who will help you to avoid overtraining and injury, then CrossFit is worth it for you.
Alternatively, if you have more specific goals – if you want to bulk up, lean out or increase your aerobic fitness in a fast and safe manner then CrossFit might not be best for you. You will be better off with a more traditional approach to strength or cardio training.
The Bottom Line on CrossFit
Personally, I think CrossFit is worth it.
It is an effective training program and it has a lot more positives than negatives. CrossFit has incentivized millions of people to start training, introduced them to weightlifting movements, helped them to live a healthier lifestyle and created a community of like-minded people who enjoy spending time together both in and out of the gym.
That is not to say that it does not have substantial downsides. It can be dangerous, there are many complex movements that require detailed coaching and safety measures to stop people from overdoing things. It is worth noting that this notion applies to any physical activity, but CrossFit invites this criticism a lot as it is asking people new to fitness to work through difficult movements with weights in a time-controlled environment.
If you want something that feels more like a team sport that a training routine, and if competition drives you in a healthy way then CrossFit is probably a great choice for you.
What are your experiences with CrossFit? Would you define it as effective?