CrossFit has the tendency to polarise opinion, but most gym users could learn a thing or two from its approach to training
‘How can you tell if someone does CrossFit?’
‘They’ll tell you.’
OK, so that one is almost as old as CrossFit itself. The sport grew out of California in the year 2000, and has since grown into one of the world’s most popular activities.
It’s not without its faults – as is the case with any mode of training. But there are clear merits to this workout system that you can benefit from. Here are five of the best:
1. Impressive athletes
It’s easy to source inspiration from CrossFit considering the sport’s elite are unquestionably top athletes. Rich Froning and Mat Fraser have been referred to as the ‘fittest athletes on the planet’ by some media outlets.
While that may be difficult to quantify, competition in the CrossFit Games requires elite-level conditioning. You only have to look at the individual events from day one of this year’s Games:
- Athletes had to complete a 1200-metre cycle in under 30 minutes
- 30 muscle-ups in under 5 minutes – on gymnastic rings
- 1 rep max on squat, deadlift and shoulder press as a combined total – within 4 minutes
- Marathon row – 26 entire miles (or42,195 metres) on a rowing machine
2. Family mentality
Each CrossFit gym – known as a ‘Box’ – is typically home to a dedicated crew. Some outsiders have labelled this as cult-like, but that’s quite unfair. CrossFit gyms are used by a variety of people from all walks of life – athletes, students and office workers alike.
The camaraderie within your typical box is really no different to what you might experience in a training room if you play a team sport, for instance.
Working out as part of a supportive community has been shown to boost your results, too. According to one American study, group exercise can improve your physical, mental and emotional health.
3. Teaching the basics
Most CrossFit WODs (workouts) will include a compound lift as the basis of a session. This is a pretty solid approach. Many overcomplicate their training due to the sheer volume of information making it difficult to judge what is best for the individual.
The optimal training split isn’t a secret. Compound lifts work multiple muscle groups at once and burn a whole load of calories in doing so. They should therefore take up the majority of your gym time. There are still places for isolation exercises, machines and circuits, but as a rule of thumb, compounds are key.
Some of the best compound lifts include:
- Bench Press
- Shoulder Press
- Tricep Dip
4. Workout variety
If you’ve ever been bored with your training split then rest assured you aren’t alone. Even the most fruitful workout programmes become stale after a while – particularly if the exercises remain the same in every single session.
There’s a way around this, and it’s simple – keep your workouts varied.
CrossFit has successfully implemented variety into its WODs. You could argue that no other mode of training has managed to combine weightlifting, gymnastics, cycling and plyometrics into such an accessible programme.
5. Chance to compete
CrossFit is quite an aspirational style of training, since it regularly allows you to compete against others. Local and regional meets are always happening – these provide an extra incentive to hit the gym and put your plan into action.
Local heats may be a world away from the CrossFit Games, but they are still a chance to stay motivated and keep training enjoyable. It shouldn’t be a chore, after all. The more fun you’re having in the gym, the more likely you are to keep it up.