3 things you should know about Crossfit!
If you want to know if Crossfit is the best and most effective way to build superior fitness, burn fat and build muscle, then you should read this article!
Anticipated summary and main conclusions:
- Crossfit can definitely help you get super in shape, depending on the
it is not as dangerous as many people say it is.
- However, it is also the case that it is not the most effective workout for getting stronger,
build muscle and burn fat.
- If your goal is to get stronger, build muscle and improve your cardio
cardiovascular system, then you should go back to “old” traditional training methods.
“CrossFit doesn’t just change your body, it changes your whole life, it’s a philosophy!”
Sentences like these are heard again and again from people who have started Crossfit, they belong to a movement and represent a philosophy.
There are already about 13000 Crossfit boxes worldwide and Crossfit’ers are one of the most fanatical fitness advocates of all.
But is it really so incredibly effective and does it turn everyone into a “machine”? And is it really that effective when practicing workout protocols?
Or does it offer another “hyped” fitness trend that drives many into overuse injuries and overtraining, as many of Crossfit’s opponents claim?
So Crossfit can definitely improve your fitness tremendously, but it is not the most effective and safest way to get stronger, build muscle and burn fat!
What is CrossFit?
Crossfit is a high intensity workout that involves performing a variety of WOD’s (workout of the day) for a set amount of time or a set number of repetitions and rounds. It usually combines strength with endurance, for example exercises like push-ups, sprints, rope climbing, box jumps, clean&jerk etc., these workouts last on average about 5-15 minutes and are timed individually. The time achieved is then included in a ranking and you can compare yourself with other Crossfitters.
In most WOD’s you complete a set number of repetitions of pre-determined exercises and pre-determined rounds or pre-determined exercises, repetitions and a fixed time in which to complete as many rounds as possible and with as little rest as possible between exercises.
Here is an example of such a workout:
16min AMRAP (as many reps as possible).
20 Mountain Climbers
People pay relatively high membership fees to Crossfit boxes to do these above workouts. Below you can see what the usual Crossfit boxes look like from the inside. All in all they are very well equipped and look good!
So you see these “boxes” are really very well equipped and you can really do super strength training.
What and how you train with this equipment is the crucial question, but it is great that they are well equipped!
The basic idea behind Crossfit is great: you combine strength exercises with endurance exercises and “et voilá” you have the perfect workout to become athletic and achieve your goals, as mentioned above. Unfortunately, it’s not the most effective way to get there.
The video below shows what I mean by Crossfit philosophy and why it has become so popular, besides the very elaborate marketing strategy:
Brilliant marketing as I said and lots of promises, but what about the reality and the science side?
The positive things about Crossfit
Crossfit is often the more expensive way to provoke overuse damage or overtraining, getting injured and losing muscle mass, we’ll get to all these points later, but let’s get to the positives of Crossfit.
- Crossfit tells you exactly what to do in every workout and you can compete and compare yourself with others in every WOD, which of course can be hugely motivating!
- You come to the Crossfit box, meet other motivated people and look forward to the WOD, which as always consists of randomly selected exercises, a random sequence and a fixed number of rounds or a fixed amount of time.
- However, this type of physical exercise cannot be called progressive, structured and planned training.
- If you have a good Crossfit instructor, he can also plan individual WODs for you, i.e. if you still have deficits in the upper body area, he will show you an appropriate WOD for this area. Or if you still have sore muscles in certain areas today, he can give you an individual WOD that will protect these muscles as much as possible on this day.
- This type of “training” is actually practice and is of course better than nothing and you also burn a lot of calories in a short time and certainly make progress at the beginning, certainly also lose weight, but not only fat but also muscle mass, but more on that in a moment! But basically the positive thing is that people are super motivated in the group and through the “challenge” and the comparability in the WODs!
- In most Crossfit boxes, your WODs are also saved and checked to see if you are still making progress and getting better, in order to avoid plateaus.
- Crossfit is also very much about barbell exercises.
Those who know me and my training know that I am a big proponent of barbell training and heavy “compound exercises” such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, pull-ups and shoulder presses.
The most important goal of every trainee should be to get stronger and better in the above mentioned multi-joint exercises, each one individually for their target.
Unfortunately, I used to make the same mistake as a lot of people I see in the gym today, I neglected these exercises or even didn’t do them at all!
And in most Crossfit boxes you get an instruction in the above mentioned exercises and I hope in the right form!? Which is very positive!
Crossfit always pushes you and will push you to your limits!
For most people it is very hard to get them out of their comfort zone and stay motivated to push themselves. Crossfit definitely gets you out of your comfort zone and also always motivates you to improve in order to be placed higher on the scoreboard, which can be very motivating, although sometimes it takes on extreme forms of exhaustion.
Since 2005 (the beginning of the Crossfit hype) the cases of rhabdomyolysis have been on the rise, this can lead to acute kidney failure and in the worst case even death. This is caused by extreme muscle stress, which causes striated muscle to break down and myoglobin to enter the bloodstream and ultimately the kidneys, and when this becomes extreme it leads to kidney failure.
Most WODs push you to your limits, harder, faster and harder!
But basically you will definitely get fitter, you will be surrounded by positively motivated fitness enthusiasts, you will certainly improve your diet, optimise your nutritional supplements if necessary and on average you will not train more in terms of time than many other people.
The negative sides of Crossfit
Compared to other training trends, you could do worse than Crossfit, but if you want to burn body fat, build muscle, get stronger and do it in a healthy, effective and safe way, then Crossfit is the wrong choice, we’ll get to why now.
Crossfit is not the most effective way to get fit!
Crossfit marketing is just throwing around special terms like:
- Functional Movements
- General fitness improvement
- Metabolic Conditioning (“MetCon”)
- General physical preparedness (“GPP”)
The idea that you can do a variety of exercises from different strength sports, paired with intensive short endurance exercises together in one workout and thus optimally and effectively improve your performance, burn fat and build muscle, is basically good!
The body receives different signals at the same time for muscle growth and cardiovascular improvement, but these two signals get in each other’s way, so to speak, or rather, the body cannot optimally adapt both at the same time.
And by the way, this training method is not at all new, it used to be called “strength circuits”, only the exercises in these strength circuits used to be different in combination to Crossfit, i.e. no heavy exercises like deadlifts were performed in a completely exhausted state.
Even if you ask an experienced competitive weightlifter if he would perform “snatch” in an exhausted state, he would say NO, absolutely not, because technically he would not be able to do every repetition cleanly or he would run a high risk of injuring himself.
Another problem is that the injury or overuse damage does not occur immediately and acutely, but only manifests itself after months or even years. Have you ever noticed how many Crossfitters are taped or have some kind of “aches and pains”?
Basically you can divide performance and the following easily measurable abilities:
– Strength abilities (1 RepMax as an example in bench press or squats etc).
– Cardiovascular (VO2max test)
– Body composition (fat-free muscle mass)
– Metabolic health
Greg Glassman, the “inventor” of Crossfit coined a phrase and that is “Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”, this suggests you are only as fit as you are good at Crossfit.
Clever and of course very appropriate, but also wrong!
As I said, huge sums are invested in super marketing, which is why the videos with the incredibly trained Crossfitters at the Crossfit Games are always at the top of the social media rankings.
What you also have to keep in mind is that the professionals who can be seen in the videos often had a professional career in another sport and switched to Crossfit because of the hype and the better earning opportunities. They are very often NFL football players, wrestlers, judokas, MMA fighters, weights, etc. who may not have quite made the breakthrough in their sports, but of course already have incredible physical potential.
This means that these athletes already have very good genetic potential and steroids are often used. The pictures of the Crossfit Games of course give the impression that this kind of training is the “non plus ultra”!
And please don’t forget that these Crossfit Games are a professional sport and of course vitamin S helps.
Easier to overtrain with Crossfit?
Due to the hard sessions, for which Crossfit is “famous”, this naturally leads to overtraining (general fatigue), depression, insomnia and loss of appetite much sooner.
In the USA, Makimba Mimms, who received 300,000 dollars in compensation for winning a court case against his Crossfit box, achieved sad fame. He sued because he got rhabdomyolysis after a workout. The WOD he collapsed in was cynically renamed the “Makimba” WOD and has since been considered a children’s WOD!!!! 🙁
But you don’t have to be a Crossfit novice to get rhabdomyolysis, as American football players from the University of Iowa were also hospitalised in 2011 and 2013 after doing a workout that closely resembled Crossfit.
So in the end it can be said that if you do full body strength training like the WOD’s several times a week to the point of total exhaustion, you will eventually end up in overtraining sooner or later!
More injuries with Crossfit?
The first thing I noticed with many Crossfitters was that a lot of them had some kind of “aches and pains”, were taped or often couldn’t do any workouts at all because of pain. This is not surprising when you know that studies show that Crossfit causes 2-4 injuries per 1000 training hours, 2-4 times as many as normal strength training.
And because I often hear that the Crossfit coaches are so well trained, maybe so, there are certainly a lot of good coaches, but in the end it is the case that in a state of total exhaustion you simply cannot maintain the clean technique that you might have in a recovered state. This doesn’t mean that you will definitely injure yourself doing Crossfit, but the probability is much higher!
Should you train Crossfit now?
If you like to train with people and have fun, of course you want to make some small progress and don’t train too often, then yes, why not.
Make sure you pay attention to the quality of the execution of all exercises and have an experienced trainer show you exactly how to do the heavy compound exercises. Start conservatively and don’t push yourself to the limit every time you train.
But on the whole, Crossfit has done a lot of good, it has motivated a lot of people to do sport, even though it has a lot of bad sides. Decide on an intelligently designed training, create a solid basis, then you can also do a Crossfit workout or incorporate it into your training every now and then, but please do not see and understand Crossfit as a “main training”!
If you are looking for a workout that combines strength, athleticism and endurance, then
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