If you spend much time engaged in the fitness community (or breathe it in and out every day like myself) you have most likely heard about Crossfit. For those of you who haven’t, Crossfit is a fitness program/movement that is gaining a great deal of popularity. However, unlike most “fitness crazes”, this one does not have you dancing around your living room watching a DVD while doing moves that would most likely get you committed or arrested if done in public (shake weight anyone?), but delves into the often neglected territory of **gasp** actually moving some heavy weight, doing more technical lifts (i.e. deadlifts, overhead squats, cleans and snatches) and in general working your tail off. Was that a run-on sentence??
In short, Crossfit is known for workouts that are grueling, both physically and mentally.
That being said, anyone who has spent much time talking to me about health and fitness probably knows how I feel about Crossfit. I certainly have mixed reviews about it. There are definitely aspects about Crossfit that I do not agree with, along with some things that make me flat out opposed to it. But there are also some aspects to Crossfit that I appreciate and am glad they incorporate into their workouts. Aspects that I wish more individuals and clubs would “get” and incorporate into their own training environments. Without going into my personal feelings on the program, I’ve decided to keep today’s post positive and focus on the things I actually like about it.
You’ll be hard pressed to find an environment that is as inclusive as Crossfit. There is a strong sense of “we’re in this together”. Crossfit is a sister/brotherhood. While most gyms are full of endurance runners who never venture close to a dumbbell and weight lifters who are scared of treadmills, Crossfit gyms have everyone together, cheering each other on and congratulating each other on PR’s. This kind of environment is incredible healthy when it comes to fitness. It helps people get excited to workout, to work hard and to keep motivated.
2. A dedication to compound lifts.
While most people spend a great deal of time doing exercises that do very little to actually get you stronger, burn calories or at least have a functional role in real life (read: tricep kickbacks, bicep curls and calf raises) Crossfit focuses on big, compound lifts. Exercises like pushups, lunges, squats, deadlifts, pullups, shoulder presses, cleans, snatches and others that burn a great deal of calories as well as provide you an opportunity to get stronger and leaner. Crossfit doesn’t waste time on making sure you get a “killer pump” in your guns before you head to the club on Friday night.
3. High intensity workouts.
While most people log countless hours of low intensity exercise squeezed in around rest periods that are way too long, see zero progress in either strength or body composition, and make up their workouts as they go along, Crossfit demands that you give 100%. Most workouts are either a certain amount of rounds that you complete as quickly as possible, or they are a set amount of time in which you complete as many rounds as possible. Although I’m not a fan of this, at least people are working hard and pushing themselves both physically and mentally.
4. Actual coaching.
While I haven’t experienced a variety of Crossfit clubs personally, I have spent a lot of time observing the Crossfit we have here in Ontario. My brother-in-law coaches this class and we have spirited debates about the pros and cons of Crossfit and non-Crossfit programs. Of course they are good-natured….most of the time. However, having observed him running his classes and instructing his clients, I know that they are getting sound coaching. It is not uncommon to see a trainer 1.) have clients do exercises that are far too advanced for them and 2.) to see incredibly poor coaching and instruction on how to execute exercises. Crossfit, from what I’ve seen, is dedicated to teaching good movement patterns on the major lifts and executing them in a way that is not going to have your spine shooting out your back.
5. A promotion of healthy female body image.
Let’s be honest: today’s media totally sucks. From biased reporting, selling news instead of telling it and an obsession on everything tragic, its just not very enjoyable. One of my biggest pet peeves is the image of beauty that is portrayed. We see it everywhere. Stick thin models who look like they haven’t eaten since last Christmas are sold to us as the only standard for a beautiful female figure. I find it quite disgusting and incredibly frustrating as a trainer. Many of my female clients get frustrated with themselves and their bodies because they aren’t looking like they are “supposed to”.
Crossfit has historically done a great job of promoting strong and healthy female figures. The program focuses on strength, work capacity and increasing both of them. The funny thing is, once you start focusing on those things it’s amazing how your body will change. A heavy deadlift will do more for your butt than this kind of crap ever will.
Following the latest fitness craze and eating 700 calories a day wont give you definition and muscle tone.
A healthy diet and moving some actual weight are a much better payoff
6. Focus on power.
Explosive movements are a cornerstone to any well rounded exercise program. Unfortunately, what is usually seen in a gym is light to moderate weight being moved pretty slowly. People will use the excuse that they are “controlling the weight”. While it’s definitely important to be in control of the weight, I believe that this is used as an excuse to a.) avoid more challenging work and b.) avoid using heavier weight. In the long run, these people see little to no gains in their strength and lean muscle tissue, and they never see themselves reach their full potential.
Crossfit workouts are often designed around power and explosiveness, moving the prescribed weight as quickly as possible. There is tremendous benefit to moving a heavy load quickly (of course without sacrificing form). An emphasis in power results in a stronger, leaner, higher calorie burning physique, something that is too often not achieved.
If more coaches, trainers and gyms could implement these aspects into their training and clubs I feel that more people would reap greater benefits from their efforts in trying to get strong and lean.