CrossFit: A Beginner’s Guide
CrossFit is one of the biggest fitness trends in North America. Discover what the craze is all about.
Does the word CrossFit strike fear in your heart? Does the very thought of squatting, jumping, pulling, and pushing make your soul hurt? Does anybody really know what CrossFit actually is? Read on for information about the fitness phenomenon that is CrossFit, and determine whether or not it’s right for you.
If there’s a more hotly debated topic in health and fitness than CrossFit, I have not heard of it. The fitness community is firmly entrenched in two camps: those who sing the praises of CrossFit’s core values and principles, and those who oppose them. However, even the most fervent protestors can agree upon the sense of community that CrossFit has built among its members.
The all-for-oneness that CrossFit fosters within its boxes (a term for the barebones CrossFit gyms) is nothing short of amazing. They are inclusive, welcoming, and supportive. This reason alone is the biggest draw, and the number one reason for CrossFit’s success and staying power.
CrossFit is most frequently defined as a combination of Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, and calisthenics. It’s common to exercise two to six days per week, and each Workout of the Day (WOD) is prescribed. This means that you don’t have to create your own program; rather, you just need to show up and sweat. This also means that everyone does the same workout, without consideration for individual needs and constraints.
What’s the WOD?
Each WOD is given a name—such as “Fran”—and is a circuit-style workout, with usually only a handful of exercises, broken down into a certain time or amount of rounds and/or repetitions. Workouts can last anywhere from five to 40 minutes, depending on the workout and your abilities. Each box (gym) is different, but a one-hour session will often consist of a warm-up, skill work, the WOD, and then a cool-down/stretch.
Each box will have its own rules, but here are some of the things you can expect when you walk in the door for the first time:
- Dropping weights is not only permitted, it seems mandatory.
- Giving everyone plenty of space is wise, as many exercises are so dynamic, you may get a bar in the noggin.
- Cheering on your fellow CrossFitters is encouraged.
|box||a CrossFit gym|
|WOD||workout of the day|
|AMRAP||as many reps or rounds as possible|
|double under||skipping rope so that it revolves twice per jump|
|kipping||full body pull-up using your momentum|
Your workout is our warm-up
The CrossFit community prides itself on pushing its limits and its bodies to the brink. This can lead to fast results, but it can lead to even faster injuries.
If there are only two pieces of advice that a newbie should heed, they are:
- Only invest your energy and money in a box that takes the time and care to help you perfect your form on all exercises before you attempt a workout.
- Never try to “tough it out” and work through pain or an injury.
Like any exercise program, it is strongly recommended that you consult a knowledgeable professional on the form required for all the foundational exercises (such as squats and deadlifts), as well as the more complex exercises that CrossFit demands (snatches, box jumps, et cetera). What makes CrossFit more dangerous than a regular workout program is the fact that the lifts are often more dynamic and are under the self-imposed stress of speed and time.
Along with a supportive fitness community, CrossFit offers wonderful cardiovascular training. It introduces exercisers to Olympic lifting, a style that most casual exercisers will never experience, and makes workouts simple by providing a workout of the day.
CrossFit, for all intents and purposes, is circuit training. If you are interested in trying a CrossFit-style workout, but are still unsure about thrusting yourself directly into a class, try this workout to get a feel for the pace.HomeFit
As this style of exercise is physically and mentally demanding, be sure that you are cleared for vigorous activity and, as always, practise proper nutrition and supplementation to support your training goals.
Do as many rounds of the following circuit as you can in 12 minutes:
- 10 Jumping Jack Drop Squats
- 8 Drop Push-ups
- 6 Burpees
- 6 Plank Up-Downs (per arm)
Jumping Jack Drop Squats
- Begin standing with your feet together, your weight shifted into your heels, and hands at your sides.
- As you hop your feet to just outside shoulder-width apart, drop your hips into a sitting position while raising your arms out in front of you to just above shoulder height.
- Without pausing, hop your feet back in to starting position, and stand as you lower your hands.
- Begin on your hands and knees.
- Your hands should be under your chest side by side, and you should be able to draw a straight line from your shoulders through your hips to your knees.
- Raise your feet behind you and lower your hips toward the ground, while remaining on your knees.
- In a sudden motion, jump your hands to just outside shoulder width as you drop your chest toward the ground.
- You should catch yourself at the bottom of the push-up, before you hit the ground.
- Without pausing, push yourself away from the ground with enough force to jump your hands back to starting position.
- If you would like to make the exercise more difficult, try performing it from your toes.
- To add another layer of difficulty, try operating your legs in the same manner as your arms.
Precautions for beginners
Do NOT jump right into a WOD unless you have mastered the foundational lifts, such as squats and deadlifts, as well as Olympic lifts such as barbell snatches and cleans. Because of the intensity that CrossFit encourages, it’s important not to do too much too soon. After you have already established a good working knowledge of each exercise, you may want to ease into a program, exercising twice per week. Listen to your body, fuel, hydrate, and allow for adequate rest.
- Begin in a standing position.
- Bend your knees and waist and put your hands flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart, just in front of your toes.
- Hop your feet back so that you are in a push-up position.
- Without pausing, hop your feet forward as close to your hands as possible.
- Plant your heels to the ground and stand back up to starting position.
To increase the difficulty of this exercise, add a jump on your way back up to starting position.
- For starters, try this exercise from your knees.
- Begin in a plank position, with your forearms flat on the ground, elbows under shoulders, knees on the ground with feet up, and hips lowered toward the ground.
- Shift your weight into your left forearm while straightening your right arm and placing your hand flat on the ground under your right shoulder.
- Shift your weight into your right hand and straighten your left arm, coming into a push-up position.
- Lower your right forearm to the ground, and then do the same with the left.
- Perform this as fast as you can 6 times, and then switch so that you begin with your right side first.
To increase the difficulty, begin this exercise from your toes.