CrossFit is fast becoming a bigger and bigger thing in the UK and I believe that it is HUGE in the US. So it seems only fair you get a concise overview of the pros and cons of joining a CrossFit Box and doing WOD’s.
General summary of CrossFit
CrossFit is where you become a member of a CrossFit Box and go there to perform the WOD (workout of the day). This WOD can be anything and is always different, although there are some favourite workouts done by each individual box. Due to this generalised approach, the goals achieved are general, so you generally won’t see any bodybuilder looking guys or girls in there. Any gym can have CrossFit in their name so long as they pay “CrossFit” a licensing fee and have demonstrated some knowledge by completing the affiliates course.
From the horse’s mouth – “CrossFit begins with a belief in fitness. The aim of CrossFit is to forge a broad, general and inclusive fitness. We have sought to build a program that will best prepare trainees for any physical contingency — not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable. After looking at all sport and physical tasks collectively, we asked what physical skills and adaptations would most universally lend themselves to performance advantage. Capacity culled from the intersection of all sports demands would quite logically lend itself well to all sport. In sum, our specialty is not specializing.” (Taken from http://community.crossfit.com/what-is-crossfit.)
In the past couple of years they have formed the CrossFit Games with the tagline, “The Sport of Fitness”. This is where athletes from all over the world come together and compete in various forms to find out who is the best at being generally really very, very fit. They cover almost all forms of fitness, often combining multiple types into one event. Last years male and female winner won $250,000 each!
1. Provides a social environment where like minded people train towards similar goals
2. Promotes weight lifting for everyone including Olympic Lifting
3. Gives people access to more beneficial training programmes and techniques that you would otherwise receive at your standard Health Club or run of the mill gym (not really a gym in my mind)
4. Training is varied and so keeps your interest
5. People generally subscribe to a Paleo way of eating
6. Encourages people to compete and train hard
7. Good for all over general fitness, such as firemen, policemen or anyone looking for general fitness.
8. The CrossFit Games - http://games.crossfit.com/
9. Generally you will lose fat and be fitter thus improving overall health
10. Provides a positive influence on society and positive role models
11. Gives people the opportunity to learn about fitness by making it more accessible
12. Training is generally very tough as you try and complete each WOD as fast as possible most of the time although there are some exceptions.
1. Lack of periodisation in programme planning, so increases occur at a slower pace and plateaus are a more regular occurrence.
2. Random selection of exercises and sessions preventing adaption to training stimulus. You could do 5×5 heavy, heavy back squat on a Tuesday and then a 400m run, 400m row and 50 pull ups on a wednesday. RANDOM.
3. Not personal. Every person does the same WOD irrespective of physical or technical ability, although they are tapered slightly based on strength levels.
4. Exercises are taught incorrectly/differently. The goal of CrossFit is to become good at CrossFit, so exercises are taught allowing someone to complete it as easily and quickly as possible instead of having the goal of achieving the correct lifting technique or getting the required training adaptation. An example of this is a Kipping Pull up instead of a Pull up. The kip allows someone to perform more in repetition as it allows the momentum energy to be transferred from one rep to another whereas a regular pull up has minimum body movement and so requires more work from the Lats and Arms reducing the amount of reps able to be performed but increasing the work done by those muscles.
5. Risk of injury due to advanced lifts and techniques being required to be performed without adequate training.
6. Marketed as the best option for everyone including athletes, not true. The best option for an athlete is a planned periodised personalised training programme taking into account their personal history, when they have to peak for competition, any injuries and personal physical and technical ability.
7. Not specific. If your looking to get stronger, faster, bigger, be able to jump higher, increase your Repeated Sprint Ability or are training for a marathon then you are better seeking the advice of an Strength & Conditioning (S&C) coach to do something more specific.
8. Requires a good overall basic fitness and technical ability to be able to perform WOD’s correctly.
9. Can be quite expensive
10. Coaches can be inexperienced and lack knowledge
So as you can see there are numerous pros and numerous cons. It is all about weighing up what you value and what you are looking to get out of your training and then deciding if CrossFit is the thing for you based on that.
Personally I do not do CrossFit, but that is only because it is too expensive and the nearest Box is quite far away from me. I would do it if those two things were not an issue as I have a very good understanding of Olympic lifting technique and general movement techniques as well as having a good background in fitness.