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CrossFit: Benefits, Dangers & Exercises

CrossFit
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Understanding CrossFit & Its Benefits

CrossFit is a concept and style of workout/exercise regime which has been around since the early 2000’s. But it is only in the past few years where it has become a big thing in the UK. So the question is, why? What does CrossFit involve that makes it so enjoyable for so many people or why so many feel it’s more beneficial than standard workout regimes. This article will explain CrossFit, it’s variations and what benefits it can have.

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit can be split into 3 key words:

  1. High Intensity
  2. Exercise Variation
  3. Functional Movements

The overall experience of a CrossFit workout involves maximal, powerful efforts for short periods of time on a variety of high resistance exercises encompassing the whole body.

The exercises involved in CrossFit can be split into the following categories:

  • Calisthenics – complex body weight exercises
  • Normal body weight exercises – push ups, planks etc.
  • Olympic-style weight lifting
  • Power lifting
  • Plyometrics – jumping, explosive style movements
  • Aerobic exercises – running, swimming, rowing etc.

The format is similar to high intensity interval (HIIT) training. Short bursts of maximal efforts.

CrossFit workouts are generally done in an interval or circuit style.

Interval – One exercise performed for a period of time followed by a period of rest, repeated for a set number of repetitions.

This is an example of what an interval CrossFit session could look like:

  • 8 front squats
  • 40 seconds rest
  • Repeated 15 times

Circuit – A number of exercises performed for a period of time followed by rest before moving onto the next exercise, repeated for a set amount of repetitions.

This is an example of what a circuit CrossFit session could look like:

  • 21 ring dips
  • 15 kettle bell swing
  • 15 ring dips repeated 5 times
  • 9 kettle bell swings
  • 9 ring dips

Benefits of CrossFit

We will now provide you a summary of the scientific literature surrounding CrossFit.

CrossFit workouts have been shown to improve maximal aerobic fitness and body composition after 10 weeks of training (Journal of Strength & Conditioning, 2015) due to the high sustained power output involved in the workouts (Smith et al, 2013).

Additionally, the improvement of aerobic fitness comes with the saving of time compared to having to do traditional aerobic training (hours on the bike) to achieve the same benefits (Smith et al, 2013).

Research also found that these workouts/training programme achieved body fat reduction of at least 3.7% in all participants. However, take this with a pinch of salt as participants were also on a Palaeolithic (caveman style) diet.

Don’t forget, the variety of exercises and classes available makes it a very enjoyable, social and rewarding style of workout to take part in.

Dangers of CrossFit

The only negative aspects in respect to CrossFit is injury risk. It is an intense style of work out and heavy weights are used. So, it is suggested that before getting into all of this, you ensure you know the techniques, ensure you are injury free and that you have a good warm up in place prior to the sessions.

Summary

In summary, Meyer et al (2017) stated that this style of high intensity training leads to increases in VO2 max, strength, musculature, and endurance, and decreases lean body mass.

With proper training and incremental increases in intensity, CrossFit can be an effective form of exercise for healthy adults looking for a diverse workout routine. We hope you now have a greater understanding of CrossFit and why it might be the workout for you!

References

Crossfit-Based High-Intensity Power Training Improves Maxima… : The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research”. LWW. Retrieved December 28, 2015.Smith, Meyer, J., Morrison, J. and Zuniga, J., 2017. The Benefits and risks of CrossFit: A systematic review. Workplace health & safety, 65(12), pp.612-618.

M.M., Sommer, A.J., Starkoff, B.E. and Devor, S.T., 2013. Crossfit-based high-intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition. J Strength Cond Res27(11), pp.3159-3172.

About the Author

Connor Stead and Andrew Triggs are Sport and Exercise Science students who write about training, nutrition and supplementation in exercise. Their background in sport comes mainly from football where they coach and compete at university level. More recently, they have started giving training and nutritional advice through Instagram (@trainingwithscience).

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