A Complete Guide to CrossFit – an Intense All-Body Workout that Builds Strength and Endurance
CrossFit is one of the most popular strength and conditioning workouts of today, with over 10,000 affiliated gyms offering classes. It combines cardio exercises, strength and weight training, as well as elements of gymnastics, girevoy sport and calisthenics to create a truly full-body workout.
CrossFit workouts are known for their intensity, and for this reason, there is a high level of motivation and camaraderie among people that take part. If you’re looking for a workout that is sociable and geared to improving overall fitness in a short period of time, CrossFit is a great choice.
CrossFit classes take place in branded gyms inside what is known as a CrossFit Box which contains all the equipment needed for a workout. Classes are typically 1 hour long and start with group stretching and warm up. Following this, there will be some skills-based training from the instructor followed by a period of high-intensity exercise known as a ‘workout of the day’, with more stretching and a warm-down to finish.
Crucially, WODs are scored and you’ll be ranked against other people in your group in order to motivate you to do better. If you find a good instructor you can expect plenty of personal encouragement, critique on your technique and overall help improving, even if you feel you’ve given all you can. A good CrossFit instructor will also aim to make the experience a positive one for all, and will adapt exercises so everyone can progress no matter your personal level of ability and fitness. This approach has made CrossFit very popular and class retention is usually quite high.
Given that CrossFit is high impact, injuries can take place. CrossFit instructors are highly trained and should actively keep an eye on you to make sure you don’t put yourself at risk of injury. As with all cardio-intensive workouts, it’s very important to stay hydrated.
A CrossFit gym will have everything you need for the workout. Fitness equipment might include kettlebells, barbells and dumbbells, skipping ropes, medicine balls, resistance bands and rowers. It theory you could purchase all this equipment to recreate a CrossFit workout at home, but you’d miss out on the group element of the workout that makes it so effective.
Fitted breathable exercise clothing is recommended, along with good gym shoes and a sports water bottle.
Stretching, strength building, cardio and conditioning form the basis of a CrossFit workout. While each session will vary according to the direction of the instructor and the overall level of the class, a typical workout might include the following elements:
Warm-up / stretching: You’ll probably start with a short run of around 400 metres, followed by some dynamic stretch moves such as karaoke, Frankenstein walk, high knees, backpedal and hip swings. The aim here is to get the body limbered up and get people moving and motivated.
Stretches will be followed by a combination of KB swings, ring pushups, squat jumps and burpees. At this point, your body will be starting to feel the burn.
Strength: Strength-based workouts come next and include exercises such clean and jerks, toes to bar, squats lifts, back squats, overhead presses and deadlifts. The idea is to complete sets of varied numbers in quick succession with short breaks in between. The final set should be at the maximum weight you can lift. Pushing your muscles to break-point encourages them to grow during the recovery period.
WOD / Workout of the day: The WOD is where things get tough and your endurance and cardio fitness skills will be fully tested over a period of around 20 minutes. Exercises incorporated during the WOD include pull ups, muscle ups, short runs, kettlebell swings, rowing, wall balls, burpees lunges and just about any other workout that can push your body to the max. Remember that you’ll be timed and scored against other participants, so this is the time to give it everything you’ve got.
Warm-down: As with all workouts, a period of stretching after intense exercise is important to help you avoid muscle injury.
CrossFit demands dedication and a real willingness to always push yourself to give a little more. While this aspect might be putting off for some, it’s a real draw for many, particularly those that have failed to stay motivated with other types of workout.
Because it combines cardio, strength and conditioning it’s a great way to cover everything in one go and so suits people with a busy schedule.
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