The CrossFit method explained
CrossFit Inc is the brainchild of Greg Glassman, who founded the brand in 2000i. Today, there are more than 9,000ii CrossFit affiliated gyms, so called "boxes", across the world, where those looking to get fit can try out the high intensity workouts that CrossFit has become known for.
What is CrossFit?
"Boxes" are set up differently than the average gym. For starters, you won't find any ellipticals, step classes, or weight machines in the box. The exercises in CrossFit workouts aim to improve cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, flexibility, stamina, strength, speed, coordination, balance, and agility. This is achieved through a combination of track and field exercises, weightlifting and gymnasticsiii.
All workouts are conducted in groups and use the minimalistic equipment that the box is fitted out with, including skipping ropes, kettlebells, free weights and pull-up barsi. You can expect a workout to start with a very high intensity warm-up, before moving on to some weight training, then the "workout of the day" (or WOD) and a stretching session. However, the routine may vary depending on the traineriv.
The WOD is posted on the CrossFit website every day and they are also written on the walls of each box every day. For example, the WOD on 3rd April 2014 was "Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of 10 strict handstand push-ups, 20 strict pull-ups, 30 jumping alternating lunges"v.
Who will enjoy it?
Followers of CrossFit all seem to have one thing in common - they like high intensity group workouts that push them to their limits. The exercises are designed to be challenging and exhausting, in keeping with the CrossFit motto "the sport of fitness".
The group class setting also appeals to those with a competitive side. During the WOD section of the class, everyone competes to complete the most number of reps in the set time limitiv.
What are the benefits?
Strong muscles have been shown to be a bigger contributing factor to overall health than previously thought. Recent research suggests that muscles secrete hormones that have the ability to reduce inflammation in the body that can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer'svi. CrossFit's focus on weight training through traditional weightlifting, as well as body weight and gymnastics exercises mean the workouts can build muscle strength. Weight training can be especially beneficial for women as regular weight-bearing exercise has been shown to decrease a woman's chance of developing osteoporosisvii.
What's the downside?
Despite its popularity, CrossFit is not for everybody, and the fitness craze has earned its fair share of detractors. The main criticism levelled at CrossFit is that the intensity of the workout may actually have a negative impact on the health of those participatingiv.
Exercising to the point where you experience discomfort, for example in the form of nausea, or severe muscle pain is not healthy; instead, it creates fatigue and does nothing to improve results. It's not advisable to continue exercising to the point of fatigue or to continue doing exercises that cause you pain, as this can lead to sports related injuriesviii.
CrossFit may be popular at the moment, but that doesn't mean it's a solution for everyone looking to improve their fitness. The high intensity exercises involved in CrossFit will appeal to some people and can be an exhilarating way to stay fit. For those who prefer a gentler form of workout, or have a medical condition, CrossFit may not be the best option. Ultimately, it's best to find an exercise routine that suits you and is realistic to maintain. It's also worth remembering that the quality of any CrossFit experience will rest on the ability of the trainer leading the session.