Top fitness experts are huge fans. Plus, research proves it’s incredibly effective at getting you slim and strong. The list of other reasons to finally try this dynamic workout is long, so let’s get started already!
You can’t call Crossfit a trend anymore. Today, there are more than 12,000 boxes or Crossfit gyms worldwide – up 20 per cent from last year, according to Crossfit, Inc in the US. Much of its popularity has to do with its body-transforming formula of mixing multi-joint exercises that use heavy weights and are done as quickly as possible with little rest.
“Work out this way and you’ll improve muscle tone, feel stronger, and be able to do more exercises after just four to six weeks,” says John Porcari, an exercise physiologist at the US-based University of Wisconsin–La Crosse.
You’ll also slash fat. Women who did a Crossfit-style workout with moves like squats, dead lifts, and overhead presses for 20 minutes a day four days a week lost an average of 3.7 per cent body fat in 10 weeks, a study from Ohio State University in the US found.
Read on and we’ll explain more of these crazy-fast results and the other reasons to get on board.
You’ve never seen variety like this. In a single session, you might sprint, climb, throw and do power lifts, body-weight moves, and gymnastics. And every day is different. “You get a huge range of workouts just by showing up at the same box a few times a week,” says Chelsey Hughes, director of operations for the Brick Crossfit chain in the US.
This kind of programming, in which you do different exercises at different intensities on different days (called non-linear periodisation), ensures that you’ll load muscles at every angle, so you continually see results, John says.
It’s uniquely motivating. You’ll record how long it took you to complete a workout, how many reps or rounds you did, and how much weight you lifted on a board for the whole class to see.
It may be intimidating at first, but it can become a major motivator. “Defining success, whether by competing against others or yourself, is a great way to go harder and further,” says Julie Partridge, an associate professor of sport and exercise psychology at Southern Illinois University in the US.
Plus, it gives you something tangible (beyond getting a fit body) to work towards. “If you’re focused on being able to do five pull-ups or run a seven-minute 1.6km, the aesthetic improvements just happen,” according to Chelsey.
It makes you sexy-strong. We’re guessing your goal isn’t to look like the female version of the Incredible Hulk. You won’t! It’s practically impossible to experience that kind of beefing up unless you’re genetically predisposed to it and crushing protein shakes five times a day, John says. “Muscle bulk is driven by testosterone,” he explains. You simply don’t have enough testosterone. Period. If anything, you’ll get smaller. Keep reading.
Calories don’t stand a chance... Women who did Donkey Kong, a workout of the day (WOD) with 21 reps of burpees, kettlebell swings, and box jumps, followed by 15 reps of each and then nine of each, burned 117 calories in about nine minutes, a University of Wisconsin–La Crosse study showed. When they did Fran – a WOD of 21, 15, then nine reps of thrusters and pull-ups – they burned 64 calories in about five minutes.
Crossfit also reigns supreme when it comes to afterburn. “Because it’s so intense, your metabolic rate is going to stay elevated for a longer period of time than with most other types of exercise,” John says.
... Neither do other workouts. These high-intensity routines also spike your volume of oxygen (VO2) max and aerobic capacity. This means you’ll be able to push longer and harder in other workouts, from steady runs to barre class, says Steven Devor, author of the Ohio State study.
“We’ve had people who want to do a half marathon or a Spartan Race train primarily with Crossfit rather than traditional running programmes because even the short workouts increase your aerobic capacity, making you a better runner or racer,” Chelsey explains. And you can’t avoid it: The researchers found that everyone experiences these benefits, regardless of initial level of aerobic fitness.
See progress with every class. Crossfit classes function like a training schedule you would follow if you were prepping for a race. Boxes usually use five-week (or longer) programmes.
For example, in one fiveweek cycle that focuses on dead lifts, you’re encouraged to make sure your last set is always 5 per cent heavier than the previous week’s final set. “This ensures that you’re making small improvements weekly and big improvements over time,” Chelsey says.
There’s no get-fit limit. “Most first-timers have done plenty of cardio but haven’t felt this kind of strength before,” says Chris Cunningham, a USbased Crossfit coach who trains many beginners.
Thanks to the progressive programming, you’ll be surprised by how much more you’re able to do each week. These physical feats double as mental milestones that will get you excited about what you’re capable of.
“There’s always a next level,” Chelsey says. Whether that means adding 2kg to a barbell lift, banging out more push-ups, or using a higher box for box jumps, you get closer to your fittest, best body with every class.
KNOW, THEN GO!
MAKE SURE YOU TRY ON-RAMP. This is a six- to 12-class prep course. “You’ll learn the methodology and movements, and a coach will assess your movement patterns,” says Chelsey.
SEEK OUT WELL-ROUNDED CLASSES. In general, a class should go like this: Warm up, do a strength or skill portion (lifting weights slowly and perfecting your form and technique), then the metabolic conditioning element (this is where you do the WOD), and finish with a cool-down.
“Good boxes spend a very long time reviewing the movements, practising and working up to the weight they will use for the WOD to make sure people move well and safely,” says Chris.
DON’T BE SHY. “Ask the coaches for form checks and modifications often,” Chelsey advises. For most of the tougher moves, there are many progressions. “All of your exercises should be monitored, and you’ll need to seek approval from your coach before you move on to the next progression,” she adds.
YOU CAN BABY-STEP IN. Not ready to fully commit? “Crossfit can be added to any fitness regimen,” Chelsey says. So feel free to come and go as you please. But if you want to achieve the maximum benefit, hitting the box about three days a week is the sweet spot, Chris adds.
“You’ll get stronger and see more lean muscle tone, but you won’t pack on muscle mass like a man.” – John Porcari, an exercise physiologist