Crossfit Tips For Beginners
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is one of the most recognizable fitness movements in the world. The exercise philosophy borrows movements from a range of disciplines, including gymnastics, aerobics, calisthenics, weight training, and rowing. As the brainchild of former gymnast Greg Glassman, the purpose of the workout is to simulate professional training sessions and thereby maximize the exercises performed in the shortest amounts of time.
What are the Benefits of CrossFit for Beginners?
The goal of CrossFit is to increase stamina and fitness levels. Using the principles of kinesiology and physiology, the workout may help you move better while doing everything from playing sports to running errands. Another potential benefit of CrossFit is the efficiency of performing an intensive workout in a shorter time frame.
CrossFit adherents summarize the benefits of the program in a philosophy known as general physical preparedness (GPP). This means that creating a structured workout can improve your fitness levels to face any challenge that comes your way. In addition, CrossFit is an easily recognizable and standardized program, making it easy to connect with others through in-person classes or online discussion communities.
What Can I Expect From a CrossFit Workout?
Most CrossFit classes consist of three components:
- 1) CrossFit Warm Up (CFWU)
- 2) Skills or Strength Training
- 3) Workout of the Day (WOD)
Before a CrossFit class, you typically select whether you would like to focus on skills or strength training. The CrossFit warm up (CFWU) preps your body for the subsequent session. Skill-based training improves your body’s ability to do certain movements (such as jumping rope) while strength-based training helps increase muscle capacity.
The final component of any CrossFit class is the workout of the day (WOD). This signature workout requires you to complete any given number of reps in a limited amount of time. For example, a WOD time frame can be anywhere from three, eight, or 16 minutes total.
After that, you would participate in a brief cool down to bring your heart rate back to normal and stretch out any muscles used. Some CrossFit classes also post the results (times and reps) of each participant on a scoreboard.
As you might have gathered from the workout structure, a CrossFit class can employ elements of functional fitness at high frequency and intensity. For perspective, sample WODs are as follows:
Benchmark 1 (Nicknamed “Cindy”)
Complete as many reps as possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes –
- 5 pull ups
- 10 push ups
- 15 air squats
Benchmark 2 (Nicknamed “Barbara”)
Complete up to five rounds within the time provided –
- 20 pull ups
- 30 push ups
- 40 sit ups
- 50 squats
Benchmark 3 (Nicknamed “Fran”)
Complete up to three rounds (with 21, 15, or 9 repetitions each) within the time provided –
- 95-pound thruster
- Pull ups
Benchmark 4 (Nicknamed “Karen”)
Complete within time allotted –
- 150 wall balls (as a beginner, stick with a medicine ball that does not exceed 20 pounds)
After surpassing the beginner level, you can also select from a range of hero WODs. Named for fallen servicemen and women, hero WODs feature intermediate and advanced workout routines. For many individuals, hero WODs helped popularize several forms of high intensity interval training (HIIT) such as the squat thrusts known as “burpees.”
What Can I Do to Prepare for CrossFit?
CrossFit practitioners recommend visiting a certified CrossFit gym called a “box.” Enthusiasts recommend visiting an official gym because these boxes are more likely to have the equipment necessary to perform a range of workouts. CrossFit boxes also have franchise-trained instructors who can answer any questions.
Most CrossFit boxes come stocked with the heavy equipment you may need, including barbells, dumbbells, and plyometric cubes. However, you may want to invest in personal supplies such as a high-quality jumping rope. Keeping a jumping rope handy means that you are always ready for reps like double-unders without having to worry about borrowing equipment.
It is also very important to invest in a good pair of cross-training shoes. With a flatter sole that other athletic shoes, cross-training shoes support the multi-directional movements that can occur in a CrossFit workout. The firmness of cross-training shoes also makes them better for lifting weights and makes exercises like squats easier to perform.
Now that you are familiar with CrossFit centers (known as “boxes”) and own a pair of training shoes, it is important to take a prerequisite introductory course before ever stepping foot into a regular CrossFit class. Your local CrossFit box may use the following names for this introductory course:
- CrossFit On-Ramp
- CrossFit Elements
- CrossFit Foundations
Many CrossFit boxes offer this course online. The purpose of the prerequisite is to discuss any safety issues, go over an initial physical assessment, and make sure you understand the nine foundational CrossFit moves before starting your actual fitness class.
What are the Nine Foundational CrossFit Moves?
The nine foundational CrossFit moves are basic exercises that you might encounter in any given workout of the day (WOD). Because you can see these moves in any combination and at any CrossFit level, it is important to know how to perform them with correct positioning and form.
The Nine Basic Moves:
- 1) Air Squat – A basic squat performed without any weights
- 2) Overhead Squat – A squat performed while holding a bar over your head
- 3) Front Squat – A squat performed while holding a bar across your shoulders
- 4) Shoulder Press – Lifting a bar from shoulder level to overhead and back
- 5) Push Press – A shoulder press that starts from the squatting position
- 6) Push Jerk – A move similar to the push press in which you push against the bar from a squatting position and then dip a second time to receive the bar in a partial squat
- 7) Medicine Ball Clean – Lift, squat, and stand while holding a medicine ball
- 8) Deadlift – Bend over and lift a bar from the floor to your fully standing position; return the bar to the floor and repeat
- 9) Sumo Deadlift High Pull – Similar to a regular deadlift, it involves the last additional step of pulling the bar up higher to just beneath shoulder level, then slowly lowering it back to the ground again
Is CrossFit a Risky Undertaking?
Although any form of exercise involves some level of risk, CrossFit has come under media scrutiny due to its high intensity and use of weights. For example, some news outlets routinely refer to CrossFit as an “extreme sport.” At the same time, many practitioners and enthusiasts believe that this reputation is unfounded.
A four-year longitudinal study published in Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine found that CrossFit is safe compared to other types of athletic training. In a statement, Kennesaw State University professor Yuri Feito noted that “our data does not seem to support that [CrossFit] might be any more ‘extreme’ or dangerous than other exercise training programs.”
Similarly, a study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine Research found that people who attend CrossFit classes with hands-on coaches faced far less likelihood of serious injury. According to founder Greg Glassman, this reinforces the importance of taking CrossFit classes at official boxes instead of attempting to perform these intensive workouts on your own. Many CrossFit boxes cultivate a “culture of safety” by requiring introductory classes or offering virtual sessions that cover all of the basic foundational moves.
Is CrossFit Right for Me?
CrossFit encompasses a range of physical disciplines all designed to increase your general physical preparedness (GPP). Since the functional fitness aspect of CrossFit is very broad, it is easier to first eliminate common misconceptions of CrossFit.
Contrary to some beliefs, CrossFit is NOT any of the following:
- A “Get-Fit-Quick” Scheme. The fact is that no workout is an instant weight-loss formula. Although CrossFit is great for efficiency (high-intensity exercises in shorter time segments), you still need to remain consistent in order to see any real results.
- Sports-Specific Training for “Athletes.” Some people believe that CrossFit only works for professional athletes training for sports like basketball or the Olympics. The purpose of CrossFit is to increase your overall fitness level rather than improve competence in a particular sport.
- One-Size-Fits-All. While all CrossFit workouts contain recognizable components, you are free to modify the intensity your workout at any time. For example, there is no pressure to lift weights heavier than your fitness level and there is no such thing as a failed workout.
- “Super Dangerous.” As discussed, a beginner’s CrossFit class is no more risky than starting any other new fitness program. If you still have unique concerns, however, it is a good idea to check in with your physician before starting the regimen and periodically while taking your classes. For instance, individuals who are pregnant or over the age of 65 should always consult with physicians before making any major changes to their routine.
- Gym-Only. While it is very important for a beginner to work with a good CrossFit coach or instructor, it may not always be possible to visit a gym every single time. Check with your local CrossFit box about safe virtual class options.
If any of the following sounds like an issue, then CrossFit might not be the best fit for you at this time:
- You have a “deadline” fitness goal. For example, if you need to “lose 15 pounds before the wedding,” “train for the marathon next month,” or “master a basketball drop step before the big game,” then you should select a training program for these specific goals. CrossFit is best for general physical preparedness and for improving your overall fitness levels.
- You prefer working out by yourself. CrossFit requires a certified coach or instructor for safety and proper technique. Even advanced and elite CrossFit practitioners have a workout partner for accountability and safety reinforcement of the necessary equipment. That said, it is possible to incorporate some elements of CrossFit into an at-home workout using virtual classes or instructional videos.
- You want to master an unrelated or performance-based exercise instead. CrossFit requires consistency. And because it is intensive, it also requires adequate muscle recovery. If you feel far more intrigued with activities like yoga or salsa dance classes, you might want to look at these fitness options instead.
If any of the following sounds appealing, CrossFit might be just the right program for you:
- You thrive on community and teamwork. The CrossFit network is one of the most famously supportive communities around. Whether you need tips of proper technique, accountability to remain consistent, or fitness enthusiasts to celebrate your milestones, you can participate in active CrossFit communities online and in person.
- You want a well-rounded workout. CrossFit is not about flexing a single skill like lifting the heaviest weight or running the fastest mile. Instead, it is about improving your overall fitness level so you can navigate through daily activities with ease.
- You want to ease into strength training. CrossFit allows you to learn weightlifting under the guidance of a coach. You can then move on to specific and advanced weightlifting if desired.
- You love working out regularly. If you already love to workout and just need a consistent, preset regimen, finding a CrossFit box is an excellent option for you.
Do I Have to Eat a Special Diet to Do CrossFit?
It is not a requirement to follow a special diet in order to do CrossFit. That said, it is advisable to eat nourishing foods that support rigorous exercise and subsequent muscle recovery.
For perspective, many CrossFitters gradually adopt a Paleo diet in order to increase vegetable and protein consumption (while reducing the amount of white flour and white sugar consumed). Paleo diets also allow you to bring diversity to your meals by incorporating nutrient-dense foods like nuts and yogurt. Eating whole and unprocessed foods can also supply the fiber and antioxidants needed for long-term fitness transformation.
Understanding CrossFit Lingo
Since CrossFit is a fitness philosophy, you may soon discover a number of acronyms and cultural lingo. The following quick glossary is an easy way to acclimate to the lingo as a beginner.
- AMRAP – As many rounds as possible (within a given time frame)
- Affiliate – A gym or CrossFit box franchise officially connected to the CrossFit brand
- Box – A gym or fitness center with all of the necessary equipment to host a CrossFit class; the name for a CrossFit franchise
- CFWU – CrossFit Warm-Up
- C&J – Clean and Jerk
- C2B – Chest to Bar
- CrossFit Games – A competition in which elite CrossFitters compete for the title of World’s Fittest Man and Woman
- CrossFit Open – The virtual version of the CrossFit Games in which users register online and compete locally
- CrossFit HQ – The flagship CrossFit box in Santa Cruz, California
- DB – Dumbbell
- DL – Deadlift
- EMOM – Every minute on minute (meaning that you perform a new move each time a new minute starts
- FS – Front Squat
- GHD – Glute Hamstring Developer movement
- The Girls – The collection of benchmark workouts of the day named after women (such as Cindy or Fran)
- KB – Kettlebell
- KTE – Knees to Elbows
- MetCon – Metabolic Conditioning Workout
- MU – Muscle Ups
- OHS – Overhead Squats
- Scaling – Gradually increasing intensity to match current skill level
- T2B – Toes to Bar
- WB – Wall Ball
Other CrossFit Tips for Beginners
Ready to take the plunge with your new fitness regimen? Here are some final CrossFit tips and tricks to keep in mind:
1. Keep a Journal
Use a journal to keep track of your progress and reward how far you have come. You can use the journal to jot down the warm-up, the skill selected, the workout of the day (WOD), and your scoreboard results. Since some CrossFit boxes assign workouts based on previous stats, recording your results helps you exercise at the accurate challenge level and scale your results.
Not a fan of carrying around a notebook during your workout? You can try downloading a CrossFit app such as Beyond the Whiteboard, WodLog, or myWOD. Some CrossFit boxes also offer free Wodify apps to their members, so be sure to check with your CrossFit coach about availability.
2. Reap the Benefits of Recovery
CrossFit is a highly intensive workout. After working this hard, be sure to make the most of your cool down and recovery period.
For example, personal trainers advise that there 20-minute window during to take your body from a carbohydrate-depleted catabolic state to a protein-rich anabolic state after intensive workouts. After stretching, use this time to consume small sips of a protein drink or electrolyte beverage.
3. Consider Grabbing a Few Other Supplies
Once you have taken a prerequisite course and determine that CrossFit is right for you, consider purchasing a few other economical supplies (in addition to the cross-training shoes you should already own). While the CrossFit center already has the major equipment, many beginners like to purchase wrist wraps (to take the strain off of joints) and CrossFit gloves (to reduce sweat slippage). Be sure to keep your extra gear simple since correct form is the most important factor in any workout.
4. Never Feel Afraid to Ask
If anything is confusing, never feel afraid to ask. No matter how simple the question, asking can often mean the difference between learning correct form versus developing bad habits that persist throughout your regimen. You are also far more likely to enjoy your workouts once you learn to perform them correctly.
The Bottom Line
CrossFit is an intensive fitness system designed to increase your general physical preparedness. This type of physical conditioning covers a range of fitness areas, including endurance, stamina, strength, speed, agility, balance, and coordination. In addition, CrossFit fosters a tight-knit sense of community rarely found in other programs.
Beginners interested in a general fitness program can get the most out of CrossFit by working with a certified coach and following the appropriate safety protocols. You may discover that it is your ideal regimen for keeping your body in excellent shape.