Sports & Wellness
How to do CrossFit
Have you heard of CrossFit but not sure what it is or how it works? Check out our guide as we explain what you need to know.
If you've even dipped your toe into the world of personal fitness, you've probably heard about CrossFit. You may have seen friends or coworkers posting sweaty selfies bragging about their new one-rep max or WOD scores. A CrossFit gym may have popped up in your town.
The CrossFit craze exploded a few years ago as new gyms started opening across the world. Today, CrossFit has 13,000 gyms in more than 120 countries.
So what's all the hype about? What is CrossFit anyway? Could I do it?
We'll answer all these questions and more in this comprehensive guide to CrossFit. Find out everything you need to know about the ins and outs of this fitness craze today.
What Is CrossFit?
CrossFit is a branded fitness regimen created in 2000 by Greg Glassman. Workouts consist of constantly varied, functional movements that are performed at high intensity.
Functional movements are ones you perform every day. They include squatting, jumping, and lifting objects. CrossFit takes these everyday movements and turns them into a workout by adding heavier weights, longer distances, and faster movements.
CrossFit workouts are a type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT for short). HIIT is a cardiovascular exercise strategy that focuses on short periods of intense anaerobic exercise interspersed with less intense recovery periods. It's the opposite of going for a long, easy run where you pace yourself to sustain the exercise for longer.
CrossFit also incorporates a lot of Olympic lifting into their training regimes. Broken down into its simplest terms, Olympic lifts involve taking a loaded barbell from the ground and raising it up over your head. The primary lifting techniques used to accomplish this are the snatch and the clean and jerk.
What Does a CrossFit Class Look Like?
Most boxes (that's CrossFit lingo for gyms) host hour-long classes that are broken up into three parts. Part one is the warmup. A coach will lead you through light exercises and stretching to get you ready for the workout properly.
During this time, the coach will go over the WOD (workout of the day) with the class. They may have you run through some of the lifts with a PVC pipe or empty barbell to go over proper technique.
The Strength Portion
Then, a typical class will transition into a strength session. Members will work on Olympic lifts and related movements at a heavier weight than what is used during the HIIT part of the WOD. Popular movements during this period include the snatch, clean, jerk, back squat, front squat, and bench press.
Some strength sessions will have you do a particular number of sets plus reps. Let's say the strength WOD is 5x2 back squats. You'll perform two back squats, rest, perform another two back squats, rest, and so on until you've done it five times.
Alternatively, you may perform an EMOM workout during the strength session. This means you'll do a particular lift every minute on the minute until time expires.
Many strength sessions determine what weight participants used based on their one-rep max (1RM). One-rep max stands for the heaviest weight that you can lift a single time. So you may see something like: 5x2 back squats at 50% of your 1RM.
If you don't have a one-rep max yet, don't worry. Coaches will work with you to determine a suitable weight that will help you develop your strength without gassing you out before the rest of the WOD.
The Anaerobic Portion
After strength training is over, CrossFit classes will transition into the anaerobic or HIIT portion of the workout. This is typically what people are referring to when they talk about the WOD.
You'll be asked to perform a series of functional movements utilizing equipment like kettlebells, barbells, rowers, bikes, medicine balls, and jump ropes. Pullups, pushups, situps, squats, running, and other movements can all be incorporated.
There will typically be an Rx (prescribed) version of the workout and several scaling options. New members may scale back the weights they're using, the number of reps, or other things in order to tailor the workout to their fitness level.
The entire class will perform this workout together. After you're all done, the coach will write your scores on the board to encourage a spirit of friendly competition. People who complete the workout early will often cheer on other classmates as they finish up.
CrossFit HIIT workouts come in two basic flavours: AMRAP workouts and RFT workouts. AMRAP stands for as many rounds as possible. RFT stands for rounds for time.
Here's an example of an AMRAP workout.
- 15 air squats
- 12 pushups
- 9 burpees
Completing all of these movements counts as one round. You'll do as many rounds as possible until time runs out. The number of rounds you complete will be your score for the day.
Here's an example of an RFT workout.
- 10 kettlebell swings (35/55)
- 10 pullups
- 10 box jumps
The 35/55 above refers to the prescribed weight for women and men respectively. You'll complete five rounds of this workout. Your finishing time will be your score for the day.
Can I Do CrossFit?
Yes, you can! Anyone can do CrossFit! You might not be ready to compete in a CrossFit competition on your first day, but that's not the point.
CrossFit workouts are designed to be scalable. The Rx workouts are programmed for the most experienced athletes in the class. Everyone else is encouraged to scale those workouts to a level that is right for where they are in their fitness journey.
Coaches and athletes alike love seeing new people coming to classes. You'll enter a supportive environment where everyone is rooting for you to simply show up and do your best.
And here's a secret: no one actually cares what your WOD scores are. No one cares if it took you 20 minutes to do a WOD that took everyone else 15. You showed up and worked hard, which is the only thing that really matters!
If you're new to the world of CrossFit, the best thing you can do for yourself is to go slow and focus on technique. Using proper lifting techniques helps you get strong and lift more weight than you ever thought possible. More importantly, it prevents you from getting injured.
Try to set aside one-on-one time with your coach before or after class to work on your technique. This is especially important for complicated lifts like the snatch or clean and jerk.
For newbies, just remember: take it slow, focus on technique, and keep showing up. Celebrate the little victories, like being able to do the Rx weight or beating a previous time. You'll start seeing results in no time!
How to Start CrossFit
CrossFit classes are functional, high-intensity, and fun. They're an amazing way to meet new people and discover what your body can really do.
People of any age or fitness level can jump right in and start making CrossFit their own.
If you're ready to step into the world of CrossFit, check out our certified CrossFit coaches. They're ready to help you take the next steps in your personal fitness journey today.