I would be surprised if any of you have not heard of “CrossFit.” I first heard of it a year ago, and it seemed so cool! The premise is that people push themselves at an insane exertion level with non-stop-back-to-back exercise sets. As a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, I am always looking and researching different types of exercise ideas. Here are benefits and disadvantages that I’ve found about CrossFit–
(1) Intensity. At the core of CrossFit is interval training. It requires (nearly) non-stop exercise sets back-to-back. It challenges your strength and endurance in such a short period of time. This is a great exercise set up for those who are so busy and want to bust out a workout in 30 minutes (but usually less!)
(2) Challenge. It combines weight-lifting with pylometrics which includes quick bursts of exertion like a jump. This can be a positive addition to an exercise because it adds yet another challenge to the movement. It requires activates more muscles as you progress through the exercise. The nature of CrossFit itself challenges the participant in regards to endurance, weight, repetitions, and variety of exercises. I LOVE that CrossFit challenges its participants to the core.
(3) Constant Movement. Want to lose weight? Keep moving. CrossFit does that. Those 20 minutes of nonstop exercise can feel like an eternity while you burn those calories. Want to be pushed? You don’t stop the workout until you finish every last repetition and set.
(4) Variety. If you’re training at a good CrossFit location, you’ll try new exercises. WOD (Workout Of the Day) is always promoted so you can try something new each day!
(1) Form. I’d say, “look no further” but really, there are other disadvantages. However, FORM takes the cake because at the core of it all, the motions of CrossFit exercises (really ANY exercise) requires good and solid form. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve seen people have TERRIBLE form as they work out. Add on the fact that they are going non-stop, people will cheat to push through their exercise as they progress through their routine. I’ve seen people perform pull ups and add a leg kick to “assist” them. Even when I see it at the gym, I hold my tongue because giving someone unsolicited exercise advice is like giving someone herpes…they don’t want it. Ultimately, think quality > quantity: why do 25 crappy pull ups when you can do 15 perfect pull ups.
(2) Intensity –> Injury. Poor form and high intensity contributes to countless injuries. Supporters of CrossFit can’t convince me that there are people who unjustly up their intensity when they are not ready. NASM’s OPT model sets the highest standard to exercise progress: start with building stability endurance before moving on to strength endurance, hypertrophy, maximal strength, and power. When you build a house, you wouldn’t first build a roof right? That’s the same concept with working out. The intensity of CrossFit can be modified but it’s ideal for trained athletes. Sure, we all want to be the fastest, stronger in the shortest period of time, but guess what? Unless you’re an athlete with a professional trainer who workouts all day, ‘eryday…it’s going to take time. Efficiency is important in our increasingly hectic lives, but it comes at the cost of effectiveness of our efforts. It speaks to our desire for instant gratification and competition. There’s nothing wrong with friendly competition and challenging oneself…until somebody gets hurt. The very nature of CrossFit is very risky.
Qualified trainers are there to teach and cater the exercises to each individual’s ability. As a participant, you are responsible to know when too much is too much. Challenge yourself but do it safely. I sincerely believe that CrossFit can be effective for individuals! Also, there are different goals and different methods to reach one’s goals. Who is to say that a more traditional way of working out is better than CrossFit with its growing popularity? Different strokes for different folks. To be objective, any workout regimen can be risky. But my professional advice is to really consider for any workout routine or nutrition plan: “Can I do this effectively and safely?” Take your ego out of the question and ask if you can do it safely and effectively to meet your goals. Don’t jump on the newest fad and its bandwagon at the expense of your health (that’s the irony of it all).