Unless you’ve been meditating on top of a mountain in Nepal for the last couple of years, you would have heard about CrossFit. Even if you’re not a self-confessed gym junkie, it would be impossible to miss the plethora of CrossFit gyms now spattered across every major city in the country and the throng of its enthusiasts that pack cafes post workout.
It would also be impossible to miss the controversy surrounding this form of training, with people typically either firm advocates, or else nay-sayers.
Yup, there’s no denying that CrossFit has certainly divided the Fitness Industry. But what exactly does this intense training system entail?
We don’t blame you if you’ve been too nervous to give it a go. Walking into any gym for the first time can be intimidating, let alone one that is based on a strong “fitness culture” of sorts, that sees its participants band together and train as a group with one goal in mind: to push their bodies to the absolute physical limits. Yikes.
So, if you’ve ever been curious abut what CrossFit entails, what the controversy is about and whether you should give it a try, keep reading. This blog will tell you everything you need to know about these battle-rope filled gyms!
What Is It
The term “CrossFit” gets thrown around a lot these days without most people realising what it truly is. The workout principles that define CrossFit combine strength training, cardiovascular training, plyometrics, Olympic lifts, power movements and gymnastics to achieve a complete and utter full body, fat-torching workout.
Workouts are typically intense, fast-paced and rely on interval-style training to keep the heart rate up and body guessing. This style of training incorporates short periods of rest with periods of work, which allows participants to push themselves to their max during the time they’re performing the specific exercise.
The exercises used throughout CrossFit workouts are often described as “functional” movements, as the philosophy behind this training is that exercises should mimic real life actions; squats are like sitting in a chair, deadlifts akin to picking up a heavy box, and cleans like putting on a heavy backpack.
But under load, these movements are complex, and a lack of attention to form in the pursuit of speed or intensity is a common critique of CrossFit. This is why a lot of CrossFit gyms offer special introductory classes that teach the basics of these movements before building up the speed and repetitions. This helps to build confidence, as well as reduces the changes of contracting injury later down the track.
What Can You Expect
If you’re about to walk into a CrossFit gym for the first time, you can expect to see its staunch supporters completing their assigned “Workout of the Day”, or WOD, as it’s otherwise known.
The WOD is typically based on completing X amount of exercises for X amount of repetitions, for either X number of rounds or in X amount of time. This is usually done in one large circuit where the person rotates to the next exercise after completing the goal number of repetitions.
The moves will vary on a daily basis and will alternate between anything from using your own bodyweight, to barbells, kettle bells, sleds, boxes, sand bags and dumbbells. It is this constant changing of movement that devotees believe keeps the body in constant muscle confusion, forcing the body to constantly change and adapt. This helps to torch through an astounding number of calories, while also promoting muscle growth at the same time.
Why the Controversy
One of the biggest reasons that there’s so much controversy and criticism surrounding CrossFit is due to a commonly held belief that it’s not an appropriate form of training for everyone due to its intensity.
CrossFit makes use of compound movements performed to the point of an individual’s exhaustion, which significantly increases the chance of injury, particularly if weights are involved, or the person has not been properly schooled in correct technique.
There’s also a level of criticism surrounding the culture of CrossFit, with many people believing it has now reached a “cult-like” level.
Furthermore, in his book “Double Crossed: CrossFit’s Dirty Secrets”, Dr. Sean M. Wells remarks that trainers can be known to push participants harder then they’re willing or able to work, increasing risk of injury and even opening up the potential for negative effects on a participant’s mental-health.