What Exactly Is CrossFit—and Is It Actually Good for You?

How Greg Glassman
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CrossFit is like period sex. And not because they both have some serious—though admittedly different—health benefits. Rather, people typically fall into an “I love it” or “I hate it” camp for each.

What is CrossFit training?

Chances are you’ve heard the generic yet succinct CrossFit definition: “constantly varied, functional movements, executed at high intensity.”

But what does that actually mean? “From an exercise perspective, CrossFit takes all aspects of fitness and sports, cherry picks the best, most effective, and most applicable to everyday life, and combines them together,” says four-time CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning, founder of CrossFit Mayhem, a box—CrossFit speak for gym—in Cookeville, Tennessee.

What a CrossFit class is like

CrossFit isn’t a franchise (like your local Pizza Hut); instead, it’s an affiliate, explains CrossFit Games commentator Tanya Wagner, a CrossFit Level Two Trainer at CrossFit Apex in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. “That means every box has its own individual programming and style. It’s not one-size-fits-all.” There are over 15,000 CrossFit boxes worldwide.

That said, generally, CrossFit classes last an hour, broken down into four different components: a warm-up, strength or skill, workout of the day or WOD, and cooldown or mobility session.

The benefits of CrossFit

“Whether your fitness goal is to help you maintain your current fitness level, get just 1% fitter, lose weight, do a pull-up, or be able to lift a certain weight, CrossFit can help you reach it,” says Kyra Williams, a certified personal trainer and CrossFit Level One Trainer.

In fact, research backs up just how effective it really is. For example, a team of exercise physiologists out of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse found that women who performed two different CrossFit workouts burned over 12 calories per minute and maintained an elevated heart rate throughout the entire session.

Will I get injured if I try CrossFit?

Despite gruesome stories you may have heard, probably not. A 2018 study deemed CrossFit training “relatively safe compared with more traditional training modalities.” The researchers wrote: “Over the past several years, CrossFit training has been scrutinized in the mainstream media because of the supposed high incidence of injuries; however, these statements seem not to be supported by empirical evidence.

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