By Martin Ebner
CrossFit, Inc. describes its strength and conditioning program as "constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains," with the stated goal of improving fitness, which it defines as "work capacity across broad time and modal domains." In simpler terms, CrossFit is a high-intensity, constantly varied, functional movement exercise program designed to prepare its participants for pretty much anything. Its popularity has exploded in the last decade.
Whether you love it or hate it, it's hard to deny the impressive nature of CrossFit and their athletes ability to perform and push themselves to excruciating heights.
While I do have some experience taking part in CrossFit, it wasn't until I was given the humbling experience of training a “CrossFitter” that I gave it much thought. Here's what I learnt:
1. They are super competitive (with themselves)
Every time Andrea showed up to a session, his drive and determination to beat his previous attempts and Personal Bests were almost ingrained in him. Despite on a couple of occasions having a poor nights sleep or an overindulgent weekend, he turned up on time, motivated and determined to progress!
2. Quantity over quality
I noticed very quickly that when I would set Andrea a workout, his priority was to get it done as quickly as possible. While I can understand the need for speed, quality should always trump quantity when exercising and here's why. While you may be able to do more repetitions or lift heavier weight when performing repetitions quickly, eventually you'll lose form forcing your body to overcompensate or by using momentum to complete the rep count. While you may get a high five at the end of it all, you have to ask yourself, what's the point if you can't do it properly? After pointing this out to Andrea, he very quickly adapted. Which leads me neatly to my next point.
3. They adapt very quickly to their surroundings
CrossFit is designed to prepare its athletes for any workout at anytime. Regardless of where we worked out, what the conditions were (rain, wind or scorching sun) I heard zero complaints. This is extremely admirable. Sorry to point fingers, but some people complain when the grass is too green or the workout mat is too rough.
While some people see their surroundings such as weather a deterrent to workout, Andrea saw it as part of the challenge and always took it in his stride.
4. They talk a lot about vomiting
I've not done a huge amount of CrossFit myself but anytime I have, at least one participant has been sick. I noticed for the first couple of weeks Andrea mentioned vomiting at least once in every session. After a little chat, I was able to convince him that puking doesn't necessarily constitute a good workout. You should feel good when working out, not nauseous! Start slowly, build up and set a pace you can maintain until the end of the workout. The tortoise always beats the hare in the long run!
5. They have great core strength
I love nothing more than training someone who's ability is much greater than my own and Andrea's core strength left me feeling a little envious. While genetics can play a role in strength and performance, CrossFit uses compound exercises and olympic lifting which contributes to building a strong and powerful core. I've said it before and i'll say it again, sit ups and crunches might put the finishing touches on a six pack but if you want to build a strong core, go compound.
6. Technique for some exercises is questionable
I touched on this early in quantity over quality. It seems CrossFit has adapted some exercises in the most bizarre way with the intent of increasing volume in less time. While I can understand the appeal of getting more bang for your buck, some of them make no sense whatsoever. CrossFit kipping pull-ups are a great example of this. Compromising your neck to get your chin above the bar whilst using momentum to swing yourself upwards is as far i can see, pointless! 10 perfectly executed pull-ups is far more impressive in my book!
7. There is a great sense of comradery within the community
CrossFit has done an incredible job at building a community and while the participants are competitive with themselves and when working at a competitive level, they'll always cheer on and show encouragement for those that are lagging behind.
8. Lack of programming
Before I get into this, i'd like to point out that this isn't necessarily representative or applies only to CrossFit. Like with all sporting practices, if you really want results, you have to have a plan and that plan will vary in complexity depending on goals and commitment. Without one, you can forget about any tangible results.
Something I spoke about with Andrea was what he felt was a lack of planning. Workouts were made up randomly and without any real emphasis on progression. While CrossFit's approach and motto of “prepare for anything and everything” is a good one. If every time you do a workout, it's different, It can be very difficult to progress in certain areas of your training.
Andrea and I worked on developing all areas of his fitness with a 12-week program. One in which we performed 4-5 workouts repetitively over 12 weeks with emphasis on progression. With his athletic background and limitless ability, the results were epic!
9. Taps aff (aka shirtless)
Ok, so this wasn't the case with Andrea but i've been to CrossFit and as soon as the opportunity to bare all (for men) is presented, they tend to jump at the opportunity. I guess if you have it, flaunt it!
10. They never skip leg day!
Whether they're jumping, skipping, squatting, deadlifting, running or swimming, CrossFitters never neglect their legs, and with good reason. Legs are the foundation of a strong and balanced body and if you need to be functional and have the ability to perform at the highest level, building strong legs should be a priority. #neverskiplegday