CrossFit has become one of the most popular workouts in the last few years. The main goal is to improve “general” fitness for athletes, bodybuilders and pretty much anyone who wants to get in the best shape of their lives. It is advertised as an effective muscle-building program that incorporates varied functional movements executed at high intensities, which may lead to significant injury if safety is not the top priority. The effective results of CrossFit is a product of the 10 Physical Skills Model philosophy that includes the following:
- Cardiovascular Endurance
- Stamina (muscular endurance)
The Workout Of the Day (WOD)
To incorporate all the areas of the Physical Skill Model, all workouts will consist of a variety of free weight movements, Olympic lifts, bodyweight exercises, plyometric and aerobic activities. The typical setup of a CrossFit workout is as follows:
- 10-minute dynamic warm-up: A combination of active stretching and light warm up activities using movements that will be incorporated during the actual workout.
- 20-30 minutes of strength development: Strength building with heavy, low volume, intense weightlifting or the building of technical skills. Such activities include Olympic lifting and/or gymnastic movements that require a large amount of skill and practice.
- 10-20 minute WOD: Comprised of 4-6 different exercises or aerobic activities that is based on the number of “rounds”/sets that can be completed within a given amount of time. Such exercises can include burpees, sprinting, box jumps, push-ups, pull-ups and/or kettle bell swings – just to name a few.
CrossFit is based on a team/group workout environment. The workouts can be performed on your own, however it is encouraged to participate at a CrossFit gym, known as “the box.” All participants in the class warm-up together, work on skills together, and perform the workout of the day (WOD)—pushing, encouraging and helping each other along the way. Each WOD involves an effort to beat the time/rounds that was required for the workout previously performed, which leads to competition not only with yourself but competition with those around you.
With any exercise program, there are plenty of risks and contraindications – especially when the workouts are performed with poor technique. No matter what type of exercise you do, improper form is guaranteed to lead to injury. However, with CrossFit, the risk of injury is even greater due to the emphasis on time and speed. Done in a competitive group environment, it is very easy for one to over exert themselves leading to a compromise in form. Injuries may also occur due to the complexity of the movements used, requiring significant joint mobility and adequate motor control.
Additionally, CrossFit is a risk factor in the development of rhabdomyolysis – a rare, but serious muscular injury. Rhabdomyolysis is a condition where excessive strain is placed upon skeletal muscle causing breakdown of the tissue fibers resulting in severe damage. The ruptured muscle cell(s) can leak contents into the blood leading to kidney dysfunction and/or failure. Of course, just doing CrossFit does not mean you will develop the condition, however it is always essential to understand the risk factors prior to participation in this form of exercise.
As CrossFit becomes the leading exercise craze, it is very important to become educated about the fitness program and any potential risk factors that you may be subject to. From personal experience, CrossFit is an amazing workout, and when done correctly, can lead to great results in muscular strength and endurance. To make sure that you properly prepared, make sure that:
- Your CrossFit Coach has the appropriate educational background with supporting credentials.
- You have participated in a basic strength training program – Exercise newbies have an increased risk of injury.
- Your health permits such vigorous exercises.