Crossfit has become a new fitness craze with alot of hype. Justin Woltering talks us through the pros and cons of this new training style.
Thinking about incorporating some Crossfit into your normal routine? Or are other fitness freaks pressuring you to take the plunge and join their “Box” for some full-time, puke-inducing craziness? Either way, you’re not alone. The Crossift craze has really swept the nation in the last few years, and it seems like everyone knows someone who’s jumped on the bandwagon. The question is: should you?
Pro: You’ll get into great shape.
There’s no doubt about it, the metabolic conditioning, or “metcon” workouts you’ll do at a Crossfit gym are seriously challenging. If you think running is hard, wait until you do back-to-back burpees and deadlifts, or a nonstop circuit of cleans, squats, and bench presses. This type of training pushes every single muscle in your body to the limit – including your heart – and you’ll be gasping for breath at the end.
I know some naysayers have claimed these workouts aren’t actually that great for your cardio conditioning, and that sprinting is all you really need. Frankly, these people must never have given a metcon an honest try. They’re brutal in a way that far surpasses any type of run, and the long-term results are incredible. Start doing metcons two or three times a week, and you’ll be amazed at how quick and agile you feel.
Con: You (probably) won’t get that big.
As effective as metcons are for conditioning, they’re not going to help you build mass. Quite a few Crossfitters have downed the Kool-Aid, and they’ll claim that Crossfit is actually MORE effective than traditional bodybuilding training for drug-free athletes. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Unless you have alien-like strength-endurance, the weights you use during the metcons are going to be tiny in comparison to what you’d normally handle. We’re talking fifty, forty, maybe even as low as thirty percent of your one-rep max. That’s just not heavy enough to stimulate hypertrophy, no matter how many reps you do. That’s the reason why most Crossfitters (the males especially) are lean, but not huge.
Pro: It’s fun!
Do you like to train in groups? Do you enjoy being pushed and pushing others to be their best? If so, then you’ll probably love the atmosphere at a Crossfit gym. Crossfit has become just as popular among weekend warriors as it has among serious athletes, and that’s mainly due to its great group dynamic.
Even if you’re doing Crossfit by yourself or in a commercial gym, it can still be a ton of fun. There are new workouts every week, new goals to set, and a huge online community of like-minded people. Then again, all of these things exist for bodybuilders and powerlifters, as well.
Con: It sucks!
And here’s the flip-side: most Crossfit workouts are downright painful! Even the toughest high-rep set of squats or deadlifts is over with in fairly short order, but some metcons take nearly an hour to complete. Do you think you can endure round after round of circuit training, gasping for breath the whole time? Do you even want to? You’ll feel awesome afterwards, but it’s a lot to take on. It’s a unique kind of person that thrives on this kind of training, that’s for sure.
Pro: You get tons of variety.
If you can’t stand to do the same workout two weeks in a row, then Crossfit may definitely appeal. The official website puts out a new workout almost every day, and many of the affiliated gyms come up with their own routines. Even if you never follow the main site or take outside direction, you’ve got almost limitless variations to try. After all, most Crossfit workouts are, at their core, just REALLY hard circuits. Even the most sparsely-equipped gym provides limitless options.
Con: You don’t get enough specific practice.
Of course, there’s a downside to all that variation: a lack of targeted practice. One of the big beefs with Crossfit is that it doesn’t help athletes work towards a defined goal. Crossfitters often say they want to be “as fit as possible” or something along those lines, but what does that really mean? A gigantic powerlifter is “fit” to hoist hundreds of pounds, and a skinny runner is “fit” to run marathons. Without a definite goal, you won’t make EXCEPTIONAL progress at anything. You’ll just be pretty good at lots of things. Does that appeal?
The Final Word
If you’re someone who hasn’t settled on a specific physical goal, then Crossfit is probably worth a try. You will get into better shape, and you’ll probably get leaner. Depending on where you’re at right now, you might even gain a little muscle.
If you’re trying to get huge, however, full-time Crossfit is almost certainly NOT for you. It’s fine to throw in a metcon once or even twice per week, but your main focus should be strength. You may think you can take on the world now, but see how strong you feel after a few weeks of intense circuit training. I can almost guarantee that your strength will tank.
Justin Woltering is a distinguished Fitness Expert, Author, and Dymatize Sponsored Athlete. See www.justinwoltering.com