What is Crossfit and what is it good for?

What is Crossfit and what is it good for?

Crossfit is a form ofCrossfit fitness training that has recently become very popular. Crossfit has been founded in 2000 by Greg Glassman and Laura Jenai and has grown significantly ever since. Crossfit training uses elements from different training forms and sports such as weight lifting, power lifting, strongmen training, exercises using one’s own bodyweight and interval training. It is aimed to develop all aspects of fitness which according to the founders consists of strength, speed, power, anaerobic endurance/capacitycardiovascular endurance, joint flexibility (ROM), balance, coördination, agility and dexterity. The underlying thought is that someone can only be fit, when he or she scores well in all these domains and has no weak links anymore. Therefore Crossfit training does not aim to specialise in one domain, but to become the ultimate allrounder. Aside from a training form, Crossfit has become a sport as well in which athletes compete with eachother for the title of fittest man or woman in the world at the Crossfit Games.

Although Crossfit training constantly varies and differ between boxes (Crossfit gym) there is a common template which is generally followed. A training always consists of a warm up, followed by strength and/or technique training in one or more strength exercises. After this, the Workout of the Day (WOD for the initiated) follows. A WOD consists of a combination of exercises that have to be completed as quickly as possible (a training for time) or have to be performed as many times as possible within a set time period (as many reps as possible or AMRAP). Training intensity therefore is in virtually every WOD very high. The exercises within a WOD normally combine push and pull movements and leg exercises. By constantly varying the exercises, all muscle groups will be trained regularly.

At the moment of writing not much research has been performed to the effects of Crossfit. The few studies that have been performed indicate that Crossfit is a very effective from of training to increase maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) and improve body composition. This can be explained by the high intensity of Crossfit training, which reaches 80% of VO2max and 90% of maximum heart frequency. Although no studies have been performed to the effects of Crossfit on strength and power, studies on similar high intensity training programs show that Crossfit is likely to be effective in this area as well.

One of the most common points of criticism on Crossfit is the relatively high risk of injury. Quite a few exercises from weight lifting require good form and technique. In addition many exercises are explosive in nature which causes higher joint forces than during regular resistance training. Another factor is letting your body take time to recover from the high intensity workout. However, when exercises are taught properly and are performed with the right amount of weight, the risk of injury decreases markedly and comparable to regular resistance training or sport-specific training. Proper instruction is paramount, even for more experienced Crossfit athletes.

For who?

Because training weights, training intensity and frequency can be adapted to suit everyone, Crossfit can be an effective and suitable form of training for everyone who is healthy. Many exercises are explosive in nature and people suffering from injury or pain may have to reduce training intensity or perform an alternative exercise. As always however, care must be taken.

What can I use it for?

Although not much research has been done on Crossfit training it has been proven very effective in improving endurance, decrease bodyfat percentage and increase strength. It can be used to improve sports performance in a particular sport until a point, however when one wants to specialise in a specific sport, sport specific training will yield better results.

Advice

Losing weight and fat: Two to three times a week for beginners.

Improving endurance: Two to three times a week for beginners. More experienced athletes up until five times a week or combined with high intensity interval training.

Improving speed, power or strength: Two to three times a week for beginners. More experienced athletes up until five times a week, or combine with seperate strength or power workouts.

References:

-Crossfit Schagen

-Smith, M.M., Sommer, A.J., Starkoff, B.E., Devor, S.T. Crossfit-based high-intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2013, 27, 11, 3159-3172.

-Babiash, P.E. Determining the energy expenditure and relative intensity of two Crossfit workouts. 2013.

-Voordouw, R.R. Het Verband tussen Zware Krachttraining en Schade aan gewrichten, 2007.