Those of us interested in strength training and cardio to enhance our overall physique, fitness and natural wellness have often had to go through some grueling and punishing workouts over the years. Stacked with a variety of celebrity workout programs, companies have launched an uncountable number of fad diets in hopes of generating income from those people willing to shell out money for fitness training.
Unfortunately for someone who's new to fitness and weight training, it can be difficult to spot the useless programs and fad diets from the legit programs that are geared toward actually improving your lifestyle.
Over the years, a program has grown in popularity from coast to coast that has generated a lot of buzz among doctors, fitness experts, personal trainers, professional athletes and more - It's the CrossFit system. This methodology has sparked both interest and controversy over the years, and like many of the other workout programs and weight conditions systems there are a lot of people on the fence wondering if CrossFit is a fad or if it's something more.
What Is CrossFit?
In the simplest of terms, CrossFit can be defined as a strength and conditioning system that is designed to promote both broad and targeted physical fitness. The system combines a wide variety of exercises to ensure that a total fitness level is achieved, ensuring balance in the body. This is obtained through a combination of workouts in:
- Weight lifting or Weight training
- Sprinting or Distance Running
In order to gain the most benefit from the CrossFit program, someone training through CrossFit should be at least moderately familiar or proficient in key areas that equal what CrossFit refers to as "10 fitness domains":
- Respiratory and cardio endurance
CrossFit was created to focus on working across each of the 10 domains. According to CrossFit, this is achieved by promoting neurological and hormonal adaptations across all of the metabolic pathways in the body.
Because of the nature of the conditioning and exercises involved, there should be an established workout program that exists in the life of the individual. They should be able to meet basic exercises that involve those 10 domains without difficulty. As such, it's widely believed that the CrossFit workout system is not meant for people new to exercise. Trained athletes, professional and critics routinely state their opinion on that matter, warning new athletes (and in some cases everyone) to stay away from the system.
Those athletes involved in CrossFit typically perform exercises that involve running, rowing, jumping or climbing rope, hefting and moving large objects, including shuttling objects over long distances, performing powerlifting maneuvers and Olympic weightlifting techniques. Part of the workout involved the use of free weights, gymnastic rings, pull-up bars and a large variety of other bodyweight workouts.
This isn't a system that you learn from reading a simple book, or grabbing a DVD like Tae Bo, CrossFit is a major system used in over 2,000 gyms around the world. That's part of the reason why it's gained so much controversy and attention. Despite the attention it has received, the CrossFit system continues to be used by even professionals in civil service such as police, fire, EMS and military personnel.
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The CrossFit Process
While the CrossFit system is available in a number of ways, it's most commonly found at affiliated gyms across the nation. The company, CrossFit Inc. will certify trainers and license the CrossFit name and program to gyms that wish to become affiliated. Those affiliates are free to develop their own systems, instructional methods, pricing, etc. There is actually a large number of practicing trainers and athletes within the CrossFit system that have taken a position that questions traditional and conventional fitness methods, a position that has sparked a fair amount of controversy on its own (which will be covered a bit later in this article)
CrossFit classes are offered to members where the classes include a generalized warm-up session, skill development for those participating and then a high-intensity workout that lasts from 10-to-20 minutes. Those affiliate centers or gyms typically create a "workout of the day" or "WOD" that is highlighted in each step of the classes, geared toward targeting specific body muscle groups or promoting a certain area of fitness within the body. In an effort to step up interest and generate come competitive sport among trainers, affiliates have been known to use scoring and rank systems to motivate those taking part in the classes.
CrossFit does offer training through their fitness system outside of the affiliate gyms, and many athletes have been known to utilize the free workouts and instructional content available through the CrossFit website though many attest that without the right equipment and training present it's difficult to perform the exercises properly.
Intensity Training - It Takes A Certain Type
The emphasis of the CrossFit training system, for anyone involved, is on speed and total weight being lifted - the emphasis is not on technique. This complete emphasis and importance being placed on quantifiable results has attracted a number of people that wholly back the system because they believe in it. After all they're achieving results using this system.
Weight trainers who are working to develop power and tone know that you have to push the muscle to the point of fatigue so that the muscle needs to rebuild and strengthen itself. That's why common weight training techniques involve pushing to the point of exhaustion, then quickly fueling the muscles so they can rebuild with the proper nutrients. With each forward step in a workout program over the course of months (and years), weight lifters gradually increase the weight, frequency and intensity of their workouts to continue to stack lean muscle.
CrossFit is designed to build muscle mass in a manner that is both explosive and balanced over the entire body. Despite the results that many have seen while working within the CrossFit program, there are still many exercise experts that are troubled by many "fad" aspects within the system - particularly the lack of guidance for beginners.
It's extremely easy for an individual new to exercise to dive headlong into stressful workouts, and the results could be harmful. This is especially true for people who have not actively worked out in a number of years. Any individual involved in medicine and exercise knows that an unskilled person cannot participate in this system without injuring themselves - at least that's the take that experts are holding on to.
Another sect of experts feel that the intensity of the workouts in the CrossFit "fad" system don't just pose a simple risk to inexperienced athletes, but to fit people who work out regularly as well. Anyone who exercises strenuously at too rapid of a pace without proper warm up or orientation (and often even with proper warm up) risk temporary and even permanent injury.
The great issue of debate comes back to technique, where exercises of this intensity without form have a much higher potential for injury, particularly to the joints and the back.
Despite the risks there are a number of athletes that remain advocates, charging that the CrossFit diet is not a fad, and it delivers just the challenge that they feel is necessary in order to motivate themselves. It's especially appealing to individuals that like to push the limits of fitness and strength such as military personnel, fire fighters, police officers and EMS. They tend to feel like the risk is worth it, because it's no greater than the risk they take every day in their work, and they are hard pressed to find a more challenging workout.
It's no surprise that many take the stance considering some of the more traditional workouts that exist in the CrossFit system. By the definition of the workouts alone, these short grueling sessions aren't for the faint of heart or the weekend warrior who spends a couple hours a week at the gym. The 3-day-on with one rest day includes intense workouts that push the physical limits of the body far beyond the point of people who are of average shape.
The intensity of the workouts in the CrossFit system is one of the reasons it's received the "Fad" label, as a sense of elitism is established among those who take part and punish themselves through the bulk of the strict and risk-laden workouts.
The CrossFit Reputation
CrossFit has been labeled a fad, a cult, a grassroots health movement, a nascent sport, a fitness company, a publishing business and a variety of other tags that have caused constant shifts in the brand and reputation. Many of the athletes and trainers who exist within the CrossFit system do have a sense of elitism, considering themselves part of an insurgent movement that goes against traditional and more conventional fitness methods - in their eyes, the proof is in the results.
Its reputation of being friend or fad stems from both the pros and cons that exist in such an extreme conditioning and workout system. The fact is one should never really base the decision of taking part in a workout program based solely on reputation and word of mouth. We do more often than not, but when it comes to programs like this it's far more important to focus on the results that are achieved overall and how those results are gained.
The Benefits Of The CrossFit System
Judging by the research data alone, there's proof enough to see that the CrossFit system drives results through explosive conditioning. This is not a new concept, and it's not something that was devised by CrossFit. This method of weight training and conditioning has been in practice for some time now. All the same, this form of exercise does provide the most results in the shortest amount of time without requiring hours of your day, every day.
Another perk to the CrossFit system is that it's readily available in major cities throughout the U.S. Those who are interested in pursuing CrossFit for their own training are able to easily locate an affiliated gym where they can sign up for classes and additional training.
Finally, the official website does offer a fair amount of supportive information for athletes including free resources and video content, a frequently asked questions segment and access to a community to discuss information on both exercises and nutrition.
Those who are set on speaking out against CrossFit focus on the importance that CrossFit places on speed and weight instead of form and technique. While it's true that you can injure yourself much more easily if you're not using proper form, this isn't exclusive to the CrossFit system. An athlete can injure themselves just as easily in any other workout. For those who don't understand how to protect their core system while not using proper technique are more apt to be injured. This is one of those clear situations where inexperience breeds injury.
Experts believe there is a clear lack of direction, training and understand for new athletes or others who are new to the CrossFit system. Overall, they believe that information is lacking, which only makes it easier for new members to perform inappropriate exercises. For those who cannot perform the common exercises of CrossFit, there are few alternatives. Despite the fact that CrossFit has been around for years, the substitute exercises are still in development with few real alternative exercises available. It leaves many with the mindset of "if you cannot perform, you do not belong."
Is CrossFit friend or fad? It's a matter of opinion. This is a highly-refined system of exercises and training programs that are geared toward the more experienced athlete. It's understandable why so many feel that the system is a fad, or a bit on the cult side, but regardless of the stance it's difficult to argue with hard results from people who successfully use the system almost every day, no matter how many injuries come up.