15 Ways CrossFit Can Build Muscle, Shed Fat, and Improve Your Life!!

I thought this would be a great time to express my thoughts and feelings about an underground phenomenon (well it’s actually pretty mainstream now) that is taking the fitness industry by storm. I’m talking about the “C” word.  Ok, I’ll just say it – CROSSFIT.  Nowadays, it seems there are 3 things that you don’t openly discuss: Religion, Politics, and CROSSFIT.  There are a lot of critics out there who have their reservations for various reasons (some warranted, some not), however, speaking as someone who is not a certified Crossfit coach, does not workout at a Crossfit gym, does not own or operate a Crossfit affiliate but has competed at a relatively high level in Crossfit (17th in Canada West Regionals in 2011), I think the training system has some merit. I would like to be one of the few (maybe even the first??) people who have no vested interest in Crossfit to speak out about the positive side.  Here are 4 reasons why I think Crossfit is a good thing:

1. For the first time fitness can be defined and measured – I’ve spent most of my adult life in the gym and managed to stay in pretty good shape for most of those years. The problem was, prior to Crossfit, I never really knew how fit I was. I could use different measures like body composition and various strength tests to get a rough idea but even then I would only be testing things that I was good at so it still seemed a little biased.

Crossfit is constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity and defines fitness as work capacity across broad time and modal domains. I think most knowledgeable and experienced fitness professionals would agree that functional movement and intensity are two key ingredients to getting results regardless of the clientele you are working with.

As far as work capacity goes, this is simply a measure of power (force x distance/time), which is a basic scientific formula. Essentially, do more work in less time. So for all the pundits who say that Crossfit has no scientific foundation, I strongly beg to differ. There are some who may disagree with this definition of fitness but I’ve yet to see or hear of anyone coming up with anything more accurate or effective. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe there are many ways to get in great shape without doing Crossfit but if you want a “TRUE TEST OF FITNESS” Crossfit seems to be the only objective measure.

2. The unique and effective blend of training modalities – If you want to get scientific, all the research says that high intensity strength training performed in a circuit fashion (i.e. “fight gone bad” – 3 rounds of push presses, box jumps, sumo high pulls, wall balls, and rowing performed for 1 min each) or high intensity strength training and plyometrics mixed with short bursts of high intensity cardio (i.e. “Kelly” 5 rounds of 400m run, 30 box jumps, 30 wall balls) are the most effective methods for building muscle and burning fat simultaneously. Sounds a hell of a lot like Crossfit to me. So what’s the problem? Exercise selection? Progression? These are all things to take into account whether you are a Crossfit coach or a trainer at Gold’s Gym. Crossfit is hard, there’s no disputing that but that doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from it under the right programming. If anything, Crossfit has taken the most effective and challenging movements and allowed the general public to reap the benefits.

3. The Paleo Diet – There always has and always will be debates over the most effective training methods and nutrition is no different. Crossfit is the first strength and conditioning program that has taken a strong stance on the importance of sound nutrition to maximize the results of their training system. The Paleo diet, which some may find quite strict and difficult to sustain, points us in the right direction of what our everyday eating habits should be. To quote the infamous Crossfit Founder, Greg Glassman “Meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, NO SUGAR.”  Now is this diet ideal for everybody? Absolutely not.  Is it a huge step in the right direction? ABSOLUTELY!

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Remember, Greg Glassman is known for INVENTING Crossfit, not doing it!

4. The Crossfit Journal – The internet can be an overwhelming resource for information. The Crossfit Journal has proven to be a phenomenal one-stop resource for strength and conditioning. Want to learn proper technique for a power clean? Want to learn progressions for handstand pushups? Want to become a better runner? Want to build a kick ass home gym? The Crossfit Journal has it all and more! You can always expect the best as “specialists” from various fields including Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and gymnastics deliver the most up to date information. With articles, videos, and podcasts on wide range of topics, there’s always something to look forward to. For $25/year, the Crossfit Journal definitely gets an A+.

5. Crossfit Kids – We all know the youth of today are lazier and fatter than they’ve ever been. Teaching kids the benefits of regular functional exercise and good nutrition will help to build a foundation of good lifestyle habits that carry on well into adulthood. Not to mention, the potential for developing some fierce athletes. Kudos Crossfit for keeping our future healthy and fit.

6. The Crossfit Games – Not power lifting, not bodybuilding, not strongman, not triathlon, but the sport of fitness. I’m not taking anything away from the previously mentioned sports but the Crossfit Games is something to marvel. I’ve had the opportunity to watch the Crossfit games live on more than one occasion and it is one of the best sporting events I’ve ever been to. The atmosphere and energy are unmatched in any other sport. It’s the first time I’ve watched a sport where everybody was cheering for everybody! No booing, no trash talking, everyone wanted everyone to do well.

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if you’ve never attended the Crossfit Games add it to your bucket list

Crossfit has filled a void in the sports market by creating an entirely new breed of athlete. It is a tremendous feat to be able to run a sub 6min mile, deadlift 500+ lbs, and pump out 50+ unbroken pullups. With Reebok as the official sponsor, credibility and sustainability are becoming less of an issue. Through this, Crossfit has given me the opportunity to compete with some of the best athletes in Canada (even the world for that matter). At the age of 35, that level of competition is far and few between. Knowing that this level of competition is still within reach for me makes training that much more fulfilling.

7. High Rep Olympic Weightlifting – That’s right, I said it. High rep Olympic weightlifting can be extremely beneficial once a certain level of proficiency has been developed. This is probably one of the most controversial aspects of Crossfit.  Crossfit has done a great job of giving Olympic weightlifting more mainstream appeal. The strength, power and athleticism required to perform these lifts is what makes them so beneficial. No one can deny that taking a weight from the ground to overhead is a highly functional movement. However, performing a clean and jerk for a one-rep max is a completely different story than doing 30 reps for time at a sub maximal weight (i.e. “Grace”). The power output and metabolic conditioning this provides far exceeds any other compound movement. With proper progression, the Olympic lifts performed at high intensity can be your best bang for your buck!

Here’s a video of me doing some “high reps” and getting a killer workout!

8. Crossfitters work out with their shirts off BECAUSE THEY CAN! – Let’s face it, aside from leading a healthy lifestyle most people work out because they want to look better. Most guys want that lean and chiseled physique that carries just the right amount of muscle but not too much. Most women want just the right amount of curves and muscle tone without looking masculine. I think Crossfit pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one. Even though the focus was never on aesthetics, Crossfit has helped produce some of the greatest physiques in fitness. High intensity exercise coupled with good nutrition? Novel concept.

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Arguably, some of the most impressive physiques in all of fitness are a product of Crossfit

9.  The community – Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something, a sense of belonging if you will. Crossfit has done a great job of creating a community that is both encouraging and supportive.  A Crossfit box is a lot like Cheers, “it’s where everybody knows your name.”  This definitely makes working out more fun and sustainable.

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minus the beer and excessive loafing, Crossfit is a lot like Cheers!

10. There’s a lot of barbell training – If most of your time in the gym is spent working with a barbell, you have no choice but to get big and strong!  Deadlifts, squats, shoulder presses, cleans, you name it and you’ll find it with Crossfit.  Don’t let the myths fool you, there’s a lot of strength and muscle to be gained.

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there’s no shortage of iron in Crossfit

11. There’s a lot of bodyweight training – The next best thing to pumping iron is effective bodyweight training.  With exercises like dips, pullups, handstand pushups, and muscle ups you are going to get more than your fill of great bodyweight exercises.

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the muscle up is a signature bodyweight exercise in Crossfit

12. There’s a lot of conditioning – There’s no shortage of heavy breathing and lactic acid with Crossfit.  The intensity of Crossfit is undisputed but with that comes elite conditioning and the ability to literally melt fat off your body.  The interval training and intense “metcons” make this an ideal choice for anyone trying to lean out.

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conditioning is inevitable with Crossfit

13. It’s easier on the body – If you’ve been training for a number of years then you know what it’s like to suffer from the aches and pains of repetitive stress.  Crossfit can take a toll on the body if you are competing at a high level but for the average meathead who benches 3 time a week the variety Crossfit provides will work wonders for your soft tissue health.  Rotating from heavy to light loading and from longer to shorter workouts keeps the body guessing and prevents the onset of chronic pain.

14. Competition brings the best out of everybody – If you’ve ever been an athlete at any point in your life then I don’t have to explain to you the feeling that comes from going head to head with your peers.  A surefire way to get one more rep is when egos and bragging rights are on the line. Even if you’re feeling tired that day, a little competition may be all you need to redeem your workout.

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competition is the cornerstone of human performance

15. You stay in shape all year long – No more “cutting” and “bulking.”  The well-rounded approach to the Crossfit methodology allows you to stay lean and strong year round.  No more restrictive dieting and arduous “cardio” sessions.

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not a bad physique to have 12 months out of the year!

These are just a few reasons why I think there are some serious gains to be made with Crossfit.  It’s certainly not perfect but what training program is?  Be open-minded and try new things, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Have you ever done a Crossfit workout? If so, what was your experience like? Drop a comment below!

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