CrossFit Training – A Beginner’s Guide


CrossFit Training - A Beginner's Guide

Remember, ‘The Rabbit and Tortoise’ story that taught us how slow and steady wins the race?

No disregard to the classic story, I have always believed the tortoise was plain lucky. I mean if the rabbit hadn’t fallen asleep, he’d definitely have won the race. Any way the point is, slow and steady cannot bag the title when it comes to world sports. Today, we need not just strength, but strength at the right moment, in the right amount. And that is precisely what CrossFitters aim to achieve.

When you train specific for a sport for e.g. weightlifting or trithalon, you use only one metabolic pathway, whereas CrossFit makes you use all three of them (glycolytic, phosphagen and oxidative). CrossFit lets you be extra-ordinary by making you realize the importance of things you deemed as, well, ordinary. Lets see how.

What is CrossFit?

Its a holistic fitness program that speaks of fitness as a ‘proper conditioning of body’ and not as performing or practicing along a single mode of activity. CrossFit was developed in 1980s by coach Greg Glassman, when he created a fitness routine that could deliberately focus on all ten fitness competencies at once (Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy). It was only in the 90s, that this regimen gained recognition as “CrossFit.”

So, you can see, it has been here for very long and is therefore, not a fad that’ll diffuse off next year.

Anyway, it is a well known fact that the breadth and depth of a person’s fitness will always be parallel to the breadth and depth of their training stimulus. So, here the stimulus lies in ‘harnessing the spirit of competition.’

The philosophy behind :Competition is motivation!

It was an observation that men will die for points, that people push limits only when they are competing and exactly that’s the reason behind perception of CrossFit as a community. Your performance will be recorded publicly which yields an unparalleled amount of intensity.

USP : Highly moldable and universally scalable program (no more than an hour for warm up, exercises and cool down)

What to expect

  • A gym, casually known as The Box.
  • Exercises based on the primal (and functional) movements like sitting, standing, running, swimming, jumping, lunging, etc. Thus, for improved competency and greater exposure you’ll be trained to bike, run, swim, and row for variable distances.
  • A fitness sport like feel where the competition and comradeship will bring about an unmatched intensity in the workouts.
  • Your output being measured at each level and regimes comprising of  time priority and task priority movements.
  • Intimidating terms like power snatch, slam, push jerk and horrifying ones like Death by Burpees (Ask for an introductory class)
  • In the beginning you’ll be asked to and you must focus on the mechanics of each of the exercises. Once you attain the skill, intensity and load will be increased depending upon your abilities.
  • Sore muscles and some vomits initially (Some boxes will even award you for that!)
  • Rest are wonderful and unmatched results

Essential Exercises

  • A pattern of Couplet (easy)-Focus-Couplet (intense)-Rest.
  • Focus exercises include focus on either natural movements, gymnastic or weightlifting.
  • Functional couplet, is simply a combination of two forms of functional exercise protocols –  weightlifting and gymnastics. While first stimulates body for developing overall strength, power, speed and explosive hip extension, latter would bestow you with enhanced coordination, balance, agility, trunk control and upper body strength.
  • Keeping that in mind, WOD or Workout of the Day is designed. It is meant to challenge your body with new stuff everyday forcing it to adapt and evolve with each new move. The exercises will push your limits all the time but do not throw yourself into all WOD blindly. You must take time to correct your movements and work upon your weaknesses. Intermittently focusing on your efficiency will make you the athlete you have every potential to be.

Equipment used :Gymnastics rings, barbellsbumper plates, dumbbellsparallel bars, pull-up barsmedicine balls, rope, mats, and some odds and ends like kettlebells, a giant tire, and sandbags

How to get started with CrossFitting

  • Do some research. Shop owners who sell workout equipment are best people to consult.
  • Visit local boxes and check out their vibe.
  • Size up a box based on the equipment and the trainer. Its important to feel comfortable with the way coach interacts with you and also how he interacts with others. A responsible coach wouldn’t sit calling out instructions, rather walk around to see if everybody’s feeling okay.

Who should do it  : Anyone aspiring for a stronger, leaner, more powerful, faster, more agile, balanced and more coordinated body. Having a competitive spirit with sportsmanship is definitely a plus.

Who should not do it : People with musculo-skeletal disorders.

Diet :Caveman or Paleolithic nutrition, as it is believed evolution of human body is lagging behind the agricultural advances. That, hypothetically makes modern diets ill-suited for our genetic composition. So, no pasta baby, and absolutely no sugar!!

Facts & Misconceptions

1. It is a practice. (Misconception)

With CrossFit you train yourself. A training is defined with terms like Functional, Varied and Intense. On the other hand, practice makes use of  Specific, Consistent and low intensity. So, CrossFit is a training or practice, take your pick.

2. It is a supplement training program. (True)

With CrossFit, what trainers are aiming at, are to be the jack of all trades, and king of none. As is evident from their repeated statement, ” Our specialty is not specializing.” So, though considered complete in itself, most athletes use it to supplement their other training programs.

3. Your impulses are heightened and much better reflexes. (True)

While training for CrossFit, nerve impulses are fired much more than usual and travel to and from the brain at around 170 miles per hour.

4. It is only for sportsperson. (Misconception)

The difference between the needs of elite athletes and aged people is only of the degree, and not kind. At any local CrossFit box, finding retired daddies training next to rugby players is not a rare sight. All because the functional movements are same.

5. It is not for weight loss. (False)

When you are working on a larger number of muscles with shorter and more intense routines than those in a typical gym routine, burning fat is inevitable. However, since, it is basically for increasing body performance, fat loss is considered more like a side-effect than an intended outcome.

6. CrossFit is a cult. (False)

Fitness classes are always considered a cult by outsiders. Likewise some call CrossFit a cult too [1]. However, in real its more of a welcoming community where you’ll find your classmates beating you ass one day while simultaneously cheering for you to push you to work harder too.

Benefits

How is it different from other exercises?

The reason I included it in this section is, because all the benefits are basically the very reasons that make this workout so unique and interesting than others.

Now, the model of selection of exercises here includes uniqueness of motor pattern, demands on flexibility, utility and neurological value, range of joint motion, important parameters of line of action (uniqueness, length and strength), and, of course, potential for metabolically induced discomfort. So much of brain work and what you get is a basket full of benefits that include:

1. A well rounded fitness

You’ll be trained from weightlifting to gymnastics, from rudimentary movements to the most advanced ones, oiling all three metabolic pathways and developing your explosive power [2].

2. No bulking up

As their philosophy goes, they don’t create body builders, rather athletes. So, women don’t need to worry that they’ll lose their form to a bulked up body. What you’ll get in the end is an athletic strong built.

3. Prepares athletes for all sorts of contingencies

Contingencies not only the unknown but the unknowable as well. CrossFit teaches you how to better control external objects and master critical motor recruitment patterns as the movements are always evolving and hence, new.

4. No plateau effect

With its unique exercise regime of Workout OF Day, no two workouts will ever be same. Hence, there remains absolutely no chance for your muscles to get used to one specific kind of movement. The result is an ever ascending graph of strength and flexibility.

5. Refreshing functional workout

Warning Signs

1. Feeling nauseous and dizzy: The results of crossfitting are measurable, but initially people are not able to gauge the intensity of their workout and hence, feel nauseous and dizzy. That’s because you still haven’t learnt the technique well. Don’t worry it’ll pass away next time as the trainer teaches you. Although, one has to understand the difference between discomfort and pain and must stop if the workout is not comfortable. Its hard for the trainer to know if you don’t say anything right, so you must listen to your body.

2. Rhabdomylosis: A rare and serious health condition where due to overwork, muscle fibers start breaking down and enter the bloodstream. As a result, urine turns brown. If left untreated, it can even lead to kidney damage or, worse, failure. Though overwork is not specific to any exercise form, it is linked more often to CrossFit. More so because fit people come in box, thinking they can go way too hard with their bodies and that too much before their bodies have acclimated to the volume and intensity. So, you must take it slow always.

In case, you have been a fan of 300, the movie on Spartans, and have wondered how the army of King Leonidas managed to get those warrior muscles in time as little as four months, I believe you must give CrossFit a shot and see the drama unfold yourself!!

Also, look at this resource on amazing 113 push-up variations and exercises.

References

[1] Rebekah Sanderlin. Commando-style workout has cult following. Fayetteville Observer. Published on Monday, December 18, 2006

[2] Smith MM, Sommer AJ, Starkoff BE, Devor ST. Crossfit-based high-intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Nov;27(11):3159-72. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318289e59f. PMID: 23439334

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