In recent years, CrossFit has gained more and more popularity and has been said to be the new optimal type of training.
For the most part, people that partake in CrossFit sessions join the community and generally, they start to believe in that type of training a bit too much, almost religiously.
And while we’re not shaming CrossFit, extremes shouldn’t be reached, period.
Each type of training has its pros and cons and so does CrossFit.
What is CrossFit Workouts?
If you look at other, specific goal-oriented sports disciplines, such as Olympic weightlifting, you have one single goal in mind.
For most sports, that is the development of just a couple of physical properties.
In the weightlifting example, that would be maximum strength and explosiveness.
That’s the goal, simply because, after all, the winner of the contest is the one who lifts the most weight, with the most proper form, in the respective weight class.
That however, is not the case with CrossFit.
The goal of this new-era type of training is to create the ULTIMATE athlete, who has an even development of all physical properties, instead of maximum development of a single one.
That is to say that CF combines many sports disciplines — Gymnastics, weight lifting, sprinting, rowing, mid to long distance running, etc.
The goal of CrossFit is to give you a good overall development of the body, as well as the mind.
If you want to be well developed overall, you would need to improve quite a few physical properties: Cardio-vascular & respiratory endurance, strength, strength endurance, explosiveness, speed, coordination, agility, balance, flexibility and dexterity.
Generally, we don’t really use fancy equipment and machines in CF, but instead, it is rather simple.
The main tools used, to develop the optimally functional physique are kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, parallel bars, pull up bars and last but not least, gravity.
Or in other words, our bodyweight!
We mostly observe workouts of high intensity of effort, along with little to no rest in-between.
Core ideology & property analysis
The modern-day man progressively gets further and further away from the natural human movement patterns.
Many of us have adopted a lifestyle of low activity, where we sit down in front of a computer for more than 40% of our wake time, and we call physical activity “Training”.
Well, the body was not made to function that way.
I mean come on! Remember the best-developed physique you have ever seen.
It looks unearthly, admit it. It is like a literal bio-suit.
The fibers, the roundness of the muscles, the strength and endurance expressed.
The human body and its musculature were made to FUNCTION! Functional movement is everywhere in nature and especially in the past of human nature.
Our ancestors used to throw, lift, pull and push, climb, run, crawl, sprint and jump. Every. Single. Day.
Movement is embossed deep into our DNA and no one can take it from you, and that is exactly what CrossFit is all about- Functional development and mobility in the environment.
Functionality and mobility are the abilities of the individual to efficiently move the body or other objects in space.
So, simple bicep curls and other isolated movements are not really the best workout you can do.
Instead, the focus should be on compound, multi-joint exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, parallel bar dips, pull-ups, push-ups, swings, climbing, overhead pressing, lunges, crawling, sprinting etc.
And so, by combining such activities and exercises, we achieve the development of the physical properties listed above.
For those of you who do not exactly know what they mean, we’ll give you a good definition of each.
- Cardio-vascular & respiratory endurance
The ability of the organism to absorb, distribute and transport oxygen throughout the body, efficiently.
- Strength & strength endurance
Strength is the ability of the muscle motor units (muscle fibers) to generate force. Strength endurance is the ability of the organism to store, distribute, deliver and use muscle energy.
Explosiveness is the ability of the muscle motor units to generate as much force for as little time, as possible.
This is the ability of the musculature and the nervous system to do a repeated motion as quickly as possible.
This is the ability to combine a couple of different motions into one single, complex motion.
This is the ability to quickly transition between different motions or movements.
This is the ability to control your center of gravity and weight distribution
This is the ability to increase the range of motion of a given joint- Being able to use the full potential of each part of your skeleton.
This is the skill of performing complex tasks with your limbs- hands in particular.
Well, for the most part, CrossFit is a big combination of workouts, but there is one thing it lacks- Training specialization.
Most CF trainers beg their trainees to forget about pre-determined numbers of sets, repetitions, rest times and periodization, such as cutting and bulking.
The whole idea is a diversity of each training parameter (Intensity, volume and density).
And so, if you’re training with a light weight and high repetitions, you won’t really develop good levels of strength and strength endurance and vice versa.
That is to say that each type of training has its pros and cons, which is why CrossFitters’ biggest weapon is the diversity of exercises and intensity of effort.
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The dangers of CrossFit
As you’ve read so far, CF is quite intense, full of movements with little to no rest. That is exactly why, we wouldn’t recommend high-end workouts to beginners who are just starting to get into training.
A beginner’s goal should be developing the basic physical properties and gradually adapting to previous, unknown stress.
In fact, there is a dangerous condition, linked to CrossFit and that is called “Rhabdomyolysis”, or as CrossFitters refer to it- Rhabdo.
When this happens, the muscles break down and release a protein into the bloodstream, called myoglobin.
And this, ladies and gents, is a no-no. Rhabdo, leads to kidney failure and in extreme cases, it can even be lethal.
Quite recently, a well-known female trainee was actually hospitalized, after an intense CF workout. Read more about it here
Generally, rhabdomyolysis is linked to actual physical trauma and not training, but since the rise of CrossFit training, the cases of this condition have seen a 20-fold increase.
Rhabdo happens when the cells are overly-depleted of energy. Logically, knowing the type of training that CF offers, it can be a pretty good reason for this to happen.
When the cells are in a deficit of energy, the necessary functions cannot be maintained and so, homeostasis (balance) is disturbed.
Following that, the walls of the cells get pretty much injured and start leaking the above-mentioned myoglobin.
Again, we are not discrediting CrossFit, but we rather make sure to let you know of the dangers involved with this type of training, so that you can stay safe.
The body has its boundaries and each type of physical activity we take on, should be well-planned.
CrossFit workouts for beginners
Now that we know of the main idea behind CrossFit, the pros, cons, as well as the ideology and dangers, we can start getting into the workouts.
As mentioned above, a beginner trainee should focus on the basics, in order to develop the fundamental physical properties.
The workouts are good for both genders, male and female. Exercise map with visual showcase and written execution steps can be seen after level 3.
Before you get into any specific CrossFit workouts, make sure you are good at the following:
Level 1- Bodyweight squats, push-ups, pull-ups and dips
These 4 exercises can be done in a circuit with little to no rest, if you are a complete beginner.
The repetitions should be 10+ for the upper body and 15+ for the lower body.
The order of the exercises should be as follows- Pushing exercise, pulling exercise, lower body exercise, pushing exercise. In this case, that can be Dips, pull-ups, squats, push-ups
A circuit is complete when 1 set of all 4 has been done 1 after the other. After that’s done, we get 30-60 seconds of rest before the next circuit, or up to 90-120 seconds if it is too tiring.
Level 2- Throw in some handstands and lunges
Once you feel you’ve adapted to level 1, start throwing in more circuits and of course, more exercises.
Again, follow the diverse order, where you have different functions with each following exercise (Pushing, pulling, etc.).
That will allow your muscle groups to recover optimally before the next circuit. Instead of doing 2 pushing exercises in a row, do a pushing exercise, a pulling one, then a lower body and only then a pushing exercise again.
For the handstands, you can use a wall to balance.
Level 3- Time for some weights!
At some point, bodyweight exercises will become easy. That’s when you can use 1-2 bodyweight circuits for a warm-up and then, transition to doing weights.
Beginner weighted exercises: Back squats, overhead barbell press, deadlifts, barbell clean and jerks
We follow the same opposing order, where a pushing exercise is followed by a pulling exercise.
The goal here is to complete a circuit as quickly as possible. Time attack.
If you need rest between exercises, take it. Don’t overdo it.
However, aim for a progressively bigger challenge by decreasing rest times, increasing weights, repetitions, sets and numbers of circuits.
- Place your feet at shoulder width
- Bend knees slightly and keep the toes pointing to the sides slightly
- Keep your back straight, head looking up
- Place your arms crossed on your shoulders
- Squat down until your hamstrings are parallel to the ground
- Place your hands on the ground slightly wider than shoulder width
- Straighten the body, keeping the feet close and head looking forward
- Keep your hips stable, without letting them fall down (core balance)
- Let your body go down slowly, until your chest is a couple of inches off the ground
- Push up explosively, without locking out the elbow
- Grab the bar wider than shoulder width and hang freely
- Keep feet together and back straight, head looking forward
- Engage the scapula and pull yourself up, until your chin is at bar level
- Go back down in a controlled manner
- Get up on the parallel bar and keep feet together
- Look forward or down to your chest and keep your body straight
- Dip down slowly, until your arms are at a 90-degree angle
- Push up explosively, without locking out your elbows
CrossFit open workouts
Now, after you are significantly adapted and have developed basic levels of strength, endurance and explosiveness, it is time for some specific workouts.
The following workouts can be done outside (recommended).
Note- The workouts are in progressive order, starting off with a fairly light workout and moving up to tougher workouts.
- Bodyweight squats, push-ups, machine rows
These exercises can be done in 1 or 2 circuits without reaching failure- The goal is to activate all muscle motor units, before the actual workout.
- 5-8 reps on the rowing machine
- 5-8 push-ups
- 10-12 bodyweight squats
10 to 15 minutes. As many circuits as possible.
Bodyweight squats & push-ups shown in the beginner workouts section
- Sit down on the rowing machine and place your legs on the platforms
- Lean forward and grab the rowing bar
- Push yourself back with your legs while extending the upper body
- When the torso is at a 90-degree angle and the knees are slightly bent this is your starting position
- Pull the rowing bar towards your abdomen
- Let the rowing bar go down as your whole body also slides on the platform
- Push with your legs while pulling with your arms, repeat
- Push-ups, bodyweight squats, pull-ups – All shown above
Again, 1 or 2 circuits with more than 2 repetitions in reserve- We're just aiming to fire up the muscle motor units
- Barbell front squats
- Barbell deadlifts
- Handstand balance
As many circuits as possible in 10 minutes- Time attack.
The repetitions start off high (12-15) in the first circuits and gradually decrease down to 6-8 with each circuit, as the weight goes up.
If it gets hard, which it will, start again with 12-15 repetitions and work your way up to higher weights, or, decrease the weight to an intensity, where you can sustain 8+ repetitions.
Barbell front squats
- Place the bar on the rack and load appropriately
- Get under the bar, raise your arms and place the bar on your shoulders
- Cross your arms and place them over the bar to keep it in balance
- Un-rack the bar and take a step back
- Place feet at shoulder width with toes pointing out slightly and knees bent slightly
- Keep your body straight and head looking ahead
- Let your butt go down slowly, until the legs are parallel to the ground
- Squat up explosively, without locking out the knees
- Load the bar appropriately and place it on the ground
- Step behind the bar and have it close to your shins
- Squat down and bend over to grab the bar at shoulder width with overhand grip
- Keep back straight with shoulder blades pulled together and the whole posterior chain of muscles tensed
- Keep head looking forward, then lift the bar up, extending your torso
- Avoid extending too explosively and/or excessively
- Let the bar go down slowly, until it is an inch off the ground
If you cannot yet do a handstand push-up, stick to balancing
- Place your hands on the ground at shoulder width or a bit wider, a foot away from a wall
- Push with your legs and get your legs up in the air
- Touch the wall with your legs to maintain balance
- As you advance more and more, try getting your feet off the wall to find that sweet spot of balance
- Eventually, attempt to handstand without a wall
- Push-ups, rear lunges
- Kettlebell thrusters
It might be one exercise but it is quite intense. The goal here is to start off at a basic 5 sets, where you thrust for 15-20 seconds and rest for 50-60 seconds.
With each workout, move your way up to a total of 10 sets, 20 seconds each. That, ladies and gents, is the progressive overload we’re looking for.
- Stand up straight with your feet at shoulder width
- Keep your head looking forward
- Take a big step back and lunge down
- Push up and return to the original standing position
- Repeat on the opposite leg
- Grab the kettlebells and bring them to shoulder level as illustrated
- Place your feet as you would for a squat- Feet at shoulder width with toes pointing out
- Keep the torso straight and head looking forward
- Squat down, until legs are parallel to the ground (can also go lower if you have the flexibility and strength)
- Squat up explosively while also pushing the kettlebells up
Note– Try to synchronize the squatting up motion with the arms’ pushing motion, so that the kettlebells are at the top right at the upper portion of the squat
- Pull-ups, jump squats, push-ups
2 rounds, low intensity of effort
5 rounds. Time attack.
- 10 push-ups
- 5-8 pull-ups
- 10 walking lunges per leg
- Place your feet as you would for a normal squat – At shoulder width, toes out slightly
- Keep back straight and squat down
- Explode on the way up, jumping up from your toes at the upper portion of the squat
- Land on your toes first and then your heels and repeat
- Stand up with your feet close and your body straight
- Place your arms on your hips and look forward
- Take a big step forward and lunge down, without hitting your knee on the ground
- Bring both legs together and repeat, but this time step forward with the opposite leg
- Bodyweight squats, push-ups
- 10 burpees
- 5-8 seconds of sprinting
Start off with 3-5 rounds and increase to 8-10
- Stand up straight
- Squat down and bend over at the bottom of the movement
- Get into a push-up position
- Let your chest go down, then push up explosively
- At the end of the push-up, quickly bring your legs closer to your chest to get into the bottom position of a squat
- Squat up explosively and jump
- Land on toes, repeat
Note– The whole movement pattern is quick, no significant time under tension here.
It is mandatory to start off with a progressively increasing pace, as sudden sprinting may be too much tension for your joints and/or ligaments to handle. That simply means you are more prone to injury
Use the following scheme to do your sprints in the first couple of rounds.
- 200 meters light jog, walk to the starting line
- 200 meters running at a higher pace, walk to the starting line
- 100 meters running at 60-70% of your maximum speed, reach that speed gradually during the first 30-50 meters
- Proceed to full-on, maximum acceleration sprinting for the duration listed (5-8 seconds)
CrossFit workouts at home
Often times, especially during winter, we get caught up with bad weather conditions that make it hard to even think of going to the gym.
And while calling it a day and totally skipping your workout may be an option, it is certainly not the best choice when you want to improve your health, body and mind.
This is exactly where home workouts come into play. Keep in mind, these workouts involve little to no equipment whatsoever. The most you will need is push-up handles and a pull-up bar, which can be installed on the door case.
These workouts can also be done outside at the park, as they are considered Bodyweight crossfit workouts.
Now without further ado, let’s get into our top 6 home workouts.
- Push-ups on the ground
- 3/4 sit-up
- Jump squats
These exercises are done in a circuit, with 10,15 and 20 repetitions per exercise, respectively. The total number of circuits starts from 5 and moves up to 8, as you progress.
The goal? Time attack.
- Sit on the ground and bring your heels closer to your butt
- Place hands behind your head or in front of it
- Curl up, contracting the abs and holding the contraction briefly
- Go back down and repeat.
- 10 Push-ups on handles
- 5 Pull-ups
- 10 Lunges (per leg)
- 10 Hanging leg raises
Again, the exercises are done in a circuit with no rest whatsoever, in between the exercises. Each circuit can be followed up with 30-50 seconds of rest if needed.
The goal? As many circuits as possible in 15 minutes.
Hanging leg raises
- Hang on the bar freely and look forward
- Keep legs straight and toes extended
- Tense the abs and lift the legs up, until they are parallel to the ground
- Go back down and repeat.
The exercises here are done in a pyramid fashion- Pull-ups increase from 1 to 10, burpees decrease from 10 to 1
First circuit- 1 pull-up, 10 burpees
Second circuit- 2 pull-ups, 9 burpees
Third circuit- 3 pull-ups, 8 burpees
Etcetera, you should get the idea by now. The goal is to simply start with 1 pull-up and 10 burpees and get down to 10 pull-ups and 1 burpee. Take rests as needed.
- Push-ups on handles
- Jumping squats
- Seated leg raises
This is a 20-minute workout, where you alternate between exercises minute after minute, then take a 30-60 second rest.
And so, the first 5 minutes would look like this
Minute 1- Push-ups
Minute 2- Pull-ups
Minute 3- Jumping squats
Minute 4- Leg raises
1 minute of rest
Note that it is NOT required to do the exercises throughout the whole minute, but rather aim for a certain number of repetitions to complete during that minute.
- Sit on the bench or chair and hold on to the sides lightly for balance
- Lift your legs off the floor, tensing the abdominals
- Lift your legs up with knees slightly bent to contract the abs
- Hold up briefly at the top and return to the original position
- Mountain climbers
- Handstand balance
- Jump squats
- Walking lunges
Each exercise is done for 15 seconds and when the circuit is closed, we take a 20-30 second rest. Total number of circuits- 10
- Get into a push-up position, where your hands are at shoulder width, feet together, hips up and body straight
- Bring your right leg to your chest, return it back, then bring the left leg to the chest
- Up the pace, so that it is a fairly quick motion
- Keep contracting the respective sides of the abs, as each leg comes in and goes out
- 1000 rope jumps
- 150 push-ups
- 200 jump squats
- 50 to 80 pull-ups
Each exercise is done separately and can be split into a number of sets according to preference and personal abilities.
And so, you can complete for example, 10 sets of 100 rope jumps, 10 sets of 15 push-ups, 10 sets of 20 jump squats, etc.
Why exactly 6 workouts you may ask? 1 for each training day of the week, considering you need 1 rest day per week at the very least.
- Hold the rope and keep your hands wider than shoulder width
- Place the rope behind your heels and keep your body straight
- Look forward then swing the rope and jump right before it strikes the ground
CrossFit workouts for men (over 40s, over 50s)
Generally, adults can use the same workouts as the ones given above.
However, slight modifications and adjustments should be implemented, especially if you have joint problems or cardiovascular such.
- Joint protection
Focus on low-impact exercises, such as push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats without jumps, etc.
In doing so, you will take off tension from the joints, preventing any complications.
- Heart rate
It is well known that the best benefits of exercising are achieved at 50 to 80% of your maximum heart rate.
Logically, for adults, that percentage would be more towards the lower side.
To calculate your maximum heart rate, take your age out of 220. For a 40 years old adult, that would be a maximum heart rate of 180.
And so, if you’re working at 60% of your MHR, you should be aiming to maintain a heart rate of about 110 beats per minute.
Take more rest as needed and avoid redlining your body.
- Training frequency
Generally, adults take longer to recover in-between the separate sets and workouts. This is why we recommend a training frequency of 3 to maximum 5 workouts per week.
If you are doing 5 workouts per week, have 2 of those be lighter, blood-filling workouts, rather than vigorous, high-intensity ones.
Now, compared to mainstream weight training, CrossFit expresses different parameters and in doing so, challenges different systems of the body.
That is to say that the energy mechanisms used by the body to supply energy for this type of activity are a bit more different as opposed to regular weight training
This in turn implies that the approach to the nutrition should also be different. We have dedicated a separate article to CrossFit nutrition here.
As opposed to general weight lifting, CrossFit training focuses more on overall performance, rather than the development of a single physical property, like most sports do.
If you’re looking to be stronger, have more stamina, more explosiveness, condition, balance, dexterity and accuracy, then this is the type of training you should go for.
However, as we mentioned earlier, excessive stress can also have some damaging effects on the organism, which is why we recommend you to first get past the beginner stage.
Only then, you can proceed to more demanding workouts, that will ultimately lead to greater adaptations (progress).
As this is a complex type of training that requires a lot of endurance, you have to take into account your nutrition, as it is and will be the main source of fuel for your workouts.
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