When it comes to CrossFit, it seems as if you either love it or hate it. CrossFit has many haters in the fitness community, while others are addicted to the CrossFit lifestyle. So, is CrossFit effective, and how would you compare it to other forms of physical activity such as weight training, high-intensity interval training, plyometrics, aerobics, or even playing sports?
This article is going to break down the cold hard facts on CrossFit, discuss how it enhances your physical fitness levels, and compare it to other popular forms of exercise.
Many of the CrossFit haters are hardcore bodybuilders that think CrossFit is for weak and inferior men and women. This is generally false. On the other hand, CrossFit followers often view bodybuilders as juiced-out gorillas with no athleticism, which is not necessarily true either.
What Is CrossFit?
So what exactly is CrossFit? CrossFit can be categorized as a form of high-intensity exercise that focuses on a multitude of athletic movements which incorporate strength, speed, explosiveness, balance, agility, and overall body conditioning.
Some CrossFit exercises are strength based such as the squat and deadlift, while others force you to exert maximum fast twitch muscle explosion such as sprinting, box jumps and clean and jerks. CrossFit also requires you to perform a wide array of exercises that challenge you in different ways during the same workout.
This is much different than a typical workout, which focuses on one goal at a time, such as strength or cardiovascular training. However, research has shown that this diverse approach may not be an effective method of training.
Athletics vs. Aesthetics
The first thing to realize about CrossFit is that it’s more about what the body can do than how muscular it looks. The end goal of a CrossFit athlete is to perform optimally in a wide variety of tests: strength, cardiovascular, balance, etc.
CrossFit challenges competitors in many different ways that traditional bodybuilding does not. For example, it incorporates many forms of athleticism, such as jumping, running, balance, strength, and flexibility. Traditional bodybuilders lack the flexibility, and most of the time athleticism, to excel at CrossFit on a competitive level due to the different style and goals of their training.
If you break down the athletes that have been the most successful with CrossFit, they do not look like bodybuilders. Instead, they look like defined and muscular athletes. CrossFit athletes are more likely to look like an NFL safety than a pro bodybuilder.
Bodybuilding vs. CrossFit
Bodybuilders and fitness models may have nice looking bodies, but it doesn’t always mean they can do a lot with them and that they have functional strength and athleticism.
Many bodybuilders and fitness athletes think that CrossFit is easy, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most bodybuilder workout routines are fairly similar, focusing on one or two muscle groups per day and blasting out 30-40 sets.
CrossFit athletes have to be prepared for tons of different exercises. High-level CrossFit athletes competing at national events don’t even know what they will be judged on until the day of competition! There is very little time to prepare mentally for the upcoming challenges that lay ahead.
The sport of bodybuilding is a little different in a sense that the competition comes down to the aesthetics and stage routine, or a fitness model who competes in the NPC and does photo shoots. CrossFit allows competitors to take the “field” and compete in a similar way as a traditional athlete.
This is why many former football, basketball and baseball players excel at CrossFit. The sport is a great replacement for athletes who are looking to compete on a physical and mental level.
What Are the Negatives of CrossFit?
CrossFit has a lot of great qualities, but there are also some flaws. If you are looking to maximize your athletic potential in terms of being bigger, faster, and stronger, CrossFit may not be the best option.
Many CrossFit pundits say that it is the ultimate form of exercise and will help with functional fitness, general fitness training, full body workouts, aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, and flexibility.
While it may be true that CrossFit does hit all of these at one point or another, it doesn’t focus intensely enough on any one of them to really create the biggest, strongest, and fastest version of yourself.
For hardcore athletes such as sprinters, football players, or basketball players, it is definitely not the best choice. You are far better off following a training protocol that focuses more specifically on the movements necessary for your sport.
If you are only concerned with your physical appearance, then CrossFit is also not the best training method. While it is true that any form of exercise can burn calories and build lean muscle mass, bodybuilders and models are solely looking to maximize their aesthetics and are always in pursuit of more lean muscle mass and less body fat.
CrossFit incorporates a lot of aerobic training, such as doing air squats and running for longer distances, that can actually make the body catabolic. This would be counterproductive for a physique athlete.
If you are just an average Joe or Jane looking to burn fat and build some lean muscle mass, CrossFit could be a good strategy for you. Most experts agree that high-intensity interval training and weight lifting seems to be the best combination for fat loss and muscle building. CrossFit incorporates both of these, which makes it a good fit for the average fitness enthusiast.
CrossFit seems to work best for fitness enthusiasts who enjoy challenging their body in new and unique ways and are not solely training for the aesthetics of it.
CrossFit absolutely will enhance your level of physical fitness and improve your strength, flexibility, and functional fitness levels. However, if you are training with a specific goal in mind, such as weightlifting, powerlifting, or cardiovascular endurance, choose a program that focuses more exclusively on your needs.
Any form of physical movement and exercise can be beneficial, but it’s up to you to decide if the CrossFit style of training is the best route to achieving your goals in the gym.