CrossFit 101: The Ultimate Beginners Guide, everything you need to know to start buiding strength and muscle

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There is a chance by now that you have heard of CrossFit by now.

In fact, maybe you have a friend, or a friend of a friend who is really into CrossFit, and they go to a local CrossFit Box (gym).

You might even be wondering about what it is, and if it is something that you could do.

Even if you aren’t the slightest bit interested, like I was, you should still read this article. I am going to break it down for you as simple as I can, which is exactly what I wanted to learn when I first heard about it.

I used to think that CrossFit was for fanatics, and extreme athletes. I never believed that I could do it, and I really didn’t know anyone who was doing CrossFit.

My story isn’t as important though. What’s important is giving you the information you need to make an educated decision as to whether you want to do CrossFit or not.

If you are still on the fence about Crossfit, or think you are already ready for something more challenging than what you are currently doing, then I can recommend The 8 Week Strength Program for you, which has some CrossFit style workouts within the programming. Just click on the button or the image below.


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Now, Let’s Jump right in!

What is Crossfit?

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According to the Founder of CrossFit himself, Greg Glassman,…CrossFit is “The sport of fitness”.

It was founded in 2000 in Santa Cruz, California. Coach Greg Glassman, breaks down Crossfit one of the most widely read articles called “What is Fitness” which should be required reading for every human being on the planet, regardless of whether they do CrossFit or not.

CrossFit, Inc. describes its strength and conditioning program as "constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains”

What exactly does that mean?

It means that you will not specialize in anything, but instead, you will be great at everything!

One day you might do strength training with a Barbell and heavy weight, the next day might be a swim or a run, and the next day might be gymnastics.

CrossFit gyms use equipment from multiple disciplines including:

CrossFit is unlike any gym you will ever go to. Most other gyms are filled with machines, a smith machine, dumbbells up to fifty pounds, maybe a pull-up bar, maybe a squat rack…

However, we will get more into that…

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Who is CrossFit for, can everyone do it?

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I used to think CrossFit was only for elite athletes…Boy, was I wrong!

According to Crossfit.com:

This program “is designed for universal scalability, making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience. We’ve used our same routines for elderly individuals with heart disease and cage fighters one month out from televised bouts. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.”

What that means, is that if there is a workout prescribed (Rx) such as:

**Rx is what the actual recommended workout is supposed to be as put forth by CrossFit.com, this is reserved for athletes who have demonstrated the skills necessary to meet these requirements as reviewed by a CrossFit Coach. (i.e. someone new to CrossFit, should not be doing the Rx movements and weights until he/she has established the proper mechanics and ability)

3 Rounds For Time of:

  • 5 Snatch (135/95)

  • 10 Burpees over bar

If you can’t do the Rx weight, then it is scalable to whatever ability and proficiency that you have established as reviewed by a Coach at the CrossFit Box.

A scaled version might be:

  • 5 Snatch (65#)

  • 10 burpees

This has now been scaled to something challenging, but not irresponsible, or insulting.

Not only that, but if you have an injury or a mobility issue, CrossFit can accommodate that as well. There are no excuses with CrossFit. Anyone can do it.

Check out Logan Aldridge:

Can’t do squats: No problem, another movement will be substituted for you.

Can’t do pull-ups, no problem.

Everyone can benefit from CrossFit, but CrossFit isn’t for everybody:

Those people who fit into that category might be:

  • Endurance Runners or triathletes who are looking to specialize.

    • When I was training for my Ultramarathon, I still did strength training, but I was not able to lift very heavy weight, or build mass. In order for me to do that, I couldn’t specialize in running only.

  • Athletes who have a very specific sport function

    • A basketball player may benefit from CrossFit, but the benefits and results of doing CrossFit would be secondary to the sport specific strength programs of basketball. Basketball players want to reduce the potential risk for injury, and doing their own sport specific training combined with CrossFit greatly increases the likelihood for injury.

  • People who don’t like competition or like training alone (Although, I think even these people would enjoy it…I am like this,and still enjoy training alone.)

    • I like to train alone, mainly because it is more of a therapy, and the more that I am around people, the more drained I become. Although, I enjoy community and helping others achieve their goals, I have found that I can’t do it seven days a week and be the best Stephen I can be. I go to CrossFit 3-4 times a week, and do not have any issues. It’s really just about creating boundaries.


CrossFit: Recommended Reading


Can I get injured doing CrossFit?

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Yes.

If you or your Coach are irresponsible, then your chances exponentially increase.

In fact, I have heard many horror stories of people getting injured during a CrossFit Box because their coaches were irresponsible and stupid.

I have also noticed many people trying to do too much weight because they want to “max out”, without regards to their form, or mechanical foundations.

There are also those individuals who have not worked out in years, who come into the gym and try to prove something. They hurt themselves because they don’t want to “look stupid” or “not strong”.

In rare instances it is because of poor coaching (but it does happen, which is a shame). Most of the time though, it is the individual who does it to himself.

Most injuries in CrossFit result from:

  • Overtraining - The individual (despite the coach’s warning) trains without taking a rest day. Training More alone does not make you better, or stronger. Taking methodical rest days, getting enough sleep and good nutrition will work better.

  • Trying to lift more than you should with bad form - Hitting a #350 pound dead-lift PR (Personal Record) because you want to be as strong as the guy who has been doing CrossFit for years, is a bad reason to ignore proper form and mechanics. If you can’t dead-lift 135# with proper mechanics, you shouldn’t be lifting more just because. My dead-lift is very weak, and I know that I need to work on this, and my form breaks down when I try to go fast, or when I get to a certain weight. It’s not about ego, so lose it at the door.

  • Bad Programming - If your Gym is programming Snatches every day of the week, or Shoulder movements every day of the week without resting, alternating to a lower body or other muscle group, or mobility training, then the injury factor skyrockets.

There may be other reasons people get injured, but for the most part, if something hurts, don’t do it, and use your judgement. If 95# thrusters are too much, then reduce the weight to something you can do. No one is going to think less of you for it. If they do, then you should find another gym or box to go to with a coach who is responsible and cares about you.

What is a CrossFit Class Like?

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Good Question.

In a word…FUN!

The typical CrossFit class is sixty minutes in length. It is run by a trained coach, or coaches who walk you through the WOD (workout of the Day), and show you the correct way to perform the movements, or they go over what you are expected to do and what to watch out for in your form.

The classes usually have four main sections to them:

  • Warmup/Stretching/Mobility - This is at the beginning of class and is used to work your muscles loose and increase mobility for the upcoming WOD or Strength piece.

  • Strength - This is where you will do most of the heavier lifting, if it is needed for the day. You might have a WOD that calls for 225 pound deadlifts, so you will use this time to work up to a heavier weight, possibly a 2RM.

  • WOD - This would be the actual prescribed workout. It is usually for metabolic conditioning, and can be a 3 minute workout, or up to a 30 minute workout. Either way, you will be moving.

  • Post Stretch/Cooldown/Accessory - This is after the WOD and is used as a time to foam roll, or do some light mobility and stretching pieces. It can also be used for accessory work, that doesn’t often get covered.

Every class will have athletes of all levels in them. This means that not everyone will be doing the same weights or reps as the other. However, each person will have the same desired effect on their body.

That is one of the greatest things about CrossFit, it is infinitely scalable but still accomplishes the same purpose in each athlete.

Also, CrossFit is know for it’s community. In fact that is one of the reasons it is so popular and people stick with it. The CrossFit community is huge, and the people vary from wildly fanatical to super laid back. However, if you are in need or starting an affiliate, or are just looking for people who are down to do a WOD. You can find them within the Community.

Is CrossFit the best way to get Fit?

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I would be lying if I said CrossFit was perfect…

It’s not, but it is by far the closest way to get there. There are a lot of things that CrossFit could do better, and that may due to a few factors that I have noticed.

  • There is variation to each CrossFit Box. This means that the standards put forth by CrossFit HQ, may or may not be up to snuff at each Box. CrossFit would need to task some people to visit all of the CrossFit boxes around the country and audit them. This would make a huge difference I believe in the quality of the classes, and in the coaches.

  • Since each CrossFit box is different, the programming at each is different. Some boxes do their own programming, others use Crossfit.com, and some do other programming from various sources. With this comes questions.

    • Sometimes programming might call for shoulders four days a week. (this is not good)

    • Sometimes programming only calls for heavy lifting…hmmm

    • Sometimes the programming does not help the advanced athlete to get better or vice versa.

There are also claims that doing CrossFit causes medical problems such as rhabdomylaisis or rhabdo. There are cases of people getting rhabdo after pushing themselves to the point of complete exhaustion, and also of people who havn’’t worked out in years getting rhabdo.

What is Rhabdo?

Rhabdomyolysis is a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury. It results from the death of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream.

This is covered in more depth in CrossFit Journal 33 titled “Killer Workouts”, and you can also read up on Coach Glasmman’s “CrossFit induced Rhabdo” article in response to five cases of Rhabdo that happened in the first five years of CrossFit.

More information on Rhabdo:

I have been doing CrossFit for almost two years and I have never seen a case of Rhabdo. Then again, the coaches always warn others of the effects, and tell everyone that it’s OK to rest, and not go all out.

Unless you are a games athlete, or have some chance of going to regionals, there is no reason for you to be pushing everything into every workout. It’s not responsible and there is no point in having a big ego. You can still have healthy competition without trying to kill yourself.

How do I get connected to a CrossFit Affiliate?

If you are genuinely interested in CrossFit it is extremely easy to get plugged in.

Just Click Here, and look for your area on the map. This will give you the locations of all CrossFit affiliates within your area.

You could also Go Here, if you already know the name of the CrossFit affiliate that you want to go to.

There is no mystery to it. If you want to check it out, just go in and sign up.

It took me over two years before I walked in the door of an affiliate. I was curious about CrossFit, but was uncertain in my abilities. What I found out was that I wasn’t alone, and that CrossFit affiliate Coaches expect you to not know anything, that is why they teach you.

I actually got personal training from a Coach fro a year before I signed up for classes. Honestly, I preferred this and it was so worth it.

Now I am doing things I never thought I could do.

I have participated in the CrossFit open 2 years in a row. Learned how to do Cool Gymnastic moves and to lift heavy weight.

Overall, CrossFit has enhanced the quality of my life. I’m able to play with my kids and have increased the likelihood of growing old with them.

What’s next for me and Crossfit?

There is a lot of information here, but it is solid, and I believe that you can now make an educated decision as to whether you want to begin CrossFit or not.

It may not be perfect, but I don’t know of any other program that will get and keep you in the best shape of your life like CrossFit will.

If you work on nutrition and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you will reap all of the benefits that the lifestyle provides.

That’s essentially what CrossFit really is. It’s a culture, or a lifestyle. Within that culture there is a big community of people that will rally around you.

Do you have any other CrossFit Questions?

Is there anything that I can help you with? Maybe give you some pointers,advice or next steps.

Can I watch a video of you performing a lift and give you an honest critique?

Are you looking for a good program or way to build strength or muscle?

Are you interested in CrossFit workouts or movements that will build your chest and shoulders?

Whatever it is, let me know?

###Stephen

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