High-Intensity Interval Training: CrossFit

After reviewing Insanity, it seemed only logical to take a look at another workout that’s constantly growing in popularity – CrossFit.

In case you don’t know, CrossFit is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout designed to provide a number of physical benefits. Some include:

  • Muscular Strength
  • Endurance
  • Flexibility

Most of you will have heard of CrossFit already – for those of you that haven’t, give it 6 months, you will.

So how good is it? Can it deliver on what it promises? Unsurprisingly, professional opinion is divided. Then again, don’t most revolutionary ideas divide opinion? Now that’s not to say CrossFit is going to revolutionise the health and fitness world, but the fact it’s having a significant impact is undeniable.

Let’s look at the positives. One underlying aspect of CrossFit is almost unanimously agreed upon – its difficulty. Anyone who’s done CrossFit generally agrees it’s a challenging regime. Now that doesn’t essentially mean it’s an effective program, but anything you undertake should aim to challenge you.

Endurance training is a huge part of CrossFit, with certain exercises including high speed distance running and equally as challenging swims. So if endurance is an essential goal of yours, CrossFit specifically targets this and can effectively improve performance. At this point it’s probably best to mention one criticism of CrossFit – the danger of over training. Elements of CrossFit can be, like any HIIT workout, strenuous and take a serious toll on your body.

CrossFit identifies flexibility improvement as another core aspect of its workout. Again this is another claim that isn’t really disputed. People who use, or have used it, generally agree that flexibility will become noticeably more impressive.

Needless to say, there are plenty of people out there who are unimpressed with CrossFit. One major criticism is that it hinders muscle gain. As with a lot of HIIT, CrossFit is an intensely cardio-based workout, which inevitably burns calories. As a result your body may need to ‘tap’ into protein sources to provide you with energy required to complete the workout. This majorly puts people off, especially people looking to gain size in the gym.

However, the major concern with CrossFit is its apparent disregard for effective form and technique. Certain aspects of strength are sacrificed to intensify the cardiovascular element of the workout. As a result athletes partaking in strength and combat training often avoid cardio-intense programs such as this.

As with Insanity, some people see success stories on television and are completely brainwashed. The truth is, the CrossFit athletes you see on TV make up only a small minority of people undertaking the program. In fact, the athletes on TV often compete in the CrossFit Games – the Olympic equivalent of the sport. This is essential to remember, for some CrossFit is an exercise program, for others it is a competitive sport. Ultimately your goals differ depending on the way in  which you want to use CrossFit.

Other similarities can be drawn between Insanity and CrossFit. For example, both have been compared to a bus ride – you get where you want to go, but you’re with a whole bunch of people trying to get to the same place – not to mention the fact you’re not even driving. Now of course this is just an analogy, but it presents an interesting idea. Yes you’ll get to where you want to be, but you may be sacrificing the control of your own exercise.

Don’t let these similarities with Insanity fool you into thinking they’re similar though – they’re worlds apart. CrossFit doesn’t apply time constraints to your exercise, allowing you to use it as the basis of your exercise for as long as it works.

So, should you use CrossFit? Well, there isn’t a definitive answer. Certain benefits are obvious, and the list of people supporting CrossFit is constantly growing, with more specialist CrossFit gyms opening every month. Really there isn’t a substitute for a good routine that suits your needs though. If you’ve found that, stick with it. If you’re looking to try something new though, or just fancy giving it a go, there’s no harm.

Just remember – it isn’t a magic formula.

Ollie Lawrence
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