How To Do CrossFit Workouts, Benefits, Risks & Beginners Guide


tarted originally to train firemen, police and military forces, CrossFit is a functional movement exercise program of high intensity. It is a kind of conditioning and strength workout aiming at faster muscle building, stimulating effective recovery and meeting and interacting with a support chain of similar thinking people. Initiated in early 2000s, the basic principles of the CrossFit workouts have been formulated based on best performing athletes’ general observations while training, over a period of 30 years. The various fitness domains it covers include strength, stamina, flexibility, speed, balance, agility, accuracy, coordination, power, respiratory and cardiovascular. Some of the basic principles of CrossFit include cutting down on time spent on gym or jogging trail, not involving usual cardio workouts, creating athletes who are versatile, promoting faster loss of weight but gain of muscles, helping sprinters and people doing “Burst Training” to match the capacities and cardiovascular benefits of endurance athlete and increasing power level of heavy lifters to match that of endurance athletes.

A “Workout of the Day” (WOD) is followed in CrossFit program, which means a person needs to complete certain daily workouts. Each WOD requires you to finish certain sets of combination of movements, take rest, repeat, again rest, repeat and carry on like this. While doing CrossFit workouts on your own you need to begin with exercises that your body is familiar with and slowly increase the reps and can even add weight. Burpees, dips, push-ups, squats, handstands, bench press, scales, snatches, cartwheels etc. are some of the movements that can be a part of your WOD to help train more number of muscles and lose weight as well simultaneously. Equipment like parallel bars, jump ropes, rings, stationary bike, horizontal bar, plyometric boxes, stability balls etc. are used in CrossFit workouts. Proper warm up, post work out stretch and sufficient recovery time are mandatory to prevent overtraining or injuries. [1]

Different Benefits Of CrossFit Workouts

CrossFit workouts offers multiple benefits: [1]

1. Helps You Reduce Weight Rapidly

A study revealed that the CrossFit program is beneficial in improving composition of body by reducing weight and increasing muscular mass significantly irrespective of a person’s initial fitness level, gender and initial body composition. The study aimed at analyzing the impact of a high intensity power training program (HIPT), part of CrossFit workout, on body composition and aerobic fitness.

A ten weeks HIPT program had 20 adult healthy women and 23 adult healthy men of varied body composition and aerobic fitness. They did deadlift, squats, clean, snatch and overhead press in very rapid and circuit manner. Increase in endurance of the participants was analyzed based on their maximum aerobic capacity and body fat percentage pre and post CrossFit training. At the end of the training program, significant increase in aerobic capacity was seen which was accompanied with reduction in body weight of all the participants.

2. Improves Physical Performance And Versatility

CrossFit workouts are said to enhance your physical performance in varied ways like not only can you improve your capacity to perform daily chores in a better way, but also prepare yourself for difficult competitions. Functional movements are used by athletes undertaking CrossFit program to train their joints, ligaments and muscles offering larger benefits. Better posture, improved flexibility, enhanced balance and strength as well as good overall health can be attained as larger muscles and variety of motions are used in these workouts.

3. Better Results Can Be Attained By Investing Lesser Time In Workouts

CrossFit involves high intensity functional training (HIFT) that is group-based and set at an intensity level suitable to the participants, thereby providing time saving aerobic and resistance training (ART). A study compared the effects of HIFT with that of moderate level ART on initiation of exercise, intentions, adherence and enjoyment. It was seen that the participants of HIFT though invested lesser time in exercising in a week but enjoyed more and their chances of continuing was also higher than ART participants. So, CrossFit workouts can be integrated in public health programs aiming at boosting activity, especially for those who due to lack of time do not exercise daily.

4. Helps To Work On Exercise Or Fitness Plateaus And Boredom

CrossFit involves a variety of high intensity exercises involving functional or compound movements helping you to attain fitness rapidly and at the same time cutting down on boredom and fitness plateau. As in CrossFit, you switch exercises, different intensities and muscles are put to use, so the chances of plateauing are very low as your muscles are continuously adjusting to new forms. Depending on a person’s level of physical fitness the CrossFit program can be modified to accommodate different types of people. Just the intensity, duration and weight load needs to be changed.

5. Is A Source Of Constant Motivation To Exercise And Provides A Good Support Network

The group based approach of CrossFit program attracts many and keeps them motivated, encouraged and committed towards fitness. Studies have revealed that group approach of any exercise program is good for generating more positive perception toward it. In a study comprising of 144 participants, questionnaires were given to them to analyze their perception about goal structure of the CrossFit program with special emphasis on how much they felt motivated by their fellow athletes and trainers. Though gender wise differences were seen in goals but almost all felt motivated to continue with the program and their goals related fitness also changed with time. A good support network is required to deal with hindrances that you face while exercising and eating healthy. Lesser number of dropouts and better accountability can be attained through CrossFit workouts.

6. Helps To Follow And Stick To Better Eating Habits

A Paleo diet is followed by many CrossFit athletes in order to attain leaner and stronger body quickly as well as enhance their recovery time. Though CrossFit doesn’t require you to change your daily diet but introduction of certain changes can help you better overall health faster. The food that are recommended to CrossFit athletes include lots of healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, products made by coconut, avocados etc. protein like lean meat, beef that has been grass fed, fish that have not been farm raised and eggs of cage free birds, some fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and moderate amounts of starch rich vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes and plantain. Fruits, vegetables and other natural starches supply the required glucose to our muscles. Lower carbohydrates and more proteins and healthier fats promote body fat reduction.

How To Do Your Own CrossFit?

For determining your own CrossFit, the following has to be kept in mind: [2]

1. Plan Your Weekly Workout Structure

In a CrossFit workout regime, ideally one needs to train for three days in continuation with the workouts raising in difficulty gradually. Then you need to take a day of rest. A five day continuous exercise regime followed by two days rest can also be your own CrossFit.

2. Choose The Workout Styles

For avoiding any muscle from overworking you need to decide which workout or combination of workouts you will do every day. CrossFit workouts are of three main styles from which you can choose. These include the following:


A combination of Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting form the CrossFit weightlifting workouts with the aim of intense strength training. Barbell exercises like squats, deadlifts, cleans and presses are included in this regime. Metabolic conditioning and strength training are integrated by incorporating kettle bell swings and medicine ball drills.

Metabolic Conditioning

Biking, running, rope jumping or rowing are some of the exercises from which you can choose for metabolic conditioning. These workouts are aimed at exercising your body for longer time period rather than short durations. For your metabolic conditioning exercise, you can even run ten kilometers.


These are a combination of strength training and metabolic conditioning and include ropes, bodyweight exercises, gymnastic rings and pull up bars. Exercises in this regime could be as simple as push up or it could be muscle ups and rope climbing.

3. Combination Of Workouts

In your CrossFit workout program, you can combine any two or all three of them. If you are following the three day exercise and one day rest regimen then on the first day you can do one of your chosen styles, on the second day you do any two of the workout styles and do all three on day three. So, like on day one you can do gymnastics; metabolic conditioning and weightlifting on day two; and all three on the third day. Changing workouts will ensure that you are not performing the similar exercises day in and day out. If you have chosen the five day CrossFit workout regime then on the first day do a particular style, second day you need to do two and three on the third day following this you need to bring it down to two again on the fourth day and just one on the last day.

4. Point To Keep In Mind When Doing Just One Style

Based on the number of workout styles you will undertake in a particular day, your workouts change. Like if you will do only gymnastics, then choose the one with higher level of difficulty and stick to it. Similarly, if you have chosen metabolic conditioning for the day, then select a particular exercise and perform it continuously for a time period like you can run 10 kilometers. If you have chosen weightlifting for the day, then you can do a certain number of sets of barbell back squat with low repetitions and higher weights.

5. Tips For Combining Two Styles

If two workouts are being combined in a particular day, then you have to reduce the time period to be spent on each but increase the speed. So, if you are doing both weightlifting and metabolic conditioning, instead of lifting heavy weights and lesser repetition you can go for lighter workout like clean with half the weight of your body and more repetitions. Similarly, in metabolic conditioning you can alternate 10 kilometers with may be 200 meters. So, you can run the chosen distance and then follow it up with the pre decided cleans like 200 m running and 10 cleans afterwards. This can be repeated 3 to 4 times and completed rapidly.

6. Combination Of Three Styles

When you are doing all the three workouts in a particular day, choose one from each and do them in a row in a fixed time. Say you have fixed 20 minutes, try to finish maximum rounds of all the three in that time.

Risks Associated With CrossFit

Various risks associated with CrossFit workouts are mentioned below: [3]

1. Chances Of Injury

CrossFit is a high intensity workout program, so chances of injuries are there, especially if you have had an injury earlier or are new to plyometric exercises or Olympic style weightlifting. If you are performing them when you are fatigued, may be during the intense circuit of CrossFit, your risks of injury are higher.

2. Rhabdomyolysis

A condition wherein your skeletal muscles are damaged to such a severe extent that they break down fast is known as Rhabdomyolysis. Vigorous workouts are a part of CrossFit regime and they can lead to this condition. Resultantly, rupturing of muscular cells may happen and its constituents may get into your blood and cause renal damage and even renal failure. Symptoms include muscular stiffness, overall weakness, swelling and soreness of the muscle that is affected and very dark urine. It can become life threatening as well. Gradually, enhancing the intensity of workouts along with maintaining proper hydration level can help you reduce risks of rhabdomyolysis.

3. Check Credentials Of CrossFit Coaches And Trainers

All CrossFit coaches may not be well-trained in sports conditioning. So, ask for their credentials especially if they are teaching you lifting techniques. Also, let them know your strength level, when you are feeling uncomfortable or experiencing pain etc. so that regimen can be planned and modified accordingly.