Crossfit for beginners

Crossfit for Beginners: What to Expect (With Workouts)

Crossfit. You’ve heard of it. You probably know someone who does it. You may have preconceived notions such as “Doesn’t it cause injuries?” “I’m too out of shape for that,” or “Those Crossfit people are crazy.” You might be right about that last one. 

With over 14,000 Crossfit gyms worldwide, it’s popular for a reason. Those who are Crossfitters understand the benefits, and not only the physical ones. We love to share our passion for Crossfit with others because we want you to experience it too. If you’re reading this, you’re probably, even slightly, interested. In this article, we’ll cover the following key points:

  • What is Crossfit, and is it safe?
  • What should you know as a beginner?
  • Who should try Crossfit?
  • 30 Crossfit acronyms you should know
  • Dieting and Crossfit
  • Crossfit WOD examples
  • 10 reasons to try Crossfit 

What Exactly is Crossfit?

Crossfit is a high-intensity fitness program that combines weightlifting, gymnastics, and aerobic exercises. CrossFit trainers design the program to improve fitness, strength, endurance, mobility, and body composition in a group setting led by at least one CrossFit-certified coach.

Crossfit was created to enhance overall physical conditioning. Instead of an hour-long training session at the gym or a 45-minute run on a treadmill, Crossfit values exercises performed quickly and repetitively. Crossfit is meant to improve functional movements for daily living and was originally developed for military training. Still, it has gained popularity among firefighters and civilians.

Crossfit is usually an hour-long class that consists of:

  • A warm-up 
  • A 15-20 minute strength or skill session 
  • A WOD (workout of the day) that lasts anywhere from 8-30 minutes
  • A cool-down or mobility session

Is Crossfit Hard?

Crossfit is as hard as you make it. The beauty of CrossFit is that trainers can tailor it to anyone’s fitness level. When entering a Crossfit gym, also known as a “box,” you will see athletes of all ages, weights, and skill levels. Any Crossfit workout can be “scaled,” which means you can lower the weight or substitute a movement for something similar.

Is Crossfit Safe?

As long as you follow a Crossfit coach’s instructions and listen to your body, Crossfit is as safe as any other sport. The risk of injury is similar to comparable sports, such as Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics, but is lower than that of contact sports. As with any physical activity, you should consult with a physician before beginning a new exercise program. If you have physical limitations, always listen to your body and perform within your capabilities.

What Should Beginners Know About Crossfit Before Starting?

 A reputable Crossfit gym should have an “on-ramp” class for new athletes. This is often 1:1 instruction with a Crossfit coach so they can evaluate your current fitness level. No judgment here; they just want to make sure you’re safe. They will assess your mobility and have you perform a less-intense workout to monitor your endurance. As you learn the fundamental movements of Crossfit, you will slowly integrate into classes as you continue to receive tailored instructions to scale movements to your abilities. 

Who Should and Who Shouldn’t Try Crossfit?

Anyone who desires to improve their physical endurance, strength, and appearance should try Crossfit. Additionally, if you are craving a sense of community, look no further than your local Crossfit box. Crossfit brings people together, creating friendships and even marriages (personally speaking). 

People of all ages are welcome and encouraged to try Crossfit. Many Crossfit gyms host classes for younger children and teenagers. 40% of Crossfitters are between the ages of 25-34, with the next largest group between 35-44. Walking into a Crossfit box to find someone over 60 is no surprise, though. They’re often the most dedicated and an inspiration to others.

If you have a history of injuries or surgeries, you should communicate this to your coach. Anyone with a pre-existing health condition, especially of cardiac or respiratory nature, should discuss their illness with a healthcare provider before partaking in intense exercise.

What foods should I eat while I’m doing Crossfit?

No exercise program can outrun a bad diet. On a scale of 0-5, Crossfit athletes scored nutrition as 4.6 in importance. Most Crossfitters follow one of the following diets: Macro counting, intermittent fasting, or the Paleo diet. Crossfit isn’t bodybuilding, so diets aren’t limited to chicken and broccoli. 

The consensus is “clean, whole, unprocessed foods.” According to Crossfit.com, their diet recommendation is meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Diets aren’t one size fits all, so monitoring your body composition, vital signs, workout scores, and how you feel is the best way to find what works for you. 

Supplements are another important consideration in enhancing training. Not surprisingly, athletes who follow a diet are more likely to utilize supplements. 51% of Crossfit athletes report consuming supplemental protein, followed by creatine and pre-workout/energy drinks and supplements.

30 Crossfit Acronyms All Beginners Should Know

Sometimes a complicated WOD can look like another language. If you want to have an understanding before you walk into a box, this list will get you started. Always ask if you’re unfamiliar with an abbreviation or what that movement looks like.

AHAP: As Heavy as Possible. Self-explanatory.

AMRAP: As Many Rounds as Possible. The athlete will complete as many rounds/repetitions of a movement as possible within the allotted time.

BJ/BBJ/BBJO: Box Jump. Burpee Box Jump. Burpee Box Jump Over. Variations of box jumps can include burpees, jumping onto the box, or jumping onto and then over the box.

BP: Bench Press. Laying on the back and pressing a barbell or dumbbells upward.

BS: Back Squat. Squatting with a barbell in the back-rack position.

C2B: Chest 2 Bar. When performing a pull-up, the athlete’s chest must reach the level of the bar.

C&J: Clean & Jerk. A clean is a movement where the athlete lifts a barbell (or dumbbell) from the ground to the shoulder. A jerk then presses the barbell or dumbbell overhead.

DL: Deadlift. Lifting from the ground to the hip crease.

DU/SU: Double Unders or Single Unders. Using a jump rope, the rope passes under the feet one (single) or two times (double) in 1 jump.

DNF: Did Not Finish. Hey, it happens to all of us sometimes. 

EMOM: Every Minute on the Minute. This is often a skill workout where the athlete completes set repetitions of a movement (squats, presses, deadlifts, etc.) within 1 minute. Variations may include E2MOM, E5MOM, etc.

FS: Front Squat. Squatting with a barbell in the front-rack position.

GHD: Glute Ham Developer. This piece of equipment develops the hamstrings and glutes. It can also develop the core when performing sit-ups.

HC: Hang Clean. Any “hang” position begins with the barbell or dumbbell above the knee instead of the ground. The barbell is then caught in a clean position at chest height.

HS: Hang Snatch. Again, starting between the knee and hip, a snatch has a wider grip that ends with the barbell above the head.

HSPU: Handstand Push-Up. The athlete begins upside down against a wall and uses shoulder strength to press their body upward.

KB: Kettlebell. A piece of equipment that is a round weight with a handle to allow for swinging and other movements.

MU: Muscle Ups. A gymnastic movement done on the rig or rings that features an explosive pull-up to propel the body up and over into a tricep extension.

OHS: Overhead Squat. The athlete locks the barbell overhead in a wide (snatch) grip and lowers into a squat.

PC: Power Clean. The barbell begins on the ground and is pulled into the front-rack position. The “power” part means the athlete catches the bar with the hips higher than parallel.

PJ/SJ: Push Jerk/Split Jerk. A jerk movement pushes weight from the shoulders to overhead using a lower-body dip. A “split” jerk receives the weight in a half-lung position.

PR: Personal Record. When you manage to hit a new lifting weight record or master a skill, get ready to hear your box explode in cheers.

PU: Pull-Ups or Push-Ups. Depending on the WOD, PU is interchangeable meaning pull-ups or push-ups.

ROM: Range of Motion. The flexibility of a specific joint or muscle.

RFT: Rounds For Time. The athlete completes as many rounds of the WOD as possible within the set time.

Rx: As Prescribed. Instructions to do a WOD without scaling weights or movements.

S2OH: Shoulder to Overhead. Getting a bar from the shoulder position over the head by either pressing or jerking.

SC: Squat Clean. A clean movement caught in a full squat, parallel or below to the ground.

TTB: Toes To Bar. Just as it sounds. A gymnastics movement where you hang from a rig or rings and swing or lift your toes overhead to touch the bar. This is a fantastic core movement.

WOD: Workout of the Day. 

Crossfit WOD Examples

Crossfit WOD #1: “DT”

DT is a classic Crossfit WOD that follows the following theme:

5 RFT: (I’m testing your Crossfit knowledge -> see the handy acronmyn chart below)
12 Deadlifts (155/105 lb)

9 Hang Power Cleans (155/105 lb)

6 Push Jerks (155/105 lb)

Crossfit WOD #2: “Fran”

Fran is an infamous “girl” WOD, which are physically demanding Crossfit benchmarks.

Fran consists of:

21-15-9 reps for time (three rounds)

Thrusters (95/65 lb)

Pull-Ups

With a descending WOD like this, the athlete performs 21 thrusters, then 21 pull-ups, then 15 thrusters and 15 pull-ups, and finally, 9 thrusters and 9 pull-ups.

Crossfit WOD #3: Run, burpees

Can complete this WOD at home, with no equipment required.

2 RFT:

Run 1 mile

50 burpees

Scale for a beginner by dividing into 2 rounds of an 800m run and 25 burpees.

10 Reasons To Try Crossfit

  1. You’re ready for a challenge.
    Even as you progress and become proficient in Crossfit, it will always be a challenge. New programmed WOD means there is variation each day. This means your body never gets used to the same thing, and you’re pushed to the edge every time.
  1. You’re tired of your regular gym routine.
    Let’s be honest. Your usual 30-45 minute routine has gotten old. You’ve been using the same equipment day after day, maybe even performing the same routine. Not only is that not effective, it’s boring. Let a Crossfit coach plan your workouts, so the hardest part is showing up.
  2. You want to improve <insert skill here.>
    Mobility? Balance? Endurance? Strength? Crossfit covers all the bases for well-rounded physical fitness.
  3. You want to lose weight.
    Crossfit does that too. By boosting your metabolism, you’ll torch calories faster than with traditional exercises.
  4. You want to meet new people.
    Crossfit is more than a gym or exercise. We frequently get together outside of the box for holidays and celebrations. We cheer for each other at competitions. We form lifelong friendships and bonds. You will constantly hear that Crossfit is a community, which couldn’t be more true.
  5. You desire coaching.
    With Crossfit, you receive the experience and knowledge of a coach who has thousands of hours of training. They will tweak your form, give you tips and strategies for completing workouts within your skill level, push you when you need it, and check your ego to keep you safe.
  6. You want to be healthier.
    Crossfit helps you form a lifestyle. Crossfit helps you form a lifestyle. Those we spend the most time with influence us, and being in the company of Crossfitters naturally leads to a more active lifestyle.
  7. You want to be better at life.
    Every day you’ll use the foundational movements of Crossfit. You squat to pick up something off the floor. You carry groceries from your car. You lift heavy boxes onto a shelf. These are the basic movements of Crossfit.
  8. You want to see results. 
    We’ve all tried to lose weight or gain muscle on our own. It either happens very slowly or not at all. Crossfit will work muscles you didn’t even know you had. Dedicated athletes often see improvements in flexibility, fat mass and waist circumference, power and strength, and mood.
  1. You need discipline and motivation.
    Exercising in a class setting with others intuitively makes you keep going and push yourself. Research supports that Crossfit participants experience enjoyment, challenge, and affiliation that influence long-term adherence. Crossfit is hard work, and once you start to see the transformation in yourself, it becomes an obsession. You show up not for anyone else but yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Is Crossfit dangerous for beginners?

Crossfit is beginner-friendly. A certified coach will work with you one-on-one to test your mobility, strength, and endurance to ensure your safety.

2) Is Crossfit good for building muscle?

The high-intensity movements increase muscle strength and stamina while adding more weight will increase muscle mass.

3) Is Crossfit aerobic or anaerobic?

Both! Crossfit combines extended conditioning exercises with short bursts of high-intensity movements.

4) Is Crossfit good for weight loss?

High-intensity workouts like Crossfit significantly increase the rate of fat loss.

5) Can women benefit from Crossfit?

Yes. Crossfit will improve general fitness, trim body fat, support bone health, and increase lean muscle definition in women.

6) Do you have to compete if you do Crossfit?

Nope. Competition is a standard part of Crossfit, but many athletes do Crossfit strictly for health benefits.

7) What’s the best way for a beginner to get started with Crossfit?

Contact your local box, take an onboarding class with your coach, and familiarize yourself with Crossfit movements.

References:

Author Bio:

Maegan Baker, BSN RN CCM, is a nurse with over a decade of healthcare experience. As a medical writer, she creates content to educate audiences and guide healthcare businesses to success.

Maegan has been an avid Crossfitter for the past 5 years and she takes advantage of every opportunity to bring awareness to this growing sport.

Maegan is our resident Crossfit expert at PreWorkout.org

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