Continuing the series focused on fitness and different types of exercise, I want to take a popular workout method, Crossfit, and go through some of the potential pros and cons of the sport. I am a physical therapist and someone who loves training with a barbell, so anytime I can help someone get into that type of training, even if it’s not my preferred method, I am thrilled. I view fitness and training as all-inclusive, where everyone is welcome and can do what makes them happy.
The more we can encourage each other to train, the better we can be fit together and start working on some of the health issues our nation has been facing over the past several decades. For instance, the Midwest has an obesity prevalence of over 34%, compared to 11% in 1990.1,2 The following are the potential pros and cons of Crossfit workouts. You can use this information to help guide you on your fitness journey to help you decide if Crossfit is right for you.
Crossfit classes are designed to be group classes, and they help form a tight-knit community. This helps with the accountability aspect of training and encouraging each other. Not only are you going to a class to work hard, but others will also be there to help push you along as well. Classes such as this are also a great way to meet new people and interact with your community. This class style works very well for those of you who classify as extroverts, as it is a perfect match for your inherent nature.
The workouts (also known as WODs or workout of the day) are designed to push the participant out of their comfort zone. The WODs are typically scaled too, which means that they are adaptive to any fitness level, and as you get stronger and stronger, you can push yourself more and more as you progress through your classes. This is incredibly rewarding because you can see progress happen fast and consistently at the beginning of your training. Going through hard training makes other aspects of your life easier due to the toughness you build when mentally and physically pushing yourself hard; adversity builds resilience.
Crossfit classes use a variety of exercises on an ever-changing basis. A mix of bodyweight, barbell and kettlebell movements, plyometrics (jump training), and machine conditioning is used regularly. This changing platform of movements helps beginners adhere to the classes because each class will present something new, fun, and challenging. And since one of the most significant factors of success in any new endeavor is consistency, this is a novel way to help you adhere to a new stimulus and training structure.
Since you would be entering into a new training stimulus, you have nowhere to go but up. With the nature of Crossfit workouts, you are pushed to challenge yourself. You will consistently set personal records (lift more weight, complete a WOD faster, etc.) at most every workout, and your adherence to the workouts will be easier to abide by.
This can easily be a con when it comes to workouts. Some people do not enjoy crowds and an environment that encourages interaction with a large group. Typically, these are more introverted people, and they would best be suited with either small group classes or working out on their own. If you know that you tend to shy away from others and enjoy spending time alone, this training style may not be the best for you.
While variety can help improve adherence in beginning trainees, it is non-optimal for increasing muscle size, where standard, progressive overload is best applied. It usually takes several weeks for the nervous system to adapt to a training stimulus and efficiently recruit muscle fibers for the movement pattern. From there, increases in muscle size are realized.3 If building muscle is a priority for you; this may not suit you.
Crossfit classes are typically a monthly membership. They take care of all the programming of the classes, and all you do is show up and do the work. The average cost of classes is $186 per month (per individual), with higher prices in metropolitan areas.4 You have to decide if this price point is worth it to you. It will work if you put in the work, but so may other training methods.
Usually, the WODs are decided by Crossfit HQ, and Boxes (Crossfit Gyms) will run their classes through the workouts. Most Crossfit gyms will also run their programming, and you are at the mercy of the knowledge and experience of the coaches. Before committing, my advice is to research coaches and see what their clients are saying about them and about the results they achieved.
When starting any new activity, be sure to consult with your physician. A physical therapist is also a great resource if you’re looking to get back into exercising. Reach out to your local Athletico, where our experts can help guide you through the right workout for you. Get started today by scheduling a Free Assessment. Free Assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
3. DeFreitas JM, Beck TW, Stock MS, Dillon MA, Kasishke PR 2nd. An examination of the time course of training-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011;111(11):2785-2790. doi:10.1007/s00421-011-1905-4