A quick introduction to the CrossFit fitness system

Disclaimer: The only things I know about Crossfit are what I’ve been able to learn on the Internet. Friends have asked me what it is about and this posting is the answer. If for some reason you’re interested in how I came across Crossfit and their particular type of fitness training, take a look at this posting.

For an authoritative source on what Crossfit is all about, there’s a great summary on their website called World-Class Fitness in 100 Words.

Some ideas behind the Crossfit exercises are:
  1. Functional exercises. Exercises that are similar to sport movements or other “real-life” activities rather than using fitness machines. Exercises have to be done with good form.
  2. High intensity. Better to train short (less than one hour) but hard, since it sends the right signals to your body.
  3. Lot’s of variety to avoid getting bored and because every exercise trains muscles in a different way.

An important concept used in Crossfit is Tabata Intervals. The main idea is to do an exercise for 20 seconds very intensively and then rest 10 seconds. Repeat this 7 more times. Works best if done with a stop watch.

Basically a study compared two groups of already fit people for 6 weeks. One group did cycling for one hour every day at 70% of their maximum aerobic capacity (VO2 Max is the technical term). The other group did only 4 minutes very intense exersise (8 tabata intervals) per day. The surprising result was that their aerobic resistance increased more or less the same in both groups, but the Tabata people also increased their strength by 28%, while there was no strength increase in the other group…And this was with one hour versus four minutes…

Here are some simple exercises that you can do with very little special equipment in Tabata intervals:

Take it easy at the beginning! It’s tougher than it seems…This article by Dan John is also a good introduction to Tabata intervals.

The ExRx website also has a program that uses ideas similar to Tabata Intervals called HIIT. Might also be a good place to start. also provides evidence of the impact of this type of training on body fat when compared to normal endurance training.

If you want to learn how to do more different exercises, I recommend:

This Men’s Journal article shows some example workouts (very tough!). Don’t get distracted by the model showing the moves…

Once you’re familiar with most exercises, you can try to follow the Workout Of the Day. Their are hard, but you can always substitute unfamiliar exercises for some other familiar exercise as they recommend.

You can find most WODs on the Crossfit FAQ

My main problem so far with the Crossfit ideas, has been to find a place to do pull-ups since it’s one of the main exercises.

I’m very impressed with how hard your first 4 minutes of say Tabata-style Dumbbell Thrusters (video) can be, even if you think you are quite fit to start with.

Sunday 04 March 2007 18:13