Keen on CrossFit? Here’s what you need to know…


Three local teams recently qualified to compete in the Reebok CrossFit Games (read a personal account of the experience here and here), which is a massive achievement (well, we’re super proud).

It’s a fitness feat that is sure to create serious buzz around this popular form of training in the build up to the Games.

The news might even have you thinking about trying out a CrossFit workout – commonly referred to as a WOD, or the workout of the day. If you’re interested in visiting your local box (that’s CrossFit ‘speak’ for gym), then here are a few helpful tips to get you started…

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The WOD basics

A WOD is typically short – usually 20 minutes or less – but it’s intense! The format of the workout requires all-out physical exertion and serious intensity as you perform functional movements consecutively, with no or minimal rest, with proper form.

It can be tempting to jump right in and get your hands dirty (or chalked, as they do in the box), but any facility that doesn’t offer an on-boarding class for newbies should be avoided. Many of the exercises are complex on their own, so when you add serious intensity and high volumes to the mix, you’ve got a recipe for a serious injury.


Workout structures

But don’t worry, once you’ve tasted the Kool-Aid you’ll soon be joining the more advanced CrossFitters for a serious sweat session.

Some of workouts you’ll do are based on a task priority, where CrossFitters have to complete the tasks as quickly as possible. Other workouts are based on a time priority, where CrossFitters have a fixed amount of time to complete as much work as possible in a set time period.

Either way, all CrossFit WODs will improve overall fitness and your physical ‘preparedness’ for everyday life.

Performing a WOD

All CrossFit boxes should be affiliated to CrossFit Inc. and have coaches that are formally trained in the discipline. This ensures they know what they’re doing so there’s less risk of injury, as CrossFit training is extremely technical. Qualified coaches will also ensure you get the results you’re after.

Each WOD is generally timed and recorded to encourage competition andtrack your progress. This means classes can become pretty competitive, which adds a new dimension to your average training day. But don’t stress, everyone is also really supportive. No one leaves the box until everyone’s completed the WOD, so there’ll lots of fellow CrossFitters cheering you on as you get stronger and fitter.

Try out this quick CrossFit workout in your gym.

The exercises used are generally taken from the basic compound strength movements used in any gym setting, like squats, deadlifts and barbell presses, but WODs can also include other elements like power lifting, Olympic weightlifting and body-weight exercises, as well as high-intensity aerobic and anaerobic cardio training (or metabolic conditioning) such as sprinting, rowing, swimming, skipping and resisted sprinting.

Other tools used in the CrossFit workout include gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, kettlebells, medicine balls, climbing ropes, truck tyres and resistance bands. These elements are mixed in numerous combinations to create the WOD.

Check out this guide to basic CrossFit nutrition

CrossFit generally categorises exercises into three types:

  1. Weight lifting: Cleans, push presses, deadlifts, front squats, overhead squats.

  2. Gymnastic movements: Dips, pull-ups, push-ups, box jumps.

  3. Mono-structural exercise: Sprinting, skipping, rowing and other continuous or intermittent movements that are generally classified as cardio.

These exercises are then combined according to the coaches orders, posted on a board in thebox, and executed as a WOD, using one of three different workout structures:

Singlet: One exercise done for time. Seven sets of overhead squats, for example.

Couplet: Two exercises from separate categories are combined, done for time. Fran, a WOD which combines thrusters with pull-ups is an example.

Triplet: Combines exercises from all three categories.

A final word of caution

A general word of caution, though. Due to the high-intensity nature of the workouts (and its addictiveness) many CrossFitters fall into theall-CrossFit-all-the-time mentality. Consecutive WODs might sound awesome, but some form of periodisation is important.

Cross-training is also encouraged to vary the intensity and volume of your training week to ensure proper recover. But if you listen to your coach and your body, who knows, perhaps in a few years it’ll be you jetting off to the US to compete against the “Fittest on Earth” in the ‘sport of fitness’.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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