CrossFit is an amazing strength and conditioning program. But it can be tough to find a CrossFit affiliate suited for the athlete. Below are some CrossFit beginner tips on how to get started. The Program vs. The Sport The first thing to understand is the two sides to CrossFit: 1.) the strength and conditioning program; and 2.) “The Sport of Fitness.” If you have Googled CrossFit, seen the new CrossFit Games on ESPN, you have witnessed “The Sport.” But if you are new to CrossFit being focused on the “competition side of CrossFit” will not help you much. You need a strength and conditioning program that helps you to become the best athlete possible. Intelligently programmed—that is, focused on helping you become more athletic overall—CrossFit can be very beneficial. The more athletic you become, the easier it will be to translate that athleticism to meet the demands of your sport. It’s hard to become better at the skills of your sport in the gym—but you can definitely become more athletic. This will, in turn, make it easier to perform the skills you need—throwing, catching, hitting, shooting, climbing, swimming or skating. Here’s a checklist to use when contacting and visiting CrossFit affiliates: Background of Coach/Trainer Does the coach have only a CrossFit certification, or does he/she also have one or more certifications from other established organizations? How much practical experience do they have? There is a reason that internships exist. Does the coach have a sports background? Although plenty of great coaches have not played sports, it is usually a good sign if they have. Knowing what you actually need on the field or court helps ensure you get the workout you need in the gym. Group Size and Dynamic Some CrossFit affiliates run classes of 20, 30 or more people at a time. As someone using the program to get more fit, you would probably benefit from more focused attention. Even if the program itself is technically a “group session”, you will need individual attention to achieve proper form and reduce the risk of injury. Try to find an affiliate that hosts smaller groups so that you can actually get trained. Programming Programming is always hit or miss, but it can still be fun. If you are training for a specific sport, good programming is the most important aspect of your training. Most affiliates post daily workouts on their websites, so it’s easy to see their programming style. If they don’t post it, just give them a call and ask. Below are some guidelines for weeding out programs that are bad for athletes. Avoid gyms that use the following exercises and/or sequences in their programs:
- Kipping/Butterfly Pull-Ups without building a base strength level
- Sumo Deadlift High Pulls with improper shoulder positioning
- High rep Olympic lifts (Cleans and Snatches in the 12+ range)
- High rep heavy lifts (e.g., Bodyweight Deadlifts for 21 reps) programmed more than once a cycle.
- Metabolic conditioning or Workouts of the Day (WODs) that last longer than 20 minutes more than once a week
- Daily weighted and/or overuse of the shoulder
- Please note: I’m not saying CrossFit affiliates that put these exercises and sequences into their programming are bad affiliates. They are simply places I would not recommend to someone who has pre existing shoulder issues. If you want a long and healthy training life, you want CrossFit to help strengthen and condition you—not just follow “The Sport.”