Some people like motocross, others like yoga. Some people do bicep curls, others run marathons. It’s all movement, and it’s all good, but if you’ve been wondering about CrossFit, we’ve teamed up with functional fitness experts KITBOX, to walk you through the basics of it.
What is CrossFit?
Apart from the occasional benchmark workout to test your progress, no two workouts are ever the same in CrossFit. Ask any coach who’s completed their certification, and they’ll tell you that it’s all about constantly varied, functional movements.
CrossFit is known for its community spirit. Gyms or ‘boxes’ offer drop-in sessions, and you can be assured a warm welcome wherever you go, whether it becomes your regular box or not.
Typical CrossFit workouts usually involve some kind of strength movement at the start, like a squat or a press, followed by a met-con (metabolic conditioning), which can include barbell work, pull-ups, bodyweight movements, gymnastics, running and so on. A workout is called a WOD (Workout the of Day.)
Jerk, squat and snatch
There’s a whole load of abbreviations and weird and wonderful words to get to grips with in CrossFit, but let’s start with the basics. Walk into any box, and you’ll be met with a whiteboard, covered in rep schemes, percentages and acronyms like DU, HSPU and STOH.
Here are some of the most common words and phrases you’ll hear, and what they mean:
- Clean - Unless specified, a clean is a full squat clean, in which the barbell travels from the ground, onto the shoulders, caught in a front squat position. Variations include the power clean, in which no squat is performed, and the hang clean, where the bar begins at hip height.
- Squat - Front squat sees the barbell sit across the front of the shoulders. Back squat sees the bar sit across the traps. Squats are always below parallel (femur below 90 degrees.)
- Clean and jerk - This is the one you sometimes see at the Olympic Games. The bar moves from the floor to the shoulders via a clean, then goes overhead by means of a jerk, which is a press into a partial lunge. The lunge or ‘split’ helps the lifter get underneath the bar faster.
- Push press - Medium loads or light loads at volume sometimes call for a push press. This is an overhead press, with a short dip and drive from the hips.
- Snatch - Taking the bar from the floor to overhead in one smooth movement. This is a very advanced movement, which your coach will likely introduce in good time.
- Kipping/Butterfly - Used to do lots of pull-ups. Strict pull-ups do exist, but kipping is preferable when volume is needed. Quite a complex movement, so don’t worry if it doesn’t come naturally.
- Double-unders/DU - Jump rope. Pass the rope under your feet twice on every jump.
- Toes to bar/T2B - Starting in a hanging position on a pull-up bar, create momentum with your hips and touch the bar between your hands, with your toes.
- AMRAP - As Many Rounds/Reps As Possible
- RX - Using the ‘prescribed’ load. If the workout says use 45kg, and you use 45kg, that’s RX. If you use 30kg, that’s not RX. It’s purely for recording progress purposes (but also bragging rights.)
The list goes on and on, but remember these basics and you’re off to a good start.
What does a week of WODs look like?
Four, five or even six days of CrossFit a week isn’t unusual, and every workout will include a thorough warm-up and stretching session.
Most of the time, classes last an hour, with the first half dedicated to building strength or working on technique, and the second half to the workout.
Let’s say you work pressing on a Monday; you might do front and then back squat Tuesday/Wednesday, with Thursday and Friday spent working clean and jerk technique. Your WODs for the week could include everything from 7-minute sprints, to 30-minute slow burners.
The result? Strength, speed, coordination and endurance.
What about the common concerns?
Is CrossFit dangerous?
Only in the same way that skateboarding, snowboarding, wrestling, football and ballet are dangerous. If you don’t take the time to learn the basics, or you go in over your head for reasons of bravado, then it’s dangerous. Otherwise, no.
Why is it so expensive?
CrossFit gyms have to pay an affiliation fee to CrossFit. You’re paying for bespoke programming and coaching, and the equipment isn’t cheap. It’s also a popular brand. Typical memberships cost between £60-110.
I’ve heard it’s like a cult…
You might spend a lot of time talking about snatching with your new buddies, but there’ll be no mass suicide.
What equipment will I need for CrossFit?
Here’s what KITBOX recommends:
Virus Airflex Men’s Training Shorts – Durable shorts are absolutely essential.
JAW Wraps – Protecting your hands is also essential. Lots of rig and bar work.
WODing and lifting shoes – Being able to run, jump and lift with stability means progress and safety.
Xendurance Fuel 5 and Xendurance Protein – Get a pre-workout pump, and recover with some of the world’s best supplements.
This post is sponsored by KITBOX.
Having been involved in functional fitness in the UK from the beginning, in one way or another, KITBOX always try to give something back when we can. We have many friends within the community and help out a growing number of athletes. Whether it be supporting individual athletes, sponsoring throwdowns, helping to organise grass roots competitions or just training with our friends at our local box, we are always listening and learning and trying to help out where we can.