Crossfit is a sport based on strength and structured metabolic conditioning, which incorporates exercises from a range of different sports disciplines into a single session, such as gymnastics, powerlifting, kettleball lifting, rhythmic gymnastics, strongman, aerobics, swimming etc ...
This training protocol was developed by Grag Glassman, and is currently identified by the trademark CrossFit Inc., founded by Glassman and Lauren Jenai in 2000.
The objectives of crossfit
The aim of the crossfit is to improve the fitness level (understood as health and well-being) of any type of person, regardless of their preparation status, background or age.
- Cardiorespiratory resistance
- Muscle strength
Lessons are held outdoors or inside "boxes" (a name promoted to gyms affiliated to CrossFit Inc.) and include the following steps:
WARM UP / MOBILITY (heating and joint mobility)
Myofacial retardation takes place through the use of small tools; foam rollers and tennis balls are good examples.
First, a joint mobilisation approach is taken, to prepare the joints for the activities to be carried out later (generally focusing on the mobility of the hips). We end this phase with a gentle activity to increase body temperature and lubricate the joints by preparing the muscles and connective tissues for the actual training, for example, through skipping; in all, from mobility to warming lasts roughly 10/15 minutes.
SKILL / STRENGTH (capacity)
Skill: this step explains and practices the various types of exercises that will make up the work out, with the precise aim of improving the technique of execution a specific gesture, in practice it is a technical / didactic step.
Strength: in this section of the session, you will perform the strength exercises by following a "program" of strength diagrams.
WOD (Workout Of The Day)
This is the real workout, the heart of the workout. This is a circuit that encompasses various types of activities (generally those dealt with in the previous stages) which have to be carried out using the methods and the times established, in an effort to give the most benefit, with the best possible technique (or at least that's the idea). This stage takes about 5 to 30 minutes.
RECOVERY / FLEXIBILITY
This stage is dedicated to recovery, from the muscle stretching and fatigue; generally, it lasts about 10 minutes.
Crossfit is based on a variety of exercises, high intensity and functional movements. Here are a few examples.
- Air squat: from an upright position, step to a crouching position with the hips below the knees, and then return to the upright position.
- Push-ups: Hands on the shoulders, bumps on the ground, place your feet on the ground and lift yourself through the upper limb distension, while keeping the chest in line with the head and lower limbs.
- Pull-ups: From a position suspended by the arms with hands clasping a horizontal bar, carry the chin above the bar and then lower yourself back down, without touching the ground. Among the most popular variants is Kipping, which takes advantage of momentum to complete the movement.
- Lunges: From an upright position, you take a step forwards, flex your hip until the knee of the back leg is in a position where it almost, but doesn't come into contact with the ground, and from there, rise back up.
- Dips on rings (ring dips): on the rings, suspended with the straight arms, flex until the shoulder is below the elbow and then return to extended arms (by thrusting them).
WEIGHTLIFTING (lifting weights)
- Power clean
- Power snatch
- Overhead squat
- All possible variations of the preceding
- Dead lift
- Squat (front, back, goblet, etc ...)
- Flat bench
- All possible variations of the preceding
The positive aspects of crossfit ...
- Increasing the EPOC (Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption) which translates into: excessive oxygen consumption post- training. This value represents the greatest post-workout oxygen consumption , and aims to satisfy the body's "oxygen debt". After a workout, metabolic activity and calorie expenditure don't return to baseline immediately, but remain raised for a longer period of time, the length of which depends on the intensity and duration of the activity. The body therefore continues to require oxygen at a higher rate than normal.
The EPOC is closely related to intensity, and crossfit - being a high intensity activity - greatly increases this parameter.
- It trains resilience, i.e. the ability of the central nervous system to withstand fatigue and stress over time.
- It has performance parameters that can be assessed and standardised.
- The variability of the workouts does not lead to an excessive economy of action, and stimulates the user to learn potentially more athletic movements, which makes the crossfit sessions more interesting.
- Standardisation of movements, i.e. repetitions, have to be performed with a certain technique and in accordance with certain parameters in order to be considered valid (e.g., the squat must break the parallel).
- Development of power which implies the ability to produce high strength gradients in a short time.
... and the negative ones
- Lack of work on the transversal plane. Almost all of the work is of a lactic acid nature, which in certain people, like women with circulatory problems, can worsen the situation (however some studies have shown the opposite - there's a difference of opinion about this).
- WOD (Workout Of The Day), being basically a race, risks being seen as technique sacrificed in favour of performance; so much so, that if you ask a physiotherapist for an opinion about crossfit, they would probably answer that its like "Manna from heaven" for them. In order for a rep to be considered valid, it is necessary to "break the parallel", this is the only requirement, whether it can lead to possible traumas of a muscular nature or not.
- The presence of explosive and pliometric exercises in sports training may have a potential risk associated in people with postural problems like a dysfunctional spine, if it isn't adequately compensated by stabilising work.
- Diversification of the work means that there is a continuous variation in the athletes' posture, which, on the one hand, limits the risk of economy of movement, and on the other, reduces consolidation of the motor pattern in the sense-motor area.
- It's of little importance to breathing and training the diaphragm. The diaphragm should perform at least 2/3 of the respiratory work (as it acts as the main respiratory muscle) while the remaining part should be performed by other respiratory muscles. If the diaphragm is "blocked" or limited in its physiological up and down motion, lung function and oxygen utilisation will be restricted, not to mention the postural aspects.
- Failure to take management of internal and external loads into account
- Training is not always modulated according to a program, but is frequently based on intensity; this can increase the risk of injury due to lack of concentration (central nervous system fatigue) and physical fatigue.
- The absence of at least one rest-day can lead to a decrease in basal testosterone and IGF1 concentrations, increasing cortisol levels and inhibiting the production of several thyroid hormones like T3, which is responsible for metabolic control.
- A large quantity of calories helps in slimming, but limits muscle growth and hypertrophic development because our post-work training gives priority to restoring energy stocks before protein synthesis; this means that with crossfit, you can improve your body composition, but don't think you'll become like Froning.
- Total or almost total absence of anti-doping controls.
A further reflection on crossfit
Many of the negative aspects of crossfit - and I'm referring in particular to the untrained technique, lack of rest and uncertain programming - are not attributable to all of the "boxes". Much depends on the objectives that the affiliated gyms are aiming to achieve. If the ultimate goal of a "box" is to attract the largest number of members, and doesn't attach any importance to the quality of the lesson, then it won't provide a precise program that will make the practitioners of this sport feel good. On the other hand, the gyms that are pursuing performance, and care about the practitioners of crossfit will look at all the features that distinguish the real "boxes" from those that are not.