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CrossFit: The ultimate workout challenge?

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

" CrossFit has changed my fitness levels and body for the better," says Lucie Anslow, personal trainer and CrossFit enthusiast. Five days a week, Lucie ventures to BC One, a CrossFit gym in Cannock, before work, "it sets me up for the day," she says.

"Every single workout challenges a part of me, physically and mentally. I've become leaner, stronger, fitter and faster and I'm always wanting to challenge myself more and more."

But what is CrossFit?

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit was born in 2000, when American fitness expert Greg Glassman applied his work with police cadets to everyday training. "It combines strength training, explosive plyometrics, speed training, Olympic and power-style weight lifting, kettle bells, body weight exercises, gymnastics and endurance exercise," says Ed Brown owner of CrossFit gym P360.

By doing this, CrossFit targets what it calls the major components of physical fitness: cardiorespiratory fitness, stamina, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination and accuracy.

Training the CrossFit way requires you to work out three to five days per week. Each workout is intense, functional and short and sweet, lasting from anything from five to 25 minutes.

"The workouts are intense, mentally challenging and quicker than other conventional workouts, taking no longer than 25 minutes," says Lucie. "This may not seem very long, but believe me, you wouldn't want them to be any longer. They push you to the limits and you give it everything you have, so once you're're done!"

Each workout typically combines explosive exercises done in a circuit format: one exercise follows right after the next, with very little rest in between. The main CrossFit exercises involve the whole body and include pushing, pulling, running, skipping, rowing and squatting.

CrossFit exercises

There are hundreds of CrossFit exercises. Here are a few:

  • Power Cleans: Pulling a weighted bar from the floor and bringing it up to and in front of your shoulders in a quick and forceful manner.
  • Burpees: This is a body-weight-only exercise that involves beginning in a standing position, quickly dropping to the floor and doing a push-up, then coming up to a squatting position and explosively jumping straight-up.
  • The Snatch: A weighted bar is rapidly pulled from the floor to directly over your head with the arms held straight.
  • Thruster: This exercise begins with standing upright with weighted bar held in front of your shoulders. You squat down to the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor, then quickly stand back-up and press the weighted bar over your head.

Other examples are variations of press-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups. CrossFit also often uses kettle bells (a weighted bell with a handle on top), medicine balls, pull up rigs, climbing ropes, jump ropes and rowing machines.

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