CrossFit, the best way to build muscle, burn fat and get into shape?
Aktualisiert: 13. Apr 2020
If you want to know if CrossFit is the best and most effective way to build superior fitness, burn fat and build muscle, you should read this article!
Anticipated summary and main conclusions:
1. CrossFit can definitely help you to get in great shape, depending on the trainer it is also not sooo dangerous as it is claimed by many.
2. it's also that it's not the most effective training to get stronger, build muscles and burn fat. If your goal is to become stronger, build muscle and improve your cardiovascular system, then you should use "old" traditional training methods.
"CrossFit doesn't just change your body, it changes your whole life, it's a philosophy!" Sentences like this are often heard from people who started CrossFit, they belong to a "movement" and represent a philosophy.
Worldwide there are now already about 13000 CrossFit boxes and CrossFitters are one of the most fanatical fitness representatives ever.
But is it really so incredibly effective and turns everyone into a "machine"? And is it really that effective to practice workout protocols?
Or does it offer another "hyped" fitness trend that drives many into overload damage and overtraining, as many of CorssFit's opponents claim?
So CrossFit can definitely improve your fitness a lot, but it's not the most effective and safest way to get stronger, build muscle and burn fat!
What is "CrossFit"?
CrossFit is a "high intensity" training, in which various WOD´s (workout of the day) must be performed on time or a given number of repetitions and laps.
Usually strength is combined with endurance, e.g. exercises like push-ups, sprints, climbing ropes, box jumps, clean & jerk etc., these workouts last about 5-15 minutes on average and are stopped individually.
The time achieved is then included in a ranking and you can compare yourself with other CrossFitters.
In most WOD´s you complete a predetermined number of repetitions of pre-determined exercises and pre-determined rounds or pre-determined exercises, repetitions and a fixed time in which as many rounds as possible are completed with as little break as possible between the exercises.
Here is an example of such a workout:
16min AMRAP (as many reps as possible) 10 Burpees 10 Pull-Ups 20 Lunges 20 SitUps
10 rounds 20 Mountainclimber 20 Situps 20 AirSquat 20 Lunges
and much more workouts like this!
People pay relatively high membership fees in the CrossFit boxes to perform the above workouts. Below you can see what the usual CrossFit boxes look like from the inside. All in all they are very well-equipped and do something!
So you see these "boxes" are really very well equipped and you can really do super strength training.
What and how you train with this equipment is the crucial question, but it's great that they are super equipped! From the basic idea CrossFit is a great idea, you combine strength exercises with endurance exercises and "et voilá", already you have the perfect training to become athletic and achieve your goals, as mentioned above. Unfortunately this is too short and it is not the most effective way to get there.
The video below shows what I mean by CrossFit philosophy and why it has become so popular, besides the very elaborate marketing strategy:
Brilliant marketing as said and many promises, but what about reality and the scientific side?
What are the pros of CrossFit?
CrossFit is often the more expensive way to provoke overload damage or overtraining, injure yourself and lose muscle mass, we'll get to all these points later, but let's get to the positive things about CrossFit.
CrossFit tells you exactly what to do at every workout and you can measure and compare yourself with others at every WOD, which can be motivating!
You come into the CrossFit box and meet other motivated people and are already looking forward to the WOD, which as always is available from randomly selected exercises, random sequence and a fixed number of laps or a fixed time. However, this type of physical exercise cannot be described as progressive, structured and planned training.
If you have a good CrossFit instructor, he or she can also plan an individually designed WOD´s for you, i.e. if you still have deficits in the upper body area, he or she will show you a corresponding WOD for this area. Or if you still have sore muscles in certain muscle areas today, he can give you an individual WOD which will protect these muscle areas as much as possible on that day.
This kind of "training" is actually a practice and is of course better than nothing and you also burn a lot of calories in a short period of time and make your progress at the beginning, certainly also decreases, but not only fat but also muscle mass, but more about that! But basically it is positive that the people are super motivated in the group and by the "Challenge" and the comparability in the WOD´s!
Most CrossFit boxes also store your WOD´s and check if you are making progress and getting better to avoid plateaus.
CrossFit also revolves around barbell exercises.
Those who know me and my training know that I am a big supporter of barbell training and the heavy "compound exercises" like knee bends, crucifix lifts, bench presses, pull-ups and shoulder presses.
The most important goal of every trainee should be to become stronger and better in the above multiple joint exercises, each individually for his or her goal.
Unfortunately, I made the same mistake in the past as a lot of trainees I see in the studios today, I neglected the above mentioned exercises or even did not do them at all!
And in most CrossFit boxes you will get an introduction to the above mentioned exercises and I hope in the right way! Which is very positive!
CrossFit always drives you and will bring you to your limits!
For most people it is very difficult to move them out of their comfort zone and stay motivated to be able to torture themselves. With CrossFit you will definitely be taken out of your comfort zone and you will always be motivated to improve to be placed further up the scoreboard, that can be very motivating, even taking extreme forms of exhaustion. Since 2005 (the beginning of the CrossFit Hype) the cases of rhabdomyolysis have been increasing, which can lead to acute kidney failure and in the worst case even to death. This is caused by extreme muscle strain, whereby the striated muscle dissolves and myoglobin enters the bloodstream and ultimately the kidneys and if this takes on extreme forms it leads to kidney failure.
Most WOD´s will take you to your limits, heavier, faster and harder!
But basically you will certainly get fitter, you are surrounded by a lot of positive-motivated fitness enthusiasts, you will certainly improve your diet, optimize your dietary supplement if necessary and on average no longer train in terms of time like many other trainers.
What are the CONS of CrossFit?
Compared to other training trends, you could do worse than with CrossFit, but if you want to burn body fat, build muscle, get stronger and in a healthy, effective and safe way, then CrossFit is the wrong decision, why come to this now.
Here you can find out why:
CrossFit is not the most effective way to get fit!
The CrossFit marketing throws almost with special terms around itself like for example:
- Functional Movements - General better Fitness - Metabolic Conditioning ("MetCon") - General physical preparedness ("GPP")
The idea that you do various exercises from different strength sports, paired with intensive short endurance exercises together in a workout and thus optimally and effectively improve your overall performance, burn fat and build muscles, is basically good! But unfortunately the experience and the science shows meanwhile another picture. You end up in every area in mediocrity and that with a high load and the danger of overtraining or overload damage. This has already been shown in several studies. The body receives various signals simultaneously for muscle growth and cardiovascular improvement, but these two signals stand in each other's way, so to speak, or rather, the body does not adapt both at the same time optimally.
And by the way this training method is not new at all, in former times it was called "power circles", only the exercises in these power circles were arranged more intelligently in former times, i.e. no heavy exercises like crucifix lifting were carried out in a completely exhausted state. Even if they asked an experienced competition weightlifter if he would do "tearing" in an exhausted state, he would say, NO, not at all, because technically he would not do every repetition cleanly or take a high risk of injuring himself. A further problem is that the injury or overload damage does not occur immediately and acutely, but only manifests itself after months or even years. Have you ever noticed how many of the CrossFitters are taped or have any "aches and pains"?
Basically one can classify the performance and the following easily measurable abilities:
- Power abilities (1 RepMax as an example for bench press or knee bends etc.)
- Cardiovascular system (VO2max test)
- Body composition (fat-free muscle mass)
- metabolic health
Greg Glassman, the "inventor" of CrossFit, coined the phrase "Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains", which suggests that you are only as fit as you are in CrossFit. Clever and of course very useful, but also wrong and a stupid statement!
Put the example to the test and go to a CrossFit studio, you will see a lot of weak and overweight CrossFitters, but they have been training for a long time and very hard. Overweight "Spartans" doing "kipping pull-ups" (several clean pull-ups wouldn't do them) and also they will finish the WOD and you still can't call them fit. But don't get me wrong, I don't blame these people, they are highly motivated and want to get better, but most of the time this kind of training regime ends in overstrain, overtraining or resignation.
As I said, huge sums of money are invested in super marketing, so the videos with the incredibly well-trained CrossFitters are always at the top of the social media ranking at the CrossFit Games. What you always have to keep in mind is that the pros who can be seen in the videos have often had a professional career in another sport before and have switched to CrossFit due to the hype and the better earning opportunities. They are often NFL footballers, wrestlers, judokas, MMA fighters, weights, etc. who may not have made the breakthrough in their sports, but of course have incredible physical potential. This means that these athletes have a very good genetic potential and often steriodes are used. The pictures below from the CrossFit Games of course give the impression that this kind of training is the "non plus ultra"! The impression is deceptive!
And please don't forget these CrossFit Games are a professional sport and of course vitamin S helps. Please don't believe that you or me or any other clean athlete will or can perform these services. (Cynical statement I know, but it is reality)
Does this now mean CrossFit does not let the muscles grow and endurance is not improved? No, but it is not very wise to choose this ineffective way.
Therefore most CrossFitters that only train CrossFit don't really look well trained and are not very endurance capable, if there are fit CrossFitters, then they train "normal" strength training independently from their "normal" endurance training and always use CrossFit as training.
The science and experience of the best athletes in the world shows that optimal improvements in muscle building and endurance are possible if these two areas are trained separately in separate units.
Overtraining comes easier with CrossFit!
Due to the hard units for which CrossFit is "famous", this naturally leads much earlier to overtraining (general fatigue), depression, insomnia and lack of appetite.
Sadly, Makimba Mimms gained fame in the USA, receiving $300,000 in compensation for winning a court case against his CrossFit box. He sued because he got rhabdomyolysis after training. The WOD at which he collapsed was cynically renamed "Makimba"-WOD and is now known as a children's WOD!!!!! :-(
But you don't necessarily have to be a CrossFit beginner to get rhabdomyolysis, because even American footballers from the University of Iowa were hospitalized in 2011 and 2013 after doing a workout very similar to that of CrossFit.
So in the end you can say that if you do a whole body strength training like WOD´s several times a week until you're completely exhausted, you'll end up in overtraining sooner or later!
CrossFit makes it easier for you to hurt yourself!
What I first noticed with many CrossFitters was that a lot of them had some "aches and pains", were taped or often couldn't do any training because of pain. That's not surprising if you know that studies prove that CrossFit causes 2-4 times as many injuries as normal strength training with 2-4 injuries per 1000 training hours.
And because I often hear that the CrossFit trainers are so well trained, there may be a lot of good trainers, but in the end you just can't keep the clean technique in a state of complete exhaustion, which you may have in a recovered state. That doesn't mean that you will hurt yourself in any case with CrossFit, but the probability is much higher!
Are you supposed to train CrossFit now?
If you like training together with people and want to have fun, of course you also want to make some small progress and don't train too often, then yes, why not?
But if you want to effectively and quickly improve your performance, build muscles and burn fat, I suggest you go the "good old way" that so many athletes have taken.
But on the whole you have to say that CrossFit has also done a lot of good, it has motivated a lot of people to do sports, even if it has a lot of bad sides. Decide on an intelligently designed workout, create a solid basis, then you can also do a CrossFit workout or build it into your workout from time to time, but please don't see CrossFit as a "main workout"!
If you are looking for a workout that combines strength, athleticism and endurance, then www.smiss-training.com/trainingsprogramme
Note: All my recommendations or blog content are carefully considered and reviewed and are intended for healthy adults over the age of 18. None of my articles can be a substitute for competent medical advice. Please consult a physician before starting any exercise, nutrition or dietary supplement program. Especially if you have had any medical problems in the past. By clicking on links to products I recommend, you are helping to keep this blog alive. Some links are so-called referral links. You do not pay anything extra. But if you buy something, I get a commission. I only recommend products that I myself use, love and am convinced of.