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Crossfit Training: Maximum Intensity or Maximum Risk?

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“I’m doing Fran today.”

This statement would sound derogatory to any normal, average human being who has never picked up a muscle mag or has ever wondered how the guys in the movie “300” trained. But to a lot of athletes out there “I’m doing Fran today,” causes fear, panic, excitement, and nervousness all at the same time. Fran is one of Crossfit’s most famous Benchmark workouts. The workout involvs doing 21-15-9 repetitions of 95lbs Thrusters and Pullups in a superset fashion.

Introduction to Crossfit Training

A benchmark workout is a workout that is repeated throughout the Crossfit programming. When a non-crossfitter looks at the main website, all they see is a collection of really high intensity workouts with no structure. Apparently there is a structure to Crossfit programming, however the structure is a closely guarded secret in founder Greg Glassman’s mind. Coach Glassman is the “genius” behind this “revolutionary” training program. He loves using the words “efficacy” and “power.” In fact, that’s all he really talks about.

Every time Coach Glassman speaks, you are either forced to listen carefully at his words, trying to decipher his SAT-ish language, or marvel at how much someone can talk without actually saying anything. Take, for example a passage from an an interview he gave in Girevik Magazine:

“First of all, what is unique about your Crossfit approach to training?

I think we are unique in both the efficacy of our regimen and our methodology. In terms of approach, I don’t know of another program utilizing gymnastics skills and drills, Olympic Weightlifting/powerlifting, and multi-mode sprint work. Our hallmark of combining these elements in single workouts may be globally unique – we’re still searching.

In terms of efficacy, of course our results are due to our methods – this is true of every program, but more to the point we have spent literally thousands of hours honing our definition of fitness. It is our definition of fitness that has refined our approach, and, in turn, forged our results. For CrossFit the specter of championing a fitness program without clearly defining what it is that the program delivers combines elements of fraud and farce. The October 2002 issue (“What is Fitness?”) of our magazine, CrossFit Journal, is an eleven-page manifesto of our view and standards of fitness.”

Here’s what that means:

  • Crossfit combines gymnastics, Olympic Weight Lifting, and GPP into a single program.
  • We spend countless hours defining the term “Fitness.”

You can go and read the 11-page “manifesto” of Crossfit, but it’ll probably just confuse you more. I know I had to read it at least 5 times to make sense of it. And even then I had a ton of questions. In my quest to simplify my life, Greg Glassman was just throwing random words at me that meant nothing. The purpose of this article to clear up a lot of the “hoopla” surrounding Crossfit, and to give you guys a real taste of what Crossfit really is without all the confusing jargon.

Who is Greg Glassman?

According to Girevik Magazine, Glassman started off as a gymnastic coach in 1974 at a Y.W.C.A gym in Pasadena, California. He went on to train a variety of athletes from various sports, backgrounds, and professions. Coach Glassman soon realized the drawback of traditional body building and endurance athletes when it came to the demands of law enforcement personnel and high intensity athletes. After much experimentation, he found he was able to produce better results with his clients by combining heavy fundamental movements (compound and olympic lifts) with high intensity training (sprints, circuit training).

Out of all the clients and athletes Glassman has worked with, he claims to have a special place for law enforcement and military personnel. It makes sense why this group of athletes would be so keen to make Crossfit a regular part of their training. Crossfit is randomized and challenges a broad spectrum of fitness goals – perfect for law enforcement and military personnel who need to be ready for anything at any time. Crossfit is also extremely popular with Mixed Martial Artists, however, it can be argued that Mixed Martial Artists have been performing Crossfit-esque workouts long before Coach Glassman branded the training style.

So…What is Crossfit Training?

Crossfit isn’t as complicated as Crossfiters and Greg Glassman want to make it seem. We can start with the fact that Crossfit effectively combines gymnastics, Olympic lifting, and high intensity training. Let that sink into your mind first before we continue.

Moving on, the goal of Crossfit programming is to be as general as possible. Glassman believes that the needs of athletes and every day citizens are nearly the same. We all require exercise in the following ten aspects of fitness:

  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness
  • Stamina
  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Speed
  • Power
  • Coordination
  • Accuracy
  • Balance
  • Agility

I have yet to figure out how Crossfit helps you with flexibility, coordination, accuracy, and balance. However, I do agree that the other six can be easily accomplished with Crossfit. However, because this is a general approach to all-around fitness, you’ll be strong – but not the strongest. You’ll be fast – but not the fast. You’ll even get bigger and leaner – but you won’t be the biggest and leanest. Get my drift? After a certain point, if you really care enough, you need to specialize for your sport.

The most popular question out there is how are the Crossfit workouts created? Well, I’ll let Glassman answer that question himself:

“Our view of what fitness is and isn’t creates, in effect, a theoretical template that guides the selection of exercises, their rep range, frequency of occurrence, length of workout, etc. Come to know our standards and aims and the rationale behind our workouts’ architecture becomes somewhat self-evident. The workouts themselves are a near perfect expression of our vast experience building the world’s toughest athletes. This question is great but somewhat like asking Tiger Woods, “How do you do it?”

That being said, the process is without a doubt part art. In fact, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, that august non-profit arbiter of exercise science admits in its Essentials of Strength and Conditioning that exercise programming is still more art than science. At CrossFit we call it the choreography of exertion. Our routines display balance, symmetry, theme, composition, and an aesthetic cultivated over decades of experience – including successes, and failures. The workouts are designed to maximize human physical capacity, period. That being the case, they are universally regarded as being the toughest workouts in every athlete’s experience.

Finally, I cannot discount the utility of posting workouts to the site and getting feedback from hundreds of elite athletes around the world. This would prove invaluable to any strength and conditioning coach or program.”

I have to agree with Glassman on this one, although he could have said what he said with fewer words. I have lots of articles on my site talking about program design, but I still get questions about program design. There are people who can come up with some challenging and effective programs (like me) and those that struggle with it. This is what separates the trainers from the enthusiasts.

Is Crossfit Training Safe?

I’m going to go to the Crossfit site right now and take a look at the first workout and tell you whether or not I think it’s safe:

Grace

135 pound Clean and Jerk, 30 reps

This workout is obviously not safe for a complete newbie. It’s not even safe for me since I can barely clean and jerk 135 for a single rep. Here is how I would tackle this workout:

  • Drop the weight to 95lbs and perform 30 Power Clean and Jerks
  • Work upto 135lbs
  • Drop the weight again to 95lbs and perform 30 Clean and Jerks
  • Work up to 135lbs

We just covered the first reason why Crossfit might not be safe: technical exercises performed at high repetitions. Cleans and snatches require near-precision technique. One small mistake can injure you for good.

The second reason why Crossfit might not be safe is the high intensity nature of the workouts. These workouts cause something called rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo). Rhabdo is a condition where the breakdown of muscle fibers result in the release of muscle contents into the blood stream. These contents (myoglobin) can be harmful to the kidneys and may result in kidney damage.

In a recent Crossfit Journal article , five of the first cases of rhabdo were presented. All five patients recovered fully from their condition within a few weeks, and most went right back to Crossfit. These five individuals were active athletes, but relative beginners to Crossfit. Their condition results in too much Crossfit too fast.

Rhabdo can occur with any sort of high intensity program. A mixed martial artists can get rhabdo from his training, and so can a military personnel. However, cases of rhabdo are higher in Crossfit because of the incredibly high intensity nature of Crossfit. If you underestimate it, it’ll get you.

Later in this article I will show you how to get started with Crossfit without risking rhabdo.

Is Crossfit Training for Me?

Before we get into how to follow Crossfit safely, I think it’s important to determine whether or not Crossfit is for you. Crossfit is for individuals who want to achieve a more well-rounded level of fitness. Here is a problem I’ve experienced in the past: Each time I tried to get bigger and stronger, I got slower. Once I started working on conditioning, I lost some size and power. I was always trying balance between these two ends of the fitness spectrum.

The solution to these problems is Crossfit. In my opinion, everyone should have a taste of Crossfit. However, after 3-6 months, or however long it takes you to get a real taste for it, you should modify it for your own needs. If your main goal in life is to be the biggest guy in the gym, you can probably use Crossfit to shed some fat real fast or maintain cardiovascular conditioning, however don’t deviate to far away from what ever it is that’s helping you pack on size.

How to Get Started with Crossfit Training

On the main Crossfit site, they tell you to spend a month getting to know the movements. Start the program, substituting the exercises that you don’t know with the exercises that you do know. This is a pretty good approach. I’ve experimented with Crossfit in the past, and to tell you the truth, it can get really frustrating really fast. If you have the money and time, I suggest going to an affiliate. Crossfit has a list of local affiliates on their website.

I’ve never been to an affiliate. But I can tell you one thing: if you’re not familiar with Cleans, Jerks, Snatches and other complex, high intensity moves – be careful with them. I’m not an expert at these movement, but I was able to learn the “power” versions of these rather quickly. By this I mean power cleans, push press, and power snatches. You can also substitute these movements with a dumbbell or kettlebell. Using a dumbbell or kettlebell is probably safer than trying to heave a huge barbell over your head.

A few more tips to help you get started without risking rhabdo:

  • Start with a lower frequency than the one recommended (3 on, 1 off). Try three days a week and steadily move up to four or five days a week.
  • Be prepared to eat. After my first week of Crossfit, my metabolism was on fire. I just kept eating everything in site (this can get dangerous in the long run).
  • Take longer rest periods than you think. For example, if you’re doing Fran, maybe work in a minute rest periods between each set, even if you don’t need it. This will help you get used to the idea of moving back and forth between two big, compound movements.
  • Time and record everything. Without a training journal, you’ll never know if you made progress with this program.
  • Don’t be afraid to deviate from the program. People on the board will yell at you, but who cares? I personally don’t follow the Crossfit programming because it does not match my needs.

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Want Better Gains? Get a Better Mattress and Start Sleeping Better!

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Sleep isn’t something everyone immediately associates with lean gains. Turns out, new muscle gets built while we sleep! If you aren’t sleeping well then your body isn’t building muscle well. That’s just a fact.

What often slips our awareness is that small sleep disturbances can have rippling effects. If you wake up with a slight sore in your back each morning you’re probably not sleeping well. That slight soreness may indicate improper spinal support, troubling pressure points, or lack of contour support altogether.

What’s scarier is this: if you’ve never had a good night of sleep you wouldn’t even know it! After all, if I were color blind and didn’t know any better I’d assume that was normal perception. You may have been sleeping poorly all these years and not even realized it. Well, fixing that is easier than ever before!

Beds in Boxes

What’s the worst part of getting a new mattress, other than spending all that damn hard-earned cash? Moving it! Some local places will deliver but even then you’re stuck carrying it around your house.

In the past few years, there’s been a silent revolution in the mattress industry that the big guys like Sealy, Serta, and Sleep Number don’t want you to know about. This revolution has been led by mattress brands such as Casper, Leesa, Tuft & Needle, and Nectar Sleep. Never heard of them? Listen up.

These mattress brands started selling their products directly to buyers and cutting out the middleman. No more walking around in those awkward Mattress Firm stores (is it me or do new ones pop up every day?) These mattress brands make, sell, and ship their own mattress. You save, they save, and the best news? These mattresses ship by UPS all rolled-up tightly in boxes about the size of a mini-fridge!

Which Mattress is the Best Mattress?

Bed in box brands have found a way to get quality mattresses to people—hassle-free—for prices that are often 50% less than store brands. That means you can get a $1000 mattress for $500! It’s still just like any other market: there’s a price point for every budget. What’s different with these mattresses is that their price points have a lot less markup!

Websites like Home Refinery have tons of mattress reviews and can help you find the best mattress among many dozens of available choices. Fitbuff isn’t a mattress review website and we’d refer you to others like Home Refinery for more in-depth reviews. What I am prepared to do is offer up my personal opinion on a few different types of mattresses. Again, to find the best mattress of any type you need to check a site like Home Refinery or Consumer Reports.

Memory Foam

You’ve heard of it but have you ever slept on it? Memory foam hit the market with a splash but quickly lost fandom when people realized how damn hot these types of mattresses slept. Newer memory foam mattresses have found ways to cool things down and are worth another look. These are the best mattresses for back pain in most cases and probably the best for us gym rats looking for a deeper sleep.

Latex

Natural latex is used for much more than checking prostates and keeping babies out of your girlfriend’s belly. Natural latex mattresses offer a really responsive and caressing feel, similar to memory foam, but bounce back a bit more. These mattresses are heavy and more expensive but a great choice for all you health nuts out there. If you’re looking for the best mattress for sex then consider a latex mattress. They have a bit more “spring” to them!

Hybrids

These mattresses are usually the best choice for people who aren’t sure what they want. Hybrid mattresses usually have memory foam, latex, and sometimes even weird polymer materials in them. These types of mattresses give you a better overall sense of balance as you sleep. Not balance like “I’m so drunk imaboudda bust it” but more like “I feel like I’m sleeping on a cloud nestled on a trampoline sitting on a soft bed of moss.” They are available with everything other than a personal assistant.

In Closing

We all know that there are no magic pills when it comes to getting shredded. You get out what you put in. However, there are considerations to make such as adequate nutrition and proper sleep. If your body isn’t able to repair itself optimally each night your gains aren’t going to be at their max. So before you start popping sleeping pills or dropping cash on a Swedish massage get yourself a brand new mattress!

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5 Tips for Choosing the Best Location for Your Fitness Center

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A lot goes into building a fitness center and making it a successful business, and your initial instincts are right: One of the things that matters the most is location, location, location. Here are some tips to help you find the one that will work best for you.

1. Figure out what kind of building you need for your fitness center. Do you want your own, stand-alone property, or will you be best served in a building that houses many businesses (like a strip mall or office park)? If you want your own building, make sure you plan to budget for things like making sure the foundation is stable and solid, that all of the wiring is up to code, etc. It’s sort of like buying a house, but for your business. Of course, utilizing space in a shared building has its own set of issues you’ll have to deal with, too.

2. What kind of clientele do you most want to serve? Are you after the wealthy, nobody-seems-to-have-a-day-job types? Are you primarily interested in helping kids? Do you want to limit your clientele to one gender? All of these things factor in when it comes to where you should put your business. For example: If you want to serve business executives, your gym will work far better in your city’s business or financial district than it will if it’s all the way on the outskirts of town.

3. What kind of fitness center do you want to have? Are you going for the “standard” treadmills, elliptical, lots-of-equipment-type of fitness center? Are you going to be building a yoga studio or a center that focuses on fitness through martial arts training? Are you going to be offering Cross Fit or boot-camp-style programs? Each of these different types of fitness has different physical requirements.

4. How easy is it for people to get to your business? If you live in a larger city, make sure you take things like public transportation into account as well as easy freeway access. The harder it is for people to get to you, the less likely you are to build a business that becomes successful. Yes, people do actually take the bus or the train to go to the gym, especially if they believe that your fitness center is worth the trip!

5. Make sure you have enough parking. Why would somebody visit a fitness center whose parking situation forces them to have to walk half a mile from where they parked to your front door? That’s a quick workout right there! There are lots of different factors that go into figuring out how many parking spots you need. A good rule of thumb is to have a parking spot available for each piece of equipment you have (or each mat space, etc.) plus a few extra.

These tips are just the beginning. Try not to worry too much, though—your business will be up, running, and successful before you know it!

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How to Set Goals

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FC Barcelona Vs. Manchester United. In the Champions League soccer finals this year, it was these sides that clashed, and what a one-sided battle it was. Just like 2008, the latter gave up without any complaint, it seemed.

And if there was anyone who stole the show, it was Messi all the way, right from the start of their Champions League campaign.

And the beauty of it all is that they achieved this tough goal of being Europe’s champions by taking little baby steps that begins with the youth at the La Masia, Barcelona’s youth academy. (La Masia means ‘the farmhouse’)

It serves as an excellent example for those who love sport and are willing to put in long years of hard work in order to get to the top. And it’s no different with implementing a workout regime to certain goals either.

Goal Setting

While some people might refer to the phrase ‘the goalposts being moved’ as something that might throw you off guard if you are sticking to a plan, in most cases, these circumstances that are out of your control rarely occur.

Goal setting is not that difficult, really… and can applied to any area of your Life.

Whether it is to increase the amount of money you want to have in your bank accounts, or to pursue a quality education that will change your life for the better. What really matters here is direction and energy (quite literally, in the example of a workout regime) to pursue these goals… and you will get what you want.

One of the best methods to do this is by using the SMART goal setting technique that has been tried and tested now for years.

(Here’s a detailed link which shows you how to use the SMART technique for any goal that you wish to accomplish.)

While this is a more generic solution to the objective of goal-setting, let’s look at a few tips that might help use this technique smartly.

How to Set Goals for Achieving Results (in the case of a workout)

Here are five tips that can help you to set goals that are result-oriented in particular to a workout that has been designed specifically to get you looking fit:

Tip #1: Visualize, visualize, visualize…

Importantly, in being to get a mental picture of how you want to look, it often gives you a clear idea of what you have to work on in order to get there. If you think, “Oh, I’m working out to get fit”… this isn’t enough.

For example, use Arnie’s or another fitness expert pinup for inspiration. That should be a high-standard to work towards…

Tip #2: Be open

Some workouts can give you good results while others are a little slower. Don’t stick to the latter just because that’s the only thing you want to do. Try a new workout or two as you might just like it…

Tip #3: Mapping Progress

This aspect works as motivation as you work towards your goals along the way. Most people give up on working out because they are unable to map progress. If you can do this by checking how you fit into your old clothes or looking at yourself in the mirror, that can motivate you to try harder.

Tip #4: Goals take time

A tree doesn’t grow up in a day but it takes years and years until it begins to bear fruits. Reaching one’s goals is similar to this including workouts as well. Despite all the hoaxes and promises that you might read over the internet, most fitness experts have got that body to die for by putting years of effort in.

Tip #5: Giving up is for losers

This is as good as leaving a job half-done which any boss will not appreciate. So don’t give up. if you want, take a break… but DON’T give up!

In Closing

If you watch the Barcelona players when their on the field, you’ll know that they savor each moment of the game as they continue to make magic on the field. And it’s no different with working out either…

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