Pros and Cons of CrossFit

In the 21st century, we’ve all noticed the increased prevalence of CrossFit gyms in most cities. Originating in Santa Cruz in 2000, there are now over 13,000 coaches worldwide. CrossFit is an exercise program that combines weightlifting, calisthenics, and aerobic exercises.  

The goal is to improve your overall physical fitness, instead of focusing on one area like stamina or strength. Though it has helped millions of people get into great shape, CrossFit does come with health risks. Below we will take a look at some of the pros and cons.  

Pros and cons of CrossFit
Photo by Ryan De Hamer on Unsplash

What are the benefits of CrossFit?

1.) It builds physical strength.  CrossFit consists of many intense strength building regimens. Deadlifting, tire lifting, and rope exercises will all help build muscle mass and improve your strength and stamina.

2.) It improves your cardiovascular health.   Unlike many other strength building programs, CrossFit balances it out with intense aerobic fitness. You will never have to worry that you’re neglecting cardio if you’re doing it right.   

3.) A strong sense of community.  CrossFit is one of the largest and most connected workout communities on the planet. When you show up, you immediately have shared interests and goals with a wide variety of people.  

4.) CrossFit fosters healthy competition.  Working out in a group tends to enhance our competitive nature. When you see someone crushing an exercise, many will push themselves to get to that level.

5.) Weight management and burning calories.  When coupled with a healthy diet, CrossFit can burn calories and help with weight loss. This benefit even extends outside of exercise.  Studies find that 10 pounds of fat only burns 20 calories per day, while the same amount of muscle will burn 50!  

6.) There are CrossFit gyms everywhere.   Due to its popularity, CrossFit gyms are very common. Even if you live in a small town in the middle of nowhere, chances are you have a CrossFit gym nearby. Currently, there are more CrossFit gyms worldwide than there are Starbucks.

7.) It builds flexibility and agility.   CrossFit incorporates balance, flexibility, and agility building exercises in conjunction with strength building. It does this through what they call functional exercises, which they design to mimic everyday movements. Squats and kettlebell swings are both examples of functional exercises. This helps to prevent injuries and will significantly improve your quality of life when you’re older.  

8.) You will sleep better.  Modern medical studies all point to exercise improving sleep. Even a single session of CrossFit will improve your sleep the same night. For people with insomnia, a regular CrossFit routine can help improve their condition.  

9.) It improves mental health.  Though it can’t fix the issue, exercise does improve your mental health. You can reduce anxiety and even depression through aerobic exercise. It can both improve self-perception and directly release endorphins, improving your mood.  

What are some disadvantages of CrossFit?

1.) CrossFit lacks personalization. Because it doesn’t use as much equipment, CrossFit can lack some of the personalization you’d find at a regular gym. Because of that, it is often up to you to adjust the workout to your comfort zone. For beginners, this can be a daunting challenge.  

2.) It can be inaccessible.  With a basic CrossFit workout, you get what you get. You can make small adjustments to make exercise more manageable, but even then, CrossFit is more complicated than your typical workout. As a result, CrossFit can be inaccessible for many people who are very out of shape.  

3.) CrossFit makes you prone to injuries.  Hign-intensity workouts like CrossFit, always come with the caveat that you’re more likely to get injured. Back pain, tennis elbow, and knee injuries are just some of the injuries common to CrossFit. When starting, the key is to work with instructors to ensure you’re doing the injuries properly. Doing exercises too quickly or with bad form WILL result in an injury that can follow you around for the rest of your life.  

4.) Trainer quality can be inconsistent. There’s a reason why CrossFit gyms are so common. Many believe that the certification process is too lax, which has allowed so many CrossFit gyms to pop up in such little time. It would be best if you were careful when picking your gym. Look at the reviews and maybe test it out before you commit going there full time.

5.) Peer pressure can be toxic.  Competition can be great, but be careful that it doesn’t get out of hand. Unhealthy competition often leads to unhealthy and unsafe practices. You don’t want to injure yourself by scaling weights and working quicker than your body can handle.  

6.) Gyms are overcrowded. CrossFit’s popularity is a double-edged sword. You can find one almost anywhere on earth, but overcrowding can be a significant issue. Small town CrossFit gyms mainly can get so crowded. It becomes challenging to go and build your routine consistently.

7.) CrossFit is more expensive than alternatives.  Basic memberships at Planet Fitness can cost as little as $10 per month. The avg. cost for a gym in the US overall is only $58 per month. The average monthly fee for a CrossFit gym is around $150 per month. That is almost three times the cost of a regular gym.  

How to Get Started with CrossFit

After reading these pros and cons, and you’re still interested in CrossFit, the first step is to find a gym. You can start here to find a CrossFit affiliate near you.   

Typically, you can sign up for some private or semi-private sessions to learn the ropes. Once you’ve completed these, your good to go. You can either continue to work with a personal trainer, sign up for group classes, or simply start working out.  

If you’re a beginner, it may be best to continue with classes or a trainer for as long as possible. They’ll teach you the moves and monitor your form, preventing potential injuries.  

Just remember that CrossFit is an intense workout. Take your time when you’re starting and be mindful of any potential injuries.

The Verdict

CrossFit can build strength, agility, and flexibility and even help you lose weight. Despite that, it still comes with some risks, so it may not be for everyone.  

Check with your doctor if you have underlying conditions or are pregnant before starting. If you’re in the clear, then there’s no reason why CrossFit isn’t for you. Just take it slow and use the provided resources to ensure you’re working out correctly.

Alan Behrens
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