How To Start CrossFit The Right Way
With the rise of CrossFit over the past decade there is now a plethora of gyms popping up trying to take people in and get them “fit” via CrossFit’s definition.
Sadly, many of these gyms are just looking to take their clients’ money and then get them hot, sweaty, and tired as fast as possible. This tends to trick many new clients because as they go from no activity at all, to all of a sudden expending a lot of energy, this will undoubtedly make some changes in their body.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t last and over time we have a stagnation in not only body composition but also performance.
What does this look like? A newly minted crossfitter signs up at their local “box” after being sold on a functional movement and high-intensity program that will turn them into the terminator. Sometimes, the gym will put them through a series of classes labeled “on-ramp” where the clients attempt to learn a series of exercises with some plastic PVC pipes along with several other new beginners. All they have to do is show up and play with the PVC and once they have finished the required number of days, they move on to the regular programming, regardless of their movement quality. If they are really lucky, the gym will deem them ready for the regular groups and just throw them in on day one. Three, two, one… light yourself on fire.
As previously stated, because these new trainees are going from zero to 1,000 in a very short amount of time, they feel like they are getting the best workout ever. They lose a couple of quick pounds from the extra caloric expenditure and that justifies their feeling like shit after every single workout. But then it all stops… their body weight settles in again (or goes back up) and they haven’t progressed in terms of physical performance. More than likely they’ll have to stop doing a movement or two because something starts to hurt… they’ll still scale everything and can’t remember the difference between a clean and a snatch… If this sounds familiar, I’m sorry.
So how do you avoid this? By developing a base level of strength in the fundamental human movement patterns. This can be most effectively done through 7 or 8 exercises done consistently with a progressive overload approach.
One thing we must keep at the forefront is that an individual’s base level of strength is directly correlated to their trainability. This is a fact; a weak individual will not be able to put their body into good positions and stabilize, let alone produce proper force against external resistance. Until they can do those things, they should not be exploring a variety of different exercises. If we believe that we can take that individual and throw random exercises, sets, reps, and load at them to make them better we are sadly mistaken.
By taking a progressive overload approach with fundamental movement patterns, the body develops biomechanical and neuromechanical efficiency. Basically, we learn to properly stabilize and leverage our body against external resistance, then fire the appropriate muscle fibers with the appropriate intensity to complete the task. The importance of developing this over time cannot be overstated. If we bypass this crucial development and jump right into high-intensity training, WE ARE DOOMED.
Here’s the juice, if you want to do CrossFit, cool. Find yourself a coach who understands strength and conditioning and will put you on a path to long term development. Keep the variety down and get strong. This will be a slow process at first, but it will dramatically increase your gains in all areas as you go. Don’t try to get cute, just stick to the process. When you have developed a base level of strength and can use submaximal weights for conditioning, then you can start to throw some variety in. BUT GET STRONG FIRST. We have yet to come across one person who has said getting strong negatively impacted their life.