By: Brock Brady
Let’s begin with unraveling the mystery of what CrossFit actually is? CrossFit is Constantly Varied, High Intensity, Functional Movement. So what does that mean? Let’s break it down into each of the components.
Constantly Varied is a term that means the movements are changing throughout a typical CrossFit workout. In the past, typical exercise programs focus on a specific body part or exercise at a time. By changing the movement mid-workout, we cause muscle confusion, causing your body to quickly adapt to change. An example of this is the benchmark workout “Cindy.”
As many rounds as possible (AMRAP) 20
15 Air Squats
In this workout, the movement changes from pull-ups to pushups and then to squats for 20 minutes. This rapid change in muscle groups being activated forces your body to quickly adapt to change.
The next term, High Intensity, refers to the how quickly you are performing the workout. The objective with our workout “Cindy” is to perform As many rounds as possible which implies moving quickly for the time duration. To get the most out of this workout we need to execute it as fast as our body allows us. This will increase the total power output and begin to work our aerobic, anaerobic and phosphocreatine systems, simultaneously (depending on the workout).
Our last term is Functional Movements. The movements performed during a typical CrossFit workout are coined, functional. This means they are movements performed in a real-life setting. For instance, a pushup is used to get up off the ground when we fall, a squat is used to get in and out of a chair, and a pull-up is used in the case of getting up to an elevated surface.
Now that we know what CrossFit is, why is it for everyone? The unique part of this exercise program is its ability to be scaled. Scaling a workout means manipulating the original movement to the individualized skill level of each athlete. For many, pull-ups are a difficult movement to accomplish due to the level of strength required. Our way around this is to adapt the workout to the individual’s needs. During pull-ups, we are working on engaging the back and scapular muscles as well as arms to elevate our chin above the bar. We can simulate this same moment by changing it to ring rows. This movement works the muscle groups targeted during pull-ups but allows for less resistance.
The next way to scale a workout is with the weight. Some benchmark CrossFit workouts require a level of strength that needs to be achieved over time. For instance the workout “Isabel” is 30 snatches for time at a prescribed weight of 135 pounds for men and 95 pounds for women. The snatch is a very complex Olympic lift, and the weight is heavy for a beginner. For someone who does not have the “prescribed” lifting weight, we can back it down to a lighter weight so they can perform the workout and get the same stimulus.
The next major concern or hesitation about joining CrossFit is when people have a preexisting injury. When an athlete or new member indicates they have a preexisting injury, this does not mean they are unable to join, it means that the workouts or program needs to be manipulated for the individuals needs. The human body is a pretty amazing machine that has the ability to heal and adapt to change. This is why we have people that can run over 100 miles in a given time and others that cannot run 1 mile. Taking time to ease into any exercise program is necessary. The same applies to returning from an injury. Remember Newton’s Law, a body at rest will stay at rest. Being sedentary will tighten and restrict the injured tissue from healing. To increase blood flow and healing, we need to move the tissues and strengthen the surrounding muscles. With that being said, some of the movements may not be a great idea to jump back into quickly, post injury. This is where we return to scaling. What the common phrase a doctor will tell you after an injury? “If it hurts, stay away from it.” So if the athlete has a knee injury and cannot squat to full depth right away, we can change many things; the depth to which they are squatting, the intensity or how fast they are performing repetitions, or correct faults with how they are squatting.
This brings me to the next point of mechanics and mobility. These two terms coincide with injury many times. People are hesitant about joining because they “have pain when they squat.” Any time this happens, I ask them to perform one squat so we can take a look at the mechanics of what they are doing. More times than not, we have many mechanical faults that cause torsion in the joint. If corrected, the athlete can perform the movement, pain free. If the problem is a mobility restriction, the only prescription to correct this problem is movement. We need to allow the body to do what it was meant to do, move. Stretching and mobilizing restricted tissues will allow for better positioning of movements and more power and recruitment of muscles.
This leads into our last two hesitations, “I haven’t exercised in forever!” or “I’m too old.” Again, “a body at rest will stay at rest.” You cannot wish yourself a healthier and fitter body, it requires work. Everyone had a first day performing a CrossFit workout. There are so many ways to scale a workout to adapt it to an individual’s needs. The time, reps, weight, movement, or intensity can always be changed. As we get older, it requires more work to avoid injury and strengthen muscles. This is not a reason to move away from CrossFit, it’s a reason start.
The BRICK community is a pretty amazing group of people. If you would like to join our gym and are a bit unsure of whether or not you are ready to start your CrossFit journey, ask questions and remember we do offer other fitness programs that can assist in transitioning into CrossFit. We can help you achieve your health and fitness goals and keep you safe while doing it. It’s always important to surround yourself with like-minded individuals and there is no better place than the BRICK community.