CrossFit is suitable for people of all fitness levels, according to director of training Nicole Carroll.
Despite myths that it's dangerous or hardcore, CrossFit is adaptable and prioritizes basic exercises.
Consistency, healthy habits, and patience are key to getting in shape with CrossFit, she said.
CrossFit isn't just for hardcore athletes, and you don't have to pick up heavy weights to get started, according to a top executive and longtime training director of the company.
As one of the hottest fitness companies in the past decade, the program is unique because it combines types of exercise like gymnastics, bodyweight movements, and weightlifting with running, biking, rowing, and more in a single workout to test overall fitness.
Classes, which vary in length and content depending on the instructor and gym, may involve several components, such as a strength or skill-building portion, often followed by a more endurance-focused conditioning workout.
Some benchmark CrossFit workouts involve completing a specific number of reps as quickly as possible. A classic test called Fran features 21 reps of thrusters (a barbell squat to overhead press) and pull-ups, followed by 15 reps of each, and then nine reps of each.
Other workouts involve finishing as many rounds or reps as you can in a set time period, which is known as AMRAP. In the Cindy workout, as many rounds as possible of five pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 squats must be completed in 20 minutes.
CrossFit workouts can help you improve mental and physical health, build an athletic physique, gain confidence, and even get better at everyday tasks like carrying groceries, according to Nicole Carroll, director of training and certification at CrossFit.
Personal trainers not affiliated with the program previously told Insider that CrossFit can boost strength and stamina and build muscle, and research shows there are benefits.
To get started, focus on healthy habits, consistency with basic exercises, and patience in achieving results, Carroll said. Here's what you need to know before your first CrossFit class.
Anyone can safely do CrossFit
It's a common misconception that CrossFit is dangerous or only for young, fit people, but its programming uses scaled exercises to adjust difficulty and intensity for athletes of all ages and experience levels, according to Carroll.
"CrossFit was designed to improve fitness for all comers in the most safe, efficient, and effective ways possible," she said.
Research suggests CrossFit is as safe as other types of exercise like powerlifting or gymnastics.
It's not about getting as tired as possible with random workouts
Carroll said another myth about CrossFit is that the goal is to get as tired as possible by mixing exercises together.
But all the different workouts in CrossFit are very deliberate, focused on the core principle of "constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity," according to Carroll.
For instance, some workouts will focus on heavy weights with exercises like deadlifts or squats to improve strength and power, while others involve lighter weights but more repetitions done quickly to build speed and stamina. Classes also involve skill work, perfecting advanced techniques like ring muscle-ups, handstand push-ups, or Olympic lifts like the clean.
While there's an opportunity to try complicated exercises, most of the workouts involve basic movements, combined in different ways to challenge all aspects of fitness, from strength and stamina, to speed, and skill.
Mastering basic exercises, including those using bodyweight, is key
Beyond glamorous CrossFit exercises like heavy weightlifting or complicated gymnastics, most workouts follow basic progressions of simple moves, Carroll said.
When you start learning CrossFit, coaches will emphasize the foundations of good movement, starting with basic bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and air squats. Over time, athletes progress by adding weight, doing more reps, and/or increasing speed and intensity.
For example, the benchmark CrossFit workout Murph (named in honor of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005) involves a mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats, followed by another mile run, all in a weight vest. Beginners can forgo the vest, break the workout up into smaller sets, and do scaled versions of pull-ups and push-ups to complete it.
If you want to build muscle or change your body composition, focus on performance
While CrossFit athletes are renowned for lean muscle and six-pack abs, building muscle and burning fat are a side effect, not the main focus of the program, according to Carroll.
"We chase work capacity. But inevitably, form follows function," she said. "By regularly putting in the time and effort in their workouts to increase their work capacity and following CrossFit nutrition principles, CrossFit athletes will be doing everything they need to build the physique of their dreams."
Prioritize nutrition and sleep
CrossFit also extends outside the gym to lifestyle habits that support fitness, Carroll said.
Getting enough sleep is essential to fitness, top CrossFit athlete Justin Medeiros previously told Insider.
Fueling up for workouts with the right nutrients and balance of carbs, fats, and protein is also key, according to top women's competitor in the sport, Tia Claire-Toomey.
Toomey previously told Insider that she eats carb-rich staples like bagels and oatmeal for energy.
There are no shortcuts
One of the most important aspects of CrossFit is that unlike many fitness fads, it doesn't advertise itself as a quick fix, but a long-term path to success, according to Carroll.
"Many athletes find CrossFit after years of disappointment chasing the pill, potion, or secret workout that was supposed to fulfill their fitness dreams," she said.
Aspiring CrossFitters can get the results they're looking for, but only through a willingness to work hard and patience to reap the benefits, Carroll said.
"My advice is to enjoy the learning process," she said. "The athlete just needs to get started, keep showing up, and the skill development will happen."
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