Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about CrossFit…possibly a LOT about CrossFit.  Chances are also good that you’ve heard it might not be the safest way to work out.  So what’s the story?

CrossFit training is a popular exercise regimen that utilizes both cardiovascular components and weight training, including Olympic-style lifts like the clean and jerk.  Cardiovascular exercise along with proper nutrition is, of course, essential for heart and respiratory fitness and overall health, while weight training is beneficial for muscles, ligaments, tendons and bone density.  Sounds good so far, but you must utilize beneficial weight training exercises and not be swayed to attempt orthopedically unsound lifts by emulated peers or listening to misinformed trainers in the gym.  An adequate amount of weight should be used for a constructive workout, but not an excessive amount that will compromise form and cause associated soft tissue injury.

Building a base for weight training is as important as it is for cardiovascular training.  You would not go from a sedentary lifestyle to racing a 10K for your first workout.  The same is true in weight training:  you must start with a low amount of weight that will probably seem too light.  This allows muscle, ligaments and tendons to strengthen gradually without excessive tearing and injury.  It will also allow you to learn proper form and become familiar with the movements.  It is important to have enough patience and foresight not to be tempted to use too much weight to expedite results and to avoid embarrassment in the gym.

Building a base properly in weight training and cardiovascular exercise will actually allow you to achieve your goals quicker and insure longevity, continuing to be able to train into the future.  The quickest way to sustain an injury in weight training is to use too much weight for a particular exercise,  potentially  damaging  muscle, tendon, ligaments (including capsular ligaments and intervertebral discs) and bursa.  Your last repetition should be the same strict form as your first repetition or you must decrease your weight accordingly.  Over training when running…or box-jumping or doing burpees… can lead to injuries primarily due to impact and propulsion forces.  Cycling, swimming, elliptical equipment and rowing have less impact, however overuse injuries are always a concern with any endurance activity,  so patiently following a schedule is always advised.

Clearly, CrossFit training is not the best way to be competitive in endurance races nor is it the best way to maximum muscle size for body building.  It is also not an effective means to become a competitive power lifter or Olympic lifter.  On the other hand, CrossFit training can be a good overall regimen for people who can only devote a few hours per week to train.  The CrossFit atmosphere tends to instill enthusiasm and a competitive spirit in its devotees.   A disciplined attitude and commitment can lead to tremendous results in appearance, general health, fitness and self esteem.  So if that sounds like it meets your needs, by all means CrossFit, but leave your ego at home play it safe.