Healthypedia
Brenton Barker

CrossFit Downsides And How to Overcome Them

Crossfit has boomed in recent years. However, many gym-goers consider the sport difficult and only for elite athletes. Today we look at the cons of CrossFit and how to overcome them.

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CrossFit is a popular sport that has boomed in popularity in recent years, but despite this, the sport still has some critics. Now, to be clear, I’m not one of those critics; in fact, I think CrossFit is one of the best sports for improving fitness and well-being.

As with any sport, though, there are pros and cons, and today we’re focusing on the cons. These cons might be better defined as ‘things to consider.’ For instance, working out in a group may be viewed as negative by some gym-goers and positive by others.

Generally speaking, the ‘cons’ in this article are targeted toward beginners to health and fitness, not just CrossFit. At Healthyoedia, our goal is to promote health and wellness and provide expert, non-biased views and opinions on all physical activities.

The more people who are motivated to clean up their diet and start regular exercise, the better the world will be.

Why all the craze about CrossFit?

The philosophy of CrossFit, in their own words, is ‘forging elite fitness.’ Straight off the bat, the phrase talks directly to people with a high level of fitness; this can be quite ‘off-putting’ to beginners who would like to give CrossFit a go.

The exercises mimic everyday movements like:

  • Walking

  • Lifting

  • Squatting

  • Pulling

  • Pushing

These movements are referred to as ‘functional movements’ and are designed to improve your strength and condition along with your functional fitness.

Many of the movements and exercises are taken from sports such as weightlifting, gymnastics, rowing, and even running. CrossFit is tough and physically and mentally challenging, but most importantly, it’s a lot of fun.

Exercises are combined into one workout known as the ‘workout of the day’, or WOD in CrossFit speak. WODs are typically short and sharp and based on the training principle of high-intensity interval training or HIIT.

This type of training packs the biggest punch in the shortest time, but beware, you will struggle if your fitness level is low.

Five CrossFit cons plus things to consider

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The WODs or ‘workouts of the day’ are nothing less than intense, competitive and demanding. One of the main characteristics of the WOD is that participants are racing the clock to complete their exercises in the allotted time. The quicker you finish, the fitter you become, which is true for experienced athletes but not beginners.

CrossFit targets your anaerobic system (the fast-twitch muscle fibres). This is why participants are bent over and gasping for air after every workout. In this sense, CrossFit is great because it will increase your fitness levels.

Many exercises require performing moves that are technically difficult, even for experienced athletes. More than likely, beginners won’t have the strength and technique to complete these movements, which, if not mastered, could lead to injury.

The bottom line is this. CrossFit is an excellent sport that improves your strength and functional fitness. It’s just not the best sport for a beginner to health and wellness.

Below are five things to consider before spending your hard-earned cash on a CrossFit membership plan.

1CrossFit workouts are not personalised

As a coach who has worked with the world’s best athletes, I understand the importance of personalised training plans. Unfortunately, CrossFit fails miserably in this area. It’s a fundamental concept of coaching; you can’t ‘cookie-cutter’ programs for athletes, but that’s exactly what CrossFit does.

Yes, granted, CrossFit does try its best to design programs for all levels, but as the old saying goes, ‘if you’re coaching everyone, you’re coaching no one.’ A good solution is finding smaller classes and people of similar fitness levels.

2CrossFit Technique Is Everything

Even for experienced gym-goers, many of the movements in Crossfit require a high level of technical proficiency. Without correct form and adequate levels of strength, beginners are at increased risk of injury.

Technical moves to master:

  • Squat

  • Deadlifts

  • Overhead presses

  • Pull-ups

  • Burpees

  • Bent over rows

I believe there are two main reasons newcomers struggle with correct form. First, they lack the technical skill set, and second, they are exhausted from the workout, so their state suffers.

That being said, the functional movement in CrossFit is much ‘freer’ than what you’d get with cable machines, biceps curls or a bench press.

3Groups or alone?

As mentioned earlier, some cons might not be cons, well, not for everyone. One of the biggest positives that CrossFitters rave about is the friendly and motivating atmosphere of the classes, but some gym-goers, myself included, prefer to work out alone.

The other problem of group training is that it’s tough, if not impossible, to individualise the session for each athlete. Let’s say you need to focus on flexibility, but the session targets strength. Will this benefit you? Probably not.

Training in a group environment also leads to the competition which, as a coach, I’m a big fan of. However, when the only focus becomes ‘winning,’ then something is wrong. Sport is about challenging yourself and doing it in an environment that’s fun and non-judgmental.

4Poor CrossFit programming

Similar to personalised training, programming or ‘program design and delivery’ is absolutely critical if gym-goers and athletes are to achieve their peak performance. We are all unique in both physical and mental characteristics, and, as such, we require unique training programs.

Why are programming and personalization important? Well, because a personalised program focuses on an athlete’s weak points and works to correct them. Without one, gym-goers are like a boat without a rudder; they might reach their destination, but it will take blind luck to get there.

Unfortunately, many CrossFit instructors do not take the time to design specialised programs, and as such, they religiously follow the WOD posted on the site.

5Are CrossFit exercises really scalable?

This is perhaps my biggest beef with CrossFit, and that’s the ‘scalability’ of the exercises. While scalability is commonly used in sports and exercise, it’s not as simple as starting slowly and ‘scaling’ up.

Coaches play a big role in scalability, especially for beginners. Coaches need to guide and advise newcomers when it’s time to scale. Far too many CrossFit coaches are focused on the group that they fail to see the beginner lifting with poor form because they’ve scaled too quickly.

Likewise, not scaling at all leaves the gym-goer feeling ‘stuck’ like they’re not improving, which may lead them to drop out, the last thing any sport wants.

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CrossFit downsides: let’s sum up

CrossFit is undoubtedly one of the best activities to improve your fitness levels. CrossFit improves your strength and conditioning and enhances your flexibility and range of motion, not to mention it’s a lot of fun. It’s not a matter of whether CrossFit is good or bad; it’s more about whether it’s right for you.

CrossFit will be an excellent addition to your wellness routine if you have high levels of fitness and experience across different sports and activities. On the flip side, if you’re new to health and fitness, CrossFit is probably not the right choice for you.

If you’re a beginner and looking to give CrossFit a go, find a good coach who can provide specific exercises designed to meet your skill and fitness levels.

CrossFit is a fun activity; it’s just not for everyone.

Want to learn more?

I highly recommend taking the time to listen to this fascinating expert conversation about the current state of affairs in CrossFit. They look specifically at the pros and cons of CrossFit and how the fine line between performing exercises safely and poorly is blurred while working out fatigued.


Healthypedia FAQ

CrossFit has many wonderful benefits, such as helping with weight management and improving strength and conditioning. Crossfit is also an excellent way to improve flexibility and range of motion. That said, CrossFit is a demanding activity that places a lot of stress on the joints and body.

While CrossFit improves your overall strength and conditioning, it does not specialise in any ‘one’ specific sporting skill. Professional athletes focus on specific skills within their chosen sport, meaning CrossFit is not the best option. Many athletes also avoid CrossFit because of injury concerns.

CrossFit places a lot of stress on the body and demands participants perform at high intensity. CrossFit is not the best choice if you're a beginner to health and fitness, as many movements require strength and correct technique. CrossFit is unsuitable for gym-goers with back and postural issues which could increase the risk of further injury.

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