CrossFit is now one of, if not the, most popular exercise regimens in the world. Providing a totally new style of intense hybrid training, it utilizes activities and movements designed to get you stronger, more powerful, improve your flexibility, and shoot your cardio through the roof. While their brand of workout isn’t necessarily for everyone, there are definitely CrossFit tips you can use to bolster your own training. Below are seven CrossFit tips you can integrate into your program.
Change Things Up
One of CrossFit’s main mantras is to always be varying their workouts. Everything from exercises to workout structure to weights used to sets/reps and everything else in between are all fair game to be changed up. Rarely will you ever go into a CrossFit gym and do the same workout more than once. You don’t have to have as much variation in your workouts as CrossFit does, but switching things around every so often can be a great way to keep things fresh and stimulate new growth.
For instance, if barbell bench press is your usual main chest exercise, change things up by using dumbbell incline press, instead. You could also do a couple workouts of nothing but 15+ reps/set instead of your using 6-8 reps. Or you could even lighten the weight and cut your rep speed in half. Anything that alters the training stimulus will work.
Warm up Thoroughly
Though not unique to just CrossFit tips, be sure to do a thorough warm up prior to training. CrossFit requires a good warm up to ensure their athletes are ready to handle the rigors of their intense programming. A solid warm up can help you not just ready yourself for your session, but avoid injury and even maximize muscle stimulation.
Specific needs of a warm up can vary, depending on what type of training protocol you’re using. However, anything that elevates your core temperature, loosens up your joints, and is dynamic (as opposed to static) in nature should be fine. Check out these dynamic warm up tips.
Schedule Periodic Backoff Weeks
This won’t necessarily be on every trainer’s list of CrossFit tips, but good coaches know the importance of toning things down once in a while. CrossFit pushes you to your limit pretty much every workout. Both the body and the nervous system can only take so much of that before injury or overtraining occur.
Your program may not push you quite as hard, but that doesn’t mean backing off now and then won’t help you. A good rule of thumb for most hard strength trainees and/or bodybuilders is to train intensely for three weeks, then have a backoff or deload week. During this 4th week, either keep your intensity the same and cut your volume in half, or keep the volume the same, but back down the intensity by 50%.
Don’t just Train Your Weaknesses
CrossFit is all about overall athleticism and physicality. This means you can’t have any real weaknesses or holes in your game. But while you obviously want to attack your weaknesses in the gym, that doesn’t mean you should start avoiding (or radically reducing emphasis on) things you’re already good at.
If you think back to old clips of Arnold Schwarzenegger comparing being a bodybuilder to being a sculptor, he’d talk about how you could build muscle in different areas to round out your physique and look better. This means you’d spend extra time on where you needed to bring up your physique, not quit training where you didn’t.
For example, if you needed to bring up your side deltoids to round out your shoulder development, you might want to add in more sets of lateral raises, add in a new variation, or even hit them first in your workout to give them priority. But it doesn’t mean you’d stop overhead pressing for overall mass and strength development.
Work Your Grip
It might not always specifically be on lists of CrossFit tips, but having a strong set of forearms and hands can go a long way in CrossFit. Many of their events are well bolstered by having better grip endurance, and there’s almost no way to become a good Olympic lifter without having a strong grip.
There’s nothing precluding you from using straps in your workout, but improving your grip strength can help you, too. It can allow you to deadlift more weight, which will lead to more overall mass and strength. Having a better grip usually leads to a better back workout, as you don’t have to worry about cutting an exercise short because you can’t hold onto the weight. And of course, a better grip often will lead to bigger and more muscular forearms, too.
Ease into Hard Workouts
A long-time criticism of CrossFit is that its had too many novice trainees doing intense workouts or movements they were ill equipped to do. Now paramount on a good coach’s list of CrossFit tips is to have their new trainees take their time and ease into more difficult workouts.
You’d be well-served to do the same. Though you might have experience in the gym, that doesn’t mean you’re ready to try your favorite pro bodybuilder’s routine, yet. Take the time to build a proper base and sufficient work capacity, first.
Scale Your Workouts
Because everyone in CrossFit does the exact same workout, one of their biggest mantras has ended up being that you should scale to your abilities. For instance, their famous “Fran” workout is to pair 95lb thrusters (a front squat into a push press) with bodyweight pullups for sets of 21, 15, and 9 reps. However, if you can’t do 21 pullups in a row, then you’d break that down into sets of as many as you could, resting only when you needed to in order to complete all 21 pullups before moving on.
You definitely want to apply this same mentality to your workouts, as well. How you scale will depend training experience, as well as your program. For example, you may only do 1-2 exercises instead of 3-4. Or instead of training heavy with sets of 6-8 reps, you stick with a more moderate 10-12 until you have the execution of that movement perfected. Regardless of how you do it, just make sure you’re working at a level commensurate with your current capability.
Just because you don’t do CrossFit, that doesn’t mean you can’t use CrossFit tips to boost your own workout results. Work within your abilities, build that grip, warming up properly, and training smart as a whole are all notions that apply, no matter what workout methodology you use. These are the types of things that not only improve strength and muscular development, but keep you free from injury and healthy. Keep them in mind no matter what type of protocol you use.