Since its establishment in 2000, CrossFit has demonstrated that glamour and gadgets are not necessary to obtain significant health and fitness advantages. (Although occasionally, a bit of fitness technology or a trendy fitness accessory can serve as a motivating indulgence.) Step into a CrossFit facility and you will witness the epitome of simplicity – the same can be said about the workout regimens, which consist of a variety of low-tech, functional movements that combine gymnastics, weightlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and metabolic conditioning with an emphasis on intensity.
And while CrossFit prides itself on being straightforward, the benefits of the exercise are far from minimal. Continue reading to discover 14 scientifically supported and expert-endorsed advantages of CrossFit that may just convince you to enroll in a CrossFit facility.
Spoiler alert: Engaging in weightlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and resistance training all contribute to increasing strength, and CrossFit incorporates all of these fitness methods into its programming. Even better, the movements performed during CrossFit workouts target more than just one muscle group. Gotta appreciate efficiency!
“Most of the movements you perform in CrossFit are compound movements, meaning they engage muscles from various parts of your body,” states Grayson Wickham, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a physical therapist and founder of Movement Vault. For instance, when you execute a lift such as a snatch, squat, or deadlift, you activate and subsequently strengthen all of your muscles from head to toe.
In fact, a study conducted in 2017 found that compound movements (also known as multi-joint exercises) are more effective for improving strength and overall fitness compared to single-joint exercises such as the biceps curl, calf raise, or leg curl.
Efficiently Burns Calories
Speaking of efficiency, when researchers from the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse examined women who engage in CrossFit, they discovered that they burned 12 or more calories per minute. Their conclusion: “CrossFit works.” “Based on the high intensity of the tested workouts, [we] conclude that CrossFit does an exceptional job of helping exercisers enhance their aerobic fitness while burning a significant number of calories in the process,” states the study.
The reason behind this lies in the fact that the routines heavily incorporate compound exercises, explains Tony Carvajal, a certified CrossFit trainer with RSP Nutrition.
“The greater number of muscles being utilized, the additional calories you’re going to expend,” he asserts. For your information, you don’t automatically have to grab weights to attain the advantages of composite exercises; bodyweight essentials such as burpees, muscle-ups, and handstands will ignite your entire body.
Keeps You Torching Calories Post-WOD
Most CrossFit workouts (also known as workouts of the day or WODs) will incorporate some weightlifting — and lifting weights doesn’t just torch calories during the workout, but also afterwards. That’s because your muscle mass is one of the primary determining factors of your metabolic rate, which refers to how many calories you burn just by existing, explains Wickham. “In CrossFit, you’re going to build muscle. More muscle mass translates to a quicker metabolism. A faster metabolism results in burning more calories throughout the day,” he states.
There’s also the “afterburn effect” (also referred to as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC), which suggests that the more intense the exercise, the greater amount of oxygen your body consumes afterward, and thus the more calories you continue to burn even after leaving the gym. Typically, this post-workout calorie burn accounts for 6 to 15 percent of the total calories burned during the exercise. Quite impressive, CrossFit.
Might Aid in Weight Loss
Not everyone aims to lose weight when they partake in CrossFit, but if that’s your goal, it’s considered “one of the most efficient workouts for weight loss,” claims Carvajal. That’s due to all the health and fitness benefits of CrossFit mentioned thus far — especially the increased lean muscle mass and the elevated metabolism — that contribute to reducing body fat and overall calorie expenditure.
There’s also a psychological aspect of the program that makes it effective for weight loss, according to physical therapist D.R. Ebner, P.T., C.S.C.S., from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “The community aspect will keep you motivated. It’ll keep you on the right path and make it ten times more likely for you to be consistent,” he explains.
Beneficial for Heart Health
Most CrossFit WODs may not resemble traditional cardiovascular training methods — some may be as short as three minutes. However, it’s entirely possible to achieve a cardiovascularly demanding workout in a short duration of time — even just three to five minutes, as stated by Tanya Wagner, a CrossFit Level 2–certified trainer at CrossFit Apex in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In fact, a study published in PLoS ONE discovered that merely three minutes of intense exercise per week significantly enhanced cardiometabolic health indicators (including VO2 max and blood pressure) in overweight/obese adults.
Enhances Your Mobility
It may not appear like traditional mobility-building practices such as yoga and Pilates but, “CrossFit is actually one of the top exercise programs for improving mobility,” according to Wickham. Quick refresher: Mobility is your capacity to move a muscle or muscle group through a range of motion (ROM) in the joint socket with strength and control. Many movements in these workouts simultaneously improve ROM and strength. For instance, try enhancing your mobility the CrossFit-approved way with this squat therapy drill.
More Secure Than It Looks
CrossFit receives criticism for being unsafe, however, a 2018 review concluded that, while the sport has been scrutinized because of the supposed high frequency of injuries, none of these claims were supported by empirical evidence.
Another study discovered that individuals who work with hands-on coaches who assist them with the movements experience fewer injuries — and that’s exactly what most CrossFit boxes offer. As for rhabdo, it’s not any more common in CrossFit than in any other type of high-intensity exercise.
Could Even Decrease Injury Risk
The best exercises to perform inside the gym are ones that imitate the movements you do outside the gym, says Wickham. (Think: Carrying a heavy package in from your doorstep, sitting down and standing up from your desk, or lugging around a heavy duffle bag.) These are called functional movements — and they’re the basis of many CrossFit WODs.
“The entire purpose of doing functional movements as exercise is to keep your body in physical readiness for the demands of everyday life,” explains Wagner. If people learn to properly move their bodies as a whole unit or machine, they’ll be much more successful and safe during more demanding everyday tasks such as shoveling snow or moving furniture, she says.
Enhances Your Running Ability
CrossFit improves your strength from head to toe, and that means improved performance — regardless of whether you’re an endurance athlete or sprinter. Research shows that running efficiency is enhanced when runners add two or three days of strength training to their workout routine every week.
Not to mention “CrossFit helps you strengthen your core,” says Ebner. “A strong core helps transfer strength and utilize the strength throughout the rest of your body, including your arms and legs,” he explains.
Translation: additional force per step. Moreover, a enhanced central area could enhance your running technique — indicating a diminished possibility of harm.
Aids with Getting a Better Night’s Sleep
“There are numerous lifestyle factors that affect the quality of your sleep,” states Kevin Turcio, a certified personal trainer and owner of Affinity Athletics in Stamford, Connecticut. “In my personal experience, CrossFit has assisted me in falling asleep,” he adds. This may be attributed to the high intensity involved in this type of exercise, as increasing the intensity of your workouts has been proven to promote deep sleep, as explained in this article.
This effect is especially noticeable in individuals who were not regular exercisers prior. Carvajal suggests that “any form of exercise is likely to improve the quality of sleep, but high-intensity training like CrossFit appears to be the most effective.”
Boosts Your Confidence
CrossFit not only strengthens your muscles but also toughens your mind. “CrossFit cultivates mental resilience,” explains Wagner. This is because the workouts provide an opportunity for positive self-talk and pushing through challenging moments.
“It allows for self-assessment and reflection after overcoming any barriers or obstacles,” adds Wagner. She further emphasizes the incredible transformations in self-talk and mental positivity, particularly in women and adolescent girls.
Most classes run for just one hour, with the workouts themselves lasting anywhere from three to 20 minutes. Yes, that’s right! (The rest of the class includes warm-up, cool-down, and sometimes an additional weightlifting segment.) “People are consistently surprised by how drained they feel after such a short workout,” comments Turcio. Moreover, research supports the notion that longer workouts are not necessarily more beneficial. In fact, a study found that short bouts of HIIT are superior to moderate-intensity “slow and steady” training when it comes to enhancing cardiovascular fitness.
Offers an Inherent Support System
Just a friendly reminder: if you’re all about the “no new friends” lifestyle, CrossFit may not be the best fit for you. This is because engaging in weightlifting and learning new gymnastics skills together have the remarkable ability to foster lasting friendships and establish a solid support system. And guess what? Science backs this up too! A review of research concluded that CrossFit is associated with a sense of community, satisfaction, and motivation. Plus, it’s no secret that having a workout buddy is incredibly beneficial for achieving fitness goals – as explained in this article.
“The community will provide support, encouragement, and help you stay committed to your goals,” assures Carvajal. He further emphasizes that being in an environment like this can only lead to self-improvement both inside and outside of the gym.
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