Is CrossFit Dangerous for You? 4 Factors to Contemplate Earlier than Stepping right into a Field

Within the realm of health, few coaching methodologies have ignited as a lot debate, and enthusiasm, as CrossFit. CrossFit is characterised by its emphasis on continually various purposeful actions carried out at a excessive depth.

CrossFit exercises usually mix parts from Olympic weightlifting, endurance sports activities, and gymnastics. But, regardless of drawing from largely area of interest sports activities that require comparatively excessive ranges of ability, CrossFit has infiltrated mainstream health and promotes itself as an accessible type of coaching that anybody can do.

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With its surge in reputation, CrossFit has additionally confronted criticism concerning the foundational rules upon which it was formulated, together with outright skepticism about its capacity to be carried out in an efficient, protected, and sustainable style. Critics increase issues concerning the potential harm threat of performing complicated actions whereas underneath fatigue, the efficacy of making an attempt to enhance all features of health concurrently, and the seemingly random nature of the exercises.

Nonetheless, those that repeatedly take part in CrossFit do see spectacular bodily advantages in a number of areas. And the feats achieved on the CrossFit Games every year proceed to be astonishing. So, does a coaching type that produces these outcomes actually deserve such a foul rap?

Let’s evaluate a few of the strengths and weaknesses of CrossFit as a coaching routine for creating general health. Whereas doing so, we’d be capable of reply the query of whether or not or not CrossFit is “dangerous” or if it holds as much as the claims of accessibility and appropriateness for everybody.

A Evaluation of CrossFit Coaching

Strengths of CrossFit Coaching

Having been a longtime power within the health world for greater than 20 years, and nonetheless steadily rising in reputation, CrossFit brings a number of clear advantages to the desk. Whereas these identical advantages may typically be discovered with different coaching methodologies, they’re inherently “built-in” to CrossFit coaching, delivering larger general outcomes.

Constructing Cardiovascular Health

Let’s face it, most individuals within the health club most likely must do extra cardio work, aka “cardio.” Even in case you are primarily curious about building strength or muscle, it will doubtless profit you to not solely add cardiovascular coaching, however to do it through completely different strategies, modalities, and intensities. (1) CrossFit excels at this.

Most of the time, a CrossFit exercise would require you to row, bike, run, or leap rope. Even exercises that don’t have these particular parts will develop some facet of cardio health or endurance attributable to their construction, usually by incorporating circuit-style coaching.

But when your major targets are creating power and increasing muscle, gained’t this damage your progress and even trigger you to lose your good points? Most likely not. The truth is, there’s a great likelihood it would assist your long-term progress.

Man and woman performing air bike sprints
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The widespread concern that cardio train will damage power, energy, and muscle acquire is rooted in what’s referred to as the interference impact. That is the notion that, if a number of bodily qualities are developed concurrently, none of them are developed very properly as a result of they intervene with one another on a physiological degree. It’s a “jack of all trades, grasp of none” state of affairs.

The impact is most pronounced if the qualities require vastly completely different physiological diversifications, which is the case with power/energy and cardio diversifications. Nonetheless, if there may be one factor CrossFit has proven us, it’s that the interference impact is not a problem for many trainees. Even pretty superior trainees can expertise vital good points in power, energy, and muscle whereas concurrently bettering cardio health. (2)

So if cardio work isn’t hurting these good points, how is it serving to them? Bettering cardio health will show you how to recuperate sooner between units, which might assist you to do extra general work (i.e. quantity) in your periods. This can have advantages no matter your coaching type or particular objective. It could assist you to get extra reps in case your objective is hypertrophy and reduce the quantity of relaxation wanted between heavy units in case your objective is power. The end result in each situations is extra high-quality work which can lead to a novel stimulus for brand spanking new good points.

Positive, in case you are already at a excessive degree and need to be elite in a selected power sport corresponding to bodybuilding, powerlifting, or Olympic weightlifting, your coaching ought to be particular towards these targets more often than not. However in case you’re coaching for normal health or to be greater, stronger, or leaner than most individuals, bettering your cardio health goes to be helpful.

Emphasis on Body weight Actions

One other space that tends to get uncared for in lots of peoples’ coaching is using bodyweight exercises. Now, it’s not such as you’re going to construct the identical ranges of muscle or one-rep max power utilizing body weight actions in comparison with using exterior load. However your ability and talent in actions utilizing exterior hundreds, like free weights, have little carryover to bodyweight-only actions and strategies.

Not satisfied? Attempt getting via the body weight train portion of the favored CrossFit exercise “Murph” — full a complete of 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 unweighted squats. The total exercise bookends these 600 reps with a one-mile run earlier than and after, and it’s usually carried out carrying a weighted vest. However, for an eye-opener, strive the workout routines on their very own.

shirtless person performing push-ups outdoors
Credit score: oleksboiko / Shutterstock

Murph doesn’t care how a lot you bench or what your muscular endurance is like with heavy, high-rep squats. It is going to grow to be obvious, in a short time, that these issues don’t show you how to a lot. In the event you actually need to develop holistic health that helps you look good, really feel good, and carry out properly underneath quite a lot of circumstances, you need to repeatedly embrace some body weight workout routines in your routine. (3)

Once more, that is one space the place CrossFit excels. It’s all however assured that you may be performing some type of unweighted squat, push-up, or pull-up each week. However it’s not simply the health and work capability facet of this that’s helpful. Most of the body weight actions require a level of ability and total-body management which are distinctive to them, and that is a part of the rationale why barbell-based actions don’t switch properly.

That is significantly true of gymnastic-type actions like handstand work and plenty of pull-up variations together with chest-to-bar pull-ups, muscle-ups, and even kipping pull-ups. Yep, you learn that proper: kipping, or incorporating decrease physique momentum and total-body involvement right into a pull-up, is an general optimistic attribute. Most frequently, individuals’s disdain or outright hate for kipping is just based mostly on a misunderstanding of what it’s.

Many individuals suppose that kipping is principally a sort of poor approach or a type of “dishonest,” and that CrossFitters are simply flopping round on the pull-up bar. To be honest, which will typically be the case, nevertheless it’s not the rule. In actuality, kipping is borrowed straight from the gymnastics world. In the event you’ve ever watched a gymnast carry out on the uneven bars, you’ve seen kipping. It’s how they get themselves onto the bars and decide up pace for numerous actions of their routine.

CrossFit has taken this and utilized it to pull-up variations in addition to different actions. When performed appropriately, these actions contain ability, coordination, and physique management. And when included as a part of a exercise, they require features of cardiovascular and muscular endurance that’s onerous to copy with different actions.

Weaknesses of CrossFit Coaching

For as many advantages as Crossfit coaching can ship, it is usually missing in some arenas. No single coaching methodology can actually be all-encompassing and normal CrossFit coaching, like many different forms of coaching, has a number of holes in its sport. Listed here are some gaps to concentrate on earlier than stepping right into a Crossfit field.

Solely One Gear

CrossFit exercises have two major codecs. One is “As Many Rounds as Attainable” (AMRAP), the place you try to finish a collection of workout routines for as many rounds as potential in a given period of time. The opposite is “rounds for time” the place you purpose to finish a set quantity of rounds as quick as potential.

In every of those codecs, coaching density is the objective — how a lot work you may accomplish per unit of time. This isn’t essentially dangerous. The truth is, in lots of coaching packages, density is usually an neglected space for development. However similar to any coaching variable, at all times chasing the identical high quality or end result is a recipe for stagnation or, doubtlessly, psychological and bodily burnout.

Person in gym straining to lift barbell
Credit score: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

To be clear, this isn’t essentially particular to CrossFit. This could be analogous to powerlifters at all times maxing out or bodybuilders at all times taking units to failure. You may get away with doing these issues for a comparatively quick time, however you finally should back off or swap gears to make most progress.

Whereas there are actually circumstances of trainees in these disciplines overdoing it, it’s usually accepted {that a} well-designed coaching system rotates via intervals of comparatively larger, extra average, and decrease exercise intensities.

Not solely that, however there are countless coaching strategies and codecs to perform these fluctuations in depth. You merely can’t practice on the highest gear on a regular basis. AMRAPs and rounds for time are very intense, high-gear codecs. Even the “simple” days aren’t all that simple while you’re racing the clock to hit a PR efficiency.

CrossFit, as a normal system, hasn’t gotten to the purpose the place extra average or low-intensity codecs are a part of the WOD (exercise of the day) repertoire. This may increasingly seemingly violate the “high-intensity” facet of the core CrossFit philosophy, however incorporating the decrease depth work can assist elevate and enhance the high-intensity work with out compromising outcomes, whereas additionally permitting higher general restoration. (4)

Lack of Motion Selection

One of many key tenets of CrossFit is that it’s “continually various.” In fact, a part of that is in reference to the truth that exercises are continually altering. However it’s additionally supposed to reference motion selection.

From the surface trying in, CrossFit does seem to include all kinds of workout routines, significantly in case you’re comparatively new to power coaching. The vast majority of individuals have doubtless not thought of performing Olympic lifts and their variations frequently, for instance. In order that may very well be an entire new library of actions. However in case you practice CrossFit constantly for some time, you’ll quickly discover that the motion menu is definitely comparatively small.

Two people in gym performing ring pull-ups
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If you check out the workout routines and the motion patterns which are repeatedly carried out, there are plenty of efficient workout routines, motion patterns, and items of apparatus that go unutilized. Incorporation these lacking parts wouldn’t solely add rather more selection, however would additionally make the coaching extra consistent with one other CrossFit tenet: performance. 

Now, to be clear, a excessive diploma of train selection doesn’t essentially imply {that a} coaching program is useful or extremely efficient. Incessantly altering workout routines can current drawbacks of their very own, significantly for newbies. And there are numerous examples of packages with comparatively little motion selection which are very efficient at attaining outcomes, whether or not that be for power, muscle acquire, or fat loss.

Nonetheless, these packages or coaching types don’t hold their hat on being the gold normal of purposeful coaching. For CrossFit to be actually purposeful and continually various, there are some lacking parts that will be helpful to incorporate.

Lacking Ingredient 1: Lateral and Rotational Actions

Nearly each motion in CrossFit is carried out in what’s referred to as the sagittal airplane. These are actions which are performed ahead or backward, and/or primarily require flexion and extension (bending and straightening) of the joints concerned. This contains CrossFit staples like front squats, deadlifts, cleans, kettlebell swings, field jumps, push-ups, burpees, wall balls… the record goes on.

Our physique is designed to do much more than simply flex and prolong. If we don’t do these issues, we are going to step by step lose our capacity to do them safely and effectively. Nevermind the truth that life is multidirectional. We want the power to rotate, transfer aspect to aspect, and transfer diagonally, and we have to do all these issues whereas additionally transferring up and down or ahead and backward. If we can’t transfer in these methods (i.e., if we don’t practice it), we grow to be much less purposeful.

Lacking Ingredient 2: Unilateral Actions

Many of the actions utilized in CrossFit are bilateral, which means they contain utilizing each legs or each arms on the identical time in a symmetrical style. However simply as life is multidirectional, it’s additionally predominantly unilateral, particularly in the case of the decrease physique.

Once more, if we wish our coaching to be actually purposeful, it ought to repeatedly incorporate unilateral decrease physique and higher physique actions corresponding to split squats, step-ups, single-leg squats, single-leg deadlift variations, single-arm urgent, and different single-arm and single-leg actions. 

Lacking Ingredient 3: Horizontal Pulling

If you have a look at the final motion patterns utilized in CrossFit, one of many largest omissions is horizontal pulling, or rowing actions. Sure, the rowing machine is usually utilized for metabolic conditioning, however that doesn’t present sufficient resistance to really strengthen the muscle groups of your higher again.

Person with long hair performing barbell row
Credit score: MilanMarkovic78 / Shutterstock

And though pull-ups are carried out frequently, one drawback of the kip is that it decreases the involvement of your higher again muscle groups, significantly the rhomboids, traps, and rear delts. The result’s that muscle teams which might be essential for posture, shoulder well being, general efficiency, and having a well-rounded physique go understimulated.

Lacking Ingredient 4: Extra Gear

On one hand, the truth that a CrossFit field can exist with minimal gear is a profit, and that is a part of the rationale for its development as a coaching type. Any sport that requires very specialised gear has very restricted development potential. It’s one cause why there are extra soccer gamers all over the world than there are golfers.

However, there are plenty of nice items of train gear that go underutilized or fully unutilized. These are objects that will not solely add selection and performance, however would enable crucial motion progressions for individuals who want them, enhance their efficiency, and doubtlessly cut back the chance of harm.

The medicine ball is a good instance. The truth that each CrossFit field has dozens of them, however nearly completely makes use of them for wall balls is a little bit of a travesty. Drugs balls are supposed to be thrown and slammed to develop whole-body energy. There are additionally countless variations via which to include lateral, rotational, and unilateral actions that may be simple to work into metcons.

Different gear corresponding to trap bars, security squat bars, physioballs, landmines, and suspension trainers may all simply have their place in CrossFit. They might not solely add to the performance facet, however present motion variations that is perhaps extra acceptable for some individuals (e.g., lure bar deadlift vs. standard barbell deadlift, landmine squat vs entrance squat, and so forth.).

Nonetheless, this stuff are nowhere to be seen in typical CrossFit programming or WODs and there’s no legitimate cause as to why. Possibly there could be logistical points to each CrossFit affiliate having all, or most, of this stuff which might make affiliate programming tough. It may additionally make the type of “CrossFit Coaching” much less recognizable, which isn’t helpful for branding.

Nonetheless, it appears as if this stuff aren’t even thought of as choices, which is probably not helpful for almost all of trainees on a broad scale.  

How you can Make the Most of CrossFit Coaching

If you wish to strive CrossFit, or use it as your major type of coaching, listed below are some options. Observe that these may apply to any coaching type.

Don’t Be Afraid to Again Off Some Days

It’s OK not to go all out in each WOD. It may be tempting to at all times attempt to beat your outdated PRs or problem considered one of your friends, however in case you’re feeling run down, it’s rather more efficient to take heed to what your physique is telling you and let off the gasoline now and again.

Don’t Sacrifice Approach for Rounds or Time

In the event you’re not a competitor, it’s simply not value it. The antithesis of purposeful coaching is constantly doing one thing that can hurt your performance down the highway, corresponding to utilizing improper approach. Decelerate within the WODs, or tempo your self appropriately, and take a beat to do actions appropriately.

Change Gears Periodically

Each from time to time, use a totally completely different coaching type or have just one particular coaching objective for a month or two. Possibly it’s simply constructing measurement or power through bodybuilding or powerlifting-style coaching. Or perhaps you’re going to fiddle utilizing solely kettlebells for a month. Or do yoga, or pilates, or mountain climbing the character trails in your space. These transient intervals of drastic variation might be nice psychological and bodily resets.

In Supplemental Coaching, Do the Reverse

In the event you resolve to do some supplemental exercises alongside together with your CrossFit coaching, do the other of what you usually do in a WOD. This implies taking longer relaxation occasions, doing decrease depth cardio work, and performing completely different actions or using completely different items of apparatus like talked about earlier. Slot in some drugs ball slams, single-arm dumbbell rows, landmine presses, Russian twists, and different items which are lacking from the traditional CrossFit puzzle.

Is CrossFit a Good Match for You?

The bottomline is you could and can concurrently develop a number of qualities to a comparatively excessive degree via CrossFit coaching. And in case your objective is well-rounded health — changing into stronger, leaner, and usually extra “in form” than the common particular person — CrossFit is usually a incredible and efficient approach to obtain that. (5)

Nonetheless, the constant high-intensity and aggressive features do make it distinctive from different coaching types and so they warrant consideration for a way they’re approached long-term. Contemplate the strengths and weaknesses laid out above, take into account them relative to your particular person wants and targets, after which resolve if it’s the proper coaching answer for you.


  1. Patel, H., Alkhawam, H., Madanieh, R., Shah, N., Kosmas, C. E., & Vittorio, T. J. (2017). Cardio vs anaerobic train coaching results on the cardiovascular system. World journal of cardiology, 9(2), 134–138.
  2. Schumann, M., Feuerbacher, J. F., Sünkeler, M., Freitag, N., Rønnestad, B. R., Doma, Okay., & Lundberg, T. R. (2022). Compatibility of Concurrent Cardio and Energy Coaching for Skeletal Muscle Dimension and Operate: An Up to date Systematic Evaluation and Meta-Evaluation. Sports activities drugs (Auckland, N.Z.), 52(3), 601–612.
  3. Harrison, Jeffrey S CSCS, NSCA-CPT. Body weight Coaching: A Return To Fundamentals. Energy and Conditioning Journal 32(2):p 52-55, April 2010. | DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3181d5575c
  4. Sousa, A. C., Marinho, D. A., Gil, M. H., Izquierdo, M., Rodríguez-Rosell, D., Neiva, H. P., & Marques, M. C. (2018). Concurrent Coaching Adopted by Detraining: Does the Resistance Coaching Depth Matter?. Journal of power and conditioning analysis, 32(3), 632–642.
  5. Claudino, J.G., Gabbett, T.J., Bourgeois, F. et al. CrossFit Overview: Systematic Evaluation and Meta-analysis. Sports activities Med – Open 4, 11 (2018).

Featured Picture: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

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