By Kim Duke NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer

Last week, I talked about the CrossFit fitness craze that is extremely popular in the industry right now, even though it came on the scene in 2000. CrossFit, a trademark of CrossFit Inc., is strength and conditioning program with the aim of improving, among other things, muscular strength, cardio-respiratory endurance, and flexibility. It advocates a perpetually changing mix of aerobic exercise, gymnastics (body weight exercises), and Olympic weightlifting.

CrossFit Inc. uses “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad modal and time domains,” with the stated goal of improving fitness. Hour-long classes typically include a warm-up, a skill development segment, the high-intensity “workout of the day” (or WOD), and a period of individual or group stretching.

The following is a list of some of the better-known CrossFit movements/exercises for distance movement.

Distance Training

Running: Typical distances range from 100 meters to 1 mile. Shuttle runs back and forth between marks 10 meters apart are also common.

Rowing: Many workouts include rowing machines, and distances from 500 meters to 2000 meters, or rowing “for calories.”

Movements with Weights

Deadlift: Barbell is lifted from the ground, making sure to drive with the legs and glutes, until the athlete reaches an upright standing position.

Clean: Barbell is (or dumbbells are) lifted from the ground to a “rack position” in front of the athlete’s neck. Athlete ends in a standing position. In a squat clean, the athlete receives the bar in a squatting position and stands to finish the lift. In a power clean, the athlete receives the bar in any position that is above a parallel squat.

Kettlebell Swing: A kettlebell is swung from between the legs to eye level (Russian) or overhead (American).

Press: Barbell is moved from the “rack position” to the overhead position. In a strict press (also called a shoulder press) or military press (in which the feet are together), the lower body remains stationary. In a push press, the bar is “jumped” off the body using a “dip and drive” motion. A push jerk is like a push press, but with a re-bend of the knees to allow the athlete to drop under the bar and receive it with straight arms. A split jerk is like a push jerk, but one leg goes forward and the other backward when the athlete drops under the bar.

Snatch: Barbell is raised from the floor to the overhead position in one motion. In a squat snatch, the athlete receives the bar in a squatting position and stands to finish the lift. In a power snatch, the athlete receives the bar in a partial squat.

Squat: Barbell is supported on upper back (back squat), in the rack position (front squat), or in the overhead position (overhead squat). From a standing position with a wider-than-shoulder-width stance, the athlete bends the knees until the hips are below the knees, and then stands, keeping the heels on the floor.

Thruster: A combination of a front squat and a push press: starting with the barbell in the rack position, the athlete squats (hips below knees) and then stands, driving the barbell overhead.

Tire Flip: A large tire, lying on its side, is flipped over by lifting one edge.

Wallball: Holding a medicine ball below the chin while facing a wall at arm’s length, the athlete squats (hips below knees) and stands, throwing the medicine ball in order to make contact with an overhead target on the wall.

CrossFit Criticism

According to Dr. Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, the risk of injury from some CrossFit exercises outweighs their benefits when they are performed with poor form in timed workouts. He added there are similar risks in other exercise programs but noted that CrossFit’s online community enables athletes to follow the program without proper guidance, increasing the risk.

Articles on many websites criticize CrossFit for its lack of periodization, lack of quality-control accreditation standards for trainers or affiliates, and illogical or random exercise sequences.

Some publications have raised concerns that CrossFit promotes a potentially dangerous atmosphere that encourages people, particularly newcomers to CrossFit, to train past their limits, resulting in injury.

As with any intense form of exercise, before you participate, you should do your homework. CrossFit is not for the faint of heart. It is a bone-crushing, heart-pounding whirlwind of exercises and cardiovascular challenges. There are many challenges throughout each and every workout, some of which require you to be part Olympic athlete and part gymnast. So, even though it’s the rage right now — BEWARE — it’s not for everyone.