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Is CrossFit Worth It? (7 Pros and Cons)  

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Last updated: September 20, 2022

With new CrossFit gyms opening up almost every day of the week, it's difficult to ignore this fitness phenomenon.

My personal experience comes from being a fitness and strength coach, but I totally appreciate a huge attraction to CrossFit.

To avoid falling for a completely biased answer because I work at a regular gym, I teamed up with a CrossFit coach called Ben and a few of our clients.

I've been friends with Ben since my college rowing days, and we put together some great advice to help you figure out whether it would be worth joining for your personal goals.

Quick Summary

  • CrossFit is based on the concept of high-intensity interval training that can be easily adapted to different fitness goals.ย 
  • People can achieve very fast results with CrossFit, but you have to be prepared for the time and effort it will take.ย 
  • CrossFitters can easily adapt the exercise classes to help them gain muscle or lose fat.

Are CrossFit Gyms Worth Your Time And Effort?

Lifting a barbell up

The simple answer to this is - yes.

CrossFit can be worth your time and effort as long as you are willing to commit to it. The majority of people that drop out of these gyms either are not committed to the hard work or don't have enough free time.

And here's why that is a problem.

Time Commitment

Most people will struggle to go to the gym three days per week. They might do it with enthusiasm for the first months, but then they start dropping more and more days.

The problem is that the high intensity of the workout exercises means that you need to get into a regular pattern. If you just do it sporadically, you'll have constant muscle aches with very little progress.

Some experienced CrossFitters push their workouts to five days a week, so that should give you an idea of what kind of commitment you need.

Willingness To Feel Sore

Now, if you've had experience as one of my clients, then you'll know that I'll push you to your limits, and the first few gym visits will feel sore.

But CrossFit takes the approach of highly intense sets for all of the workouts with just a short break after each set.

You jump from Olympic lifting to wall balls and then do push-ups and more weightlifting. There's hardly time to catch your breath, and that's why it tends to work so well.

How Fast Do You See Results With CrossFit?

A man doing crossfit workout

New CrossFit clients ask this all the time, and my friend Ben says it always depends on how dedicated you are to a healthy and supportive diet and how much time you have for your CrossFit workout program.

If you become an avid CrossFitter and head to the gym 4 to 5 days per week and pay a lot of attention to your diet, then you could see results for weight loss and toning within a few weeks.

What I'm trying to say, maybe too politely, is that CrossFit is not suitable for lazy people who still want to eat Apple Jack's for breakfast and pizza and fries for lunch and dinner.

You can achieve amazing results that become visible in less than a month, but it's a careful balance of diet and exercise time.

How Many Days Per Week Should You Go To A CrossFit Gym?

A man lifting a barbell in his shoulders

OK, let's take a look at how much time you'll need to have for your CrossFit gym to figure out if your work and family life will support it.

Minimum Of 3 Days

If you do highly intense workouts less than three times each week, you'll probably end up with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) on a regular basis [1]. This kind of muscle pain makes it difficult to extend and contract muscles that you have trained.

It makes you walk and move like a robocop, making the next exercise session more difficult.

By going to a CrossFit session every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you're building more muscle memory and strength to avoid DOMS, and it's also going to give you the best long-term results.

5 Days For Best Results

When you see those images of amazing body transformations in CrossFit advertisements where people went from obese to ripped, it more than likely took five training days each week for many months.

As effective as CrossFit can be, it's not a magic pill.

And with each session usually lasting one hour, that would mean dedicating about eight hours a week to give you time to get there and shower after the session.

Is CrossFit Better Than A Regular Gym?

A woman doing her workout in a gym

Despite our differences in gym environments, I came up with a list of important advantages and disadvantages with Ben, who has been coaching CrossFit for the last four years.

Type Of Workout Equipment

OK, you'll find that there are quite a few differences here. For example, a typical gym probably won't have a CrossFit box selection, and bumper plates are also not common. But then, a normal gym will have a lot more machines to choose from for highly targeted isolation exercises.

Where things are more similar is in the free weights section. Both will provide everything you need for Olympic lifts, squats, and all types of bench presses.

Gym Membership Prices

A typical gym will cost you anything from $50 to $100 per month, with cheaper rates available when you pay for a year upfront. The price differs by location and the amount of equipment. Many of the larger gyms will also have a pool, sauna, and steam room included in the price.

From a CrossFit cost perspective, you can expect to pay anything from $80 to $260. That would be for an unlimited membership where you can go as often as you want.

The question then becomes: Is CrossFit worth the extra costs? And that's something you need to decide for yourself.

Workout Flexibility

A person about to lift a kettlebell

My personal opinion is that a standard gym gives you more options to avoid the same workout regularly.

With CrossFit, you always train in a group setting, and you follow the setup of the day. It's really not a good option if you like to do your own thing.

However, with a good coach, you should end up with a lot of diversity in the training sessions.

And you should be able to pick from different sessions that focus on different goals, like bulking, cutting, weight loss, etc.

Access To Personal Trainers

You'll have certified coaches in a regular and CrossFit gym. The only thing is that you'll have a CrossFit coach right there with you for each session.

While I'm always available to monitor my clients' progress and make sure they haven't slipped into bad form, they often prefer to do their workouts alone.

In my experience, most gyms have a good community aspect, but this is one area where CrossFit is a step ahead. You'll meet the same people on a regular basis during your workouts.

That community can act as a great support system to help get you to your fitness goals.

Will CrossFit Workouts Help You Bulk Up?

Yes, I know many people who have successfully bulked up and got a ripped body from a variety of powerlifting, pull-ups, wall balls, battle ropes, and box jumps in their CrossFit sessions.

The great thing is that you can pile on heavy weight plates to lower your reps for each of the workouts, just like you do in a weightlifting session at the gym [2].

What I would say, though, is that you have to talk to your coach to clearly state what your goals are. The type of exercise, combination of sets and reps, and the intensity will be a bit different for bulking than for burning fat.

Always make sure that you join a session that brings you closer to your goals.

"Six days of heavyweights and intense intervals every week is too much, and I probably would have gotten stronger faster if I had stuck to just four (maybe five) days a week and given my body the time it needed to recover in between."

- Christine Byrne, Writer at Self.com

Is CrossFit Good For Losing Weight?

A partner both doing crossfit workout

Yes, CrossFit is good for losing weight, and I have seen people with great success.

A lot of that comes down to the fact that a lot of your training will be about metabolic conditioning to burn calories more effectively.

Every time you enter the CrossFit gym, you'll be facing a serious workout. And when you tell your coach that your plan is to lose some body fat reserves, you'll get a precise number of sets and reps to achieve that [3].

You'll also likely be assigned to classes that specifically target fat loss so that you also join a like-minded community.

"CrossFit statistics show CrossFitters burn a significant amount of calories โ€” about 2,700 per week over about 5 hours and 15 minutes of exercise."

- Moira Lawler, Writer at Livestrong.com

Are There Downsides To CrossFit?

Woman working out in a gym

Yes, there are a couple of downsides to be aware of.

It Tends To Be More Expensive

While there is quite a price difference sometimes, it's important to understand that regular and CrossFit gyms are not exactly the same thing.

You pay extra for CrossFit because of the extensive coaching you get. It would be similar to hiring a personal trainer to check up on you in every workout session.

You Are Limited By The Workout Setup

This is something to keep in mind if you like to do a regular workout session where you choose your own exercises to target specific muscles.

For other people, that's not a problem at all, especially if they like to have an exercise plan scheduled out and then have the coaching to go with it.

There Seems To Be A Higher Risk Of Injury

A few studies into CrossFit have highlighted that, on average, it's a sport with more injuries than a normal gym [4].

It may have to do with inexperienced people becoming too ambitious and piling on more weight for each exercise. And sometimes, when you're trying to stick to a time, you might end up rushing and not sticking with good form.

FAQs

Is Crossfit Ok for Beginners?

Yes, CrossFit is good for beginners, but I would suggest signing up for a beginners' class. Starting CrossFit with intermediate or advanced members of the community can make it more difficult to keep up.

Is It Ok to Do Crossfit Every Day?

No, it's not OK to do CrossFit every day. Your body needs rest days no matter what sport you do. You can still have an active lifestyle on your rest days, but I would not recommend such high levels of intensity for each day.

Will Crossfit Help You Lose Belly Fat?

Yes, CrossFit will help you lose belly fat. You would need to make sure that your coach knows your goals. And of course, you need a good plan for your diet, as no amount of exercise will help you out-train a bad diet.

Is Crossfit Better for Cardio or Strength Training?

CrossFit is both cardio and strength. You might not be using typical cardio machines, but things like sprints and jumping jacks will get your heart pumping. And by lifting free weights, you'll also build up some muscle mass.

Have You Tried Out CrossFit Yet?

If you haven't tried CrossFit, I would suggest talking to a few coaches about your goals. A good coach will give you a full rundown of what you'll need to do and what classes they have available to suit your goals.

Yes, you'll spend a bit more money for membership, but it can get you in great shape with a community to support you as well.

Sign up for a trial month to see how you enjoy it, and keep a close eye on your body measurements to see how it affects you.


References:

  1. https://journal.crossfit.com/article/muscle-damage-soreness-overview
  2. https://sites.udel.edu/coe-engex/2018/03/06/research-says-crossfit-vs-bodybuilding-apples-to-oranges-or-two-sides-to-the-same-coin/
  3. https://www.livestrong.com/article/13717244-how-to-lose-weight-with-crossfit/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28253059/
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