post Is CrossFit Worth It? (7 Pros and Cons)

Is CrossFit Worth It? (7 Pros and Cons)  

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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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 considered worth the time and effort due to its comprehensive benefits in physical fitness, mental health, and community support.
  • Regular commitment to CrossFit, ideally five times a week, leads to significant body transformation and weight loss.
  • CrossFit participants can burn approximately 2,700 calories per week through about 5 hours and 15 minutes of exercise, according to the Livestrong.
  • In my opinion, CrossFit's integration of high-intensity workouts and a supportive community environment makes it a uniquely effective fitness approach.

Are CrossFit Gyms Worth Your Time And Effort?

Lifting a barbell up

The simple answer to this is - yes.

The CrossFit community extends beyond physical support, fostering significant psychological benefits such as enhanced motivation, improved mental health, and a profound sense of belonging, factors that contribute immensely to overall well-being.

In my experience as a coach, I've witnessed how the CrossFit community offers more than just workouts; it builds mental resilience, a sense of belonging, and motivation, greatly enhancing overall well-being.

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

Maintaining a consistent gym routine is challenging. Initially, many are enthusiastic, but attendance often declines over time.

The key to progress in high-intensity workouts like CrossFit is regularity.

Infrequent exercise can lead to persistent muscle aches and minimal progress.

For optimal results, regular CrossFit practitioners often recommend committing to at least five days per week.

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.

CrossFit's effectiveness stems from its high-intensity workout structure, rapidly transitioning between exercises like Olympic lifting, wall balls, and push-ups with minimal rest.

This brisk pace is key to its success. For beginners, it's advisable to consult with CrossFit coaches.

They can tailor a program to your objectives, guiding you through the varied workout options and classes that best match your fitness 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. Plus you'll learn all of the best CrossFit workouts you should be focusing on.

Related: CrossFit Bodyweight Workouts: Transform Your Fitness Levels

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.

From my coaching journey, I've seen dedicated CrossFitters, attending 4 to 5 days per week with a disciplined diet, achieve noticeable weight loss and toning in just 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.

Beyond physical strength and endurance, CrossFit uniquely enhances reaction time, leveraging its varied, dynamic exercises to sharpen both cognitive and physical reflexes, a benefit seldom emphasized in conventional workouts.

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.

Based on my coaching experience, attending CrossFit sessions on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday helps build muscle memory and strength, reducing DOMS and ensuring 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 as a coach 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, in my time as a coach, I've seen 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, according to the University of Delaware [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

From my coaching perspective, I've consistently seen CrossFit lead to effective weight loss, backed by numerous success stories.

Each session in a CrossFit gym is a rigorous workout tailored to your goals.

If you're aiming to reduce body fat, your coach will customize your workout with specific sets and reps to target fat loss [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 — 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, based on my observations.

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 published in PubMed 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.


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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