Blog
crossfit pros and cons

CrossFit: Benefits & Risks 

CrossFit Benefits & Risks 

Since making its first appearance in the fitness scene back in 2000,  the benefits of CrossFit have been highly lauded by participants. 

But like with anything, Crossfit comes with its risks. So, in order for you to have a safe yet effective workout; we have laid out all of the CrossFit benefits and risks that you need to be aware of before you get started.

In this article, we will cover all the information you want to know, including:

But just before we get started, are you interested in working in the fitness industry? If so, you may be interested in our REPs & CIMSPA accredited personal training courses.

Or, you can browse a plethora of courses in our downloadable course prospectus to take your pick.

Don’t forget to fill in your details below to access your FREE 16-week home strength training programme.

 

What is CrossFit Training?

crossfit pros and cons

Before we dive into some of the pros and cons of CrossFit training, let us explain the sport holistically for all of those wondering ‘what is CrossFit training?’, and what you can expect from a class.

CrossFit is a form of high-intensity interval training, made up of strength and conditioning workouts and a range of functional movements; all of which are performed at excessive intensities. With that being said, it is a highly inclusive sport and encourages people from all fitness abilities to get involved, even those with no prior exercise experience.   

The movements that are performed in CrossFit have all been inspired by day-to-day life, such as: pulling, pushing, and squatting in a bid to not only improve your fitness ability, but your lifestyle too. CrossFit incorporates a mixture of weightlifting and body weight exercises; these are then executed at predetermined periods of time in order to encourage muscle building.

This all amounts to one of the greatest benefits of Crossfit there is; offering a truly unique style of exercise that is different from traditional workouts that will often dictate the number of reps and sets to complete.

The effectiveness of Crossfit boils down to three predominant elements: speed, distance, and load – all of which can help participants develop high levels of power. Therefore, to accomplish this kind of intensity, CrossFit utilises a variety of different pieces of equipment. To name but a few:

  •     Rowing machines
  •     Bikes
  •     Kettlebells
  •     Medicine balls
  •     Speed ropes 

As mentioned, one of the best things and most noted benefit of CrossFit is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro. It can be tailored to various fitness levels so, anybody regardless of experience, age, or fitness level can take part. If you’re looking to take part in a CrossFit class, take a look at our list of the best CrossFit gyms in the UK.

There are a number of different benefits of CrossFit training, which we are going to look at in further detail right away.  

 

Benefits of CrossFit

#1 Improves Your Physical Strength  

crossfit benefits

One of the most sought after benefits of CrossFit is its ability to improve physical strength. It's benefits for strength come as a result of the primary components of the sport consisting of weightlifting and resistance training.

The majority of the movements performed in CrossFit are compound movements, meaning they require recruitment of various muscle groups in the body. For instance, a squat is branded as a compound movement; as when you perform a squat, you are working not only the quadriceps, but the hamstrings, glutes, abdominals and the gastrocnemius also. So, although you may be using a squat for the purpose of targeting your glutes, you’ll simultaneously reap the benefits through surrounding muscles. 

To support the CrossFit benefits for weight loss and strength, findings from a study conducted in 2017 discovered that compound movements are actually more effective for improving your strength and general fitness; this compared to single-joint exercises, such as bicep and leg curls.

The health benefits of CrossFit for women and men will allow you to master the basics of weightlifting, and Olympic lifting techniques. All the while, this kind of intense exercise makes CrossFit benefits for weight loss a fun way to change up your exercise regime.

However, it’s important to note that though you will be working on weight-lifting techniques, the goal of CrossFit isn’t for you to ‘bulk-up’. The ultimate purpose of CrossFit is far more subtle, in fact CrossFit training programmes are primarily designed to help you get strong and toned. 

Find out here how to get better at CrossFit by reading our ultimate guide.

  

#2 Promotes Calorie Burn and Weight Loss 

benefits of crossfit training for women

If you're mainly interested in learning whether CrossFit benefits weight loss, then you’ll be happy to know that CrossFit is an excellent form of training if you want to burn calories and manage your weight. 

Not only will you feel the benefits of CrossFit physically through the calories burnt, but you’ll also continue to burn calories after your workout too! 

This is called the ‘after-burn effect’, which suggests that the more intense the workout is, the more oxygen your body consumes afterwards; therefore, the more calories you burn after you’ve left the gym. Consequently, the post-workout calorie burn is usually between 6-15% of the total calories you burned while you were exercising. 

Burning calories is one of the most valued benefits of CrossFit training, but this isn’t the only way it can assist in weight loss. When taking part in CrossFit training, you’re engaging in a form of exercise that encourages muscle gain - more muscle mass means a faster metabolism, and a faster metabolism equates to burning more calories. To learn more about how this works, visit our metabolism boosting foods article to find out about the thermic effect.

Further, the increased lean muscle mass and the boosted metabolism will contribute towards reducing body fat as well as calories too. So, if you’re looking for a workout that will burn calories and help you smash your weight-loss goals, then CrossFit is the best workout for you.

 

#3 Supports Cardiovascular Health 

health benefits of crossfit training

A particularly important benefit of CrossFit training is its support for cardiovascular health. As we now know, CrossFit workouts are intense; with every CrossFit workout that you conquer, you’re contributing to the health of your blood pressure and overall heart health. 

It is no secret that regular cardio and aerobic exercise can influence a stronger heart, and with a stronger heart, it allows for blood to be pumped around the body with much less effort. With this, it means that the arteries are under considerably less pressure - therefore lowering blood pressure.

If you thought the CrossFit benefits were limited strictly to strength and fitness advantages, then you would be mistaken. Crossfit in fact carries benefits that can improve your quality of life, as when you suffer from high blood pressure, you are 3x more likely to be affected by heart disease or suffer from a stroke.

The health benefits of CrossFit training will also protect your kidneys and lower your cholesterol. Additionally, according to the Centre for Disease Control over 200,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S due to preventable cardiovascular conditions; so taking up CrossFit is a great way to help combat against those problems.

 

#4 Helps Reduce Injury 

crossfit kids benefits

Reducing the risk of injury is yet another of the benefits of CrossFit that can aid you in everyday life and health.

Some of the best and safest exercises to perform in the gym are ones that mimic movements you do outside the gym, examples such as; lifting parcels, sitting down and getting up from your desk, or hauling a heavy shopping bag. These are known as functional movements and act as the foundation of many CrossFit workouts and training regimes. 

One of the great benefits of CrossFit incorporating functional movements as part of your exercise, is to keep your body in physical readiness for the demands of your day-to-day life. If you learn how to control your body properly, you’ll be safer and less likely to pick up freak injuries during more demanding everyday tasks.

Read here how to effectively prevent ACL injuries for a safer workout.

 

#5 May Improve Your Flexibility 

crossfit benefits weight loss 

Perhaps one of the more underestimated health benefits of CrossFit training is its ability to help improve flexibility. 

CrossFit workouts include key movements, such as; kettlebell swinging, overhead presses, and squats. These kinds of exercises can help improve your flexibility through the mobility inducing movements - further enhancing your balance, and agility too. 

Whilst the movements being performed at a high intensity will undoubtedly help improve your flexibility, it is surprisingly the warm-ups and downs stretches that you do before and after that will benefit you the most. 

CrossFit training programmes put into practice  the benefits of dynamic stretching (movement while stretching), which will assist your flexibility and mobility level; two aspects that will come in handy in both your everyday life, and in the gym too. 

If you’re looking for similar types of exercise to CrossFit, find some useful information in the following articles:

 

 

#6 Promotes Mental Health 

crossfit risks

In addition to its many physical benefits, one of the most important health benefits of CrossFit training programmes is the psychological advantage they present. 

Much like other forms of exercise, CrossFit benefits the brain power alongside the muscular gains, as it creates mental toughness through the use of positive self-talk. Intentionally included into classes, this feature is incorporated to help push and encourage participants through challenging moments during exercise, with the hopes of developing it into a habit that is applied to general life 

CrossFit training programmes also allow you to self-evaluate and reflect once the session is over, with enthusiasts of CrossFit reporting that they’ve felt significant and positive improvements in their mental health since starting to work out in this way.

One of the benefits of CrossFit is the positive feeling after completing a session, this due to chemicals that are released into the brain while you exercise. These chemicals are known as endorphins, aka the happy hormones, and trigger a positive feeling in the body.

Feeling proud and accomplished is undoubtedly amongst the most rewarding health benefits of CrossFit training for women and men for sure, so it is worth a shot for anyone seeking mental or physical help. 

Exercise is a key aid to better mental health, find the mental health benefits of running here.

 

#7 Can Help You Sleep Better

 crossfit safety concerns

If you’re somebody who struggles to sleep, CrossFit has benefits in reducing the risk of insomnia.

Though there are a variety of lifestyle factors that can be contributing to how well you sleep, CrossFit training is seemingly an effective way of ensuring that you get a good night’s sleep. 

The main functions of sleep are to conserve energy and repair the body’s tissues, therefore the more time you spend in the gym, the more sleep your body is going to need.

Supporting this, in a study conducted by Oregon State University,participants underwent 4 months of working out - this being incorporated into the everyday lifestyle. This resulted in the insomniacs gaining 85 more minutes sleep a night; this kind of performance is better than what any drug could guarantee.

One of the benefits of CrossFit’s high intensity includes the positive effect it should have on promoting a healthier sleeping pattern thanks to an increase of energy expenditure.

Deeper sleep is what ensures that your muscle function and energy stores are replenished. Therefore, sleeping well after exercise encourages your tissue and muscles to become stronger and more resistant to injury and fatigue.  

For a more energised session, take a look at our buyers guide on the best vitamins for energy here.

 

#8 It’s Convenient 

pros and cons of crossfit training

One of the most simple but effective benefits of CrossFit training is how incredibly convenient it is to take part in and it won’t take a huge chunk out of your everyday life to commit to.

When many people start out on a fitness journey, they’re conflicted as to whether they should join a gym, hire a personal trainer, or invest in a home fitness studio; CrossFit training gives you some of the benefits of all three of these options. 

CrossFit gyms will provide you with all the equipment you need for full-body workouts, including: free weights, flexibility aids, and cardio equipment. Unlike a public gym, you won’t have to figure out how to use all of these different pieces of kit on your own, as your CrossFit classes will be guided by trained coaches. 

Don’t fret if you walk into the gym on your first day asking ‘what is CrossFit training?’, as coaches come with pre-planned sessions to guide you efficiently, so you won’t have to worry about making your own workout programme. 

CrossFit benefits an array of people, including those who would usually struggle to find the time to work out. CrossFit has the luxury of classes and workouts that aren’t overly time-consuming. One class will usually only last around an hour, and the workout-of-the-day (WOD) usually only takes between 3-20 minutes to complete. The rest of the class is spent warming up and cooling down to avoid injury.

If convenience is what you need, check out our definitive guide to nailing your home workout.

 

#9 Can Make You a Better Runner

cross fit 

If you’re an avid runner, you’ll be pleased to know that one of the benefits of CrossFit training programmes is the improvement of endurance, which, in turn, promotes better running skills and performance. 

CrossFit workouts improve your strength from head to toe, which means improved performance whether you’re a sprinter or an endurance athlete.  

Additionally, CrossFit assists in strengthening your core; the relevance of this is strong abdominals help transfer and utilise strength throughout the rest of your body. This can include offering assistance to your legs and arms, equating to more power per stride. 

Further, the benefits of CrossFit for enhancing core strength could not only improve your form, but also reduce your risk of picking up any injuries whilst you run.

There are many CrossFit pros and cons, but this pro can support stronger muscles and endurance, thus giving you the ability to smash your personal best and run for longer than you ever could before.

In the hot weather, you may benefit from checking out our list of tips and precautions for running in hot weather.

 

#10 It’s Sociable 

crossfit classes 

Another factor that CrossFit benefits is the social element of your life.

As we have mentioned, when participating in CrossFit training programmes and classes, you won’t be working out alone, instead CrossFit classes consist of small groups of people who not only all work out together, but support and encourage each other too. 

Joining CrossFit classes will give you the opportunity to meet new, like-minded people who share at least one similar interest to you - CrossFit.

CrossFit training has the ability to create a sociable atmosphere, this was highlighted in research that reviewed CrossFit participants. The research review came to the conclusion that CrossFit training was associated with feelings of community, motivation, and satisfaction. 

Through working out as part of a community, you’ll be in an environment where CrossFit benefits your fitness goals and strives to better your physical self, you’re your mental stability - both in, and out of the gym.

Why not read our article to find out the benefits of group exercise.

 

#11 Improves Performances in Other Sports  

crossfit training

As we’ve briefly touched upon with regard to running, one of CrossFit’s benefits is that it can help improve your performances in other sports too.

A well-rounded programme such as CrossFit, can help build the body’s overall work capacity in a way that many sports-specific training regimes are simply unable to do. Footballers or marathon runners, for example, are encouraged to take advantage of the benefits of CrossFit training programmes, as it can help improve endurance. 

Footballers can run for miles during a match; therefore, they need to ensure that not only are they strong enough to do so, but that they’ve got the stamina to last while maintaining a high performance. CrossFit can help them do this, not only offering endurance progression, but on their explosive power and speed - attributes which are essential in football. 

Swimmers are another sports population who can reap CrossFit benefits. In order to be a successful swimmer, it is crucial to possess a strong core that helps balance the upper and lower body in the water and, as we now know, CrossFit training can help you gain a stronger core.

The main point to take away from this, is that the stronger and fitter your body is, almost anything you’re going to do will progress over time. Be it running, swimming, or even racing around a football pitch for 90 minutes every weekend. 

A great way of improving your performance is consuming supplements, find the best pre-workout ones here.

 

#12 You Can Compete and Achieve Your Goals 

crossfit benefits and risks

Admittedly, not everyone wants to train competitively, but if that is your sort of thing, then this is one of the benefits of CrossFit that will definitely interest you.

Almost every CrossFit class will post everyone’s performance on the days WOD (Workout of the Day), whether that’s how fast you performed, how long you endured, or how much you lifted. The main aim of this isn’t to embarrass you if you didn’t do as well as you hoped, but to motivate you to do your best.

If you enjoy healthy competition, you can use the WOD scores to push yourself a little further in the next workout so that you can try to beat them.

It could be argued that this is one of the CrossFit pros, and cons; however, staying motivated and pushing yourself in every session can see you reach goals. Additonally, the supportive spirit of the classes will undoubtedly play an important role in your success too. 

Feeling competitive? Find our fitness quiz here and compete with your workout partners to see who knows the most!

  

#13 It’s Fun and Challenging 

crossfit benefit

The final benefit of CrossFit training on this shortlist is that it’s simply fun to take part, whilst still being a challenge each and every single time! 

CrossFit isn’t like your typical gym routine, which if we’re honest, if we don’t make the effort to switch it up - it gets boring. Alternatively, in each CrossFit training session, you’ll find yourself throwing medicine balls, running, climbing, jumping rope, and practicing your box jumps, and that’s just the start. 

The fun benefits of CrossFit training are arguably the reason people return to the classes. You can lose yourself in the fun workouts and the experience of the high intensity, something you’re missing out on during a monotonous jog on the treadmill, the best ones are listed here for you to choose from!

Of course, sometimes you will be on the rowing machine, treadmill or lifting weights, but those exercises will be interspersed amongst other exciting and varied actions.

Although CrossFit is a lot of fun, this doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging. Whilst it may sound like fun and games from the outside, you’ll be pushed to your limits as you throw medicine balls, jump rope, climb and run during your CrossFit training programmes. 

 

The Risks Of CrossFit

There are pros and cons of CrossFit training just like anything, and though for the most part CrossFit is hugely beneficial, there are also some CrossFit risks that are worth noting.

 

Some CrossFit risks include, but are not limited to:

 

#1 Risk of Injury

crossfit injury

Though CrossFit training does aim to protect you from injuries, due to the high-intensity nature of the workout, your risk of getting injured is increased. 

Some common CrossFit injuries can include:

  •       Lower back pain
  •       Knee injuries
  •       Tennis elbow 
  •       Rotator cuff tendonitis - shoulder injury 
  •       Achilles tendonitis - heel injury 

It’s advised that to prevent suffering from these particular CrossFit safety concerns, beginners should start off at a slower pace and increase weight gradually. CrossFit risks should be explained by an instructor, who should also be guiding you to avoid injuries by paying attention to your performance. 

If you’re new to CrossFit, always go at your own pace and don’t lift more weight than you are comfortable with, easing into exercise will undoubtedly help decrease your risk of getting injured. 

It is also advised that if you have any pre-existing health issues or medical problems that perhaps CrossFit won’t be the workout for you due to its high-impact high-intensity nature. 

Find common weightlifting injuries and prevention guide here to get prepared.

 

#2 Encourages Sloppy Form 

crossfit dangers

Another one of the CrossFit safety concerns is the promotion of ‘sloppy form’. 

Pushing through excessive repetitions in less time just so you can achieve your fitness goals doesn’t only put you at risk of injury, but it also actively encourages lifting in a counterproductive way. 

If you’re injured, feeling sore or just pushing through reps despite being fatigued, you run a serious risk of hurting yourself from not lifting in the proper form. 

Sloppy form could lead to strains and injuries later on in life, so ensure you take a break to avoid CrossFit risks. Further, always ensure a coach is around to make sure you’re doing the moves properly if you’re ever in doubt.

To see the benefits of good posture, find an article here outlining risks and benefits.

 

#3 Challenging Technique 

crossfit technique

Additionally, CrossFit pros and cons highlight the difficulty of mastering technique. 

Elements of CrossFit derive from gymnastics and Olympic weightlifting, sports that can take many, many years to perfect. Therefore, it is vitally important to perform movement according to correct mechanical form.

Though most CrossFit experts strongly agree that good form is key to effective and safe exercise, it can be easy to be blinded in the moment by wanting to beat your own, or your competitors' scores. 

Functional training is far more freeing than your usual gym workouts and comes with the benefit of activating more muscles at a time; however, it also is synonymous with the risk of injury too.  

Therefore, correcting technique and not neglecting the sheer importance of this, will allow you to reap the benefits of CrossFit much more efficiently.

If you love to challenge yourself, find the benefits of strength training here.

 

#4  Encourages an Unhealthy View of Pain  

the benefits of Crossfit

Though research in recent years has proven that pain associated with exercise is not the desired outcome, some CrossFitters however, still do subscribe to the old mentality ‘no pain, no gain’. 

As a community, some CrossFit participants encourage pushing through the pain, even to the point of injury, vomiting, or both. 

Pain and vomiting are a signal that something is wrong. In its simplest terms, it’s your brain telling you that there is a problem, and that you should stop exercising immediately before things get worse.

This attitude of ‘no pain no gain’ can definitely be a deterrent to aspiring participants which has a negative impact on the reputation of the class. The benefits of CrossFit should be about having fun, whilst also pushing yourself -without striving for through injuries. 

Read more about how to become a CrossFit coach here.

 

#5 Unfocused, Unspecific and Lack of Personalisation 

crossfit exercise

Though a diverse nature can be one of the benefits of CrossFit training, those who aim to improve specific areas may be disappointed. This is because CrossFit focuses heavily on compound movements, rather than isolation.

In the scenario you have very specific goals and requirements, you may be more inclined to seek the help of a personal trainer to ensure your every need is being met and targeted. 

This could potentially be a massive drawback for those who are taking part in fitness training for a specific sport, though it can improve your overall fitness level to enhance the likes of endurance; if you’re looking for specific muscle targeting, then perhaps CrossFit training isn’t for you. 

Another downside of CrossFit is that you won’t be assigned a customised training session, in fact everyone does the same workout, which can lead to a lack of progress in your particular target areas.

A CrossFit trainer may also not have the time to focus on you and your training specifically, mainly due to the fact that they will have a class of people to keep an eye on. If you’re expecting a more personal type of workout, where everything is tailored to you and you get the coach’s undivided attention, you may be disappointed at the outcome.

 

How Often Should You Practice CrossFit?

crossfit frequency

CrossFit frequency is dependent on ability level. In order to reap the benefits of Crossfit, advice for beginners is to take part 3x a week. This may seem a little excessive, and intimidating for those completely new to the sport, but if scheduled sporadically throughout the week, you can achieve this in a way that isn’t so overwhelming.  

This kind of routine can incorporate the CrossFit benefits for weight loss assistance, further enhancing a sense of routine into your everyday lifestyle. Of course, you aren’t restrained to training a minimum of 3x a week, you can choose your frequency; however, in order to see results quicker, this kind of intensity reflects what CrossFit stands for. 

It’s also important to remember that although CrossFit has benefits of plenty, you should always listen to your body; if you’re fatigued and or in pain, it is important to take a rest day, you can find out about the importance of rest days here.

CrossFit Training vs Strength Training

crossfit vs strength training

Many people associate CrossFit simply as being a variant of strength training, without acknowledging that the two offer notable differences. In order to optimise your results and ensure you're targeting your desired goals, it is important to compare crossfit training vs weight training. CrossFit incorporates areas of weight training, however varied equipment is used. 

A typical strength training session can include the use of; 

  • Resistance machines
  • Dumbbells
  • Barbells
  • resistance bands

In comparison to CrossFit which will use equipment such as;

  • Medicine balls
  • Kettlebells
  • Assault bike
  • Battle ropes

These pieces of equipment are not limited to those specifically, but it demonstrates the difference between the benefits of CrossFit training vs weight training; it al's highlights that difference between the use of compound and isolation exercises. 

To explain this, weight training can allow for split days that can isolate a particular muscle group, an example being the glutes or abs. This isn’t to say that CrossFit training can't target the glutes - in fact it can do so effectively. However, CrossFit enhances muscle groups as an entirety rather than an isolation.  

Weight training can see you targeting the 3 muscle groups of the glutes separately to give an isolated exercise for each muscle; comparable to CrossFit that can demonstrate a squat - working the glutes, hamstrings and quads. 

Therefore, when comparing the two it's important to regard that not one is better than the other, but rather one can isolate efficiently (weight training) and the other projects compound movements (CrossFit).

 

Can Kids Practice CrossFit?

kids crossfit benefits

For anyone wanting to get their kids involved in the sport and are wondering ‘can kids do CrossFit?’, you may be surprised to learn the answer is yes! There are plenty of CrossFit for Kids benefits that reflect those of the adult classes. The classes are fun and interesting; further they’re available to those between the ages of just 3, all the way up to 18. 

CrossFit Kids benefits the overall mood, influenced by the fun that they have during the session. These kinds of CrossFit sessions are certainly not dedicated to pushing results, instead it is about keeping kids fit, healthy and happy – through the use of fun activity.

  

Before You Go!

Hopefully now you know all of the CrossFit pros and cons and can decide if you want to take part in the class. The intensity can promote all of the health benefits of CrossFit training so you can ensure your fitness levels are being improved week by week. 

If you’re a fitness fanatic, you may want to kickstart your career in the fitness industry by inquiring about one of our REPs endorsed personal training courses.

Alternatively, if you’re already a trained professional, you can browse our range of CPD courses to extend your qualifications.




References

  1. Dominski, F. H., Serafim, T. T., Siqueira, T. C., & Andrade, A. (2020). Psychological variables of CrossFit participants: a systematic review. Sport sciences for health, 1–21. 
  2. Shape. 2021. The Insane Ways You Can Boost Your Workout—While Sleeping. [online] Available at: <https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/sleep-and-exercise-connection-can-change-your-life-and-your-workouts> [Accessed 18 March 2021].
  3.  Shape. 2021. Is the Afterburn Effect Too Good to Be True?. [online] Available at: <https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/science-behind-afterburn-effect> [Accessed 18 March 2021].

Written by Kimberley Mitchell

Editor

Having gained a B.A Hons degree in Media, Culture and Communications, Kimberley has gained experience in areas of web journalism, website production and marketing.

Alongside this, Kim expanded her knowledge and passion for fitness, by becoming a fully qualified fitness instructuor and personal trainer. Kim has also gained specialist qualifications in yoga, nutriton, spin and many more.

After working in the industry as a PT, Kimberley went on to study an MA in Digital Marketing and continues to expand her knowledge in the industry. Her main focus is to keep up with current trends and communications with a focus around health & fitness, writing and being creative.

Recommended Posts

Download Your 16 week Home Strength Training Programme

Download Your 16 week Home Strength Training Programme