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How to Get Better at CrossFit: Ultimate Guide (2019)

how to get better at crossfit: blog header image

Wondering how to get better at CrossFit?

Perhaps you’ve noticed those around you getting better at CrossFit while you’re still struggling to do double unders, or maybe you’re already a pro wanting to knock your competition out of the park…

Whatever your CrossFit status, it’s nothing that OriGym’s ultimate guide can’t fix!

Stick with us through our ultimate guide on how to get better at CrossFit, and you’ll be at the top of your box in no time.

OR if you're looking to kick-start your fitness career, check out OriGym's Level 3 Personal Trainer course first. 

CrossFit Squats

You know what Theodore Roosevelt said: ‘nothing worth having comes easy.’ As cheesy as it may sound, it’s painfully true and something that every CrossFitter should live by.

Our first step to learning how to get better at crossfit begins with you focusing on your CrossFit squats.

This might sound like a pointless task if you’ve been going to CrossFit for a while and attempted every method, but trust us on this one.

How to get better at crossfit: sumo squat graphic

Squats are one element of crossfit skill work that you seriously need to nail. We know that it sounds basic and we’re certainly not telling you that you can’t squat, but there’s always room for improvement!

The harsh reality is that a good majority of us never learned how to squat properly before we started out squatting with weights. Many of us are close to perfect form, but could take steps to improve what we have already nailed.

How do you think the top tier CrossFit games athletes got to the level that they’re at?

They put their all into CrossFit progression. They learned how to squat right.

So that you can do the same we’ve put together a list of the 5 main CrossFit squats to master, so you can learn how to get better at crossfit ASAP.

#1 Air squat

How to get better at crossfit: air squat graphic

We know it’s back to basics, but that’s the whole point of mastery.

When performing an air squat, ask yourself whether or not you can break parallel or further. If you can, then you won’t have to spend quite as long on this variation.

If not, work your way up to this stage before adding any weights to your CrossFit squats.

When performing an air squat, you should:

  • Make sure your feet are between hip or shoulder-width apart, and your feet are facing slightly outwards
  • Engage your abdominal muscles (building up core strength is essential for CrossFit progression)
  • Shift your body weight onto your heels on descent (your feet stay entirely flat)
  • Make sure your knees are always behind your toes, and that they don’t collapse inwards
  • Balance with your arms in front of you or tucked in towards your chest

NOTE: Practise this until your glutes can reach your calves/you can go past parallel. Practise it until you can do this FAST, and with strength.

Practise until you’re 100% confident with it and can do it better than anyone else in your box, DO NOT progress. This is how to get better at CrossFit!

#2 Barbell back squat

How to get better at crossfit: back squat graphic

Chances are you’ve encountered these before, so we’re definitely not trying to introduce them as a new move.

However, here’s a skim over the correct form for you to practise next time you’re at the gym.

  • Adopt the same stance as the air squat
  • Hold the barbell with your hands wider than your shoulders (so it sits on the back of them)
  • Pull down on the bar to engage your lats before descent
  • When you sit back into the squat, ensure that your hip crease is below your knee crease (break parallel)
  • Drive your chest up using your heels until you reach full extension of the hips and knees
  • As always, ensure that your knees stay behind your toes

Once you’ve nailed this, and by that we mean obliterate everyone else that you know at this move because you’ve practised it so much… then you should push for the front squat.

One at a time is the best way when learning how to get better at CrossFit. That’s exactly how the greats do it.

#3 Front Squat

How to get better at crossfit: front squat graphic

If you haven’t attempted this one yet, then you it does look quite intimidating. If you have, then you know that you need to be focused to pull this one off.

  • Get into correct stance (feet between hip or shoulder-width apart)
  • Ensure the barbell rests on top of the deltoids/right above the collar bone, and that you grip it just over shoulder-width apart and balance it on the palm of your hand
  • Push gently with your elbows and triceps parallel to the ground
  • Make sure your shoulders are pushed up into extinction before descent
  • Perform the squat with the same bracing as previous moves, but with extra focus on balance and making sure the bar doesn’t fall forwards

Once you’ve truly got the front squat in the bag you can rest assured that you’re making serious CrossFit progression.

NOTE: Practising good form with the air squat is completely portable and relevant to every squat, so there’s no excuse to neglect practising formation during your day. You can even do it at work!

#4 Overhead squat

How to get better at crossfit: overhead squat graphic

You heard it. Once you’ve obliterated all of the other moves, the overhead squat is next on your agenda. It’s all about form with this one, so be sure to take it slow and steady.

Practice without the bar first if you have to, or just the bar with no added weight.

  • Start in the usual position, legs spread a little wider than usual (shoulder-width or wider)
  • Pick up the bar with your arms around shoulder-width apart, your fists facing inwards, and have it sit on your hip crease
  • Lift the bar so that it’s parallel to the back of the shoulders, and your arms are straight
  • Descend slowly and carefully with your weight on your heels, knees behind your toes, and get as low as you can comfortably go before pushing up

NOTE: Don’t be overly concerned with reaching full depth with this move at first, focus more on the overhead positioning of the bar

#5 Pistol squat

How to get better at crossfit: pistol squat graphic

We’ve reached it. The dreaded pistol squat… you know you’re making CrossFit progression when you hit this point! And if you’re already there and want to completely master it, start from the bottom and work your way back up.

  • Start off with your feet close together/no wider than in-between your hips
  • Lift one of your feet off the ground before descent, being extra careful with balance (use your arms whichever way is best for you)
  • If you can’t balance well then don’t attempt the squat - work on balance first
  • Descend with the knee of the leg you’re squatting on behind your toes, and with your other leg balanced straight in front of you
  • Reach the point where your hips are below knee crease, then raise your body back up again

NOTE: Take extra care performing this move when practising CrossFit squats. It requires good balancing skills, so work on these first.

How to Get Better at CrossFit: difficult CrossFit movements

After covering what it takes to truly master squats as the foundation of your CrossFit skill work, let’s take a look at what else can enhance your CrossFit progression over the space of a few weeks (if taken seriously).

It’s very likely that the following movements are the main culprit in hindering your CrossFit progression, perhaps even more so than squats.

 

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The key to learning how to get better at CrossFit is also learning how to beat your own weaknesses.

Double Unders

How to get better at crossfit: double unders

If you’ve done CrossFit you’ll know the shameful struggle of double unders. They may only look like skipping, and you’d assume that they were easy in comparison to the likes of muscle ups… but don’t let them fool you.

The main reason that they earn their place on the list of most difficult CrossFit movements is for the unique technique that it takes to master them.

It’s easier to coach someone through other moves as there is more of a one-size-fits-all approach to most of them.

With double unders, it’s more like riding a bike. People can tell you and show you how to do it, but there’s a knack to it that you have to figure out for yourself.

TIPS:

  • Set aside time to practise ONLY double unders, 10-15 minutes per day
  • Keep your wrists close
  • Stay on your toes
  • Try out different rope lengths

Toes-to-Bar

How to get better at crossfit: toes to bar

It’s no surprise that this move is deceiving (what CrossFit move isn’t?).

If you don’t already know, the main reason for this is that after the first rep (due to the enormous angle that you have to close with your body), it becomes increasingly harder to manage.

We’re here to solve this for you!

If you get your technique right, then you’re onto a winner. It’s so easy to want to jump straight into moves like this when you see other people speeding ahead, but it’s so important to be patient. Injuring yourself would be a lot more impractical!

TIPS:

  • Avoid ‘piking’ - use the knees to elbows technique, as this makes it easier to bust out more reps
  • Focus on knees to elbows without tapping the bar first, get some explosive power through your leg movement, then work on curving and reaching the bar
  • When tapping the bar, avoid releasing the tension that you initially create. Maintain tension in your core throughout, and work on controlling your reps. Up them slowly.
  • Practice for up to 15-20 minutes per day after a good warm up!

Bar Muscle Ups

How to get better at crossfit: muscle ups

It’s no shock that muscle ups have been branded as one of the most difficult CrossFit movements. If you’ve seen them in action, then you’ll know just how unreachable they look...

Don’t panic! We’re here to give you the top tips on how to master them.

Try following only the first three points at first, and practice your swing. Do this for a series of weeks if you’re really struggling. Completely master it, and make sure your swing is explosive.

Once you’ve got it under control and can do it with confidence, THEN work on getting over the bar.

TIPS:

  • Start off with your grip - try a narrow grip first!
  • Jump into a hollow position with your legs extended and core engaged
  • With your knees and hips slightly bent (in the hollow position) pull up!
  • Push your shoulders both up AND away from the bar as you come up, as this will help with momentum (an create space for you to swing over)
  • Pop your hips into full extension and keep the hip crease close to the bar
  • Once you’re over it (well done for making it this far!), push up into the final position, then come back down as controlled as you can

Rope Climb

How to get better at crossfit: rope climb

The rope climb is last but certainly not the least when it comes to our list of difficult CrossFit movements! Maybe the fact that it started out only in the CrossFit games is a big indicator of this…

Regardless, if you work at it with determination and patience, you’ll have it in the bag in no time.

You can probably already manage to get onto the rope and perform a pull. If so, that’s great! However, the likely story is that after this step, you lose sight of it completely. That rope is so hard to snag once it’s out of your vision!  

TIPS:

  • Grab a wooden plyo box and stand on this to start off - great practice for finding the rope each time without looking!
  • Use the outside of one foot to kick the rope on top of the other, then trap it between both feet
  • Practice the first pull over and over again even if it takes a few weeks, until you can grab the rope each time without fail
  • Gradually increase your pulls (work to get a third of the way up, then down, then halfway etc. until you’re confident and have perfect form)

Work on your Barbell Technique

We know. You’ve probably done barbells countless times, and it’s discouraging to think that there’s anything wrong with your form when it took a while to get used to lifting in the first place.

Even if you’re the best lifter in your box or you’re on your way to the regionals, what’s the harm in fine-tuning your technique?

We’re talking about a sport after all, and the fact you’ve searched for how to get better at CrossFit shows that there’s something you want to improve.

How to get better at crossfit: barbell graphic

Do you think that top footballers ever stop looking for opportunities to grow? Exactly.

TIPS:

  • Don’t be afraid to up or decrease weights depending on the day
  • If it’s too much, drop it and use your form to your advantage. If it’s too easy, load up slowly!
  • Do controlled and explosive reps rather than speedy ones, then build up speed
  • Work on your coordination without weights - this will also help with speed
  • No rep yourself if you step out of form
  • Enlist the help of a coach - they’re there to help you to progress. Ask them for guidance or specialised programs!

If you want something specific when working on your technique, check out this article on barbell exercises to get stronger. 

Getting Better at CrossFit: Strength is your Key

This doesn’t mean that you should forget elements such as mobility, agility, power, speed, etc., but it’s difficult to run at every single one of them with force.

When it comes to learning how to get better at CrossFit, strength should be the first and foremost area of your CrossFit progression.

If you’re showing up regularly to classes and giving them your all, then you’ll be hitting all of these targets. What we mean by making strength your priority is to focus on it the most in your spare time.

How to get better at crossfit: time graphic

Strength and power are at the forefront of most of the difficult CrossFit movements. Coincidentally, they are likely the moves that you wish to develop in the first place.

From this knowledge, we can put together a simple plan that ends in you getting better at CrossFit.

Working on difficult moves outside of class = building strength simultaneously.

The more strength that you build, the more competition moves you’ll be able to do. This includes lifting heavier weights as well as bodyweight workouts, which is exactly what you should be aiming for.

If your focus is strength then you’ll see gains and progression in no time. Get strength training and shock those around you!

You’ll even surprise yourself, which is the most important benefit to CrossFit progression. Once you witness yourself making real progress, it’ll spur you on.

Develop Mental Toughness

Wanting to learn how to get better at CrossFit is one thing, but making the active decision to actually start getting better is another.

You will have noticed us giving you the advice to start practising the areas of CrossFit you wish to improve in during your spare time. This is no joke.

Without giving you a huge lecture, the one thing we’ll say is that you have to truly want it. You have to want to get good at the sport, to eliminate everyone else at your box (in friendly competition of course), and even want to be a success at the CrossFit games.

You should use your WODs and difficult CrossFit movements to push for mental toughness.

The more mental toughness you have, the further you’ll go. The most important step to getting better at CrossFit is wanting it enough, and having fun whilst doing it. It should excite and inspire you!

How to get better at crossfit: winning crossfit graphic

We’re not saying you have to be in the mood every waking second, but it should be the forefront of your fitness routine, and one of your most prominent passions.

  • Make CrossFit your priority over other sports and exercise routines
  • PRACTISE in all of your spare moments
  • Research past and present champions and learn from them
  • Push yourself on days when you’re uninspired
  • Enter into the Open and see how you do! (Get through = go for regionals, Don’t get through = train till you make it there)

How to Get Better at CrossFit: Ask for Help

The likelihood of you getting better at CrossFit relies heavily on your willingness to ask for help and learn from those around you.

It’s true that many CrossFitters are there with the sole focus of building up strength and losing weight. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re one of those who wants to learn how to get better at CrossFit as a sport, then you need to ask for help along the way.

How to get better at crossfit: helping clients graphic

Why not have a private word with your trainer and ask them whether they have any specific programs for you to follow?

This might sound intimidating, but help with getting better at CrossFit is exactly what they’re there to provide you with. If they’re a reputable coach then they’ll give you the guidance you’re looking for!

They’ll know your personal strengths and weaknesses, and give you the most appropriate CrossFit skill work to work on.

If you're interested in helping others along their fitness journey, check out OriGym's Personal Training Diploma! You never know, you might just decide to make an exciting career move. 

FAQs

#1 - How long does it take to get good at CrossFit?

There’s not one-size-fits-all timescale to getting better at CrossFit, but you’ll definitely notice a sizeable difference within a few months if you stick to an intensive plan.

That’s your short answer to ‘how long does it take to get good at CrossFit?’! Go work for it.

#2 - How often should I do CrossFit?

If you’re wonderinf ‘how often should I do CrossFit?’, the answer is easy. Realistically, as much as you can!

You should definitely have at least 2-3 rest days per week, as this allows your muscle fibers to repair (and you to get stronger). However, you should train as hard as you can on exercise days.

#3 -  Does CrossFit get easier?

This is a tough one to answer. In short, exercise should never be easy!

If easier means that you’ll naturally learn how to get better at CrossFit and perform movements that you couldn’t before, then of course. But this doesn’t mean that the workouts will ever be easy!

#4 - How do you train for CrossFit?

There are bound to be many answers to ‘how do you train for CrossFit?’ depending on the athlete and their desired CrossFit progression.

In our opinion, train by learning how to get better at CrossFit first! Practise as often as you can, and make strength your focus.

Before you go!

Hopefully we’ve left you feeling inspired after learning how to get better at CrossFit.

If you’re looking to kick-start your career in fitness, go check out our latest prospectus or Diploma in Personal Training here for more info on what you could be learning! 

 

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Written by Chloe Twist

Qualified Personal Trainer & Blogger

Chloe is a qualified Personal Trainer with a passion for blogging, gaming, and playing the guitar. When she's not in the gym, she can be found in her room either swinging kettlebells or binging on Netflix.