I’ve seen a lot of women (in real life and on Instagram) who are passionate about CrossFit. This fitness program has been popular for years, and I wanted to take some time to talk about what CrossFit is and how it will impact women’s bodies.
As always, I am supportive of you doing the fitness routine that is best for you. I just want to help you have the knowledge to make the best decisions about your workouts. :)
CrossFit is a workout program that combines a variety of different types of training. The most common training types include strength training, kettlebell workouts, explosive plyometrics, Olympic- and power-style weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, gymnastics, and endurance exercises.
The purpose of CrossFit isn’t to get really good at one specific skill set, like gymnastics or powerlifting. Instead, CrossFit measures success by looking at general fitness performance.
People who do CrossFit want to build their overall fitness levels so that they can be physically prepared for different types of experiences that rely on balance, flexibility, strength, or endurance. Because of this, CrossFit breaks down performance into 10 different categories:
The variety of training styles is meant to help improve your fitness in all 10 of these physical skills.
CrossFit workouts can be done with a CrossFit trainer, at a licensed CrossFit gym with a group of people, or at home by studying the method on your own. However, if you are new to CrossFit or don’t have much experience with working out at all, you should learn how to perform the exercises correctly with a trainer or at a CrossFit gym.
Even though CrossFit workouts are very challenging, people of all workout levels can do them. In theory, both a fitness beginner and an Olympic athlete can each get in a challenging, but doable, workout through CrossFit. Each routine can be modified for each person to help them do the routine safely. And CrossFit-certified trainers can help people learn how to perform exercises correctly to prevent injury.
CrossFit gyms are unlike most typical training centers. For example, you won’t spot fancy, high-tech cardio equipment at a CrossFit gym, and members perform their workouts with trainers.
Instead, expect to enter a warehouse-like room with equipment that includes:
Members perform workouts together as a group. They all do the same daily workout, but they modify the routine to meet their fitness level.
When you sign up at a CrossFit gym, expect to take one month to learn the correct form and technique for the major moves.
CrossFit encourages its members to focus on nutrition. To do this, they encourage people to count calories and macronutrients to ensure they are getting the correct amount of carbs, fat, and protein.
They recommend that everybody eats about 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. They suggest that people eat:
This is similar to the way people on the Paleo Diet eat, and many CrossFit participants follow Paleo.
People who follow a CrossFit program exercise 3-5 days per week. The workouts are pretty intense, even if you are used to them. Because of this, they are also pretty short. Most Workouts of the Day (WODs) are about 15 minutes.
The daily workouts can be found on CrossFit’s website, although some gyms will modify the exercises at times too. In general, however, CrossFitters around the world do the same (or very similar) routines every day.
For the most part, the workouts are set up in a HIIT format, meaning participants go from one exercise to the next very quickly. CrossFit wants to build upon functional moves you do every day (like squatting to pick up your child). Because of this, most of the moves use the entire body and require multiple skills, like balance and strength, to complete.
Some common exercises include:
The WODs are very challenging. Although CrossFit says their workouts are safe for people of all fitness levels, there is always a risk of injury, especially with HIIT workouts.
One study found that about 20% of people who regularly do CrossFit workouts will become injured at some point. That’s why it is important to make sure that you’re doing exercises with the correct form before trying to do them quickly. :)
From my experience and from the experience of many women I talked to, depending on your body type, CrossFit can make us look bulky and too muscular for our own liking. I used to do CrossFit, and I really enjoyed parts of it. However, I ended up just looking too bulky for my own liking, especially in my upper body. I couldn’t even fit into my crop tops!
But it is very easy to overdo HIIT, especially if pretty much all of your workouts consist of it, like with CrossFit. In fact, if you’re wanting to make your legs leaner, I recommend only doing HIIT once per week.
HIIT workouts are often very lower-body focused. In order to get your heart rate up, they typically involve a lot of jumping, squatting, sprinting, and burpees. All of these moves lead to bulk for 2 out of 3 body types, and CrossFit includes a ton of them.
CrossFit involves a lot of weightlifting, and this can lead to bulk all over your body, especially for endomorphs and mesomorphs. Ectomorphs can do more weightlifting without getting super bulky, but even they might experience bulk from CrossFit because of how much weightlifting there is in this program.
CrossFit includes a lot of overhead pressing exercises, such as barbell shoulder presses. They also do overhead pulling exercises, like chin-ups and lat pulldowns. These exercises are really good if you want to develop a muscular upper body. But if that’s not the case, then it’s best to avoid them. :)
Similarly, lower body strength training, like squats and lunges, will make your thighs and quads bigger over time. When I did CrossFit, I noticed that I gained muscle in these areas.
I prefer a lean look with less muscle (but it is OK if that’s what you like!), so I chose to stop. I transitioned to doing more cardio and bodyweight exercises instead.
There are a lot of women out there who do CrossFit, and they love it. So many of them are beautiful and strong, and I am so happy that they love this routine.
If you scroll through their Instagram posts or look at pictures of women who do CrossFit, you’ll notice right how toned they are. It takes a lot of dedication to do that, and I respect them for that!
However, I know a lot of women prefer to get a lean, slim, and toned look. If that’s you, then you should know that CrossFit can cause you to bulk up.
CrossFit emphasises doing workouts very quickly, which can at times lead to people sacrificing form and technique. If you do CrossFit at a gym, you might find that the competitive atmosphere also pushes people to work hard. Some people love the encouragement, but others find that the environment causes them to overdo it.
According to the New York Times, CrossFitters have been known to throw up doing workouts, and some people report that the gym environment encourages people to keep working out despite muscle soreness or even injury.
Some common injuries include:
Older adults, pregnant women, and people with health problems should talk to a doctor before doing CrossFit. Go slowly, and make sure that you understand the proper technique before you rush yourself.
The Paleo Diet is not the official CrossFit diet. However, their recommendations are very similar to the Paleo Diet, and many CrossFit participants follow Paleo specifically.
People on the Paleo Diet only eat foods that were available prior to the agricultural and industrial revolutions. This includes things like meat, fish, eggs, oils, nuts, and seeds. They avoid dairy, grains, legumes, beans, sugar, and processed foods.
Although some people love the Paleo Diet, others find it really restrictive and not sustainable in the long run. You might also struggle to eat enough fiber on this diet. Foods like beans and whole grains can be excellent foods to incorporate into your diet!
There will never be a workout program that works for everybody, and CrossFit is no exception. Some women love the way CrossFit transforms their bodies. They love feeling strong, setting new fitness records, and seeing their muscles pop. CrossFit is a constant challenge, and some people thrive in that environment!
For other women, CrossFit isn’t right. If that’s you, that’s OK too. Personally, I enjoyed parts of CrossFit, but it isn’t a program that I’d go back to because of the way it made me look. You might be concerned about getting bulky, nervous about injury, or just not a fan of a lot of HIIT.
Let me know if you have any questions about CrossFit or muscle bulk in the comments!
Love Rachael xx