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. :)
What Is Crossfit?
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:
- Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance
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.
RELATED POST: The Female Guide on How to Get Lean and Not Bulky
What Is a Crossfit Gym Like?
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:
- Plyometric boxes
- Medicine balls
- Pull-up bars
- Climbing ropes
- Gymnastics rings
- Rowing machines (the only type of cardio equipment)
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 and Nutrition
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:
- A lot of meat, vegetables, nuts, and seeds
- Some fruit
- Little starch
- Little to no sugar (besides fruit)
This is similar to the way people on the Paleo Diet eat, and many CrossFit participants follow Paleo.
RELATED POST: Recommended Macronutrients For Each Body Type
CROSSFIT’S WORKOUT OF THE DAY
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:
- Power cleans
- Back extensions
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. :)
RELATED POST: Most Common Workout Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Does Crossfit Make Women Bulky?
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!
Women who are naturally thin (ectomorphs) might not get as bulky as the rest of us from CrossFit. :)
Hiit Workouts Can Cause Bulk
I love doing HIIT workouts. HIIT is an important form of cardio, and I do it myself. I like doing HIIT for several reasons. For example, HIIT workouts:
- Help you burn a lot of calories quickly.
- Improve your cardiovascular system.
- Boost your metabolism.
- Are quick and efficient.
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.
RELATED POST: Do Squats Make Your Legs Bigger or Smaller?
Weightlifting Can Cause Bulk
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.
RELATED POST: How to Lift Weights Without Getting Bulky
TAKING A LOOK AT WOMEN WHO DO CROSSFIT
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.
Additional Concerns About Crossfit
Risk of Injury
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:
- Knee injuries
- Tennis elbow
- Low back pain
- Achilles tendonitis
- Rotator cuff tendonitis
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.
RELATED POST: Mistakes I’ve Made & What I’ve Learned
The Paleo Diet
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!
My Final Thoughts About Crossfit
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
Dealing w this right now:( It has made my waist super bulky and honestly prefer how I looked and felt before starting crossfit. Don’t get me wrong I like that I am stronger, but hate the effects its had on my body as a naturally slim person. Anyone have any advice? Thinking of just going back to running. Please help!
Hey lovely! The process of losing bulky muscle is similar to losing fat. And in order to avoid any unwanted bulkiness, it woul be best to stick to low-impact bodyweight workouts. It will still help you build strength and get lean and toned without bulking up. :)
Thank you for this , I joined CrossFit 12 months ago and literally threw myself into it. I’m know feeling so unhappy as I feel bulky and I’m prone to thick thighs anyway and they are bigger!
I’m also suffering with a knee injury which after years of cycling and running (I’m not fast more Diesel engine 🙄) never had a problem.
Also being post menopause I seem to no matter what be gaining weight.
Hi lovely! First, to avoid gaining more bulkiness, I would stop the exercises that you’re doing right now. It is still possible to get great results while stick to light-intensity workouts so I would consider that. If your goal is to slim down your legs, there are 3 steps you should follow – do the right type of cardio, do bodyweight resistance training and adjust your diet for weight loss.
Rachael has a very detailed blog post that will help you learn how to slim down your legs so please go give it a read.
It will definitely help! :)
I wish I knew this sooner :) I did crossfit for a little over a year and it made me so incredibly bulky! I couldn’t fit into half of my clothes because I gained so much muscle, especially in my shoulders and arms. My thighs and calves became really big as well. It was the opposite of what I wanted to accomplish. I loved the challenging aspect of crossfit, but in terms of efficiency, I was at the gym for about an hour each class and the WOD would sometimes only be 10 minutes, so I would come home and have to fit in another workout, such as a run or walk just to get a more well-rounded workout. Not to mention, so many people I worked out with were nursing injuries from lifting incredibly high weights at a really fast pace and it’s impossible to keep good form when you’re doing it that way. So, although I love a good, heart-pounding workout, I wouldn’t consider doing crossfit again.
Hey lovely! Thanks for sharing your fitness journey with us! Each of us has his/her own fitness goals and following the right type of workouts is the key in achieving this. We would like to help you achieve your own fitness goals. Feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com :)