If you want to build a rock-solid physique, you should consider using CrossFit as your main training tool, says trainer Tom Wright
Thousands of people are being drawn to CrossFit every year and it’s not hard to see why. The men and women who have dedicated some series training time to it sport physiques that wouldn’t look out of place in physique competitions – the proof that this fast-growing sport can get you seriously ripped is clear to see.
For many years bodybuilders said that CrossFit “lost your gains”, insisting that all the cardio elements and high-rep damaged muscle growth. But these claims have been shown to be largely false by the bodies you can see at every major CrossFit competition.
The tradition always of building muscle still hold true, but it seems combining them with conditioning work doesn’t have a negative effect, as previously claimed. Your average CrossFitter might not look like multiple CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning – but then your average bodybuilder doesn’t look much like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Mr Olympia prime!
So how does CrossFit enable you to build a granite-hard body?
CrossFitters are striving to be better
Every CrossFitter will be aiming to improve their performance through measured results. By trying to beat their scores from the week before, they are using the main principle of weightlifting – progressive overload. This states that to build muscle or strength you must increase the stress overtime, whether that’s through weight, reps, time under tension or any other method. CrossFit athletes look to better themselves and are driven to improve, putting this principle at the forefront of their training.
It’s not all WODS
A common misconception is that every workout in your local CrossFit box is people throwing barrels about and doing burpees for time – namely, the Workout of the Day or ‘WOD’. This is far from the truth. Every coach schedules strength work and assistance into the week’s training, and finishes with a 10 to 20 minute conditioning piece, with the occasional longer workout.
What is seen in competition rarely reflects the training done in your average workout. A good box will have a structured month-long strength programme that includes the major compound lifts, just as you’d expect any other athlete to do. You might see squats and overhead press, followed by lunges and dips and other assistance work, all designed to make the athlete bigger and stronger.
Volume and frequency are high
While most bodybuilders train each of their muscle groups once a week, CrossFit is more of a full-body style of exercise. It’s no secret that increased frequency of training can lead to hypertrophy gains. As long as the weight you lift is at least 60 per cent of max and you complete roughly 50+ reps. That should give you enough stimulus for muscle growth. Repeat that three times a week and you end up with greater volume than your average chest day.
If Sara Sigmundsdóttir squats and lunges on Monday, deadlifts and cleans on Wednesday and does 100 front squats on Saturday, you shouldn’t really be surprised that she’s warming up with your max! Train your muscle to the point it has stimulus to grow, and then do that more often. Give your body enough time to recover and grow. CrossFit can do that for you.
It’ll get you super lean
There’s no getting around it – being leaner makes you look bigger. Most CrossFitters are competing at very low levels of body fat (and making it look easy).
It used to be said that at a certain point, you lose so much body fat that your performance decreases. While that’s true of some athletes, CrossFit has shown that you can be strong, aerobically fit and very lean all at the same time, without any obvious negative effects on performance.
When you can see someone’s muscle definition they always look more impressive. You might have 6kg of muscle on the next man or woman, but if you’re hiding it under your winter food-coat, they’ll be the one attracting more admiring glances.