CrossFit turned fitness into a competitive sport -- although in the best "boxes" or CrossFit gyms, you're only competing against your last personal best. Every CrossFit workout is short, intense and designed to develop functional fitness, or the type of power and endurance you'd use for everyday activities. These intense workouts often appeal to law enforcement, emergency workers, military personnel and competitive athletes. With that said, CrossFit is open to everybody and has become a favorite weight-loss tool for regular exercisers.
CrossFit workouts emphasize functional strength training, with Olympic lifts, body-weight training or gymnastics moves like muscle-ups -- a combined pull-up and dip -- playing a major role in every workout. If you can't quite do brutal exercises like muscle-ups on your own yet, don't worry -- CrossFit encourages you to modify each exercise to suit your fitness level. If you're not familiar with some of the exercises -- for example, Olympic lifts aren't regular fare for most gym-goers -- you can often take a "CrossFit Lite" or introductory class to help you master the basics.
Understanding the Workouts
Every CrossFit workout has a name, such as "Donkey Kong" or "Fran," and comes with a short list of exercises and one of two goals. Either you race to complete the prescribed number of repetitions as quickly as possible, or you race to complete as many repetitions or rounds of each exercise as possible within a set time limit. The latter type of workout is known as an AMRAP, or "as many repetitions as possible," workout. Other useful acronyms and abbreviations you should know include WOD or "workout of the day," Rx'd or as Rx'd to indicate a workout done without any adjustments, and RM for "repetition maximum," as in 1RM or the maximum amount of weight you can safely lift once.
In a study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, researchers from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse gauged that men burned 20.5 calories per minute on average during a CrossFit workout; women averaged 12.3 calories per minute. That said, the number of calories burned can vary enormously between workouts. For example, researchers calculated that male exercisers burned an average of 169.6 calories doing the famous CrossFit workout "Donkey Kong," but only about 112.5 calories for the workout "Fran." If that doesn't sound like much, keep in mind that most of the test subjects finished their workouts in less than 12 minutes.
Make It Work for Weight Loss
CrossFit makes weight loss easier in multiple ways: It burns a significant number of calories in a very short time and builds muscle mass, which in turn boosts your metabolic rate. But its most important aspects when it comes to weight loss are the encouragement to scale or adjust the exercises to your fitness level -- so everyone can participate to some degree -- and the highly motivating, encouraging environment. The Paleo diet, which excludes grains and focuses on simple, unprocessed foods, is also very popular with CrossFit athletes. Even if you don't go full-on Paleo, the emphasis on clean eating can help you lose weight faster.
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