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CrossFit: The Study

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The American Council on Exercise (ACE), a non-profit organization that promotes safe and effective exercise and physical activity, recently conducted a study on CrossFit, a popular strength and conditioning program. Below, About.com reveals the findings, as well as discloses a set of tips to ensure a safe, healthy workout.  

The Findings
Cedric Bryant, PhD., FACSM, chief science officer for ACE, defines CrossFit as “a form of functional training that utilizes constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement patterns to improve physical performance capacity.”

He believes CrossFit is best suited for individuals seeking a multi-faceted, challenging workout that will prepare their bodies for high-intensity functional demands.

In the ACE study, led by John Porcari, Ph.D., head of University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse’s Clinical Exercise Physiology program, and Paige Babiash, M.S., 16 healthy and fit volunteers were selected to take part in two CrossFit workouts (Donkey Kong and Fran).

According to the study results, women burned over 12 calories per minute on average while men burned over 20 calories per minute. In addition, the program is reported by its participants to be an empowering experience.

The research team concluded that CrossFit helps participants improve their aerobic fitness, while burning a fair number of calories in the process. Working out more intensely for shorter periods means that participants can likely receive positive results with CrossFit while spending less time exercising.

A Call for Screening
However, Dr. Porcari remarked that a large asterisk should accompany his team’s findings.

“People absolutely need to be properly screened before beginning CrossFit,” he stated.

Though the American Council on Exercise’s recent study found that CrossFit provides a time-efficient, high-calorie burning workout, Dr. Bryant concurred that it is important to be properly screened before beginning the program.

“Many of the exercise movements performed during CrossFit are challenging and require a good level of stability, mobility and strength,” he explained.

That said, he noted that the screening should entail some type postural assessment, a functional movement screen, and a review of prior exercise and injury history.

As a result of the study, Dr. Bryant hopes proper pre-participation screening, exercise training technique and adherence to appropriate exercise progressive will be employed by all CrossFit coaches and participants.

CrossFit Risks
Beyond being potentially risky for many first-time exercisers, Dr. Porcari warned that the competitive nature and emphasis on completing CrossFit exercises as quickly as possible may well be a recipe for injury for some exercisers.

Indeed. CrossFit has received negative attention in recent times due to a high-profile injury in which a CrossFit trainer broke his spine during a weight lifting competition.

In fact, a variety of musculoskeletal injuries involving back, shoulders, and lower body have been reported occur as a result of CrossFit as well.

Preventing Injury
ACE offers these 5 tips to help CrossFit participants feel the burn, without bringing the pain:

1. Take the introductory course offered by your CrossFit affiliate.
2. Know how to modify the movements to fit your fitness level.
3. Regularly communicate with your CrossFit Coach.
4. Respect your limits.
5. Avoid overtraining.

“Given the high-intensity nature of CrossFit, it’s probably best to incorporate it into an overall training regimen with two CrossFit workouts per week to help ensure that adequate rest and recovery can be achieved,” suggested Dr. Bryant.

When asked if he recommends a single exercise program for cyclists, he noted that it depends on a number of factors, including if it’s a sprint or endurance cyclist, any identified weaknesses, deficiencies, or imbalances, goals and time availability.

For more information on a successful CrossFit experience, visit www.acefitness.org/blog/3585/5-steps-for-a-successful-crossfit-experience.

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