Beginners guide to CrossFit

A beginners guide to what you should know and log to get the most out of your CrossFit training

As coaches we hark on and on at people to keep food diaries and training logs, and it’s not that we’re being mean or think “Grrr everyone should be an athlete” it’s so that YOU can get the most out of YOUR training. Remember CrossFit isn’t circuits, it’s not spin classes, it’s a combination of a lot of different strength and performance orientated sports and disciplines. With CrossFit you are on a constant journey of learning, if you think you’re ever going to peak… You’re an idiot.

Let’s make some lists using the CrossFit hierarchy of health!

1. Nutrition


Your food diary should have everything in it, not only to count your macros but also as a diary to your overall health and mood, feeling really under the weather some week? Not feel as strong? Dodgy stomach? Consult your food diary, has something changed? Did you have a few social events? Booze takes a lot longer to recover from than just your hangover. Or maybe it’s going the other way, your WOD times are through the roof and you’re PR’s are flowing freely!! See what are you eating and keep eating it!!
• What am I eating?
• When am I eating it?
• Am I hitting my calories?
• Is my protein adequate?
• Is my fat intake enough?
• Is my carb intake correct?
• How is my mood?
• Do I feel sluggish?
• How is my body composition?
• How am I sleeping?


2. Metabolic conditioning


WODs are your bread and butter when it comes to CrossFit, being able to perform as many reps as fast as possible without breaking down in technique. We may get made fun of for it but, correct me if I’m wrong, I’ve never seen someone that’s 30 stone living off box sets and fizzy drinks doing forty five thrusters and pull ups in under three minutes… Getting your WOD times down and using heavier weights gradually over time is your game plan here. If you can’t be bothered writing down every WOD here is a few wods that you should definitely be tracking:

ANNIE: 50, 40, 30, 21, 10 Double unders and sit ups

Your goal is to complete this as fast as possible. Two simple exercises that EVERYONE should be able to do, can’t do double unders? PRACTICE! If you can’t do double unders yet then it’s actually a great way to practice them. Give yourself a 15 minute time cap and whip yourself silly. See how far you get then repeat it again and again and again until you finish it within 15 minutes, then try and beat yourself.

GRACE: 30 Clean and Jerks

Start off with a light weight, note your time, try it again another time, up the weight and try and keep the same time or beat it, congratulations! You’re now stronger!

CINDY: 20 minute AMRAP, 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, 15 squats

A beautiful full body workout, pull, push, squat, get as many rounds as you can in 20 minutes! This is a nice one for testing your endurance as the mental aspect really starts to kick in here. The workout is structured so that you can just keep going and going IF you have the willpower! Aim for constant movement!

FRAN: 21, 15, 9 Thrusters & Pull ups

Whether it be thrusters and pullups or scaled to wall balls and ring rows, the movement is still the same. To do Fran at RX you have to be able to do pull ups and do them FAST! So this is a long term goal and going from ring rows to assisted pull ups is still progress. Higher level skills take time but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be tracking your progress. The same applies to Diane, Elizabeth, Amanda etc, they can all be scaled in many different ways! Always remember with wods it is INTENSITY you’re after, don’t be attempting an RX WOD if you can’t do the movements well enough and have to take a minute break between each rep… You’re wasting your time.


3. Gymnastics


Moving your own bodyweight through space and time is something that should be high on your list of things to develop. A main goal for ANYONE should be to be a better mover. Having total body awareness is a massive part of injury prevention, working on not only flexibility but strength within that flexibility! Everything comes down to body movement, from how strong you are to how good you are in bed! I don’t need a barbell to practice clean & jerk I can practice it anywhere, most failed lifts are nothing to do with the strength (if you’ve trained correctly), it’s because you PHYSICALLY messed the movement up! Practice perfect movement without load and you’ll see your performance skyrocket in everything you do. How do you track your gymnastic progress? Measurement!
• Max handstand hold
• Max time on rings
• Max L-sit
• Max dips
• Max press ups
• Max hang
• Max vertical jump height
• Max broad jump
• Max pull ups
• Max back lever hold
• Max front lever hold
• Max handstand / handstand walk
• Max muscle ups

If you can repeat it, you can beat it. Time, reps, length, whatever that’s how you measure gymnastic skills. It’s not as glamorous or cool as weightlifting but in my opinion it’s more important. If you can’t manoeuvre yourself what business have you got with a barbell?


4. Weightlifting And Powerlifting


Everyone’s favourite! In your first few months your numbers will sky rocket and you’ll feel like a beast every day! But if you’re not tracking your initial progress you’re gonna get stuck very quickly. Reoccurring formats in all strength sessions reoccur because they work, simple as. You’ll either see 5×5 (5-5-5-5-5) which means five sets of five reps or 5×3 (3-3-3-3-3) which means five sets of three reps, then there’s other variations on that like 5-4-3-2-1 etc. Your key notes here should be to always know what you can do for five rep and three rep sets of all exercises. Your aim is to increase the weight every time you do it.
• Deadlift
• Back squat
• Front squat
• Overhead squat
• Strict press
• Bench press
• Push press

If you are constantly guessing and trying to remember what you did from week to week you’re wasting your time. If you come in to the gym during an open gym time and don’t know what to do, but you do know those numbers your coach can give you a program to follow in about three seconds – the less you have to scratch your head about it the better it will be! The body only reacts to new stimulus, if you’re still lifting the same weights you were a year ago you’re not even maintaining – you’re going backwards.

In the first few months of your training, one rep maxes (1RM) are something you shouldn’t really go near, play it safe and progressively load (add weight) week to week with something that is both challenging yet safe. When you are ready for one rep max efforts then you can use percentages programs that builds on 85% of your one rep maxes etc. But always remember that many of thoses programs are probably designed specifically for professional athletes, so always consult your coach first.

When you combine your strength work with your technique work on the lifts they are also a great way to track progress, even if the weight is the same but the technique is better that is still progress! Take videos of yourself when you can. You should know what you can do for each of these exercises:

• Clean
• Split Jerk
• Clean & Jerk
• Snatch
• Drop Snatch
• Power snatch
• Power clean
• Push jerk

On top of those you should also know what weight that you can roughly do barbell complexes with and always try and beat it! Although if you can do it but it doesn’t look pretty I wouldn’t recommend counting it.

Tracking the weights you use in WODs is important aswell, the weights you use for thrusters, push presses, cleans etc should also be gradually increasing over time but again DO NOT SACRIFICE INTENSITY!


5. Sport


A large majority of people that play sport do CrossFit because of its general physical preparedness. It’s a fantastic way to make you both strong and fast and helps with preventing injuries. Even if you don’t have a sport that you take part in it’s always a good idea to take a day off somewhere and go play football, tennis, rugby, swim, run, something! Be active! Enjoy your fitness and have a laugh, even if it’s just taking your kids to the park to throw a ball about. It should get your heart rate up and get you throwing, kicking, swinging etc, be the person that will have a go at anything!


So there you have it, you should never be stuck for something to do and the more you can do the better you will become! Start working towards building a stronger, leaner, new and improved you!

Any questions and feedback will be greatly appreciated!