Crossfit is a high intensity interval training program that offers a complete body workout through combining three essential strength training elements – weightlifting, bodyweight resistance, and gymnastics. The idea behind Crossfit is to push individuals to their limits in order to achieve maximum body strength, endurance, and overall range of motion through different free weight exercises and other functional movements performed at high-intensity intervals.
Crossfit achieves total body strength and endurance through the following lifts and training disciplines all under the program’s strength training platform: Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, kettlebell training, gymnastics, plyometrics, calisthenics, and elements of strongman. These forms of weightlifting and bodyweight resistance training exercises target and achieve all 10 domains of fitness:
- Cardiovascular and Respiratory Endurance.
Crossfit WOD, Kettlebell Snatch, Power Cleans, Crossfit Thrusters, Paleo: What does it all Mean?!?!
The Box can be an intimidating place, heck, everything about Crossfit seems overwhelming. Your cousin swears by it, your coworkers won’t shut up about it and yet you still hear critics disparage the ‘fitness fad’ and it’s unofficial mascot, Uncle Rhabdo. How are you supposed to navigate truth from the BS?
On the face of it, all the forms of resistance training incorporated by Crossfit have real, identifiable benefits to building strength, speed and endurance. Where critics judge the effectiveness of Crossfit’s strength training curriculum is the means through which these exercises are administered – at high velocity intervals. Interval training is an interesting science, there are numerous advantages to this training strategy with the most obvious being its ability to burn high large amounts of calories in a relatively short period of time. The efficiency with which high intensity interval training burns fat and increases weight loss is not without consequence however.
We explore the Do’s and Don’ts of interval training in greater detail, however we must put to rest the misconception propagated by Crossfit haters that the program’s strength training exercises and techniques are dangerous – they are NOT! They are training disciplines that have been employed by professional athletes and Olympic Weightlifters for decades. Where a Crossfit athlete runs the risk of injury is when he or she is unprepared for physical demands of the WOD.
This is where Stack Healthy is here to help. We’ve broken down all the Crossfit Benchmark Weightlifing exercises into two categories: Olympic Lifting and Powerlifting. Crossfit also relies heavily on another category of weightlifing involving Kettlebells that we focus on including Below are a list of all the dominant exercises involved in both these forms of Crossfit weight training. Each exercise is further broken down (by clicking the link) and analyzed by the specific muscle groups involved in each lifting exercise, strength benefits provided by each exercise, and a step by step instruction manual with accompanying videos on how to properly and safely accomplish each maneuver.
Olympic weightlifting is a dynamic form of lifting that involves speed, strength, coordination and balance. These lifts require a tremendous amount of technique and timing in order to accomplish and for this reason Crossfit employs them in a variety of workouts and intervals to build muscle strength, endurance and overall body balance and agility.
Olympic lifting targets major core muscle groups – legs, hips, shoulders, abdominals – and requires an athlete to generate power through a combination of explosive movements that build ‘functional strength’ and agility. This form of weightlifting is highly beneficial for those looking to lose weight and build strength but not necessarily mass.
Olympic lifts are classified in 2 categories – the Clean & Jerk and the Snatch. These are part of Crossfit’s benchmark weightlifting exercises and are the basis for the Thrusters and the Crossfit Power Clean. Click on each exercise below for a full explanation of the benefits and a step by step guide on how to accomplish each lift.
The Power Clean is the basis for all Olympic lifts and their Crossfit adaptations. The lift involves a series of short, synchronized, explosive bursts from the feet, legs and hips that create force to power a barbell vertically from the ground up to a resting position on the athlete’s shoulders, called the ‘racked position.’ This exercise specifically uses speed and timing to generate force to produce strength and power through rhythmic force.
Essentially a push press(t3), it is an extension of the power clean that provides an explosive upper body compliment to the core body explosive power generated by the clean. The lift begins where the power clean ends, from a rack position the athlete’s shoulders, from there the barbell is ‘jerked’ over the athlete’s head through a combination of explosions in the lower and upper body. When performed in quick sequence after the power clean without rest, this compound movement is referred to as the Clean & Jerk. Thrusters are the Crossfit adaptation of The Jerk.
The Snatch requires the same of explosive drive from the feet, legs and hips as the power clean, and the coordination and upper body strength of the the jerk. In fact, it is a composite of the two lifts performed in one powerful, fluid movement. The snatch is an extremely difficult lift to maneuver and can be very dangerous if not properly performed due to the coordination and strength required by the shoulder to properly lift and maintain the barbell vertically overhead. A Crossfit adaptation to the snatch is the ‘kettlebell snatch,’ a modified snatch technique performed using a kettlebell and popular in many a Crossfit WOD.
The second main form of free weightlifting included in Crossfit’s strength and conditioning program is Powerlifting. These exercises are more static in nature compared to Olympic lifts and are designed to build shear muscle mass and total muscle strength. You will recognize most of these weightlifting exercises as they are the most popular form of free weight training observed at gyms nationwide.
Powerlifting is comprised of three core exercises – the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift. Where the goal of Olympic weightlifting is to achieve speed, functional strength, and core power through compound, technical explosive movements; the goal of Powerlifting is to maximize total strength and overall body mass through simple movements performed with maximum resistance.
Click on the individual exercises for full technical analysis and step-by-step instructions.
Performing squat requires great deal of strength and a perfect posture is essential for successfully executing this move in order to avoid any injury. The best of all squatting techniques is the back squat. It greatly enhances the leg strength along with reinforcing the quads, glutes, abs, hamstrings, and the entire back of the lifter.
Bench press is another basic exercise that is recommended for novice athletes and Crossfit athletes to train their muscles to get strong. Bench pressing engages muscle groups in the chest, arms, shoulders, and forearms, providing sufficient amount of hard work to gradually build good amount of strength. It is an excellent exercise which teaches new Crossfit athletes how to bear down and push hard, which translates and helps in performing other heavy lifts later on.
The deadlift is one of the fundamental movements that are a must for any Crossfit athlete. It packs a punch in developing shear strength and improving quality and skill of performing other movements. It is an excellent compound exercise which aims at building strength in muscle groups like the hamstrings, lower back, forearms, quads, traps, and glutes.
Leg Press is a beginner exercise for building leg strength for performing heavy weight exercises like squats. This exercise primarily targets muscle groups including quads, glutes and hamstrings. It is performed using a leg press machine.
Crossfit Adaptation to Olympic Lifting
Crossfit remains true to classic forms of Olympic and Power weightlifting, however the fitness program has puts its own twist on the strength building exercises by with a few modifications designed to test the limits of strength in range of motion. One example of this is the Crossfit thruster(vidbabe).
Crossfit thrusters are the Crossfit adaptation to the clean & jerk with one minor change, the athlete dips down into a full squat before powering back up vertically, jerking the barbell overhead.
CrossFit Power Clean
There is also a Crossfit adaptation to the traditional power clean, which we Stack Healthy colloquially dub the ‘Crossfit power clean,’ as it is a frequently found exercise in many a Crossfit WOD. The Crossfit power clean is a compound lift combining a normal power clean with a front squat. It’s performed using the same mechanics as the power clean, only difference is the athlete slightly shifts her feat inward to reposition directly under her hips immediately after racking the bar.
She then squats down using sheer leg power in the front squat form before exploding vertically back up using the same front squat form. (see video)
Because Olympic lifts are so technical it’s not advised to rush into performing these before you have mastered the technique(s) of each. We suggest practicing the movements using a barbell with no weight and breaking the exercise down into the 3 phase described and in the Crossfit power clean section as well as the complimentary jerk and snatch movements as progressions to your mastery of the cleans..