It's all the rage.
In fact, it has been for the past four years or so.
The truth is, CrossFit has been around for about a decade, but it really caught on in the late 2000s, with more and more CrossFit gyms popping up around the U.S. and Canada. The business of CrossFit has led to plenty of official CrossFit centers, business partnerships with major companies like Reebok, and also the start of the annual CrossFit Games as an international competition for those who qualify.
What CrossFit Involves
Without getting too scientific, it's safe to say that the most basic CrossFit method puts very large, compound movements into priority. Exercises like the squat, overhead press, Olympic barbell clean and jerk, Olympic barbell snatch, and deadlift are a few of the movements that fit this category. Most of the time, the exercises are performed in the vertical plane, meaning the standing barbell moves are dominantly used -- not too much is done lying prone, supine, or seated.
CrossFit typically provides "workouts of the day" that are spread among its community. They normally involve a set workout (almost like a to-do-list) of exercises to be performed, with the amount of weight lifted and the amount of time it took to complete the workout to be recorded, in order to be posted in the database and compared against others who do the same. Depending on how seriously one takes CrossFit, this can act as prerequisite training to qualify for CrossFit competitions (such as the official CrossFit Games), or it could just be a new, challenging way to pursue fitness.
Lately, CrossFit fit has been doing more to dub itself "all encompassing" by including several other feats of athleticism into their training systems and competitions. Swimming, sprinting, agility runs, long distance running, gymnastic training, and even some domestic work have all entered competitions as events.
What to Expect
The workouts are difficult. Think about it -- you're doing plenty of barbell movements, stacked on top of one another, with limited rest. Your entire workout is being timed, and you're essentially racing the clock. During your workouts, you can count on your technique starting to deteriorate, as you begin to fatigue. In ways, this can make your body more susceptible to injury, since performing large movements with considerable weights usually asks for technical precision, whether tired or fresh.
You Will Indeed Get Fit!
If you're willing to take the risks above, then you can find solace in the fact that CrossFit workouts are very metabolically challenging. That will trigger plenty of fat loss and even some muscle development. Your body composition will change for the better as you'll become more athletic -- because you're simply doing so many athletic things.
If you're an inexperienced trainee, and generally new to the weight training scene, you have to enter CrossFit at your own risk. The reason I don't recommend it for my personal training clients is because there are other ways to skin a cat, and I can't justify the risk-reward ratio. Granted, CrossFit is slowly doing a better job of "preparing" newcomers to work their way up to being capable and proficient enough to do the workouts of the day. The thing is, if the end goal is just to be able to do timed workouts with high-rep Olympic lifting, low rest intervals, and an imminent technical breakdown, possible nervous system fatigue, and questionable programming, then what does the prep work accomplish?
The idea behind CrossFit is a good one -- it promotes community, the importance of strength training, compound movements, and even healthy competition. The reality of it creates grey areas, and practitioners definitely haven't seen a reduction in patients since the emergence of CrossFit hype in the real world. If you want to get tight and lean, then try your hand at CrossFit -- I can almost guarantee results. But remember, you're doing so at your own risk.