Cross Training and Cross Fit – part I
Does marketing make or break a business? For the popular fitness fad cross fit it made their business. Cross fit took cross-training, which had already been established as circuit training, and combined it with power and weightlifting. The result is a multi-million dollar business that is now a professional sport.
So what is cross energy training? Cross energy training is the combination of two or more energy systems within the same workout. Traditional anaerobic multi-joint lifts, such as power cleans, squats, bench and pull ups, are added into energy circuits. These lifts, due to their load and repetition range, usually fall into the ATP-PC system. The ATP-PC system is an extremely powerful system but fatigues rather quickly. By around 10 seconds of intense contractions the fast glycolytic system begins to take over. The fast glycolytic system is in full gear acting as the primary energy system at around 30 seconds. At about 45 seconds a secondary decline in power production results in the aerobic system coming into the mix. The transition between the energy systems requires high muscular output (i.e. powerful bouts of contractions) that obtains massive amounts of caloric expenditure.
The transition between the energy systems, due to powerful contractions that are required by compound multi-joint lifts, significantly increase lean muscle and burn fat. The superiority over aerobic training and other traditional forms of training is because cross training utilizes heavier loads with limited rest time. Other forms of exercises, such as sprints, burpees and plyometrics, are integrated into the workout to increase type II hybrid fibers. This form of training is called high intensity training (HIT) and can be the most successful form of training for body composition if performed correctly and safely.
HIT consists of short and intense bouts of muscular contractions with relatively large volumes. This form of training requires far less total time then traditional resistance training and aerobic training. A 2008 study showed that individuals who engage in aerobic training are required to triple the total work time of their anaerobic training counterparts in order to burn comparable fat levels. However, the aerobic subjects were unable to gain any substantial amounts of lean muscle. Another downside of aerobic training is its requirement of high amounts of oxygen, which result in oxidative stress and type I fiber recruitment. Oxidative stress leads to damage within the body and weakens our immune system. Type I fibers are slow non-powerful and non-lean muscle fibers. Both results should be avoided if your goal is health, strength, power, lean muscle or fat loss.
So where does cross fit come into the aerobic and anaerobic training picture? As mentioned before cross training had been around for a long time. However, cross fit took cross training to a whole new level by making a facility, and later a sport, out of it. People were drawn to cross fits training model because of its expedited results through short intense workouts, which I call “the magic pill” methodology. Patience is not usually a human characteristic so people want results now and will do / pay whatever it takes to get it. Workout 3-4 days per week for under an hour and you will get the results of your dreams. The best part, barely any machines are needed. The low overhead costs and magic pill methodology make cross fit gyms easy to own and operate.
Cross fit also did its research on group training. They understood that human beings work harder and are more drawn to groups. The amount someone is willing to push with a group is far greater than they would do without. Cross fit capitalizes on team / group mental training. Group and team training holds people accountable for their own actions and makes them reach levels they never thought possible.
Although cross training has been around far before cross fit partnered with Reebok, which gave way to this new fitness phenomenon, it is now the most popular form of training because of that partnership. Like any new fad, people jump on board without truly understanding it. It doesn’t matter whether cross fit is flawed or perfect because people love this style of intense training. However, I must mention that cross training and cross fit is not all flowers and indeed does have a dark side.
Cross training, although extremely successful in terms of fat loss and lean muscle growth, can be very dangerous. Lack of periodization, exercise technique and progression, coupled with high fatigue and rate of injury, are major flaws of cross fit…. Continue reading on to Cross Training and Cross Fit – Part II to gain insight into the negative aspects of cross training and cross fit; and learn how to avoid these negative aspects.
Irving, B., Davis, C., et al. Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition.
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2008 40(11), 1865-1870.
Brian, G., Sutton., Michael, A., Clark., Scott, C., Lucett., et al. Essentials of Personal Fitness
National Academy of Sports Medicine. ©2013
The National Strength and Conditioning Association
The Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning – 3rd edition
Copyright Functional Muscle Fitness LLC © 2013
Disclaimer: this blog is an educated opinion piece based off of previously attained knowledge through practical application and scientific research (i.e. case studies).