8 CrossFit Classes Reviewed

CrossFit

I recently discovered a CrossFit club in my hometown and immediately signed up. I did a taster session on a Saturday morning and then started a series of eight 90 minute induction classes. How many gyms offer 12 hours of induction before they let you train? I have been impressed from the start and will update this post as more induction classes are completed. CrossFit not only provides a great way to workout, it also teaches you how to exercise more effectively.

Benefits of a Good CrossFit Induction

As I progressed through the 8 sessions induction for CrossFit I have found that this method of exercising has some excellent benefits. I have trained in many martial arts schools, circuit training classes and other gym activities over the years, and so far this CrossFit club has impressed me the most.

  • Proper instruction for weight lifting – focus on good form, breaking the move down, teaching the basics and progressing to the full Olympic moves.
  • Good instructor to student ratio – often in the induction there is 1 instructor (or assistant) for every 2 or 3 students. This means that problems are spotted and rectified quickly.
  • People of all levels train together – there are not separate classes based on age, fitness, gender or ability. Everyone exercises at the same time, doing the same routines. This helps motivate people at all levels.
  • Healthy competition – the weight training sessions are about learning to lift properly and safely, but the fitness workouts that follow are all about working your hardest and winning.
  • Encouragement from other students – everyone supports each other, even though there is a competitive element, students encourage each other and this raises the work rate.
  • A relaxed and friendly atmosphere – everyone is pretty relaxed and there is always a little chitchat before the hard work starts.

The Taster Session


Before the full induction started I went on a Saturday morning taster session. This took us through many of the exercises that are done on a regular basis. We did pull ups, burpees, box jumps and front squats. Form and technique was carefully checked by the instructors. Most of the strength training involved practising front squats. We then performed a timed workout. This circuit was repeated 3 times:

  • 400m run
  • 10 Burpee box jumps
  • 10 Pull-ups
A simple workout on paper, but after performing this a few times you soon start to tire, especially when competing (unofficially) against the others in the class! This really was just a taster of what is to come.

First Induction Class

The first Cross Fit induction lesson focused on the front squat and the overhead squat. The lesson started with a warm-up of skipping and then medicine ball throws.

We then performed bodyweight squats – deep squats going as low as you can. This is to help prepare the muscles for a weighted squat and check form.

After bodyweight squats we performed overhead squats with hollow plastic tube to learn the correct form. Emphasis was on engaging the shoulders by trying to pull the bar apart, while keeping it overhead.

Then the shoulders were exercised by holding the light plastic bar in a wide grip and raising it above from the hips with arms straight and then lowering it behind. This is partly to ensure that the shoulders are used to the movement in case you need to drop the bar when performing an overhead squat. A wide grip is vital – it is impossible to rotate the shoulders with a narrow grip.

Once we had all practiced these we then used an empty bar (15 kg) and performed overhead squats. We then added a little weight and did a couple of sets of weighted overhead squats.

Next we moved on to front squats. Again, with the empty bar first, and then weighted. This marked the end of the strength training session.

Next we performed the WOD (workout of the day). Actually, a workout just for the induction – not the actual WOD performed by the regular CrossFit attendees. The WOD is a circuit training workout, usually of 4 exercises and 4 rounds. In this first induction session we performed the follow circuit:

  • 400 m run
  • 10 burpee box jumps
  • 8 pull ups
  • 15 sit ups

During a taster session held a week ago the workout also began with a 400 m run. This seems to be a popular distance, and something we discussed in the Metabolic Conditioning article.

A burpee box jump is simply doing a burpee followed by a box jump. We started with 20 inch boxes. A burpee is when you squat down, place your hands on the floor, kick you legs out to push up position, perform a deep push up (chest touches the floor), then hop your feet back to squat, stand up. A plain burpee ends with a jump and a clap above your head. When doing a burpee box jump you jump straight up onto a box.

Second Induction Class

The class started with a 1 km row to warm-up. While rowing, I was sat next to the league tables for the various workouts, plus the 500m and 2000m rows. The record for the 500, is around 80 seconds, something to aim for in the future.

This evening we concentrated on deadlifts and kettlebell swings for the strength training and then did some hand-stand push ups. This was the first time I had attempted handstands and being upside is certainly very disorienting. We then learned how to do assisted handstand push ups using resistance bands on a pull up bar.

As well as learning proper deadlift technique we were shown the sumo deadlift high pull, which is not actually used much (or at all) in CrossFit workouts now, but is a good exercise to know and learn for progressing with strength training.

After this instructional strength session we performed the workout, which was as follows:

4 rounds (sets) of:

  • 10 box jumps
  • 10 burpees
  • 10 kettlebell swings
  • 10 push ups

Another excellent workout that left me exhausted. Looking forward to the next induction classes.

Third Induction Class

Today we learned the push press. We learned how to power up from the knees, hips and jump to force the bar from the front shoulder and up to an overhead press. We then added a squat and then a split squat to the press, we were then performing the jerk part of a clean and jerk.

The workout was a circuit of 4 stations, at each station we performed as many sets of 2 different exercise as we could. One of the circuits started with a 800m run.

  • 6 kettlebell swings + 6 medicine ball slams
  • 6 box jumps + 6 pull ups
  • 6 kettlebell swings + burpees
  • Run 800m once + 6 sit-ups + 6 push ups
At the end of each exercise we’d record the number of circuits performed in the 6 minutes then a total score is tallied up at the end to determine the winner.

Fourth Induction Class

Tonight we learned the clean. The lesson started with a short warm-up followed by some kettlebell swings and stretches to ready ourselves for the weight lifting lesson. We then did air squats to check our form for deep squatting.

The movement was broken down into several stages and we practised first with a light plastic bar, then an empty Olympic bar, and then after a lot of practice we added a little weight. The main reason for adding the weight was to get a feel for the starting height of a loaded bar. I was just lifting a 20 kg bar (loaded with two 5 kg discs). This was enough to allow many repetitions, firstly,  just the pull and shrug movement and then the clean to the “rack position” on the front shoulders.

After the weight training we performed a circuit training workout. 3 rounds in total, 1 minute at each station, 10 seconds rest, then a minute rest at the end of each round.

  • Jumping pull ups
  • Medicine ball slams
  • Rowing
  • Burpee box jumps

After 3 rounds we held the plank for 1 minute and then ran 400m.

Another very tiring workout. Sure I missed something. And I also forgot to write Tuesday’s induction, so now have to recall that too.

Fifth Induction Class

Tonight we learned the snatch. As usual the exercise was broken down into parts. We started with some shoulder mobility exercises and deep air squats. Then with a plastic bar practised the basic jump, then the snatch. Each snatch was corrected to ensure correct foot, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow and wrist position.

We used the Bergener warmup, which is the name of the movements when they are broken down and practised individually before they are all put together. This warm-up is named after Mike Burgener, a US weightlifting coach.

The sequence is as follows, always in this order:


  • Down and up
  • Elbows high and outside
  • Muscle snatch
  • Snatch land
  • Snatch drop
  • Hang power snatch

While you can snatch with poor form you will risk shoulder injury as the weight increases – shoulder dislocations are not uncommon. The constant deep squatting and standing in position to correct form reminded me of kung-fu classes during my uni years – standing in horse stance (not the same stance!) until the legs can no longer take it, then doing it again.

By the end of the session we were performing a full snatch from the ground with a weighted bar (albeit a light weight – I was lifting 25 kg). That was enough. I did a few good pulls that saw me lose control of the bar at its apex – I had the power in the lift but lacked control on the shoulders. Lots of work on. That was 90 minutes of learning the snatch. A great session, but did not do the HIIT workout tonight.

In the next class I think we will be combining the clean and push press / split jerk to perform a clean and jerk.

Sixth Induction Class

Tonight was indeed the clean and jerk. The class started with a skipping warm up, then we moved straight onto the bars. First we went through the basic movements again, breaking each stage down. Then from the start position to the low hang, then the jump, powering through the feet, knees, hips to shrug up.

Emphasis on straight arms to maintain power and momentum in the clean, then the deep squat. From the squat, practising the lift, the small snap to reposition the bar on the shoulders and change the hand grip from the front squat support to the proper hold. Then the quick drop, jump and jerk to lift overhead.

Lesson of the day: Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

A reminder to ensure that your form is always perfect, focus on getting the movements right, using a lighter weight first, before attempting anything heavy. We were using 30 kg loaded bar to get the movement right. The only purpose of the weight was really to get the bar to the correct height and provide enough resistance to ensure that we had to perform the correct clean and jerk movement, and not a push press.

The Workout was short and intense. It was split into two session really. First we performed two 5 minute rounds;

  • 12 seconds of squat jumps
  • 38 seconds rest

Repeated 6 times, so 300 seconds (5 minutes) total. Then:

  • 12 seconds of clap push ups
  • 38 seconds rest

Again, repeated 6 times, for 300 seconds.

Then the follow 3 exercises were performed:

  • 400 m run with a 6 kg medicine ball
  • 400 m run without a ball
  • row as fast as possible

We were in 3 teams of 2 people and each exercise was performed until the last runner with the medicine ball came in (well, the last runner, but it was always the one carrying the medicine ball).

The longer the run, the longer people have to row.

Seventh Induction Class

Now in my fourth week, and almost at the end of the introduction. Tonight we started with skipping, then a 400m carrying a medicine ball, some walking lunges and push ups to get warmed up. Tonight we focused on the clean and jerk and learned “kipping pullup” – a modified pull up that also engages the core, as well as Knees to Elbows and Toes to Bar.

However, the main work was on the Clean and Press. Once again we started with the light bar, then moved on to working our way through jumps from the starting position, then cleans, then deep squats and through to the full clean and jerk. By the end of the session most of us had the movement working well and we added some weight to the bar for the final session. Another great session.

Final Induction Class

Well, I survived the CrossFit Induction. Tonight we started with a quick warm-up of burpees, push ups and air squats and then went straight into some lifts. Started with push presses, then front squats, then full squats followed by a push press. After this we went back to the clean and jerk, but tonight did the split squat to get under the bar.

The final skills session was on the rings, with dips and muscle-ups on rings. Dips on rings is a lot harder than doing dips on parallel bars – you need to engage all your supporting muscles. Muscle-ups were a challenge. One member of the induction group could do them – he was the smallest of us all!

The workout was a simple affair tonight. A 20 minute circuit training workout, where we had to complete as many of rounds of the following exercises in the allotted time:

  •  5 Pull Ups
  • 10 Push Ups
  • 15 Air Squats

Very challenging – especially as tonight I did not time my dinner very well! Also, this morning I was practising my air squats, going deeper and maintain good posture, so my legs already had a little workout. My son joined me today too, he seemed to enjoy doing air squats – so much so that I decided to take a photo! You can seem him here: The Squat – Build Strength, Endurance and Power.

So, the 8 lesson, 12 hour induction is finally complete. Next week the real work begins!

CrossFit WODs

One of the key parts of the CrossFit approach is the WOD – the Workout of the Day. Generally each CrossFit session follows the following pattern:

  • Warm-up
  • Strength Training – Olympic Lifts
  • WOD

Everyone does the WOD and makes a note of their results on the club board. This is how CrossFit becomes competitive – you compete with other people on the day, and you compete with your own PB’s from past workouts.

WODs are set workouts, essential circuit training routines. The original ones are named after women and the newer ones, the Heroes, are named after fallen soldiers. Often referred to as The Benchmark Girls. Some are done in a set time and you aim to complete more rounds / sets /  exercises (“for rounds”), others are set routines and you aim to complete in a quicker time (“for time”).

The Benchmark Girls

BW = bodyweight.

WOD Exercises Reps and Times
Angie 100 Pull-ups, 100 Push-ups, 100 Sit-ups, 100 Squats For Time. Complete all reps of each exercise before moving to the next.
Barbara 20 Pull-ups, 30 Push-ups, 40 Sit-ups, 50 Squats 5 rounds for time
Chelsea 5 Pull-ups, 10 Push-ups, 15 Squats Each minute, on the minute for 30 minutes
Cindy 5 Pull-ups, 10 Push-ups, 15 Squats As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes
Diane Deadlift 225 lbs, Handstand Push-ups 21-15-9 reps for time
Elizabeth Clean 135 lbs, Ring Dips 21-15-9 reps for time
Fran Thruster 95 lbs, Pull-ups 21-15-9 reps for time
Grace Clean & Jerk 135 lbs. 30 reps for time
Helen 400 meter run, 1.5 pood Kettlebell swing x 21, Pull-ups 12 reps 3 rounds for time
Isabel Snatch 135 lbs. 30 reps for time
Jackie 1000 meter row, Thruster 45 lbs (50 reps), Pull-ups (30 reps) For time
Karen Wall-ball Shots 150 reps For time
Linda Deadlift 1 1/2 BW, Bench Press BW, Clean 3/4 BW 10/9/8/7/6/5/4/3/2/1 rep rounds for time
Mary 5 Handstand Push-ups, 10 Single-Legged Squats, 15 Pull-ups As many rounds as possible in 20 min
Nancy 400 meter run, Overhead Squat 95 lbs x 15 reps 5 rounds for time
Annie Double Unders, Sit-ups 50-40-30-20 and 10 rep rounds; for time
Eva Run 800 meters, 2 pood Kettlebell Swing x 30 reps, 30 Pullups 5 rounds for time
Kelly Run 400 meters, 30 Box Jumps @ 24 inch box, 30 Wall-Ball Shots @ 20 pound ball 5 rounds for time
Lynne BW Bench Press, Pullups 5 rounds for max reps, no time component.
Nicole Run 400 meters, max rep Pullups As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes. Annotate number of pull-ups completed each round.

Photo by CrossFit Fever.

More like this in the Fitness section

  1 comment for “8 CrossFit Classes Reviewed

  1. MotleyHealth
    January 6, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Late update: I never carried on with CrossFit. Why? My knees suffered too much. I am not sure what the problem was, but suspect it was either the squat jumps or low front squats. Could be box jumps too, but less likely. My knees recovered about 3 weeks after the last session, until then they were rather painful and stiff. CrossFit is not for all, at least, not for all middle-aged men!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *