It's time to rev up your workout with some kettlebells. More versatile than dumbbells, using kettlebells to strength train increases your caloric burn. We had celeb trainer — she introduced Jessica Alba to CrossFit — Yumi Lee teach us four effective exercises using the kettlebell. Watch the video for a quick tutorial, then try these moves in your next workout.
Celebs like Jessica Alba and Cameron Diaz love it, and if you're a runner, you may love CrossFit, too. This workout is all about basic exercises involving body resistance, gymnastics, aerobics, weight lifting, and other high-intensity moves. Read on to learn why you might want to skip today's run and head to the nearest CrossFit gym.
The Problem With Running
"The challenge is that runners think that their legs are strong, and they are strong at that one movement pattern. But life is more than just that one movement pattern," says Reebok CrossFit ambassador Yumi Lee, who trains Jessica Alba. Since running is a linear, repetitive movement that involves mostly your legs, it can cause an imbalance in the rest of the body, which can lead to injury now or down the road. Solely running also leads to workout plateaus, so when the muscles become used to the demands placed on it, a runner needs to run further or faster in order to keep up her level of fitness.
Why CrossFit Is a Good Complement to Running
"CrossFit exercises involve your whole body rather than isolated muscle groups," which strengthens your overall body and makes you a better runner, explains marathoner and CrossFit instructor Shirley Brown of CrossFit LA. Yumi explains that specifically, CrossFit combines power lifting, strength training, and gymnastic training, all of which benefit your fast twitch muscles used for sprinting and your slow twitch muscles used for long distance. Working your entire body in CrossFit will also help you lose overall body fat, which will increase both endurance and speed, and also helps you maintain proper form during your runs, which is one way to avoid a running injury.
Another benefit? CrossFit helps prevent those dreaded workout plateaus so you'll actually be excited to work out. "CrossFit forces you to do things you would have never done before. It forces you to push yourself in a way that you thought you had pushed yourself . . . and it makes you better at overall life," Yumi says.
Tips For Getting Started
Shirley and Yumi recommend finding a reputable facility and signing up for the on-ramp (sometimes called foundations or fundamentals) program so you can learn the basic exercises. "It's a comfortable and safe way to learn the movement patterns so you can stay injury-free," Yumi says. You'll also learn beginner versions of certain moves — if you've never done a pull-up, they'll show you how you can do one using a box and a band. Then you can jump right into regular classes, modifying exercises as you need to. Some gyms offer endurance programs or private instruction, so if you have a specific running goal, they can help you achieve it.
Don't just jump into a new CrossFit program, however. Meghan and Tyler Barnes, owners of CrossFit TT, warn that "you'll be super, super sore when you start," so it's probably not a great idea to sign up when you're training for a race. Definitely listen to your body, but stick with it — don't miss a class on account of being too sore. Good programs will go easy on the muscle groups that were worked hard the day before, and getting your heart rate up can ease soreness.
How to Prevent Injury
Pull-ups, handstand push-ups, and pistols (one-legged squats) are pretty intense exercises, so if you want to avoid a CrossFit injury, "you've got to pay attention in your fundamentals class and learn proper form," Yumi advises. Don't do an exercise unless you understand the movements; when you're ready to make an exercise harder, only change one aspect at a time such as speed, weight amount, or number of reps. Some 60-minute classes include warmup and stretching afterward, so if yours doesn't, be sure to take some time before and after to fit them in.
How Often Should Runners Do CrossFit?
All four CrossFit instructors agree that it all depends on your goals. If running is your focus, use CrossFit as a supplement and do it as often as it fits into your workout schedule, about two to three times a week. You can increase sessions on your off-season, say, when you're not training for a marathon. "Don't overdo it. You might think you're capable of running and doing CrossFit every day," but taxing your muscles without rest days is a surefire way to an injury, Meghan says.
Should Runners Eat Strictly Paleo?
To increase performance and build muscle, many CrossFitters follow a Paleo diet, which excludes grains, dairy products, legumes, refined sugars, and any other processed foods. We're talking mostly meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. While eating close to nature and ditching artificial or overly processed foods is healthy, a runner doing long workouts needs carbs for energy. Yumi recommends eating "80 percent Paleo, 100 percent of the time" but to modify based on your workout needs.
CrossFit certainly has faced criticism recently, and the fitness conglomerate's new program for kids as young as 3 in Long Island City, NY, is no exception, The Huffington Post reports. Many people are questioning whether "extreme" workouts for kids are healthy. But Michele Kelber, a representative for the gym, clarifies that the kids' program is not a scaled-down version of the regular version, but instead it's a program designed especially for young athletes.
To find out some of the routines kids face, read the whole story on The Huffington Post.
The topic of conversation in many athletic circles and in the media these days is the disease rhabdomyolysis and its connection to high-intensity workouts, namely CrossFit. At first I thought it was a coincidence: two friends popped up on my Facebook News Feed that wound up in the hospital — at the same time!— with CrossFit-related kidney issues. Then a few nights later, another woman I grew up with told me she had been hospitalized a year back with the same condition.
While rare, rhabdomyolysis occurs from a variety of reasons; most often, it's seen in people who have suffered major injuries or trauma, but other times it develops in response to certain medications or from intense physical activity. Arm yourself with the facts about this serious medical issue and its relationship with your workout routine.
What Exactly Happens?
Rhabdomyolysis occurs from the breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue. When these muscle cells break down, they dispense waste, a protein pigment called myoglobin, into the bloodstream. When you're overloading your muscles past a healthy capacity (like many intense workouts that lack a recovery period), they're broken down at a rate your body can't handle. When the kidney is overwhelmed by this excess waste, it's often unable to filter it effectively. From here, a blockage can occur where your body experiences an overload of potassium. This blockage can lead to major kidney damage and, in some cases, kidney failure.
It's Not Just CrossFit
While it's been getting a bad rap as of late, rhabdo isn't just "the CrossFit disease." Weightlifters and marathon runners are also groups of athletes who experience rhabdo; some studies have shown that at the end of a marathon, runners' kidney function can drop by almost 60 percent, and many experience profound dehydration, which can quickly lead to full-blown rhabdomyolysis.
Dr. Carlin Senter, a primary care sports medicine doctor and assistant clinical professor of medicine and orthopedics at UCSF Medical Center, and her team see rhabdomyolysis in all kinds of settings, but the people who are particularly at risk are those who take part in extreme sports or activities where the result is to "overload the muscle" after extending a lot of strength over a long period of time.
Keep reading to learn about the specific symptoms to look for and how to keep yourself safe from rhabdo.
Although CrossFit was created almost two decades ago, it has been gaining popularity in the past few years as the antidote to boring gym workouts. What do fans say is so great about CrossFit? For starters, the program is a time-saver; it's not about how long you exercise, but the intensity of it. The workout incorporates weight lifting, kettlebell workouts, plyometrics, cardio, and more into bursts of high-intensity exercise. CrossFit also uses Tabata training as well as increasing intensity techniques (like lifting heavier weights for a lower number of reps) to help up strength and stamina. You get results fast, according to CrossFit's fans, who include more than a few buff celebrity devotees — yes, even Madonna has tried it. Check out a few more female celebrities who've shaped up with CrossFit!
Grab a set of dumbbells and get ready to get your CrossFit on with Reebok ambassador Yumi Lee. In this 10-minute workout, Yumi leads you through three rounds of full-body exercises. The moves are simple, but the pace makes it intense. It's an efficient workout that will work you from head to toe. Press "play," and get ready to sweat.
Get ready to take your workout to the next level with Jessica Alba's CrossFit trainer, Yumi Lee. This workout is excuse-proof: you don't need any equipment, and it's only 10 minutes long, but it will definitely get your heart pumping. No need to be intimidated by CrossFit either: Yumi provides level-appropriate variations for every move. Press play and get ready to work!
Double under; it's the move that Bob Harper swears by, and it's a staple at any CrossFit gym. Quite simply, a double under is achieved when a jump rope makes two passes during a single jump. Intimidated? Don't be. All you need is a jump rope, time to practice, and solid determination. The double under is definitely not an easy move, but once mastered, it keeps the heart rate elevated, but with less impact on the body than traditional jump roping. We're talking major calorie burner.
- It's all about the wrists: While you intuitively may want to use the power of your arms in this move, it will only result in a quick loss of energy. Instead, keep arms alongside your body while using your wrists to propel the rope forward. This will allow the rope to make more even, consistent passes. Also, be aware of timing. In an attempt to move the rope quickly, it's not uncommon to get a little ahead of yourself by swinging the rope forward for a second rotation before it's completely passed under your feet.
- Drop the knees: High knees seem like an easy solution to the double under, but not so; just like using your arms for momentum, raising the knees while jumping results in wasted energy. Instead, jump rope as you normally would, with feet together and legs straight; make sure to also keep your back straight, and draw in the abs. The key difference to a double under is to jump high — called a power jump — which will allow the rope enough time to make two full rotations.
- Start slow: No one expects you to do consecutive double unders in your first, second, or even third go. Instead, incorporate a double under into your normal jump-rope workout by replacing every 10th jump with this move. As you master the move, decrease the amount of single jumps between double unders, then try to do the move consecutively.
Want muscles like Cameron Diaz, Jessica Alba, or Jessica Biel? You may want to try CrossFit. The workout has many devoted fans, not just incredibly fit celebrities, who love it not only for its scalability — workouts are tailored to your current ability, and the difficulty increases as you get better — but also for the mental challenge that comes from pushing yourself further with each workout.
So, what exactly is CrossFit? The workout uses simple exercises involving body resistance, gymnastics, aerobics, weight lifting, and other moves, which are done at a high intensity. While the exercises are simple, that doesn't mean you'll be bored — CrossFit is all about mixing up exercises and ramping up difficulty over time so you don't do the same workout twice in a row.
If you've been curious about CrossFit, read on for a few workouts to try.
- Beginner's workout: CrossFit Games champ Mel Ockerby takes us through a simple workout of squats, sit-ups, and push-ups that anyone can try. You probably know how to do these moves already; get the beginner's CrossFit workout here.
- Back to basics: CrossFit is all about basic moves, so here's a good poster workout to try if you're new to CrossFit. Using moves like push-ups, squats, and deadlifts, this workout is an effective one you can do almost anywhere.
- Outdoor workout: Who needs a gym when the weather's this nice? Brick gym owner and CrossFit coach Jarett Perelmutter shows us a total-body outdoor CrossFit workout that you can do outside; all you need is a park bench. Get the CrossFit bench workout video here.
- Eight-minute workout: CrossFit is all about high-intensity intervals to get results fast. This Tabata workout video from CrossFit trainer Shirley Brown uses 20-second intense intervals of squats and push-ups to whip you into shape in only eight minutes.
- Kettlebell workout: There's a reason why Jessica Alba's been looking so great on the beach: trainer Yumi Lee, who introduced the actress to CrossFit. Yumi showed us how to burn major calories with this CrossFit kettlebell video workout.
Iceland's Annie Throrisdottir may have decided against becoming an Olympian, but she's a champion in her own right: the athlete recently won the Reebok CrossFit Games for the second time in a row, securing her title of Fittest Female on Earth.
Even if competitive exercise isn't in your future, CrossFit may still be the perfect workout — at least according to CrossFit's biggest fan. "CrossFit is good for everyone, which is why pretty much my whole family is doing it; my parents love it," she told me after her CrossFit Games win. Even so, there's a right way and wrong way to start CrossFit.
Just try it: One of CrossFit's greatest strengths, says Annie, is the fact that it encompasses many different types of exercise. "It's so diverse," Annie says. She started CrossFit through running and deadlifts, gradually working her way up to more difficult aspects of the workout, like muscle-ups (done on gymnastics rings). "Try it out, and even though you get really sore after your first training session, that does not mean that you have to give up," Annie says. "Give it at least one or two weeks and then the soreness will go away and it will start being really fun. You can measure everything and see how you're getting better; it's so much different than going to the gym by yourself."
Take it slow: You may be inspired by all the chiseled men and women you see in CrossFit campaigns, but the fact is that you need to perfect your form before you actually ramp up your workout. "It's really important that you're keeping good form in everything that you do," Annie advises. "That's what me and my coaches have been working on a lot for the past years: making sure that nothing I do is unsafe. If you get injuries, you're not going to want to train anymore. It was kind of hard for me because I always go full out every single training session, but it was definitely good to take it one step backwards and focus on doing things perfectly; then it was so much easier to build on it, and I got further than I thought I could. That's definitely the way to go; always think about listening to your body."
Read on for more of Annie's tips for CrossFit newbies!