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10 CrossFit Myths Debunked

author image Linda Melone
Linda Melone is a seasoned writer and certified strength and conditioning specialist specializing in fitness and health. She also holds a B.S. in nutrition. Her work appears on WebMD, MSN Health,, AARP, Oxygen and in many other online and print publications.

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10 CrossFit Myths Debunked
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Whether or not you’ve ever tried CrossFit you’ve probably wondered: “Is it as bad – or as good – as it sounds?” Whether positive or negative – myths and mistruths about CrossFit abound. We talked to some top trainers and exercise physiologists to see if we could bust some of the myths and uncover the truth about CrossFit. Read on to see what they have to say about the incredibly popular – and controversial – sport of CrossFit.

MYTH #1: CrossFit Is the Best Way to Get in Shape
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“Get in shape for what?” is the question those considering CrossFit training should ask themselves, says Mark Nutting, CSCS, fitness director of SACO Sport & Fitness, Saco, Maine. “CrossFit certainly can improve the cardiovascular system, but does that make it the best for improving your endurance race time? No,” says Nutting, USAW certified and a CrossFit Level 1 trainer. “Is it the best for my 83-year-old mother? Not a chance. It would be rare for a CrossFit instructor to know how to periodize (create a schedule of programmed workouts used with athletes preparing for a competition) a program to complement the sport’s already demanding physical requirements.” Getting in shape requires a well-designed program personalized for the individual, created by a qualified professional and focused on your specific goals.

Related: 16 Essential CrossFit Moves

MYTH #2: You Will Get Injured Doing CrossFit
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You may get hurt doing CrossFit, but research shows that your injury risk is similar to that of other sports. CrossFit’s high-intensity programs and recent incident of a CrossFit trainer’s severed spine during a competition have put a spotlight on its injury potential. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research of 132 CrossFit athletes found that 97 (73.5 percent) of them had experienced an injury during CrossFit training. Nine required surgery. Researchers determined the injury rate as similar to that of Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting and gymnastics. “Taking the most difficult lifts and doing them for time is a bad combination,” says Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, author of “Beat the Gym” and a Connecticut-based exercise physiologist. “You should stop when your form is compromised – this is called ‘technical failure.’ Injuries are more likely to occur when you keep going.” Stay safe by knowing when to stop and by finding the most educated CrossFit coach.

Related: STUDY: The Nature and Prevalence of Injury During CrossFit Training

MYTH #3: CrossFit Athletes Are Good at Everything
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While the top CrossFit games competitors may be good at a lot of things, chances are they will never beat a top athlete in one particular sport. “Because of the specific skills that every sport requires, a generalist will never be the best at anything other than being a generalist,” says trainer Mark Nutting. For this reason, the CrossFit games enable those who enjoy CrossFit to have a level playing field for competition. It makes it fun for those involved, but the workout does not translate to any other sports field, Nutting says.

Related: The Top 15 CrossFit Moves You Can Do at Home

MYTH #4: CrossFit Makes Women Huge
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Becoming “too muscular” is a top concern among many women. While some women who do CrossFit do carry more muscle, it’s likely because of their natural body type more than the workout itself, says trainer Tom Holland. “Women who have a propensity to gain muscle or are big to begin with tend to be attracted to CrossFit,” Holland says. In addition, Holland points out that CrossFit moves are geared more for power than hypertrophy (muscle growth); consequently he says that getting huge should not be a real concern for most women.

Related: In CrossFit, Women Can Be the Beauty and the Beast

MYTH #5: There’s No Validity to the CrossFit Approach
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The ability for CrossFit workouts to improve cardiovascular fitness, body composition and power output demonstrate its benefits as a valid workout. “The high-intensity, short-duration type workout characteristic of CrossFit can offer significant fitness benefits,” says trainer Mark Nutting. A 2013 CrossFit study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research of 23 men and 20 women found improvements across all levels of fitness, including body composition (fat percentage) and VO2 max (a measure of cardiovascular fitness). As is the case with other high intensity power training programs, CrossFit not only helps individuals improve their aerobic fitness, but also burns a substantial number of calories (approximately 12.3 calories per minute for women) in the process, says trainer Mark Nutting.

Related: STUDY: Crossfit-Based High-Intensity Power Training Improves Maximal Aerobic Fitness And Body Composition

MYTH #6: CrossFit Instructors Are All Fully Qualified
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Becoming a CrossFit instructor requires only a weekend instructional course. No prior fitness experience or credentials are required. Some CrossFit instructors like Mark Nutting, however, have additional qualifications. “To stay safe, look for trainers with qualifications in addition to CrossFit credentials, such as those from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), or seek out those who are USA Weightlifting Certified (USAW),” says Nutting. Trainers with these fitness credentials will know how to progress the movements safely.

Related: The 12 Biggest Myths About Personal Training

MYTH #7: All CrossFit Boxes Are Run the Same
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All CrossFit “boxes” (this is what CrossFit members call their individual gym locations) are independently owned and called CrossFit affiliates, says Billy De La Rosa, a CrossFit Level 1 and 2 trainer and owner of Performance Efficiency – CrossFit SPOT (opening in spring 2014 in Manhattan’s Upper Westside). “These CrossFit affiliates allow for different flavors to be added to the CrossFit methodology via teaching styles. The difference in coaching styles varies depending on the level of experience of the coach as well as their understanding of the human body,” says De La Rosa. Every CrossFit box employs a main programmer who puts all the workouts together, and the CrossFit coaches implement them. “In all, the best CrossFit coaches never stop learning and are always finding ways to be a better coach,” says De La Rosa.

MYTH #8: You Will Get Rhabdo (rhabdomyolysis) and/or Vomit
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Rhabdomyolysis (“Uncle Rhabdo” in CrossFit circles) refers to a dangerous condition that occurs when muscle tissue becomes damaged and substances from within the muscle cells leak out into the blood. If enough muscle damage occurs, the substances can cause kidney injury and can be fatal. “It’s rare, and it’s pretty difficult to get to this point,” says trainer Tom Holland. “It takes a super-motivated person to push through the pain. Along with vomiting, which can occur with high-intensity workouts, if you listen to your body, you won’t get to this point.” Uncle Rhabdo (depicted as an unofficial mascot of CrossFit and characterized as a clown connected to a dialysis machine) is no joke. But, according to Holland, it’s also unlikely to happen if you know your limits and don’t cave in to peer pressure to go beyond your limits.

Related: The Controversy Behind CrossFit

MYTH #9: CrossFit Is Expensive
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The cost of joining a CrossFit box varies around the country and often depends on the number of times a week you use it. On average, CrossFitters can plan on spending between $100 to $200 a month. “It may sound like a lot, but it’s on par with upscale gyms and bootcamps,” trainer Mark Nutting says. “Although it is high for a traditional gym where you just have access to the equipment.” Some box owners will negotiate with you and offer you a free trial week before you commit to signing up for longer. Once you learn how to perform the moves safely, you can also save money by doing some workouts at home.

MYTH #10: CrossFit Is a Cult
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Although CrossFit clearly is not a cult, it does possess some cult-like qualities. Trainer Mark Nutting points out for example, that CrossFit has its own vernacular, including “WOD” (workout of the day), “thrusters” and “Uncle Rhabdo” (for rhabdomyolysis). In addition, some CrossFit members look down on other forms of training and believe CrossFit is the only way. “A blind, unquestioning belief in CrossFit is the biggest danger,” warns Nutting. “All teachers and trainers should continue to educate themselves, listen to other viewpoints, challenge and question the status quo and adapt what they do as they broaden their knowledge base.”

Related: 10 Ways to Spot a Bad Trainer

What Do YOU Think?
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Have you tried CrossFit and/or are you a regular CrossFitter? Are there any that we missed? What do you think of it? Are you a fan or a foe? Had you heard any of these myths before about CrossFit? Do you still think any of them are true? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Related: The Controversy Behind CrossFit

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