Nearly 70% of new CrossFit athletes come into the gym with one of two goals: losing fat or gaining muscle. These athletes may look at each other and think that they need completely different workouts.
In fact their goals aren't even different, they both want to the same thing: better body composition.
Invest in Muscle To Lose Fat
We add strength training to every workout to allow athletes to start investing rather than working.
At CrossFit Petram we think building muscle is pretty friggin' awesome. For starters it allows us to increase our work capacity. For example, if you do a 10 minute AMRAP workout at 95 pounds on a barbell versus 55 pounds you are doing nearly twice as much work. This means twice as many calories burned.
Still new members are surprised when I tell them to add more strength training. Most people believe that you must do steady state cardio for over 30 minutes to "target" fat cells. It's not true and is a gross oversimplification.
Increasing muscle mass also burns calories when your not even working. If the average person does nothing for 24 hours but lay in bed they burn on average 1,500 calories. This is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). If we take that average person and put them through 12 weeks of CrossFit and they add 5 pounds of muscle that BMR is going to increase significantly. This means even on rest days they are burning more.
Too Much Muscle?
But I don't want to add muscle because I don't want to look to bulky.
I hear this all too often. Many women believe that if they workout one too many times that they will end up "looking like a man". They won't.
Women and men's bodies are very different, especially how they respond to exercise. Men have significantly more muscle developing hormones then women and therefore have a larger cross sectional muscle size. This doesn't mean that women can't develop muscle, but when they do it ends up being quite smaller.
Many critics also point out CrossFit Games athletes, saying "but she looks too big, I don't want to look like her". I very calmly remind these critics that CrossFit Games athletes are full time professional athletes. They will train 5 hours a day, 7 days a week. Attending a CrossFit class 4 times a week will not make you look like that.
The Take away
Typical cardio based workouts are not enough to get you to the body composition that you want. Adding a strength element, whether through CrossFit style workouts or not, will help you get lean and strong.
If you do decide to start a strength program make sure you understand how to execute it properly and stick with it. Its very much like an investment, it takes patience and work but once you have muscle, it will work for you.