The fitness industry is filled to the brim with options. Here are just a few of them, along with some of their strengths and weaknesses. If you’re new to the world of strength training (welcome, by the way!), then it’s easy to get confused by all the information online and circulating around the locker room. You know you want to be healthy, but how/where do you get started?
Before we dive in, let’s talk about what you want. After all, it’s a lot easier to hit the target when we know where it is. Are you trying to look better? Feel better? Lose fat? Gain muscle? When picking a training plan, the most important part is making sure it supports your goals. (Side note: no one ever said you could only pick one! Don’t be afraid to mix and match; Cross-training is a great way to develop a healthier, stronger body.)
According to social media and gym rats everywhere, CrossFit is the easiest way to injure yourself and lose muscle in the process. That seems just a tad harsh, if you ask me. Actually, CrossFit uses everything from Olympic weightlifting to high-intensity interval training to improve your fitness level (for a more detailed breakdown, check out this Wikipedia page). Designed for athletes, military personnel and regular people, CrossFit is all about functional strength and never giving up.
That being said, CrossFit has something of a negative image in the fitness community these days. This issue stems from the fact that because it’s so easy to open a CrossFit gym (about $4,000 to cover your Level 1 certification, then pay for your affiliation and… congrats, you can open a CrossFit gym), you end up with some trainers that don’t always put a priority on safety or proper form. It’s worth noting that this is only an issue with a very small percentage of trainers. Most CrossFit trainers are passionate, caring, motivating and helpful.
Frankly, if you’ve never been active your whole life, I’d hold off on this program. CrossFit is a great way to develop power, speed and endurance… if you know what you’re doing. Someone who’s just starting to get active should ease into working out (trust me on this one; fitness itself is more of a marathon than a sprint). After all, consistency is the only way to get real results. It’s hard to be consistent if you get injured and have to sit out for 6 months because you didn’t realize that a 135lbs clean and jerk was too much for you.
Let’s start with stereotypes again: Bodybuilding is for idiots. Sure, I could sugar coat it, but then I’d just be dancing around the issue. From TV commercials to Facebook posts, Bodybuilding is mislabeled as something exclusively for obnoxious, genetically gifted brutes.
The interesting thing is that once you delve into the world of bodybuilding, you realize just how inaccurate those ideas are. Bodybuilding is exactly what it sounds like: taking your natural gifts (whatever they may be) and working yourself to the bone to develop those gifts. Beyond that, bodybuilding is something that almost everyone in the fitness world aspires to. Dropping a dress/pant size? Looking good during beach season? Perfectly in line with the bodybuilding mentality. The issue is that people see professional bodybuilders, fear looking that muscular and assume that their results are typical.
This stigma does way more harm than good, especially considering that many people start working out (at least in part) because they want to look good. Bodybuilding is (at its core) the pursuit of aesthetic improvement through a quality diet and purposeful exercises.
I’d be out of line if I didn’t mention the negative aspects of bodybuilding. But honestly? They’re not too different from most other training plans. Exercising with poor form, ignoring flexibility and mobility exercises and eating poorly can lead to injuries. Plus, the amount of contradictory information out on bodybuilding can be confusing, to say the least. Some people swear that ‘over training’ or training your muscles well past conventional set-rep parameters is one of the best ways to get results. Others will say that a simple 5×5 training program is the most effective.
If you’re new to the world of fitness, I’d say that bodybuilding would be a good place to start. The pace is wherever you need it to be, which is great for someone who has no idea what their limits are. Plus, you can focus a lot more on proper form which (and I can’t stress this enough) is critical to your longevity and success when it comes to physical fitness.
Now, if you’re looking for something to take your training to the next level, I’d steer you right into CrossFit. With a focus on developing stronger & faster athletes, CrossFit definitely pushes the people into the next level of fitness (if they can handle it, of course).
Having tried both training plans, I always recommend bodybuilding/powerlifting style workout plans to new people because it gives people more freedom to learn, develop at their pace and grow stronger. CrossFit is fantastic for advanced athletes, no question. For the average Joe who’s never lifted weights before? Maybe not. But don’t take my word for it. Feel free to give either one a shot and see what works best for you!