One of the key principles of CrossFit is that it is a strength and conditioning program that involves “constantly varied functional movements preformed at high intensity”. Whether you have been doing CrossFit for 3 days, 3 months or 3 years, you know this means that in a given workout there will be some type of weightlifting movement, gymnastics skill work or straight up cardio with running or rowing. Everyone knows why they should run more. As far as gymnastics goes, the added flexibility and ability to control ones body weight is a topic for another time. I’m here to talk about the benefits of weightlifting.
You probably fall into one of three categories with regards to your attitude around weightlifting.
Camp 1: “I don’t actually care about weightlifting. I just do it because that is what’s on the board.”
Camp 2: “Weightlifting is fun but I don’t take it that seriously.”
Camp 3: “What is cardio? All I care about are PRs.”
Obviously, there is some wiggle room here, but the point is either you enjoy lifting or it’s your least favorite part of doing CrossFit. I’m not here to try to change your mind, but I do want to point out some health reasons as to why working on your weightlifting is worth your time and effort.
For the most part, weightlifting can be broken down into two categories: Powerlifting and Olympic lifting. Powerlifting includes the back squat, deadlift and bench press. Olympic lifting is snatch and clean and jerk. The importance of powerlifting is pretty straight forward and for the most part, clearly functional. Deadlifting helps teach you how to safely get objects off the ground and gives you an idea in day-to-day life why you shouldn’t try to pick up that couch that you know weighs 300 pounds. Back squat teaches you how to safely stand up and sit down, builds muscle in your legs that will help as you get older, and, on some level, gives you an indication on how much weight you can move around (if you can get that 300lb couch off the ground can you move it to another location?). Bench press is getting an object off your chest (if you are under that couch for some reason and it falls on you, can you get it off you?).
Now the functionality of the Olympic movements is a bit harder to demonstrate. When are you ever really going to pick something up, and then catch it in a full squat with arms locked out overhead?? Honestly, I’m not sure. Clean and jerk is a bit more reasonable: getting an object from the floor to overhead, but again, tougher to find an example.
At this point, you may be thinking, “okay, fine. I’ll try a little harder on powerlifting days because I don’t really want to get crushed when my couch falls on me or hurt my back moving it. But Clare hasn’t given me a single reason to work on snatching or clean and jerks”. To help answer this question, check out the below points and linked article to why you should care.
- Enhances motor skills- these movements are full body movements which requires multiple muscle systems to work together at the same time. This improves overall coordination.
- Improves balance- anyone who has ever snatched knows how much balance keeping that weight locked out overhead requires. Too far in either directions and you are on your butt. Balance is increasingly important as you age.
- Improves anaerobic endurance: the explosive bouts of power needed to lift for either of these movements helps your overall anaerobic capacity i.e. sprinting.
The above reasons are from this article. If you want to learn more, here’s the link:
Building more strength in all types of lifts, powerlifting or Olympic lifting, benefits your overall functional health more than you may realize. My challenge to you is try for a month or two to increase your strength and technique in weightlifting, while trying to be aware of how your body and overall fitness has improved.
PS: Keep your eye out for a weightlifting competition in October! It will not be scored solely on the highest numbers lifted, so it’s a good opportunity to test yourself and work to improve your technique!
— Coach Clare