4 Things to Steal From CrossFit

Improve Your Workouts With CrossFit Methods


Here's what you need to know...

  1. Every minute on the minute (EMOM) will increase work capacity, accountability, and provide structured work and rest periods.
  2. Training multiple strength qualities can improve overall fitness and body composition.
  3. Gymnastic exercises add value to weight training programs. Using your own bodyweight as resistance can increase strength and muscular endurance.
  4. A supportive environment makes lifters excited to challenge themselves with difficult and often painful workouts.

Steal Ideas

CrossFit has "stolen" from many fitness modalities including Olympic weightlifting, sprinting, powerlifting, and strongman to name a few. So even if you're not into CrossFit, there's no harm in using the ideas it popularized to improve your own workouts.

You have to look at the big picture. Every style of training has its problems. But we also know different styles have their own unique benefits. There's plenty that we can learn from each other.

Here are the best ideas you can take from CrossFit.

Idea #1 – Every Minute On The Minute Sets

Every minute on the minute (EMOM) sets hold you accountable for both work and rest. They force you to focus on getting a certain amount of work done in a specific amount of time, then for the remainder of the minute you recharge for the next round of work.

There are several ways to use EMOM, here are two ways I use it:

  1. Load a trap-bar with a 3-5RM weight. At the top of every minute, perform two reps for a total of 10 minutes. You just pulled 20 fairly heavy reps in the amount of time most people would use for two sets. This will drive up your work capacity while still using relatively heavy loads, which, if you prioritize being strong, may ultimately be more beneficial than simply banging out intervals on the treadmill.
  2. Load the bar with your 10RM weight. At the top of the first minute perform one rep. At the top of the second minute, perform two reps. Keep adding a rep each minute until you can no longer complete the set within that minute. This obviously gets tougher as the end of one set becomes increasingly closer to the beginning of the next set. Get to 10 reps and you're doing well. Get to 15 and you're a beast from another planet.

Idea #2 – Training Multiple Strength Qualities a Session

For general fitness and body composition, training several strength qualities in a given session can yield great results.

Traditional block periodization dictates that you train one strength quality for a certain period (often 2-5 weeks). More general periodization schemes will have you work on a primary strength quality for a similar period of time while also working a secondary strength quality.

Periodization methods are effective, but don't discount the value in training multiple strengths.

For instance, program higher-set, lower-rep power work, followed by compound movement strength work (in the 4-5 sets of 3-6 rep range), then isolation/low CNS demand exercises in the 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps most associated with hypertrophy, then finish with either strength-endurance or conditioning.

A sample program may look like this:

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Single-Arm Dumbbell Clean and Press 6 3 * 120 sec.
B1 Front Squat 4 4-6 90 sec.
B2 Weighted Chin-Up 4 4-6 90 sec.
C1 Cable Pull Through 3 10 60 sec.
C2 Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press 3 10 60 sec.
D Concept II Rower 2 500 m. 180 sec.

* Single-Arm Dumbbell Clean and Press — per side

So you have a power movement followed by a non-competing strength superset, and then a lower CNS hypertrophy superset before topping it off with conditioning on the rower.

Idea #3 – Using More Gymnastic-Type Movements

Exercises like handstands, ring dips, rope climbs, and ring pull-ups are a great way to build isometric strength, train shoulder and core stability, and work the delts, lats, and triceps.


One of my clients is a 40 something year-old corporate exec and father of two. He recently broke out a handstand in the middle of a dinner party. Everyone in attendance thought he was a superhero.

Given that these are bodyweight-only exercises, try making them part of a metabolic circuit towards the end of the training session (once you're confident in performing the movement). Here's an example:

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
C1 Prowler Drive 3 40 m. 30 sec.
C2 Ring Pull Up 3 8 30 sec.
C3 Farmer's Walk 3 40 m. 30 sec.
C4 Ring Dip 3 8 60 sec.

It should go without saying that given the lack of stability of the rings themselves, you need to be somewhat strong in standard dips, pull-ups, and shoulder presses to pull these movements off well, particularly while fatigued.

Remember, many of these movements are progressions from the basics, so don't jump into them before you're ready.

Idea #4 – The X Factor

Even CrossFit-haters admit that if there's one thing that CF gets right, it's creating a dynamic environment that encourages members to push their limits.

For a long time many people associated working out with either boredom or punishment. CrossFit completely changed this relationship, so much so that people, both on the outside and inside, often refer to it as a cult.

But how many people do you know who can't wait to bang out their back-and-biceps day at the local Globo-Gym? Sure, these people exist but only on the fringes. CrossFit has developed entire groups of passionate members who live to thrust, jump, run, and climb with their training partners. They love a challenge.

When you feel like your coach and lifting community is supportive of your success you get more engaged.

Even if you train at a standard meat-and-potatoes gym, chances are you see the same people on a fairly regular basis. Don't be afraid to pop-off your noise canceling headphones and shout some encouragement to the guy who's about to break a PR in his deadlift.

And when this karma comes back around in a couple of weeks when you finally try to top 400 pounds in your bench, you'll be happy that you made the effort to become more a part of your gym's community.


Take What's Valuable, Ignore The Rest

Is doing high-rep snatches when fatigued a good idea? Probably not. Is training multiple strength qualities the best way to prepare for a powerlifting meet? No.

But just because a system isn't perfect (and every training system has its limitations) doesn't mean it's without any value.

Take a deeper look at CrossFit (or Westside, or Poliquin, or Boyle) and determine what you can glean from their methodology that would benefit your own training.

Related:  A CrossFit Apology

Related:  Kipping Pull-Ups: The Truth

Related:  In Defense of CrossFit