January 26, 2016 07:36PM
By Farrah Duffany
Thousands of people exercise in a box multiple times a week. They climb ropes, lift weights, and test their strength.
No, this “box” is not a tiny cardboard box. For CrossFit enthusiasts, “box” is the term use to reference the CrossFit gym they work out in.
“One of the best things about this box is the community,” said Brandon Keegan, a coach at the YMCA CrossFit Meriden. “If you come into our gym, you’ll see there’s a bunch of different kinds of people here.”
CrossFit, a fitness company founded in 2000 by Greg Glassman, is an intense and varied strength and conditioning program combining cardio, weightlifting, gymnastics, rowing and other aspects not associated with a typical gym. It challenges a person’s physical strength and endurance as well as mental strength.
The CrossFit Games is an intense test to find the fittest woman, man and team of athletes in the world.
On Thursday morning Jon Fortier, the head coach at CrossFit Factory Square in Southington, and Ellie Cyr, of Bristol, exercised together.
They encouraged one another through dumbbell snatches and handstand walks. The dumbbell snatches required them to lift a weight with one hand above their head from the ground in one motion. Cyr lifted 40 pounds while Fortier used the 50-pound weight. Then the two would walk as far as they could on their hands.
“You got it girl,” Fortier said, cheering as Cyr balanced on her hands and moved her body across the gym floor upside-down.
With some of the more intense workouts that CrossFit offers, it’s best to modify based on the athlete’s capability, said Tami Reilly, the associate athletic director for fitness and wellness at Quinnipiac University.
“The more extreme things are, the greater the risk of injury,” said Reilly. “People can get hurt on a yoga mat, people can get hurt in a CrossFit Gym.”
Reilly said it’s important to have a coach who “pays attention to detail and form” to make sure the participant does not get injured in the exercises and that people should “listen to their body.”
Despite those risks, CrossFit still remains popular.
The YMCA in Wallingford is now offering a CrossFit class, said Executive Director Sean Doherty. The YMCA is partnering with CrossFit Triton in Wallingford.
“I think it’s a great partnership that we have and a great workout,” Doherty said.
“It was exactly what we needed,” said Giana Gleeson, a member of CrossFit Meriden. “We both work in a relatively stressful environment and so it really helped us just to have better balance on life and we’ve been hooked ever since.”
This exercise demonstrates balance, coordination, and upper body strength. Handstand walks also derive from gymnastic movements.
"The handstand walks are really higher level," said Jon Fortier, the head coach at Crossfit Factory Square in Southington.
The sled push is great for cardio, legs, building power and explosive speed. It involves loading up a sled on the ground with a certain amount of weight that the participant is comfortable with.
"You use your legs to drive that sled across a certain distance," said Taylor Ives, a Meriden resident and a member of the Meriden YMCA CrossFit.
This type of movement falls under the gymnastics category. It involves putting your feet against the wall and using your arms to push your weight up and down.
The exercise helps with balance and upper body strength.
The movement resembles swinging from the bar but actually combines three different movements into one exercise; a pull-up, a kipping pull-up, and then into a butterfly pull-up. When doing the exercise athletes must reach their chin over the top of the bar.
"In CrossFit we use what's called a butterfly pull-up to maximize your efficiency," said Gianna Gleeson, a Meriden resident and member of the Meriden YMCA Crossfit. "So if you're doing a workout that's timing, it allows you to complete the workout with more efficiency."
Tire flips incorporate strength, power, explosive speed, and leg muscles. In order to perform an athlete must squat to the level of the tire, put their arms underneath the tire, and drive the weight with their legs to flip the tire on its side.
The tire used at CrossFit Factory Square in Southington is 185 pounds.
Rope climbs involve gymnastics movements as well and uses mostly upper body strength or lower body strength depending on the type of climb.
There are legless rope climbs where athletes must use only their arms to get to the top as well as leg rop climbs that uses both arms and legs.
Athletes must pull their body weight up a length of rope, typically 20 feet in the air, said Ives.
Single-arm dumbbell snatches
The dumbbell snatch increases power and strength, focusing on the back and shoulders. It also incorporates what CrossFit calls "explosive" movement because the athlete must take the dumbbell with one hand starting on the ground and shoot it above their head with their arm in a locked position to finish the move. The amount of weight used varies depending on what the athlete is comfortable with.
"It's always good to kind of work one half of the body and the other half just to keep things nice and even and balanced," said Fortier.
The snatch is one of the faster lifts in CrossFit. An athlete performing this movement must lift a barbell from the floor to the overhead in one quick movement.
The weight can also be adjusted depending on the experience the athlete has.
This exercise can be performed on bars or rings. The athlete hangs with a loose grip before pulling their body up past the rings and locking out their arms. The exercise is essentially transitioning from a pull-up to a dip in one movement.
It's one of the harder moves in CrossFit to master, Fortier said, and takes a lot of strength and practice.