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A Beginners Guide to CrossFit: What to Know Before Your First Session

CrossFit has surged in popularity in recent years, captivating fitness enthusiasts with its high-intensity workouts and community-driven approach. If you’re considering delving into the world of CrossFit, congratulations on taking the first step toward a fitter, stronger you!

However, before you jump into your first session, there are some essential things you should know to ensure a safe and successful start to your CrossFit journey.

Understanding CrossFit Workouts: What Sets It Apart

Before diving into the specifics of CrossFit workouts and techniques, it’s crucial to understand what sets CrossFit apart from other forms of exercise. According to the CrossFit Journal, CrossFit is a comprehensive fitness program that incorporates elements of strength training, muscle building, cardiovascular conditioning, gymnastics, and functional movements.

Unlike traditional gym workouts that may focus on isolated muscle groups, CrossFit workouts are designed to be varied, functional, and performed at high intensity.

CrossFit prides itself on its emphasis on “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement.” This means that each CrossFit workout, or “WOD” (Workout of the Day), is different, challenging your body in new ways and preventing plateaus.

Additionally, CrossFit workouts often involve functional movements that mimic real-life activities, such as lifting, squatting, pushing, and pulling. This makes CrossFit not only effective for improving overall fitness and weight loss but also practical for everyday life.

Preparing for Your First CrossFit Gym Training Session: What to Expect

Starting CrossFit can be intimidating, but knowing what to expect can help ease any nerves. A CrossFit training session is often referred to as a ‘workout of the day’ or WOD. They may vary but usually follow a similar structure. Coaches will explain the day’s workout first before diving into the actual CrossFit workout.

CrossFit classes typically begin with a warm-up consisting of dynamic stretches and mobility exercises to prepare your body for the workout ahead. After the dynamic warm-up, the coach will follow up with strength training that focuses on practicing key skills in CrossFit such as muscle-ups, pull-ups, or Olympic lifts.

Next up is metabolic conditioning or the high-intensity workout. This is where you’ll do full-body CrossFit exercises in as many rounds as possible. Each day will test a different part of your functional strength or conditioning. Lastly, you’ll do a cooldown, which effectively ends the workout and stretches sore muscles.

As a CrossFit beginner, it’s essential to communicate with your coach and let them know about any injuries or physical limitations you may have. CrossFit workouts are highly adaptable, and coaches can scale workouts to suit your individual needs while still challenging you appropriately. They can reduce weights and reps to match your fitness level.

Essential CrossFit Workout Exercises for Beginners

While each CrossFit workout is unique, there are several vital components that you’re likely to encounter regularly. Mastering these foundational CrossFit movements will set you up for success in your CrossFit journey:


Squats are a fundamental lower-body workout in CrossFit that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Proper squat form involves keeping your chest up, hips back, and knees tracking over your toes. Variations include air squats (bodyweight only), front squats (with a barbell resting on the front of your shoulders), and overhead squats (with a barbell held overhead).


Push-ups are an excellent upper-body workout in CrossFit that targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Begin in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart, lower your body until your chest nearly touches the ground, then push back up to the starting position. If standard push-ups are too challenging, you can modify them by performing knee push-ups or doing them against a wall.


Pull-ups are a part of CrossFit as they are a classic bodyweight workout that strengthens the back, shoulders, and arms. To do pull-ups, start by hanging from a pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you, then pull your body upward until your chin clears the bar. If you’re unable to do full pull-ups, you can use resistance bands for assistance or opt for inverted rows using a barbell set at waist height.


Deadlifts are included in Crossfit as they are a fundamental strength exercise that targets the posterior chain, including the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Begin with a barbell on the ground in front of you, feet hip-width apart, and grip the barbell with hands just outside your knees. Keep your back straight as you lift the barbell by extending your hips and knees until you’re standing upright, then lower the barbell back to the ground with control.


Burpees are a full-body workout that combines a squat, plank, push-up, and jump. Start in a standing position, squat down and place your hands on the ground, kick your feet back into a plank position, perform a push-up, jump your feet back to your hands, and explosively jump into the air, reaching your arms overhead. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips for Success in CrossFit

As you embark on your CrossFit journey, keep these tips in mind to maximize your success and enjoyment:

Visit Several CrossFit Gyms

Going to a local commercial gym might be the first thing that comes to your mind once you decide to start CrossFit. However, many local gyms are not equipped for a full CrossFit workout. Instead, you should look into CrossFit gyms. A CrossFit gym is also referred to as a CrossFit box.

Unlike regular gyms, CrossFit gyms specialize in CrossFit and are complete with all the equipment required to do not just the basic CrossFit workout but also the more challenging workouts.

Most CrossFit gyms welcome beginners and offer classes with certified coaches with a lot of CrossFit experience who can teach you the proper form as well as the basic movements. Aside from teaching beginners, good CrossFit gyms will also have CrossFit training sessions for all fitness levels. 

But of course, choosing the right CrossFit gym is crucial. If you tried out a CrossFit gym but didn’t find it to be the right fit for you, it’s more than alright to switch to another CrossFit gym. A lot of gyms offer trial classes to beginners, allowing them to get a feel of both the environment and the workout itself. You can try out and switch from one CrossFit gym to another until you find the right gym for you.

Use Proper CrossFit Gear

Starting CrossFit also means investing in proper gear that can support you as you do your workouts. Instead of using just regular gym shoes, you’ll need cross-trainer shoes or shoes made for CrossFit as they have a stiff sole for lifting and lateral support for side-to-side movements.

For workout clothes, you’ll need shirts, shorts, and pants that are breathable and allow free movement. You should also invest in CrossFit gear such as hand grips to help protect your hands during pull-ups, muscle-ups, and other gymnastics movements. Wrist wraps and knee sleeves are essential to have too as they can support you when you do CrossFit moves such as an overhead squat, lunge, or handstand push-ups.

Focus on Technique

Many CrossFit workouts include movements that require a large range of motion and are performed at high intensity for a specific duration. If you don’t learn the proper form of the workout, you may end up getting injured. 

Proper technique is paramount in CrossFit to prevent injury and maximize effectiveness. Don’t be afraid to ask your coach for guidance and feedback on your form.

Listen to Your Body

CrossFit workouts can be intense, so it’s essential to listen to your body and know when to push yourself and when to dial it back. CrossFit workouts are scalable workouts, after all. Reduce the reps, do only as many rounds as you can, rest when needed, and prioritize recovery to avoid overtraining. If you just started CrossFit, don’t expect yourself to move as fast as other CrossFit practitioners. Do the workout at your own pace if needed.

Stay Consistent

Consistency is key to seeing results in CrossFit. Aim to attend your CrossFit class regularly and make your fitness program a priority in your daily routine. When you stick to your workouts, you’ll notice significant improvements in your body composition, especially if you’re using CrossFit for weight loss or to build muscle.

Set Realistic Fitness Goals

Whether it’s aiming to lose weight, mastering a new exercise, increasing your strength, building muscle, or improving your physical fitness, setting realistic fitness goals will help keep you motivated and focused on your progress in CrossFit.

Embrace the CrossFit Community

One of the most significant aspects of CrossFit is its strong sense of community. Having a supportive community means that you can stay motivated to reach your fitness goals and maybe even beyond that. Embrace the camaraderie of your fellow fitness fanatics, support each other during workouts, and celebrate each other’s achievements. 

Additionally, CrossFit communities usually host CrossFit games and tournaments to foster friendships and competitiveness between athletes. One such tournament is hosted by CrossFit HQ and gathers a large number of CrossFit enthusiasts in one venue.

If you feel that you aren’t up to par with the level of your fellow athletes in CrossFit games, it’s more than enough to watch them and get inspired for your own CrossFit workouts.

Final Note

Embarking on your CrossFit journey is an exciting and rewarding endeavor that has the potential to transform your physical fitness level and overall well-being. By understanding the fundamentals of CrossFit, preparing for your first session, mastering essential exercises, combining CrossFit with proper nutrition, and following tips for success, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle any workout that comes your way. 

Remember to stay patient, stay committed, and most importantly, have fun along the way. Go and start CrossFit today!

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.