Crossfit Alternatives: What to do Instead

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
January 31, 2022

An extremely popular fitness regimen known for its highly functional workouts and relatively intense exercises, Crossfit is doubtless an excellent option for athletes and regular gym goers wishing to up the power and explosiveness of their body.

However, certain situations such as a lack of nearby Crossfit gyms may require that a suitable alternative regimen instead be used, with a similar level of intensity and focus on functional strength and power.

As such, we have managed to compile several differing fitness regimens that come quite close to Crossfit in terms of training stimuli, intensity, type and equipment used, allowing individuals with their own equipment to easily switch between the two programs as they desire.

Why Would an Athlete Substitute Crossfit?

crossfit studio

A variety of reasons may be behind the necessity to find a suitable alternative to Crossfit, with a lack of Crossfit gym availability, injuries or disorders or even the desire to find an even more intense training experience all being the main motivators behind the switch to a different fitness program.

In the case of the athlete possessing injuries or health conditions that exclude them from being able to take part in Crossfit training, it is best for them to first consult a physician or other health expert prior to switching to a different program, as it is likely the following alternatives may only worsen their condition.

What Does a Potential Alternative to Crossfit Require?

A major hallmark of Crossfit training is the fact that the majority of its exercises are performed with a functional purpose in mind, with each movement meant to translate into real world applications that may be utilized outside of the Crossfit gym.

As such, any potential alternative to Crossfit must also utilize or have a particular focus on functional exercises, with their workouts not solely being constrained to applications within the gym itself.

Additionally, Crossfit makes use of explosive movements that utilize both the strength and speed of the exerciser apart from the endurance aspect of a high volume of repetitions, something that may be rather difficult to substitute without the usage of a suitably similar fitness regimen.

Who Should Use Crossfit Alternatives?

The sort of individuals that are capable of performing Crossfit without any sort of adverse effects may also perform practically every alternative to the sport, though this varies somewhat by what particular Crossfit alternative they have chosen to utilize.

Most notably among these alternatives is that of Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting, of which place significant stress on the central nervous system and connective tissues of the body, requiring that the exerciser be suitably healthy and functional enough in these particular systems prior to utilizing them as alternatives to Crossfit.

Alongside this caveat is the need for a relatively healthy cardiovascular system when choosing to perform plyometric training drills or high intensity interval training workouts, as both are considered highly aerobic and intense workout systems that place stress upon the heart, lungs and other parts of the circulatory system.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workouts

hiit acronym

An extremely common training system utilized by professional athletes, fitness models and weekend gym warriors alike, high intensity interval training or HIIT is a form of cardio training system meant to push an individual’s physical body to its upper limits by demanding high levels of performance from said individual.

This, however, is not kept at a constant level, and instead individuals will move from that specific intensity to a far more relaxed pace for a short period of time – of which is referred to as the recovery period.

This is where the interval part of high intensity interval training is brought into play, wherein the exerciser will alternate between a high level of intensity and the aforementioned recovery period so as to retain a high heart rate while allowing the muscles of the body to still retain some level of reserve energy between bouts of high intensity.

High intensity interval training workouts are an excellent alternative to Crossfit in the manner of them both being highly functional (if such exercises are what is performed), as well as the fact that the relative physical intensity of high intensity interval training may be on par if not even surpass that of Crossfit itself.

Tabata

tabata protocol

Oftentimes confused with high intensity interval training, tabata is actually a separate but no less intense fitness system that admittedly utilizes similar principles of training to that of high intensity interval training, though with a distinctly higher intensity that many exercisers may find extremely challenging.

This is most notable in the fact that tabata workout sessions not only make use of aerobic exercises but also anaerobic ones wherein they will make use of certain types of resistance equipment or their own bodyweight so as to induce a rather intense level of stress in their musculature.

Thus, tabata makes an excellent alternative to Crossfit, not only in terms of functionality but also in terms of intensity and specific type of training stimuli used, of which will produce a body and benefits practically identical to what would be received by an individual whom regularly practices Crossfit.

A primary advantage that tabata has over Crossfit is the fact that it may be performed practically anywhere, and with no equipment required in the majority of cases, as the sort of circuits performed in tabata mainly utilize bodyweight exercises in combination with highly intense bursts of cardio exercise.

Martial Arts

In terms of fitness, the majority of martial art styles and their subsequent training methods can appear to be quite similar to that of Crossfit, especially in terms of the fact that they are meant to center around real world applications and as such usually consist of functional exercises.

By addition, the endurance requirements found in most martial arts practiced for sport will usually equate to the exerciser undergoing some level of aerobic or cardio training so as to prepare them for such an athletic endeavor, replicating both the cardio aspect and intensity of Crossfit itself.

In such martial arts like UFC or MMA, the similarities are only more pronounced, with the usage of resistance exercise equipment and explosive power focused workouts sharing many of the same aspects with the more intense Crossfit workouts performed by athletes.

This equates to the sort of training stimuli that is rather difficult to acquire through the use of more traditional training methods, with a combination of functional anaerobic and aerobic exercises performed at high intensity being only available in specific subsections of fitness such as martial arts or high level athletic training.

Olympic Weightlifting

Olympic weightlifting

Both an international level sport as well as a method of training known for explosive power and extremely high levels of intensity, Olympic weightlifting makes an excellent alternative to Crossfit for individuals of moderate to advanced training experience that find the level of exercise encountered in most Crossfit workouts to be inadequate for their goals.

As such, Olympic weightlifting is one among few training methods capable of inducing higher levels of muscular tension and weighted resistance while still retaining the functional usage of the exercises performed, all under a high level of intensity that rivals what would be found in Crossfit itself.

Powerlifting

powerlifting barbell

The more strength-focused brother of Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting is another Crossfit alternative with a particular focus on inducing muscular hypertrophy, soft tissue adaptation and neuromuscular contraction strengthening in athletes and regular practitioners of the fitness regimen.

This is primarily done through the usage of strictly controlled amounts of high weight, with a particular focus on safety through the usage of proper form and appropriate lengths of time under tension.

The primary difference between powerlifting and Crossfit is in the sort of exercises that are performed, with Crossfit exercises having a larger focus on explosiveness and functionality instead of pure strength and relative heaviness of the weights used, as is the case in powerlifting.

When choosing to use powerlifting as an alternative to Crossfit training, it is best for the individual to first consult a physician or physical therapist so as to ensure that their connective tissue and other bodily systems are capable of withstanding the sort of stresses that powerlifting can cause.

References

1. Claudino JG, Gabbett TJ, Bourgeois F, Souza HS, Miranda RC, Mezêncio B, Soncin R, Cardoso Filho CA, Bottaro M, Hernandez AJ, Amadio AC, Serrão JC. CrossFit Overview: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Med Open. 2018 Feb 26;4(1):11. doi: 10.1186/s40798-018-0124-5. PMID: 29484512; PMCID: PMC5826907.

2. Shattock, Kevin. (2018). The Use of Olympic Lifts and Their Derivatives to Enhance Athletic / Sporting Performance: A Mental Model. 10.13140/RG.2.2.19149.13288.

3. Latella C, Teo WP, Spathis J, van den Hoek D. Long-Term Strength Adaptation: A 15-Year Analysis of Powerlifting Athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2020 Sep;34(9):2412-2418. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003657. PMID: 32865942; PMCID: PMC7448836.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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