CrossFit helps beat the plateau

January 25, 2013|By MEG H. PARTINGTON |

Exercisers across the Tri-State area are logging loads of WODs in an effort to enhance their fitness levels.

WOD stands for Workout of the Day, an acronym well-known by those who participate in CrossFit.

CrossFit is a fitness regimen featuring constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity, according to It was developed by Greg Glassman, a California fitness trainer who put his celebrity/athlete clients through efficient, high-intensity workouts from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, according to his biography at

While working with police officers, Glassman started pairing lifting movements with sprints when he realized that bodybuilding and endurance programs lacked something. He opened his first CrossFit gym in 1995 in Santa Cruz, Calif., and launched in 2001, featuring Workout of the Day, exercise and demo videos, and a discussion forum, according to his biography.

"It's fitness of the future," said Chrissy Kimbrell, who owns CrossFit 25404 in Martinsburg, W.Va., with her husband, Curt. "We've seen what it's done for us and everyone else."

The Kimbrells were introduced to the program when their niece and two nephews took CrossFit classes in the Inwood, W.Va., area to enhance their sports performance. In January 2012, having reached plateaus in their gym workouts, the Kimbrells logged on to CrossFit website and started watching  videos on YouTube to shake up their routines.

They have been squatting, lifting, rowing and running their way to fitness ever since. The pair, both 41, took a two-day certification course in April 2012 in Alexandria, Va., and since opening their gym in October 2012, have been sharing their knowledge with exercisers ages 10 to 65.

Among their students is their daughter, Paris, 10, a soccer player who recently squatted with 75 pounds on her back during a CrossFit class. She has been doing the workouts for two months, four or five days a week.

Adult classes that last up to an hour are offered Monday through Saturday at CrossFit 25404, and 30-minute workouts for youths 10 and older are taught Monday through Thursday and on Saturday.

The Kimbrells plan out the coming week's WODs on Sundays, then write them each day on the giant whiteboard that is mounted on one of the walls of the approximately 1,100-square-foot gym sporting interior walls painted bright green, blue and gray.

One day's workout focused on deadlifting form, during which participants completed two sets of five deadlifts, two sets of three and three sets of one, increasing the weight each time. When that was done, they each did five deadlifts, went outside to run 200 meters on the neighborhood street in front of the facility, then repeated that pattern two more times.

Rock 'n' roll music pumped throughout the gym, and the exercisers clapped and whooped as their classmates pumped iron and ran. That support is key to the success of CrossFit, Chrissy said.

"You do this as a group," she said. "It's a great motivator."

The moves

Many movements are incorporated into CrossFit workouts. Among them are:

  •  Burpees  —  The "squat thrust" of old in which a person stands, drops into a squat position with hands on the ground, extends feet back in one quick motion to a front plank position, returns to the squat position and returns to standing.
  •  Handstand push-ups — As the name suggests, push-ups are executed while the body is vertical with hands on the floor. Those who are not strong enough to do that can place their feet against a wall, have them held by a partner or secure them in some other way to prevent falling.
  •  Deadlifts — Lift a barbell off the ground from a bent-over position
  •  Knees to elbows — Hang from a bar and lift your knees to your elbows. A variation is to bring the toes to the bar.
  •  Double unders — A jump rope sweeps under the feet twice before they touch the ground
  •  Wall balls — Squat, stand while tossing a weighted medicine ball in the air and catch it, squatting as you come down

Fitness staples such as pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and lunges are common components in a CrossFit workout, as are running, rowing and jumping. Kettlebells often are utilized, as are gymnastics rings and climbing ropes.

And expect to do squats, lots of them.

"Squats are the foundation of CrossFit," Chrissy said. "CrossFit teaches functional movement. Squatting is a lifelong thing."

Participants don't need to be Olympic athletes by any stretch, since all workouts can be scaled to meet a person's physical limitations, Chrissy said.

For example, Dakari Williams, a physical therapy assistant and massage therapist who owns CrossFit Hagerstown at 22 N. Mulberry St., said his gym takes a holistic approach, incorporating stretching and strength training into workouts. He also caters to those who are recovering from injuries.

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