To say that Crossfit is a contentious subject amongst the fitness community would be a gross understatement. On one hand, it can work very well. On the other, those that participate in it rarely look the definition of strong. In other words, it hardly emphasizes muscle building and instead looks at the general fitness of a person.
This has caused a lot of people to simply ignore it in this regard. If they decide that they want to start building more muscle, they will just switch to a new form of training and dieting.
Well, today’s article is all about going against this approach. Sure, Crossfit is never going to appeal immensely to the bodybuilding industry, but you can still succeed with it if you are prepared to make a few alterations to your training.
Bearing this in mind, let’s now take a look at some of the ways you can adapt your Crossfit training and make muscle building a distinct possibility again.
The nutrition factor
Like it or not, there’s more to Crossfit than just the training itself. One element that a lot of people decide to forget is nutrition and in relation to muscle growth, this can make or break your plans.
In short, this is hugely important. If you are looking to pile on the muscle whilst doing Crossfit, the basic rule of thumb is that you need to consume more calories than you are burning. Without this surplus of calories, your body simply doesn’t have enough fuel to develop this muscle. Even if you believe you are following the best Crossfit program in the world, this won’t be sufficient unless your nutrition is in order.
To make matters slightly more complicated, there’s not a one-fits-all solution for everyone. Everyone’s nutritional requirements are different, for the simple reason that everyone’s maintenance calorie levels are different. When we talk about maintenance calorie levels, this is the amount of calories that your body will burn through in an average day. In other words, it’s what it needs in order to survive.
Calculating this can be a tricky subject. It’s something that will alter by the week and it’s all dependent on your own circumstances. For example, if you are training a lot you will need more calories. At the same time, if you are stressed or sleeping less, you might find the same. It’s completely variable.
However, there are some “hard and fast” methods to help you along your way in relation to calculating this. One of the most popular is based on multiplying your body weight (in lbs) by 8-10. Then, multiply this figure by your activity level.
When we are at activity level, the method breaks it down as follows:
- Multiply by 1.3-1.4 if you exercise between one and three days per week.
- Multiply by 1.5-1.6 if you exercise between three and five days per week
- Multiply by 1.7-1.8 if you exercise between five and six days per week
- Multiply by 1.9-2.2 if you partake in more than ten hours of extreme exercise per week
If this method seems a bit challenging, you can always use a calorie tracker for both exercises and food, we recommend the probody.com calorie tracker.
The final figure you come out with is what your minimum calorie intake should be. We say “minimum” as you are now trying to gain muscle. As such, you should be looking to add between 250 and 500 more calories to your daily intake to meet these muscle building goals.
Of course, you should start at the lower end of this scale to make sure that you don’t go overboard during the first few weeks. If it’s clear that things aren’t improving, then slowly start to add to the number until you get to a comfortable level. If the opposite is occurring, and you are putting on too much fat, it stands to reason that you will need to scale back your new diet. A rough aim is one pound gained per week.
It’s at this point that we should remind you that bodybuilders who train in Crossfit don’t just rely on the “standard diet” to progress. More often than not, they tap into steroids. Of course, this is one approach that you should not be considering under any circumstances. A damning amount of evidence has been released about the perils of steroids, and just what damaging effects (including infertility and baldness) can occur to your body.
If you do want to venture down such a path, at least consider legal alternatives. These mimic the effects of steroids, but do so by relying on natural ingredients. It means that side effects don’t occur and ultimately, it’s a completely safe solution.
The training factor
Of course, while nutrition is invaluable, it still needs to be done alongside training. As we all know, Crossfit is one of the most proven training methods around – but there are two elements to it.
If you are serious about bulking up with muscle, it should go without saying that you need to be placing more emphasis on the lifting element of Crossfit. This means that you effectively need to reduce the amount of aerobic exercise that forms part of your routine. In fact, on the subject of routines, try and build the following rules into your Crossfit.
- Cardio: As we all know, cardio is still important. Even though it should play second fiddle to lifting, you should still try and incorporate at least some of it into your routine. As a rule, try and keep your cardio work under fifteen minutes per day to keep you “ticking over”.
- Compound and isolation: Next, your main emphasis through your training should be on compound movements that impact several muscles at the same time. However, also pay some attention to some isolation exercises, which can really take your progress to the next level.
- Focus on heavy lifting: Try and program your training so you are gearing towards the heavy lift of the main compound exercises. This isn’t about doing as many reps as possible; it’s about putting as much weight on as you can over time and making progress this way.
When you read the above, you might be under the impression that this doesn’t really resonate with the traditional form of Crossfit. While this is true to an extent, you have to remember that you are not trying to be like the typical Crossfit athlete. They tend to focus heavily on the aerobics side of it, and this means that there isn’t a heavy emphasis on building muscle mass. However, if you can incorporate all of the above into your training, you will be able to live with a best of both worlds solution.
A closing summary
In summary, when you next get asked if you can build lots of muscle when following a Crossfit routine, you most definitely can. It involves placing more attention on the heavy lifts, and also eating more as well.
Despite the above, if you are serious about developing muscle, ask yourself if you really think a Crossfit program is for you. It isn’t primarily designed for this and while it can be altered somewhat to help you along your way, it’s not going to be as rewarding as if you followed a specific hypertrophy program.
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