Bodybuilding Before CrossFit

tattooed man practising weightlifting in a crossfit gym

Bodybuilding and CrossFit are training methods that seem worlds apart. Bodybuilders focus purely on muscle size and their levels of body fat, while CrossFitters are concerned with little more than their performance on the benchmark workouts, which blend strength, power, cardio fitness and speed. Surprisingly though, the two can mix together.

Making the Switch

CrossFit is centered around exercises like overhead presses, squats, deadlifts and pull-ups, as well as Olympic lifts and explosive plyometrics. These barbell and bodyweight moves also make their way into many bodybuilding routines, hence a bodybuilder will be able to pick up CrossFit faster than someone starting from scratch. A prime example of this is Josh Bunch, a competitive bodybuilder who made the switch to CrossFit both as a competitor and trainer to others. Bodybuilding was challenging, but CrossFit provided a new focus, notes Bunch in an interview with The Athletic Build website.

Mixing the Methods

Bodybuilding training and CrossFit workouts aren't mutually exclusive -- you can combine both at the same time. Bodybuilders include cardio in their workouts to help maintain leanness or to help burn more calories to shed fat when approaching a contest. Rather than sticking with jogging or cardio machines, you can make CrossFit your cardio. A short, sharp cardio workout after your main session is known as a finisher. A typical CrossFit finisher after your bodybuilding workout could be a superset of overhead squats and pushups, performed for 21 reps each, then 15 reps then nine reps, followed by five 100-meter sprints with two minutes between each, as recommended by Sam Radetsky, head trainer at CrossFit West Santa Cruz.

Right Way Round

Opting for a CrossFit workout followed by bodybuilding exercises is a recipe for disaster. By performing high-intensity cardio in the form of CrossFit before lifting heavy weights, you're depleting your stores of muscle glycogen, which will drain you of energy. By fatiguing the muscles, you're setting yourself up for an injury. Lift heavy first, then move on to the CrossFit part of the workout, with lighter weights and shorter rests.

Learning Lessons

CrossFitters can learn a lot from bodybuilders, notes strength coach Chet Morjaria. CrossFit workouts don't include bodybuilding staples, like the bench press, or isolation moves, such as biceps curls, but if you want to build maximum strength and muscle mass, these should be part of your routine. Both bodybuilding and CrossFit can be immensely challenging, so balancing your workload is vital. Perform three to four bodybuilding workouts per week, with each followed by a CrossFit workout. Aim to keep your total gym time to under 75 minutes to avoid burning out. If you're struggling for energy, take a 15-minute break after your bodybuilding work and consume a protein and carb-based recovery drink to give you an energy boost.