Home Blog The Ultimate Guide to CrossFit Exercises

The Ultimate Guide to CrossFit Exercises

by Joyce
2273 views

Keeping fit is an important part of life. Whether you’re looking for exercises at home, in the gym, or exercising in your local park, we have created the guide for you. It’s very important when exercising to ensure you exercise in a safe and effective way. Here, we have put together the ultimate guide to help you on your journey.

CrossFit Exercise: Biceps & Triceps

Biceps

The bicep is made up of two roots (the short head and long head) attached to the shoulder and forearm with tendons. They act together as a single muscle to pull the forearm up with a certain outward rotation. The biceps and triceps from the upper arm musculature and can be worked on independently in your arm workouts (bicep workouts, tricep workouts, and forearms workouts).

Finding the best bicep exercises, one that gives you the greatest range of motion and bicep stretch will make a big difference in your biceps workout, and ultimately in your weekly (or bi-weekly) arm workout. You can certainly expect to see the bicep curls thrown in there, but that’s not all there is to it and you need to see it for yourself in these awesome training videos. Bicep curls away from my friend, but do it properly, and mix it up a little, will you?

Triceps

The tricep is made up of three roots (the long head, medial head, and lateral head forming the triceps brachii) attached to the shoulders, humerus, and forearms with tendons. They act as a single muscle to push the forearm away by extending the elbow joint.

To really get your tricep workouts to be safe and turn your training session into the big upper arms you want, think about including auxiliary tricep stretches and isolation methods. Remember that this muscle represents about 2/3 of your upper arm (the bicep representing the remaining 1/3), so include some triceps workout in your training sessions. Moreover, triceps strength will help you push through those hard bench press or military press days.

Here’s what you can expect to see in a typical list of best tricep exercises: lying tricep extension (or Skull crushers), tricep dips, tricep kickbacks, cable rope overhead tricep extension, standing dumbbell, overhead tricep extension, tricep pushups or bench press and tricep exercises with dumbbells.

These tricep exercises with dumbbells, bars, or rope can often be performed in the lying, seated, standing, or kneeling position.

CrossFit Exercise: Quads & Hamstrings

Quadriceps

Quadriceps femoris essentially means a “four-headed muscle of the femur” and, as the name states, has four separate extremities. It is a very large and powerful muscle group located in the front thigh, covering the front and sides of the femur with the main function of extending the knee for movement and propulsion.

Here’s what you can expect to see in a typical list of quadriceps exercises: variations of the squats, leg extensions, cycling, running. The quadricep is used in many compound movements and is therefore prone to injury if you don’t warm them up, have poor mobility, or just bad technique. Think about incorporating a warmup routine to your leg workouts and remain injury-free for years to come.

Hamstrings

Hamstring basically means any tendon in the back of the knee, attaching it to the thigh. They are tendons (or strings) contracted by 3 posterior thigh muscles (bicep femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus), but the term is often used to refer to the muscles themselves. The hamstrings muscles and tendons are involved in hip extension and knee flexion. They have the potential of being extremely powerful and should always be kept in mind when training and stretching (hamstring stretches are too important to let aside).

In a world where many of us are now sitting most of the time, this can become a problem as the hamstrings are regularly held in a shortened state. Tight hamstrings also play a role in posture and can limit the range of motion of many movements if left unattended or un-stretched.

To really get your hamstring workouts to be safe and turn your training session into the powerful legs you want, think about including auxiliary hamstring stretches and isolation methods. Remember that these groups of muscles and tendons can help you lift much heavier on your squat and deadlift, so include some hamstring workout in your training sessions.

Here’s what you can expect to see in a typical list of best hamstring exercises: Romanian deadlift, hamstring curls, glute-ham raise, barbell hip thrust, and box squats. And again, don’t forget your hamstring stretches.

CrossFit Exercise: Squat

The back squat, front squat, and overhead squat are all compound movements that are essential to developing strength as well as technique and stability. These skills are also transferable to the other Main Olympic Lifts, making them even more important.

Back Squat

The back squat is elementary in weightlifting and the most commonly used technique for building raw strength using heavier loads.

General idea: With your feet about shoulder-width, place the bar behind your neck and retract the scapula for upper back tightness. Use a proper setup and stay tight throughout the whole movement, going down by breaking at the hips and knees until below parallel (see hip mobility) and back up while maintaining back angle to return to the setup position.

Front Squat

Focusing on an upright position, strong upper back, and tight core, this movement uses a clean grip and will serve to improve strength and confidence on other lifts.

General idea: With your feet about shoulder-width, place the bar in front of your neck while keeping your elbows up (and chest up) and retracting the scapula for upper back tightness. The bar should rest comfortably on your front deltoids with the tip of your fingers still on the bar (see shoulder mobility). Use a proper setup and stay tight throughout the whole movement, going down by breaking at the hips and knees until below parallel (see hip mobility) and back up while maintaining upright position (chest up) to return to the setup position.

Overhead Squat

Used as a strengthening exercise for the snatch and will serve to improve confidence and technique in the catching portion of the lift. This movement requires a lot of upper body strength and shoulder mobility.

General idea: With your feet about shoulder-width, place the bar behind your neck using a snatch grip. Push the bar up using a snatch jerk or push press and receive it with your elbows locked out, keeping the upper back extra tight and continuously applying pressure upwards with your shoulders. Use proper setup and stay tight throughout the whole movement, going down by breaking at the hips and knees until below parallel (see hip mobility) and back up while maintaining the position.

CrossFit Exercise: Press

Any pressing movement requires good shoulder positioning and a tight core: the push up being the simplest and the handstand or strict barbell shoulder press is the most advanced. This translates to a lot of other exercises and is used to improve strength, endurance as well as a range of motion.

Warning! Most people think they’re doing them right, but in fact, work inappropriately and eventually develop shoulder or neck pain! Be sure to verify your technique for these movements.

Bench Press

The bench press is used extensively in weight training to build upper body strength. It’s part of the three main lifts in powerlifting (along with squat and deadlift) and works the pectoralis major along with a lot of supporting chest, arms, and shoulder muscles.

General idea: Lying on a bench with your head past the bare Place your feet in a strong and stable position, allowing your spine to arch and lats to be engaged. Retracting the scapula, getting a little shrug, and maintaining this tight position from your hands to your feet will help you get extra weight on the bar. Squeeze and apply torque on the bar before you pull it off the rack. Lower the bar to your chest slowly and back up as powerfully, fast, and with as much force as possible.

Please Note: The elbows should remain tucked in at all time for shoulder stability.

Shoulder Press

The shoulder press is a weight training exercise where the weight is pressed from the rack position to overhead with shoulders locked out. In CrossFit, it transfers very well to the jerk and pushes press exercises.

General idea: With the bar on a squat rack, position your hands a little wider than shoulder-width, with your palms facing forward. Get under the bar by bending the knees and get your core tight. Lift the bar up, letting it sit gently on your anterior deltoids or collarbone, and take a step back to position your feet about shoulder-width.

While keeping your forearms vertical at all times, push on the bar to the overhead position. When the bar clears your head, put your head through to stay aligned and balanced without injuring your neck.

Please Note: The difference between the strict press and push press is simply the use of the legs to generate momentum. Both are very interesting exercises, one for maximum shoulder strength development and the other maximizing the amount of weight you can lift using the whole body.

CrossFit Exercise: Back

Many muscle groups border the spine and cover the backside, allowing support, flexibility and a great deal of strength altogether. They erect and support the spine, control our breathing and other movements of the neck, shoulders, arms, clavicle and scapula.

With proper practice, the following muscles can become incredibly strong and perform under heavy loads and complex movements. Here are the principal ones we selected:

Lats

(Latissimus Dorsi)

The lat pulls the arm down (as in a chin-up, pull-up or lat pulldown), but also stabilizes the torso in pressing movements such as strict press, squatting or deadlifting.

To get your lat workouts to be meaningful and turn your training sessions into the lat muscle gains you want, think about including auxiliary work for it. Some variation of the lat pulldown (or lat pull down) can be performed in your weekly lat exercises (like the wide grip lat pulldown, close grip lat pulldown, and straight arm lat pulldown).

Traps

(Trapezius)

The trap muscle moves the shoulder blade up (scapular elevation), brings the shoulder blades together (scapular adduction), and moves the shoulder blades down (scapular depression). It runs from the occipital bone to the lower thoracic vertebra and covers most of the upper back and neck while moving the scapula and supporting the arms.

To really get your traps workout to be meaningful and turn your training sessions into the trap muscle definition and size you want (like, let’s say, Tom Hardy’s trap), think about including a lot of upper back exercises and upper back stretches to remain mobile through it all. Perform you trap workouts bi-weekly and set yourself the goal to reach 1000 reps in a month or so, performing perfect reps with low to medium weights. This will wake up your traps muscle and enlighten your trap workouts for months to come, with the results coming with it.

Lumbar muscles

If the lats and traps are important and look good, there is nothing more important than the lower muscles of the back. Lower back muscles are responsible for posture, strength, and stability (along with the other core muscles: abdominals, pelvic floor, hips, and diaphragm) to keep the spinal column safe.

To get your lower back exercises to be meaningful and turn your training sessions into the core strength you want (and need), think about including auxiliary work for it. Here’s what you can expect to see in a typical list of lower back exercises: back extensions, good mornings, lower back stretches, superman raises, and ultimately, safely performed deadlifts (but only once the muscles of the lower back are well awakened).

CrossFit Exercise: Hips & Glutes

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint that can move in all directions:

  1. Hip Flexion: Iliopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorius, tensor fascia latae (TFL), IT Band and all hip flexors;
  2. Hip Extension: Glutes (gluteus maximus), hamstrings, adductor Magnus, bicep femoris;
  3. Hip Rotation (Internal and external): glutes (gluteus medius & minimus), tensor fascia latae (TFL), piriformis, obturators, gemulus, quad femoris;
  4. Hip Adduction (inner thigh): Pectinius, gracilis, adductors Magnus, Longus & Brevis; AND
  5. Hip Abduction (outer thigh): Glutes (gluteus medius and minimus), Tensor fascia latae (TFL).

Because we spend so much time sitting down, our hips and glutes can become dormant, but can also be stirred up to produce incredible power. Just think of what you can do if all these muscles work in tandem to generate force in your squat and deadlift. And considering that the gluteus maximus is one of the strongest muscles in the human body, you should try to activate them before you perform any strength exercise. This can also improve posture and running speed along the way.

To get your hip exercises to be meaningful and turn your training sessions into the overall strength you want, think about including auxiliary work for it like hip flexor stretches and hip joint stability exercises. But remember that the glutes play an intrinsic role in overall strength and should be factored in if you want to break your own barriers. Here’s what you can expect to see in a typical list of glute exercises: glute bridges, glute kickbacks, and glute-ham raise.

CrossFit Exercise: Clean & Jerk

Clean

Set up properly with a tight core before even touching the bar. Hands slightly outside the shoulders, feet around shoulder width, keeping the core tight. Push the floor with your legs keeping the weight on your heels until passing the knees (the angle of the back shouldn’t change much until then), then use your hips to push the floor aggressively to accelerate the bar while leaning back, keeping the bar close to your body (maintaining a straight line trajectory) and start to pull yourself under the bar. Get down under the bar in a front squat stance while getting your elbows underneath fast to catch the bar in a good front rack position. Accept the load, weight on your heels, and go down with it (full range of motion) while keeping your core tight, knees out, and elbows up. Use the bounce at the bottom and front squat the bar up.

Jerk

When your back at the top with a good and comfortable stance, take a second to brace yourself and go down slowly by bending your knees and hips about 4-5 inches before exploding up and pushing yourself underneath the bar. For the split-jerk, one leg goes forward and the other goes back. This is the most used and most powerful way to do it, but you can also push-jerk if you going at a lighter weight for time. Your head should be stable and pass through the shoulders as both of your feet touch the ground at the same time. Keeping the elbows locked out, bring the front foot back for one or two steps before bringing back the other one. This will be more stable and much safer at heavier weights.

CrossFit Exercise: Ring Dip

The ring dip is the prescribed method in CrossFit and a popular bodyweight exercise because it recruits the triceps, lats, pecs, and shoulders, which should be held down and stable with a retracted scapula. Ring dips require flexibility (range of motion), strength, and shoulder stability and that make it a great exercise if performed correctly. Nonetheless, it shouldn’t be the first exercise on your list and if you can’t do 10 with good (and constant) form, don’t be afraid to use progressions like elastic bands, bench dips, static holds and bar dips.

General idea: Ring dips should be performed while keeping the core tight and legs straight (unbroken posterior chain). Gripping the rings firmly, use a step or quick jump to position yourself, elbows locked out and shoulders retracted and down. Flex the elbow until your humerus breaks parallel and push up by extending the elbow and bringing the chest up until the elbow lockout again.

Focus on the full range of motion and contracting the tricep while maintaining control throughout the movement; there should be no shaking or swinging motion.

Warning! Most people think they’re doing them right, but in fact, work inappropriately and eventually develop shoulder or neck pain! Be sure to verify your technique for these movements.

CrossFit Exercise: Wrists

The wrist is a complex joint in our body that’s joining the hand to the forearm with many bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

Your wrists are remarkably important in CrossFit with all the gripping, pulling, and bar guidance, which can go horribly wrong in the movement like the clean or handstand pushups. So if you don’t take good care of them, the slight discomfort you feel in the beginning can progress into arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome (a condition in which there is too much pressure on the median nerve, reducing the sensation in the hands). So start incorporating wrist mobility warmups into your routines.

As is the case with the ankles, the wrists have six (6) types of associated movements:

1. Flexion: top of the hand moving upwards
2. Extension: palm of the hand moving downwards;
3. Radial deviation: thumb moving inwards;
4. Ulnar deviation: pinky moving outwards;
5. Supination: clockwise rotation:
6. Pronation: counter-clockwise rotation.

Combining all six movements make up for all of the wrist range of motion (ROM) and allows force to be transferred to the bar, rings or floor. Gripping, throwing and pushing something with proper technique, mobility, and strength in your wrists can, therefore, have immense benefits in sports, allowing for every muscle and joint to be in an optimal position.

CrossFit Exercise: Chin-Up

Pulling movements are very important to strengthen and stabilize the scapula muscles as well as balancing out the effect of opposing muscles (strengthen by pressing movements). Therefore, if you bench press, make sure you balance it out with some rowing as well and if you perform strict presses, include pull-ups or chin-ups to your routine. Your scapular and shoulder stability will be greatly increased and your posture will improve.

The chin-up is a bodyweight movement that targets the lats and biceps and requires high relative strength. Like the pull-up, it can be executed with a kip, but usually performed from the dead hang as a muscle and strength development exercise. For shoulder stability, initiate the pulling motion by retracting the scapula.

General idea: With your arms extended above you, grab on the bar around shoulder width (or closer) with your palm facing your torso (supinated grip). Keeping your core tight and elbows close to your sides, pull up your torso until your chin reaches the bar. Perform the movement in its full range of motion and keep your head in a neutral position to avoid neck injuries. Perform the lift with your biceps and back muscles, squeezing them for a second at the top before coming back down in a smooth and controlled descent until your arms are fully extended. Repeat.

CrossFit Exercise: Deadlift

As rudimentary as can be, bending down and picking stuff up the ground is probably the simplest and most used exercise in the world. Anyone who trains will want to incorporate it in their gym routine, and anyone who doesn’t train still does it every time they lift something off the floor. Nonetheless, going heavy should be done with a sound and appropriate technique.

General idea: With your back flat and posterior chain fully engaged and under tension, raise your hips, knees, and shoulders at the same time for the first part of the movement (back angle should remain the same – Tips: film yourself to validate form). The upper back remains tight and the bar aligned under the scapula to minimize the risk of injury. Then, follow through with the hips and lockout at the top.

Both overhand and mix grip can be used, although overhand grip translates better to other main Olympic lifts and enable you to generate better and equal torque in the shoulder joints and upper back, which may be safer in the long run. Use a proper setup and stay tight throughout the whole movement, returning to the setup position. Remember that it is much harder, if not impossible to set up and create torque appropriately from way down near the bar. Setup from the top and maintain your back integrity on those heavy lifts.

CrossFit Exercise: Rowing

Pulling movements are very important to strengthen and stabilize the scapula muscles as well as balancing out the effect of opposing muscles (strengthen by pressing movements). Therefore, if you bench press, make sure you balance it out with some rowing as well and if you perform strict presses, include pull-ups or chin-ups to your routine. Your scapular and shoulder stability will be greatly increased and your posture will improve.

Rowing is a natural motion that a lot of people will pick up quickly. But remember that sequencing and coordination of legs, hip, and back extension are more important than the magnitude of the pulls themselves. The whole movement should be smooth and continuous to drive with as much force possible before returning to the pulling position.

General idea: With your arms straight and upper body leaning forward, bend at the hips and knees to reach as far forward as you can with your back straight. Start the pull by driving with your legs, keeping the arms straight and shoulders relaxed. Incorporate back extension in the second part of the pull before finally using your arms to finish the movement and generate additional power. Your elbows should remain close to your sides for the final part of the pull. Then extend your arms slowly and lean forward, bending at the hips and knees, to return to the pulling position. The pull motion should be fast and explosive while the recovery portion should be slower and controlled.

To maximize force, the movements should remain in the horizontal plane with the longest strokes possible, sequencing of the leg drive, and trunk extension being crucial for maximum performances.

CrossFit Exercise: Snatch

The Snatch is a total body movement that allows the athlete to generate explosive power while promoting joint control and proper mechanics to successfully complete the lift. The skills and power generation ability are also transferable to other sports, and although this compound movement is often associated with injuries (when performed incorrectly), it remains a very popular and widely used in Olympic Weightlifting and CrossFit.

General idea: Set up properly with a tight core before even touching the bar. Hands set up in a wide grip so that the bar touches the crease of your hip when standing up, feet around shoulder width, keeping the core tight. Push the floor with your legs keeping the weight on your heels until passing the knees (the angle of the back shouldn’t change much until then), then use your hips to push the floor aggressively to accelerate the bar and reach triple extension of the knees, hip joints and ankles while keeping the bar close to your body. Maintaining as straight a trajectory as you can. One the triple extension is reached, start to pull yourself under the bar. Get down under the bar and catch it in an overhead squat position. Accept the load, weight on your heels and go down with it (full range of motion) while keeping your arms straight and locked out, your core tight, knees out and upper back as tight as possible (always pushing up on the bar, keeping pressure upwards will prevent injuries). Use the bounce at the bottom and overhead squat the bar up.

Method: To learn the snatch, try decomposing the lift in easier to master segment:

  1. Overhead squat
  2. Snatch balance
  3. Snatch pull

CrossFit Exercise: Box Jump

Find a secure platform or box to perform the exercise.

General idea: With your feet about shoulder-width, squat down as you would naturally when preparing to jump and hop onto the platform while swinging your arms and extending your hips and knees at the same time. Place both feet completely on the platform and land as soft as possible to promote balance and prevent injury. Lockout your hips at the top and jump back down to repeat the movement as fast as possible.

Please Note: Jumping back down and up quickly is what makes it a plyometric exercise, but you can also step back down for reduced impacts on the ankles, knees, and hips. Another variation would be the “depth jump” jumping from one box to another, adjusting the height of the boxes as per your personal preference and conditioning level.

CrossFit Exercise: Abs

The abdominal muscles are made up of two main sections: The front section, consisting of a single muscle, the rectus abdominus, that occupied the front of the trunk (this includes the upper and lower abs), and the lateral section consisting of three muscle layers: External oblique; Internal oblique & Traverse abdominals.

The abs play a key role in the core section (important in any strength program). They support spine alignment when performing a lift, they allow movements in various direction, they hold in your organs and even assist in breathing movements.

To really get your abs workout to be meaningful and turn your training session into the six-pack abs you want, think about including auxiliary work for each part of the muscles, including a good lower ab workout. But to really get those six-pack abs, that’s not all because you also need to drop down your body fat, so make sure to check your nutrition as well as the oblique abs, upper abs lower abs workout.

CrossFit Exercise: Pectorals (Chest)

The pectoral muscles are composed of three parts that form the chest area: the pectoralis major, the pectoralis minor, and the serratus anterior. They are attached to the several bones (such as the clavicle, the sternum, the ribs, the humerus, and the scapula) to adduct, rotate and flex the nearby structures. They act together to create lateral, vertical, or rotational motion while keeping the scapula attached to the ribcage. They even play their part in deep breathing as they exert a pulling force on the ribs to create space for the lungs.

To really get your chest workout to be safe and turn your training session into the big chest you want, think about including auxiliary work for each part of the pectoral muscles, including a good upper chest workout. Whether you’re looking for chest exercises for men or chest exercises for women, the theory stays the same but the weight and rep range will vary. So check our videos below and articles about hypertrophy in the Library section to figure out how to program the best chest workout routine of your life.

CrossFit Exercise: Push-Up

Simple enough, we’ve all been asked to perform this exercise hundreds of times. “Lie flat on the floor and push yourself up”! Right? Only there’s more to it! The glutes should be tight, elbows tucked in to preserve shoulder integrity, neutral back, and neutral chin… That sounds more like it! So leave your ego aside and get stronger with good form, no compromise.

General idea: With your feet close to each other to facilitate the solicitation of the glutes, position your hands underneath your shoulders, trying to screw them into the ground (outward rotation) to generate torque. Then, tighten your core and glutes keeping everything tight and your elbows tucked in as you move down and up.

If your elbows flare out, you are endangering your shoulder joints and incorporating this fault for the rest of the movements. The basic push up is simple and should be used to implement good muscle memory and proper form.

Warning! Most people think they’re doing them right, but in fact, work inappropriately and eventually develop shoulder or neck pain! Be sure to verify your technique for these movements.

CrossFit Exercise: Handstand Push-Up

The handstand push-up is often seen in CrossFit and crosstraining workouts. It is essentially an inverted pushup with your feet up in the air or on a wall. They involve a great amount of strength, balance, and practice. If you can’t perform the exercise, don’t be afraid to scale it down and build strength along the way. You’ll get there!

General idea: Put your hands on the floor at shoulder width or slightly wider. Kick yourself up against the wall to a handstand while keeping your arms straight. Now get down slowly for the eccentric phase of the movement until the top of your head touches the floor and push back up, keeping your whole body tight in the process. This exercise can be done as a strict handstand pushup (HSPU) or as a kipping HSPU.

Please Note: It is not uncommon to begin practicing with other less intense movements to build strength in the arms and shoulders before attempting multiple repetitions.

Warning! Most people think they’re doing them right, but in fact, work inappropriately and eventually develop shoulder or neck pain! Be sure to verify your technique for these movements.

CrossFit Exercise: Knees

The knee is considered one of the most intricate and complex “simple” structures of the human body. It is composed of the lower part of the femur, the knee cap, and the tibial plateau along with tendons, ligaments, bones, cartilage, and powered by muscles to enable hinging and pivoting movements between the upper and lower leg. This is what makes the knee joint so great but also can bring a lot of imbalances and instabilities if addressed the wrong way.

There are no muscles in the knee itself, but the quadriceps, hamstrings, tensors, and flexors are attached to it with tendons. Therefore, sufficiently trained muscles are crucial to proper knee joint function as they support and stabilize the whole structure.

NB: Weak muscles in the leg will lead to serious knee problems!

Wear out the cartilage, bust out your meniscus or tear one ligament and you’ll regret it for a long time. So whether you’re injury-free or recovering from one, take good care of your knee joints and they’ll keep supporting you through years of walking, jumping, climbing, Crossfit training, Powerlifting, etc.

You may also like

Leave a Comment