Can you build muscle doing CrossFit? Is it really possible?
Well, most of us like to hate on Crossfit.
And there are tons of videos out there of people showing up to crossfit meets that quite frankly don’t even look like they lift.
Having said that you could also pull a random sample of guys from any bodybuilding forum and most of the guys will look like they’ve never touched a barbell in their life.
So the question is – can you make gains while doing crossfit? Can you actually look like you lift?
The answer is yes – of course you can! (But there’s a catch so you have to read all the way through)
If you are lifting with intensity and focusing on compound movements while progressively overloading your muscle will result in muscle gains.
If you’ve ever watched a Crossfit event on TV you’ve probably noticed the competitors do look quite muscular, however, they are not so much compared to bodybuilding physique competitors. As a result, people assume the type of training you do at Crossfit might improve your athletic ability but it won’t make you look huge.
As a result, if your main goal is just to make muscle gains then hypertrophy is your best bet.
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However, if you want to train as an athlete and also build muscle mass, here is how you would go about doing it while doing Crossfit.
Nutrition – The Fundamental To Build Muscle While Doing CrossFit
No matter what type of training program you are following the most important thing is your nutrition.
Since you are trying to gain muscle we will concentrate this article around that particular goal. This is where a lot of Crossfitters go wrong (just like most bodybuilders) which just underscores how important it is.
If you want to put on size you need to be consuming a calorie surplus. PERIOD.
No matter how good your training program is you simply WILL NOT grow if you aren’t consuming more calories each day than you are burning.
While many people who do Crossfit tend to like the paleo diet we’re going to say that it isn’t ideal for gaining muscle. While these diets are effective at burning fat, the lack of carbohydrates results in your body not getting the building blocks it needs to add muscle to your frame.
In order to consume a calorie surplus you need to figure out what your maintenance calorie level is.
That means the amount of calories your body burns every day just from going through your usual routine. There are a number of ways to calculate your BMR however these will just give you a rough idea.
It’s different from person to person so there will be a few weeks where you need to experiment and figure out exactly what it is. Also your BMR can change depending on the types of food you’ve been eating, the amount of cardio, weight training, sleep and stress.
So how do you go about calculating your BMR?
Well there are hundreds of formulas out there but we will give you a rough idea where to start: body weight in lbs x 8-10. Take the result of that equation and multiply it by another figure based on your activity level. Remember that more active lifestyles burn more calories naturally so we need to account for this.
(THESE ARE SOME ROUGH CALCULATIONS JUST TO SHOW YOU WHAT WE MEAN, GO FIND A DECENT CALCULATOR ONLINE – we found one for you here.)
Here is a rough breakdown of activity levels:
- Light Activity – multiply by 1.3 -1.4 (exercise 1-3 days per week, some light activity here and there)
- Moderate Activity – multiply by 1.5-1.6 (exercise 3-5 days per week, active lifestyle)
- High Activity – multiply by 1.7 – 1.8 (intense training 5-6 days per week, full-time labor intensive job)
- Extreme Activity – multiply by 1.9 – 2.2 (high-intensity endurance training, 10+ hours per week)
So once you have your body weight, multiply it by 8-10 and then multiply it by your activity level. This will give you a rough idea of where you daily calorie intake should be.
Since you are trying to gain muscle you will need to add some calories to this, about 250-500 calories. Start with a moderate surplus to make sure you didn’t overshoot your BMR calculation.
If you don’t gain any weight after a few weeks then increase your surplus. However, if you are gaining several pounds per week then decrease the surplus as you are likely putting on too much fat.
Aim for 1 pound per week.
Also, what most average Crossfitters don’t realise is that physique competitors usually take steroids to keep their testosterone levels at their highest level.
Which results in faster muscle gains.
However, that is one of the most stupid things you could ever do to your body. It comes with nasty side-effects such as man-boobs, baldness and you can even become infertile.
Besides the supplement industry has already discovered natural nutrients and ingredients that can help you boost your bodies own testosterone production. – Just make sure your supplement contains these ingredients before you spend your hard earned money on a product.
See the Top 3 Test Boosters to Build Muscle Faster doing CrossFit
If you want to build muscle doing Crossfit you will need to make a concentrated effort to focus more on the lifting heavy part of Crossfit and less on the aerobics part.
Stop doing double-unders and stop running two miles per day of steady-state cardio unless you want to catabolize your gains. Focus on making the following changes to your training:
- Reduce the Cardio: you can still do some cardio for your heart health and conditioning but keep it to under 15 minutes. If you go above this amount you will only be hurting your muscle-growth goals.
- Focus on a specific program that is geared towards increasing your heavy lifts over time. Set some some new squat, cleans, jerks and deadlift PR’s
- Perform mostly compound multi-joint lifts however add in some isolation exercises to help finish off the particular muscle group
Yes we realize these changes will make what you’re doing a lot different than the typical CrossFitter however if building muscle is your goal you need to do things a bit differently.
Remember CrossFit was designed to improve overall athletic performance and conditioning (strength, aerobics and get shredded basically), not to build tons of muscle mass.
Any time you try and take one program and use it for a goal it was not intended for you will run into issues.
So can you build muscle doing CrossFit? – Yes, absolutely. If you eat big, lift heavy and make sure your t-levels are high you will build muscle mass.
We’re not saying you have to stop hating on CrossFit – we know that for most of our daily readers that is too much to ask for.
However, as you can see it is definitely possible to build muscle doing CrossFit training. Just focus on making the necessary changes to your training and track those daily macros and you should be good to go.
Having said that, you really have to ask yourself why you are on a CrossFit diet if you are looking to build muscle mass. If that’s your main long-term goal you would simply be better served on a hypertrophy program.
However, if you are a dedicated CrossFitter who would just like to add a few more pounds of muscle then this modified CrossFit program might be just what you’re looking for!
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