CrossFit is an exciting and varied exercise program that borrows inspiration and techniques from a variety of other disciplines, including rowing, gymnastics, and weightlifting. CrossFit sessions, which typically range between 10 and 30 minutes, often incorporate multiple short workouts across several of those disciplines, which are performed at varying bursts of intensity.

The fitness regimen was established two decades ago by Greg Glassman with the goal of providing a fun and balanced workout that maximizes the time and effort put into it by its practitioners. CrossFit has since developed a rabid following, with more than 13,000 CrossFit gyms around the world having opened their doors.

Las Vegas-based fitness enthusiast Jonathan Citsay is one of CrossFit’s many devoted fans. He believes the fitness regimen is ideally suited for busy professionals who don’t want to spend hours each week trying to maintain their form and health.

Citsay adds that while CrossFit is often perceived as a difficult or demanding workout program, it’s nonetheless attracting a wider audience as word (and scientific data) about its effectiveness spreads.

The benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which CrossFit helped pioneer, have become better understood in the two decades since its debut. HIIT workouts have produced phenomenal results when put under the microscope, with one study of obese young women showing that HIIT was both more enjoyable and more effective than a traditional continuous training regimen.

Despite CrossFit’s success (or perhaps because of it), it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the training regimen, as concerns have frequently been raised about the safety of the some of the exercises it commonly uses, as well as the limited amount of training its coaches receive before certification.

Those safety concerns may be overblown, as a 2018 study which included just over 3,000 participants found that CrossFit was relatively safe when compared to other training methods. However, there were some exceptions, with those new to CrossFit and those who don’t practice it frequently being at a higher risk of injury, which most commonly occurred to the shoulders and back.

Jonathan Citsay believes those to be valid concerns and encourages those new to CrossFit to take steps to ensure they aren’t getting in over their heads. He provides a few important tips for safely taking up CrossFit.

Warming Up Right

The importance of warming up and stretching your body before engaging in rigorous physical activity like CrossFit can’t be stressed enough says Jonathan Citsay, who goes through a thorough warming up process before engaging in any such activity.

He believes any warmup should begin with a few minutes of light cardio, which raises the body’s temperature and heart rate, preparing it for the struggle to come. From there, Citsay tailors his warmup to the regimen that will follow it, with a focus on simulating some of the moves he’ll be performing later to increase his range of motion in addition to increasing blood flow to those areas of the body he’ll be targeting with the following workout.

Learning Proper CrossFit Techniques

Poor form when executing various maneuvers is one of the leading causes of CrossFit-related injuries. When you’re swinging around weights with reckless abandon, no matter how briefly, the potential for injury is going to be there. The greatest defense against such injuries is by utilizing the proper techniques during those sessions, which can be mastered through either the available on-site coaches or personal study. Even seemingly insignificant differences in how techniques are executed can greatly impact their overall safety, so ensure you fully understand each maneuver before using it.

Going at Your Own Pace

When you’re in a CrossFit gym surrounded by other motivated and inspiring people who are getting after it, there’s an undeniable surge in your own motivation and eagerness to perform. As such, these gyms can be highly competitive, with CrossFitters pushing themselves to their limits to try and keep up with each other.

This is certainly a positive thing in many respects, but Jonathan Citsay warns that it can also be detrimental and even dangerous when it isn’t properly channeled, especially if you’re a beginning CrossFitter.

Trying to keep pace with other experienced athletes might cause your form to falter, increasing your risk of injury. Likewise, you could simply bite off more than you can chew, punishing your body with a workout that it’s not prepared to absorb.

By staying within your own capabilities, you’ll maximize the results of your workouts and slowly but safely build up to the point where you can legitimately challenge even the most skilled CrossFitters.