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Body Composition Breakdown: Women Who Do CrossFit

by Jason Villareal August 12, 2016

Body Composition Breakdown: Women Who Do CrossFit

Whether you are new to CrossFit or a seasoned veteran, performing high intensity functional movement training enables an athlete to determine their weaknesses very rapidly. These weaknesses can stem from limitations in certain physical skill sets such as mobility, strength, or agility.

As a female CrossFit athlete, your body handles a lot of force throughout each of your workouts and you may already know which muscles you need to strengthen to take your CrossFit game to the next level. But you also need to know how to increase your muscle mass relative to your body composition. Beyond that, it’s important to think about maintaining muscle symmetry as you add on mass because even a half pound difference could be setting you up for an injury. That’s where you might get your overuse injury. If you don’t have enough muscle to recruit on both sides of your body, it could be detrimental to your CrossFit performance.

Move Beyond Just A Number On The Scale

When looking at the composition of your body, how much you weigh is definitely not the end all be all. It’s important to identify where your pounds is coming from. If you weigh 200 pounds and 100 pounds of that is muscle, your weight isn’t a huge deal. While training at this level, move away from the idea that weighing more is something negative. Many of the workouts that make up CrossFit routines require a lot of hip, shoulder, and core strength. As you progress throughout CrossFit, you’ll begin to develop more muscle, lose fat, and potentially weigh more because muscle weighs more than fat. Losing fat doesn’t necessarily mean dropping your body fat to 5%. Athletes generally have higher metabolisms because their bodies become more efficient at burning calories. Therefore, you’ll naturally drop body fat as you couple your fitness routine with better eating habits. Tracking your body fat and weight only gives you surface level information about your body’s makeup. Muscle mass makes up a large portion of your weight. Taking that even further, you can piece apart how that muscle mass is distributed across different limbs and parts of your body.

Yes, Your Body Can Be Asymmetrical

It may not be visible to the naked eye, but you can have asymmetrical tendencies in your body. If you’re a CrossFit athlete, these seemingly minor asymmetries become much more important, especially considering the forces you work with on a regular basis. Muscle imbalances can occur when one set of muscles in a limb are unequal in strength and size to the muscles of the opposite limb. You can also look at it on a general level by comparing the size and strength of the muscles in your legs to the muscles in your arms. What may seem like even a small difference in size can potentially cause an injury. For example, if you’re focusing on a quadricep-heavy (i.e. the muscles that surround your thigh) exercise involving squats without engaging your glutes (i.e. muscles that surround the hips) you might develop an imbalance that affects your lower back. By having imbalances between your right and left arm while lifting, you’ll have less muscle to use on the weaker arm and set yourself up for an injury. Always aim to build up more muscle rather than lose muscle in the stronger area if you’re lacking symmetry in specific parts of your body.

Need Concrete Numbers?

It’s hard to visualize a lot of these metrics in your head. A body composition analyzer is a tool that can help you digest your exact composition numbers. An analyzer, such as the InBody 570, could measure the amount of muscle mass you have as well as compare your muscle symmetry between different limbs. It works by sending a light electrical current through your body from extremity to extremity. From there, the device analyzes exactly what your body is composed of. It can also tell you how many calories you burn while at rest (BMR), which may be helpful when planning your nutritional goals. Using this type of tool could help you know where to build up the necessary mass and give you a better idea of where you’re at with your CrossFit goals.

Upping Your CrossFit Performance

Having an idea of what your body composition is can help you predict where you might have less control. CrossFit is a combination of many different dynamic movements—you squat, lift, and lunge with a lot of quick movements in between. Without having the necessary core and hip strength during a squat, you’ll have less control of the movement. Beyond just having the necessary muscle strength, you need to also have the proper hip, shoulder, and back mobility with a lot of these movements. Piecing apart your body composition, having the right clothing, and building up strength throughout your body can help you power through those CrossFit moves.





Jason Villareal
Jason Villareal

Jason Villareal, DPT, ATC, is the Clinic Director of Therapydia Portland and has been involved in the sports medicine and physical therapy field for the past 16 years.


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