Are you interested in starting CrossFit and want to know this answer? Or perhaps you’ve been going a while and are unsure about your improvement.
This article will help you find that sweet spot in training days per week having tried different amounts of days over the 12+ years of doing it.
How Long To See Results Doing CrossFit?
Many external factors will effect your improvement rate such as genetics, age, existing fitness level, existing body mass to height ratio, consistency and commitment to training. The fastest improvement is seen earliest from starting CrossFit (year 0 to year 1). After 1 year, the improvements will steadily climb, but at an increasingly mellowing rate, until reaching a state of equilibrium personal to the individual.
Based on someone doing Crossfit 3-5 times per week, you can expect to see a fast improvement over a shorter period between years 0 to 1. From years 1 to 3, the improvement rate will level out to a lesser incline. In years 3 to 4, a further levelling can be observed, followed by a plateau.
The more you train, the quicker you will see improvements, and therefore a steeper initial spike will be seen.
Equally, the less you train (1-2 times per week) the less steep the initial improvement climb will be.
This phenomenon of a steep increase early on, followed by a steady plateauing, is not limited to CrossFit. In fact, it can be observed in many other sports and other weight training regimes.
It has been known to also be called The Novice Effect and can be observed in many activities.
“The novice effect, simply described, is what happens when a previously untrained person begins to lift weights – he gets stronger very quickly at first, and then improves less and less rapidly the stronger he gets“. – Mark Rippetoe
How Long Will It Take Me To Lose Weight Doing CrossFit?
To lose weight doing CrossFit comes down to the number of days you are training, your diet and lifestyle outside the gym, plus other external factors such as genetics and personal metabolism. The more you do the activity of CrossFit, the quicker you will lose weight.
A study on this topic by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) suggests that up to 15-18 calories can be burned per minute for men, and 12-15 for women.
So, for a traditional CrossFit class encompassing warm-up, strength/skill, and WOD (workout), this equates to approximately 600 calories being burned over 1 hour.
This then translates to approximately 3,000 calories (kcal) per week. CrossFit classes are 1 hour long, so this would mean doing 5 sessions per week to achieve that level of calorie burn, 5x being on the upper quantity of classes per week, on average.
At the 2 CrossFit affiliates that I co-own, when carrying out a survey we found that the most popular times to train per week was 3 times.
3x per week was most common at 39%
2x and 4x was on an equal footing at 20.7%.
5+ was popular at 13.4%.
But nearly 7% less than 2x and 4x
How many calories does CrossFit burn?
So taking this metric and applying 600 calories x3, an average CrossFitter can expect to burn an additional 1800 calories per week – on top of the normal burn and attributed to exercise, if only doing CrossFit as their predominant form of exercise.
If you want to know more about the geeky stuff, read this Best Gym Hacks post here about how CrossFit helps with your cardiovascular fitness.
How Many Calories Per Hour Are Burned In Other Exercise?
To further analyse this, Forza Supplements carried out a study to see just how many calories per hour are burned by a healthy 11-stone (70kg) individual. The results are interesting.
CrossFit sits around the 590-600 calories per hour, aligning with data from American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Although the activity of CrossFit sits 9th in terms of ranking for calories burned per hour (CBPH), CrossFit is known for its high retention rate and regular attendance.
Therefore, when viewing it against squash, rugby or lake rowing, for example – with regards to a hobby sport – those activities are generally carried out fewer times per week, so the weekly CBPH amounts to less.
Boxing sits at the top spot with 800 CBPH. This is different to Boxercise, however, which invariably would be less intense and possibly in the region of 500-750 CBPH, depending on intensity.
What this means for CrossFit
If we are to do CrossFit as our main form of exercise 3x per week, that’s approximately 1800 calories burned from exercise.
If we were to do pilates as our main form of exercise 3x per week, that would be approximately 960 calories burned.
If to do football once per week, as is often the case with 5 or 6 a-side hobbyists, a total of just over 600 calories would be burned.
Therefore, CrossFit is a good choice for someone looking for a motivational activity which burns substantial calories.
Are 3 Days A Week Of CrossFit Enough?
To learn the many techniques and get satisfactory results, 3 times per week is a good number of sessions.
This allows for ample rest, but also enough time to upkeep motivation, and immerse yourself in the community. Quicker improvement – particular for beginners – will be seen by 4, or even 5, times per week attendees.
The 3 sessions per week attendees at our affiliates was the most popular number by a reasonable weighting at 39%.
We’ve already seen that the average burn would equate to circa 1800 calories. This is a very respectable amount of exercise and is clearly the preferred balance for our membership, so likely the same will likely be seen in other CrossFit gyms around the world.
Make sure to eat well outside the gym. If you need inspo, follow Joe Wicks on Instagram for really quick, easy and tasty meals.
How Does The Novice Effect Look In Other Sports?
To put this into perspective, let’s use an example of skateboarding which was recently introduced to the Olympics at Tokyo 2020 (2021).
For someone that’s never touched a skateboard, going from knowing nothing (level 0) to standing and pushing (level 1), in real terms, is nothing by the level of skill within the sport itself. But once learned, this building block then paves the way for the Ollie (jump with the board – level 2).
So the person has gone from level 0 (not been on a skateboard) to pushing along (level 1) in a very short space of time, such as 1 day.
Getting from level 1 to level 2 (Ollie) may then take 1 week, so another short space of time, but longer than 0 to 1.
To graduate from level 2 to 3 – an Ollie to a Kickflip (level 3) may then take 2 weeks. And so on. As the difficulty increases, so does the time it takes to improve.
The theory states that what you are left with for an athlete at the top of their tier is that it’s very difficult for them to make significant gains from their current level.
Rather, someone at the top of their game has to repeatedly train, and sometimes at increasingly higher or more intense levels, just to remain at the top of their game. Such as an Olympian.
Summary of results when doing CrossFit
So, like anything, how well you do at something depends on the amount of effort and commitment you put in. We have the data to hand which tells us averages overall, and an article from Beyond The Whiteboard provides more detail on fitness scoring points out of 0 – 100.
Using Best Gym Hacks data and BTWB database of 65,000 athletes, it’s clear to see what you can expect over what time periods when doing CrossFit.
If you enjoyed reading this, you might find this Best Gym Hacks article about 20 top tips for any CrossFitter – beginner, intermediate or advanced.