Modern tendencies towards a healthier lifestyle are a positive development. Today, it’s trendy to be active and have workouts as your hobby. The only question arises – what type of working out to choose? There are many styles, both effective and popular. Two of the currently trending regimes are CrossFit and HIIT? But which one is better for you? And are they effective at all?
The short answer is yes; they are both effective training practices. They bring positive development to your strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance. But, in general, CrossFit is better at motivating people due to its competitive nature in group training. Meanwhile, HIIT is more suitable for people who want or have to exercise at home with minimal equipment. To determine which one is better for you ultimately, you have to try both.
You can read about both approaches in detail in my previous articles. In addition, let’s make a comprehensive comparison of both and their fundamentals. So, which type suits your goals more?
What Is the Difference Between CrossFit and HIIT Workout?
There is a widespread belief that makes this opposition futile – CrossFit is a type of HIIT. However, the differences in both practices lie deeper.
HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is a broad term for a training style/protocol.
CrossFit is a branded practice that follows only some fundamentals.
Many experts note that CrossFit can be seen as a part of the big HIIT umbrella. The two share many similarities and fundamentals. CrossFit, however, is a “branded” regimen formed by Greg Glassman more than 20 years ago. Greg highlights the importance of CrossFit as a lifestyle instead of a workout style.
According to resarch, HIIT training has already been a popular workout method for many athletes in the 20th century. However, the style has undergone specific changes over time. Thus, in the 1990s, a HIIT workout would be too different from the modern influencer-inspired ones. Plus, there are many kinds of HIIT workouts practiced nowadays, from Tabata to Yoga HIIT and so on.
In the general understanding, though, HIIT is a broader term. And CrossFit can be roughly considered a type of high-intensity training with certain additions.
Both HIIT and CrossFit have not limited to particular exercises or weights norms. They can be molded to any level of an athlete.
There are three significant differences between the two that I can clearly highlight.
- Yes, in some aspects, CrossFit can be bigger than HIIT due to the comprehensive views of all health-related aspects of life and the competitive nature of training. Meanwhile, HIIT is mainly a training style-focused solely on completing workouts. While there are group HIIT classes, they do not prioritize scoring and comparing results. Instead, you work on your own with none other in mind. In practice, most people involved in CrossFit as a hobby attend gyms for group training. Meanwhile, HIIT has become popular at-home training.
- Another significant difference between the two is the rigidity of CrossFit WODs. The whole gym has to follow specific “workouts of the day.” They are set in stone and have individual names even. You can check some of the most famous WODs in my CrossFit section. E.g., the iconic Cindy WOD practiced by both beginners and advanced athletes. Unless you are a certified CrossFit coach, you should stick to the existing WODs. Meanwhile, HIIT is just the fundamental rule. The American College of Sports Medicine determines them as a proper ratio between exercise intensity of ≥ 80% of your estimated maximal heart rate. The intensity of the recovery interval should be 40-50% and regular work/rest intervals. Fitness enthusiasts are encouraged to create individual sets by keeping to these principles.
- The final difference that is not noticeable short term is the slight distinction between calorie burn. HIIT is more effective in this perspective due to being heartrate-oriented. And while most HIIT workouts are directed towards cardio benefits, CrossFit WODs use additional weights for muscle growth. So in a year of regular exercises, a Crsffiter will have better-toned muscles, but HIIT will burn more fat.
Which Is Better, HIIT or CrossFit?
Considering the many similarities between the two, they primarily serve a similar purpose – to burn calories and train stamina. They both test your endurance and demand a short burst of energy you never knew you had.
Thus, the main purpose of the two is to reduce body fat percentage in athletes. And both of them complete the purpose perfectly.
Both CrossFit and HIIT are considered among the most effective calorie burn exercises, mentions a Harvard study. You can also check my previous article on calorie-burn exercises if you’d like to find out all the other workouts. Burn calories = lose more weight! This is the first and foremost reason why people choose such intensive training regimes. The following possible reason why people come to fitness is growing their strength. But I’m afraid both workout options are not the best to build maximum strength and being a helping in growing impressive muscles.
When you have limited time and resources – HIIT suits you better. Numerous online trainings on YouTube and other platforms incorporate basic exercises into an effective high-intensity workout. Thus, you get an effective training in under 30 minutes.
If you want coaching and a competitive atmosphere – CrossFit would be better. Considering the highly technical nature of many WODs, beginners require professional coaching in a gym. Plus, CrossFit fundamentals include training in groups (a.k.a. competitive workouts) as an essential factor that drives your results.
Though the end goals are similar, you should choose an approach you feel most comfortable with.
Is CrossFit Harder Than HIIT?
This question has no definite answer. Both CrossFit and HIIT are scalable and offer training for different levels of athletes. However, if you are a beginner, both will be hard for you! That is the unequivocal truth.
Judging from my personal experience, I’d say that CrossFit is harder technically because your coach can choose a WOD (a workout of the day) that engages not your strongest muscles. And you have to meet the goals. It often follows the principle of AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) or sets the exact number of reps.
In HIIT, you mostly have to follow the work/rest timetable and check your own heart rate. So basically, you work at a healthy pace.
Nevertheless, the question of complexity is individual for each person.
Is CrossFit Considered Intense Exercise?
Yes! Although the title doesn’t mention it directly (like HIIT does), CrossFit is also a high-intensity exercise. There are no 2-4 minute breaks before the sets as in heavy lifting. CrossFit is explosive, intensive, and time-oriented.
They are based on the number of res or exercise types you need to finish in a certain period.
Just check the official meaning of CrossFit!
CrossFit is a branded fitness regimen that involves constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.
Here, you get. CrossFit is created to be of high intensity, and the official WODs follow the rule.
Of course, intensity levels can be adjusted in many WODs. Scaling is an option but should always retain that intensity and high demands. Relaxed and slow CrossFit doesn’t exist.
The program is meant to integrate cardio aspects to develop stamina and endurance.
All in all, HIIT and CrossFit are like cousins. They are from one family and follow similar traditions, but each family has a unique atmosphere and approach.
If you are looking for high-intensity training, you better try both workouts. Both of them are highly effective but have their major differences that can become a deciding factor for you.
The main benefit of HIIT is its availability for home training which proved to reach its peak during the lockdown months. CrossFit offers competitive training that drives many athletes to heights unknown to them before.
In the end, the best result to choose one is to try both and compare!
- What is CrossFit – (2002, crossfit.com)
- The Rise of HIIT Training by PCYC Lang Park Fitness Professional, Leigh Kable – (PCYC Queensland, www.pcyc.org.au)
- Len Kravitz, Ph.D, ACSM Information On High-Intensity Interval Training – (American College of Sports Medicine, www.acsm.org)
- CrossFit Workouts – (crossfit.com)
- Calories burned chart by activity and weight, including walking, sports, and everyday household activities – (March 2021, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, www.health.harvard.edu)
- Tracking your exercise more effective with competition, study says by Sandee LaMotte – (September 2019, CNN Health)