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Crossfit VS Olympic Weightlifting (Which One Is Better?)


Both CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting athletes are in amazing shape and push themselves to the limits in a bit of different ways. But not everything is different and there are some crossovers in their training routines. We will go over that and more below.

crossfit vs weightlifting

So what is the difference between CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting?

So the main difference between CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting is the randomness in the workouts. CrossFit focuses on a wide range of different styled workouts where Olympic Weightlifting focuses on a select group of lifts to better help The Snatch and The Clean And Jerk. 

During the CrossFit games the athletes competing don’t know what challenges they are going to be presented with until right before the event. This is much different to Olympic Weightlifting where they are training for their two lifts the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch.

The equipment being used for training also differs quite a bit which is why we scoured the internet to get other peoples opinions on these differences since there are only a few similarities. You can see those opinions below.

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Differences Between CrossFit And Olympic Weightlifting

We didn’t want you to take our word for it on the differences between CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting so we went out and gathered the opinions of real CrossFitters and Weightlifters to get their take on this matter. We have dabbles in both Weightlifting and CrossFit, but don’t consider ourselves the absolute best resource in both departments so we want to get the correct information to you guys so you can make the best decision. This information was curated from different forums, blogs, reddits, etc. and nothing has been changed besides any spelling and grammar where needed.

Real CrossFitters And Weightlifters

1. Bingo__DinoDna “Crossfit – no thinking or planning” – One thing is that there is no thinking or planning involved. You walk in, look at what’s written on the whiteboard, and do. It’s simple. To add, when you want to come up with your own WOD, it’s easy as you have so much to use from the classes

2. GenevaThru12 “Completely different Goals” –

First, know the difference between the goals of the powerlifters, crossfitters, and olympic lifters. Powerlifters go for pure strength (high numbers on squats, deadlifts, bench). Their training focuses on myofibrillar hypertrophy (low reps, high intensity). Crossfit goes for a mix of endurance and power. Workouts consist of high endurance/rep (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) with some mixes of strength training. Olympic lifters go for power (strength+explosive speed). They train similarly to powerlifters in terms of focusing on intensity over reps. This is not to say that Crossfitters are not strong or powerful, but pound for pound they cannot compete against the numbers put up by Oly and powerlifters. Same thing with oly and powerlifters, they cannot put up the WOD scores put up by crossfitters. The reason is because the goals are different.

Now, Crossfit ATHLETES are a totally different story. A lot of them don’t do just the Crossfit WOD as their main training program and have come from either powerlifting or weightlifting backgrounds.

As for the difference in musculature, in general terms, powerlifters and oly lifters appear to have less muscle because their primary training pushes for increases in strength rather than mass. They don’t care as much for fat content (unless cutting down for a meet) and size. Crossfitters don’t necessarily care for size as much either, but training in WODs focuses more on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, causing more vascularity in muscle. There are other factors that Crossfit doesn’t necessarily make women any more muscular (in strength terms) than powerlifting and oly lifting, it makes them more vascular. Also, just because you crossfit doesn’t mean you will be muscular….it seriously depends on your diet. Paleo diet or not, you need to eat over your TDEE to bulk muscle.

If you still don’t understand what I am saying, a good analogy is comparing an inflated balloon with an deflated balloon. The two balloons are the same balloon, but one is expanded with air while the deflated one is harder to tear a whole through.

3. JutzJatz38 “Weightlifting can actually help you excel at CrossFit” – I am a former crossfitter recently turned weightlifter and compete at the Nationals and American open. I do Crossfit in my off season (around games time) to kind of reset my body from all the straight weightlifting training.

Some background: I came jnto Crossfit being the complete opposite (marathon and triathlete who did ironmans) so basically no strength but a huge endurance gas tank. But I got hooked on the weightlifting and found myself lifting fairly decently in relation to my size (53k female) so a coach suggested I shifted most of my efforts towards weightlifting and he has created my programming for me, so I basically do weightlifting programming exclusively. I also coach the Crossfit classes at our gym but I’m on a separate program. I do supplement with occasional pull-ups, HSPU, muscle ups, and row 5000m or airdyne for 20 minutes at a moderate pace once or twice a week in addition to weightlifting to keep up some gas tank but never really “WOD”. I’m a full time school teacher so I really workout 5x per week for 1.5-2 hrs on longer days.

But interestingly enough…

I found that because I got a lot stronger through weightlifting that a lot of Crossfit WODs come a lot easier to me and are much more accessible despite training 95% weightlifting (squats, snatch, C&J and variations). Not only that, but I found I rarely lost technique in my gymnastic movements, if not got better at them, just by touching base on them every week or so for a bit, but there was never need to do a WOD with hundreds of box jumps or burpees or pull-ups. What I have lost is a bit of the anaerobic drive to really push hard in those tough WODs with explosive stuff like power cleans, t2b and wall balls back to back that require strength endurance with many reps at moderate weight. Interestingly enough I did PR Cindy the other day (24rds vs 20rds a couple years ago) so it’s not like I’ve lost the endurance needed in longer WODs. But everything feels lighter to me so then again I feel like I don’t work as hard.

Just my two cents. Weightlifting made me stronger and therefore many Crossfit WODs easier due to strength, didn’t lose much gymnastic skill with enough supplemental stuff, just building up the anaerobic gas tank again.

4. MattWilliams06 “Start with weight training then go to CrossFit” – CrossFit is great, but if you want goals you need to set goals. I decided to make the shift more towards weightlifting, which has actually helped me quite tremendously in doing CrossFit movements. There are days when I know that I’m going to be squatting for an hour and that’s about going to be the extent of my work for the day, but I’m ok with that. Squatting makes me better at weightlifting, which makes me better at CrossFit, which is really just another way of saying I’m more fit. But my goal is to lift more weight, and I make sure that whatever I do, I’m doing it in order to advance that goal.

5. JOes4U “Difficult to balance between the two” – I find it difficult to balance with Crossfit. I was doing Squats 5×5, Bench 5×5, Row 5×5 and Deadlift 3×5 2-3 days a week (not all the same day) and Crossfit on 3 days a week. The trouble is, one WOD was 300 bodyweight squats (100 + 50 box jumps + 25 pull ups). This makes it very difficult if you had planned to do heavy squats the next day as the high reps really made me sore for nearly 3 days.

Personally I think you need to make a decision. You can’t have it all. Picking one direction would be best, but at least pick a priority. CrossFit is more for the “model” look and all round fitness. Powerlifting is pure strength with far less focus on how you look. If you are tired you are either not sleeping enough, not eating enough or you have too much stress (or all three). Check your diet, don’t drink too much, try and nap or sleep more.

I’m very fortunate having my own gym at the end of my garden. For now I have decided to go 100% CrossFit, get lean, reasonably well toned and maintain basic strength. Then I plan to go back to more strength exercises in the future, I’m not going to try and do both any more. Once I’ve got that nailed also plan to progress with bodyweight exercises as well, planche, iron cross although I might be able to do those in the future due to strength already gained by that point. I might split the year into 3 seasons, CrossFit, Strength, Bodyweight, not all of the same length.

If you want to make Crossfit your priority then do Crossfit and fit in Powerlifting where you can but it will suffer.

If you want to make Powerlifting the priority then either:

a) Do Powerlifting first, take a brief rest and then do Crossfit after, or Powerlift mornings, Crossfit at lunch or after work.

or

b) Do Powerlifting 2-3 times per week. Then Crossfit on the other 3 or 2 days. Ideally with a days rest between Crossfit and Powerlifting, there should only be one occasion per week where that isn’t possible. Pick and choose your WOD’s carefully. I always do mine 1-3 days behind the main site as I prepare the equipment, my Gymboss timer and think of substitutions for anything I don’t have the equipment for (home gym). You could do the same but substitute things that will conflict with Powerlifting or exclude those WODs entirely.

Is CrossFit Better Than Weightlifting?

According to our research the overwhelming majority that have excelled in both weightlifting and CrossFit (67%) state that Weightlifting is far better than CrossFit. This really doesn’t have anything to do with the fittest man on the planet more so towards goals, planning and achieving those goals. CrossFit is very random that is why you find a lot of CrossFitters do focus more on weightlifging 2-3 times a week. Because they know that they can make better gains and reach goals that will help them achieve more with CrossFit workouts.

Related CrossFit & Weightlifting Questions

What Is The Difference Between Olympic Weightlifting And Powerlifting?

The main difference is the lifts you focus on being great at which for Olympic Weightlifting is the clean and jerk then also the snatch. Powerlifting focuses on the big three known as squat, bench press, and deadlift. So your training goals are also going to focus around them.

Can You Do CrossFit And Weightlifting?

CrossFit and Weightlifting can go hand and hand if you go about it in the right way. You should try to do a 6 day training split where you work on your weightlifting routine 3 days a week and doing the WOD’s the other 2-3 days a week with at least one day off from either.

Is CrossFit Harder Than Bodybuilding?

CrossFit is not really harder than Bodybuilding it is just more intense and more risk for injury with the randomness of the workouts. They are both very hard and you have to put the work in to reap the benefits. If you do Bodybuilding full time and mix in CrossFit you will be better off.

Tab Winner

We are fun loving family that lives on a small farm and tries to be healthy. We are not fitness fanatics we are just trying to keep things simple especially with how busy our lives are. We have a few horses, a few dogs, and a young daughter along with a big extended family. Follow us on our journey. I hope you enjoy the website. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. Please check back for updates!

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