When it comes to Crossfit, size doesn’t matter

Crossfit trainer Lisa Lupo poses with a client at her local facility.
Trainer Lisa Lupo poses with her husband at their local Crossfit center.

By MICHELE McDONALD/Montana State News

Muscle-up. Say it. It just sounds hard. Learn what it is – an athlete must move from a position below a set of hanging rings to a supported position above the rings, with straight arms – and it sounds even harder. Try it—do a pull-up bringing your chest to the level of the rings; this is the easy part. Then push your body upwards ending with your arms straight at your sides. When you find yourself 10 feet off the ground, your suspicions about its difficulty will be confirmed.

The muscle-up is one of the most challenging movements Crossfit athletes are expected to perform, and it strikes fear into the hearts of even the best of them. Lisa Lupo’s accomplishment of one of the hardest moves in Crossfit is extraordinary because muscle-ups are not a strength of hers.

Lupo hasn’t suffered for lack of skill in too many elements of Crossfit. At 5-foot-1 and 115 pounds, the 34-year-old can clean-and-jerk 140 pounds, snatch 95 pounds, deadlift 230 pounds and back-squat 195 pounds. She can do handstand push-ups, pull-ups, single-leg squats and rope climbs to her hearts content.

“Crossfit is constantly varied, functional movements performed at a high intensity,” said Lupo as she describes what “Crossfit” means to her. Crossfit has exploded onto the American health and fitness scene unlike any other athletic or training endeavor in years. According to the Crossfit Game’s website, there are more than 5,500 gyms, or “boxes,” owned and operated worldwide

Lupo opened her own gym here in August 2009, with her husband Chris, and has become an instructor, friend and mentor to each individual that walks inside Crossfit Bozeman. Now, Lupo deals with the daily life of an entrepreneur, wife, coach and staying fit and healthy. And her journey to the top of her sport began with “Fran,” a three round 21-15-9 reps of thrusters and pull-ups, all done with a weighted barbell and for time.

According to Crossfit Rockwall’s website, a “thruster” is “a movement that begins from a standing position with the barbell resting horizontally on your collarbones. You will perform a front squat, ensuring you reach full depth where the crease of your hip is below the top of your knee. As you stand from the squat, you will push the bar overhead, ending with the bar balanced perpendicular over your heels.

Teaching and coaching Crossfit classes six days a week, Lupo finds it “fun, inspiring, motivating, rewarding and exhausting all at the same time.” She finds it important to practice what she preaches, have patience, watch, listen, cue, motivate and encourage all athletes.

“It is important to me that I am helping change people’s lives for the better, assisting in making them stronger, both physically and mentally,” Lupo says. “I stay motivated and set a good example for my athletes and potential new members that to the gym.”

Lupo spends a lot of time and puts a lot of thought into programming workouts for her athletes. She is truly devoted to her passion. “I think most people think I just randomly pick workouts, but I often spend hours late at night creating workouts and trying to make sure I offer a variety and take into consideration feedback I receive from my athletes,” says Lupo.

A normal day at Crossfit for Lupo involves explaining the daily workout with the athletes and demonstrating each exercise to be performed after they have each spent 10-12 minutes going through a structured full body warm up on their own.

“I stagger each athlete at a different station to start the workout,” says Lupo. Athletes move through the workout at their desired pace, rotating to the next station at Lupo’s call of “rotate” or once they have completed the assigned repetitions for each exercise.

“Depending on the format of the workout, athletes will either perform the work for time or for a score,” says Lupo. “I usually think of a ‘challenge’ or ‘skill’ for once the workout is completed which takes typically less than five minutes and is an optional ‘extra’ for athletes to participate in.” As Lupo catches her breath, she chuckles: “You can expect a real good butt kicking adjusted to suit your ability level, every time.”

“To me, it is important that the technical lifts be taught carefully and with patience. The Olympic lifts specifically are probably the most demanding and the most crucial for developing a powerful athlete. Crossfit is undoubtedly responsible for introducing the sport of Olympic lifting into mainstream fitness. It is an invaluable aspect of fitness and I believe it is important that the lifts be taught with respect for the sport,” says Lupo.

There are more benefits than making multiple connections inside the Crossfit industry, creating lasting friendships and having many experiences through being part of the Crossfit Affiliate Community for Lupo. She strives to continue with what she is doing by “helping to better someone’s life” because that is what she finds rewarding and fun about her job.

– Edited by Levi Worts

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