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“I’ve Never Heard of this thing, Crossfit?”

August 4, 2009
Is killing kittens a workout of the day?

Is killing kittens a workout of the day?

Most everyone has heard of Crossfit by now, and after one workout they have either decided it’s not for them or they think they have found their new love.  Some of the prominent figures in fitness, don’t really see eye to eye with Crossfit community.  I have to say, I haven’t drank the Crossfit “kool-aid” so it is easy for me to listen to the bashing.  However the message seems to be, it has its time and place, but most athletes would be better off training according to their strengths and weaknesses.  Check out the links below and let me know what you think about Crossfit in the comments.

1.  What do fitness experts think of Crossfit? by Luka Hocevar

2.  Crossed Up by Crossfit by Bryan Krahn

3.  The Truth About Crossfit by Chris Shugart

If you have articles that are in defense of Crossfit, or you just want to make your point, post it below.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2009 1:10 am

    It’s not about drinking the “Crossfit Kool-Aid.”

    It’s about recognizing what it encourages–fitness–and adapting Crossfit to suit your own needs.

    There’s a lot to be said for the, lets call it “traditional,” fitness establishment, periodized training programs, etc. You set goals, you design a program to those ends, you assess your progress. It’s a pretty simple, general template that will lead to success in just about any endeavor.

    I think the problem which leads to people making a fuss about it is that it’s taken too seriously. It’s a means to an end. I spent a summer in ’05 crossfitting (actually doing the “Max Effort black box” protocol, emphasizing strength to go with all the metabolic conditioning; I also dabbled in the zone diet and generally shaped up my diet. I played club and practiced with my classmates pretty routinely.

    Those few months were pretty transformative in terms of my athleticism and ability as an ultimate player–not that I wasn’t already pretty fit before then, but I definitely reached a new plateau. Was it the Crossfit? Yes and no. I could have had good results with other programs too. Did I reach my goals? Yes. Did I follow every Crossfit prescription to a T? No, of course not–I don’t know that anyone really does. Most dismissals of Crossfit dismiss it generally, in broad terms; it’s the same as taking a cookie-cutter workout plan and tearing it apart for not being specifically geared to the athletes in question. That’s not the point; through Crossfit you will absolutely discover weaknesses, and hopefully have the wits about you to train them up. Intense, sure, but there’s really nothing in it that pushes one to do all the workouts as prescribed just out of the blue. Like any fitness program you gear up for it and work up the volume/intensity before you tackle the really tough stuff.

    It’s a continual experiment in pushing your body and adapting. I find that really exciting, as an athlete and as a scientist. Take on what is useful; discard the rest. I routinely do the Crossfit warm-up, or some derivation thereof, even though it’s been a solid year or two since I’ve done Crossfit “proper.”

    You’re (and this is a general you, not an attack) certainly welcome to criticize it, but a lot of the fuss has little to do with the program itself and more to do with human nature. The Crossfit community likes that semi-outsider status; the traditional establishment likes to maintain some “other” that can be poked fun at. We do this (form tribes or an “us and them” appraoch) all the time, in all sorts of contexts, for rather arbitrary reasons.

    I will always endorse Crossfit; it may not be for everyone, but I think it absolutely can and does work for athletes who are motivated not only to work hard but to learn their own bodies and guide their own training, rather than simply following prescriptions from a fitness professional.

    Take the time to work up to it, Matt, and I think you’ll discover the benefits it can have for your fitness.

  2. John Chandler-Pepelnjak permalink
    August 5, 2009 5:31 pm

    Unfortunately, I don’t have time to really devote to this post, so I’m just going to make a bunch of semi-random points without much structure. Sorry, but we can always talk more about this at Cooler or something.

    I started Crossfitting in 2004 and am a huge fan. I think it addresses my weaknesses better than anything I tried before (and I feel like I tried everything before).

    I like their conception of fitness (work capacity across broad time and modal domains and 10 physical skills). I think it contrasts nicely with other approaches to fitness that I’ve seen that typically are either focused on going faster or getting stronger but rarely handles both in a satisfactory way. I’ll also just mention that doing Crossfit improves stamina specifically better than anything I’ve ever tried.

    I like the movements. It’s hard to argue with the collection of gymastics, oly lifting, powerlifting, and monostructural (mostly running and rowing) movements that Crossfit prescribes. You can argue (as Cosgrove does in one of those links) that it doesn’t make sense to do explosive movements for high reps (e.g., 30 snatches with 60 kg for time). And if you’ve got an athlete who is going to hurt himself with terrible techinque, that’s true. But if not then those kinds of workouts seem pretty effective at driving metabolic response.

    I think a lot of people miss the point that Crossfit is a GPP program. (Actually, no one _misses_ the point–it’s just that they mention it and then ignore it in their criticms.) Powerlifting will get you stronger (and slower), lots of running will make you faster (and weaker). Ultimate players (huge generalization warning) are typically deficient in strength and power. I think Crossfit does a good job fixing some of these imbalances while not giving up the speed, power, and agility that are the Ultimate player’s bread and butter.

    Since Crossfit works GPP, you’ve got to supplement it. For a few years I did just Crossfit for about 2/3 of the year and then for the other 1/3 I did a mix of Crossfit with speed, agility and plyo workouts. I don’t think you could get close to your Ultimate capacity with Crossfit alone. Crossfit also gave me quite a bit of lean weight. (I can’t thank Crossfit for the unlean bits.) When I played in the late 90s I’d typically finish a season around 175-180 lbs (at a height of 6’6″). Now after a few years of Crossfit I typically finish a season around 205-210. I don’t know if you could be a cutter on an elite open team weighing this much unless you’re a division 1 caliber athlete which I most certainly am not. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to have Sockeye’s O-line cutters help me move furniture all day.

    I like that Crossfit is very seriously not boring.

    Okay, that’s enough random drivel. I haven’t added to the discussion but it made me feel good to come to Crossfit’s defense. Bottom line: Crossfit is very effective GPP that needs careful attention to technique and some supplementation to maximize effectiveness for ultimate.

    • August 5, 2009 5:39 pm

      Word on the street (Yahoo Group) is that Sub is no longer going to be attending Cooler. We will have to settle this conversation over a game of Goaltimate. I know you can’t argue with that.

      Also, who can argue with a WordPress Avatar like yours?

  3. John Chandler-Pepelnjak permalink
    August 6, 2009 4:13 am

    Yes, somehow my wordpress avatar ended up being my corporate head shot for speaking gigs and stuff like that. So it’s pretty unarguewithable.

    Glad to hear you’re not going to Cooler. That was going to be a huge waste of your time. But it would have been fun to hang out, drink a Surly, and heckle.

  4. August 6, 2009 5:47 am

    Something to think about. Is Crossfit a “system” or a “set of programs”?

    Here’s what one of my teachers Mark Reifkind has to say about what you need to have a system rather than a set of varied programs:

    I think Pavel’s RKC and Dr. Cobb’s Z-health are both good systems of athletic development, having studied directly from master level instructors and their founders. I don’t have direct experience with Crossfit, but wonder if you can find the depth of sports coaching experience one would find from Vern Gambetta (_Athletic Development: The Art and Science of Functional Sports Conditioning_) or Gray Cook (_Athletic Body in Balance_), in the CF world?

    That said, I’m sure CF works great for lots of athletes, and if you want fitness to be your sport, it’s probably not a bad place to start. If you have a sport already, I’d hope people learn from the likes of Gray Cook, Vern Gambetta, Eric Cobb, and Pavel Tsatsouline(‘s party). No need to re-invent the athletic coaching wheel, or in our case, disc =)

  5. August 26, 2009 7:14 am

    Some more thoughts on CF by way of the honorable Dr. Gray Cook, creator of the FMS (Functional Movement Screen), specifically Strength Coach podcast 19.5.

    Gray starts by talking about how his ideal gym would have many of the same implements you might see in a CF gym, Kbells, Oly lift setup, jump and climbing ropes, rings and the like. He also applauds CF for empowering people and bringing variety to program design.

    That said, he finds issue with CF training when it comes to Precision and Progression. Does that mean that most people couldn’t benefit from CF? No, just that the CF culture broadly speaking, from Gray’s expert perspective, could grow and mature when it comes to the Precision with which they teach CFers how to lift and the Progression that one needs to safely, efficiently, and effectively improve as an athlete.

    Is Crossfit your sport? Great. But if Ultimate is your sport, or you’re a combative in the streets or in a foreign country, then it’s worth noting the potential downsides of CF.

    At the RKC training, you spend much of a 3 day all-day weekend learning just a few “simple” moves, the hard-style swing and the Turkish Get-Up, even though to even now qualify for candidacy as an RKC you need to be learned / practiced enough to snatch a 16 / 24kg Kbell 100x in five minutes.

    I met a friend at the DragonDoor-sponsored Z-health workshop who regularly trains units in the military, and her recent teleseminar on the subject reminded me of the important principles of SAID and train for success rather than train to and for failure.

    Anyway, that’s a bit rambly, but just wanted to echo some of Gray Cook’s comments. I have a lot of respect for Gray–will train with him some day :)–and he regularly works with elite NFL / NBA / other pro sports athletes with a focus on corrective practice and the well-known FMS (Functional Movement Screen). That said, just do what Bruce did, absorb what is useful, reject what is useless and make up your own mind ^_^


  1. CrossFit defined, diaried and dissed in the blogosphere « Confessions of a CrossFit Fattie

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