CrossFit has hit the scene in the past ten years and at first glance it seems pretty awesome. “Functional” movement training at high intensities, little equipment and varying workouts. But as the community has evolved and developed throughout almost every city, it has really exposed the issues in fitness today. We have a lot of cool information hitting the market but because there is so little foundational knowledge on how to live a healthy lifestyle, people fall into the latest “fads”.
I first heard of CrossFit when I became a trainer about 6 years back. And like most, I was new to the science of health and fitness and thought, “these workouts look kickass! So they must make me look kickass, right?”. So I started partnering up with a former colleague of mine and did the CrossFit Workouts of the Day (WOD) for about 3 months.
Now I was a pretty fit guy at the time (better now lol) but I could almost never complete a whole workout accordingly to the challenge set. I questioned my level of fitness and the failures activated the competitive side in me, so I went harder. Still after many weeks, my endurance got better but I was still falling short on the challenges. Eventually I became deterred (plus had aches in my shoulders), and I decided to just step away from this training and focus my energy elsewhere. I didn’t realize it till months later that the reasoning for this was because there was little science behind the workouts being put out by CrossFit.
After training now for a few years and soaking up as much exercise science as possible I have some solid criticism’s of CrossFit. But I would like to preface these by saying that what I think is wrong with CrossFit is a result and manifestation of what is wrong in Health and Fitness in the U.S. but that is a deeper issue for a later writing.
Elite athlete non-beginner
When you tune into ESPN and look at the CrossFit games, you must realize that these folks are professional elite athletes. CrossFit likes to project the image that all of their athletes are regular joes and janes. But many of the athletes competing at this level have many years of training in some other fitness arena and jumped into the CrossFit world sometime in the last 10 years. There site even says that their workouts “exceed capacity of worlds fittest people”, which is ummmm…..everyone! So don’t think after a few months of doing CrossFit your going to perform at that level, this is a dangerous misconception.
Scaling vs. Regression
The argument by many cross fitters is that even though many people can’t complete their workouts, a CrossFit coach can “scale the workout” to the person’s fitness level. Let me paint that picture for you, if you walk into a Crossfit gym you will be thrown into their general group class and if you can’t accomplish the challenge, they will scale down the weight or rounds to make it “easier” for you, so instead of a barbell clean with 135lbs, you would do one with 75lbs. Rather what should be done is that a person should be screened for proper movement technique (one-on one) and movements should be regressed (ie. barbell clean is regressed to deadlift). This kind of personalized corrective attention is not a universal mandate at CrossFit gyms.
That is not to say that there are not exceptions out there in the CrossFit world, for instance Kelly Starrett of CrossFit San Francisco is doing awesome work with his Mobility WOD. But overall there is not a policy for this corrective work in the CrossFit world and this is super dangerous. You have no insurance of safety when walking into one of their gyms. What manifest is all these weekend warriors/novice athletes doing complex movement patterns with no base, equaling high injury risk and high dropout rates.
Trainers with no qualifications
Right now anyone on the street with absolutely no fitness experience could pay $1,000 and go to a weekend course to become a Level 1 CrossFit Instructor. They could then rent out a studio, pay the monthly due commitment to CrossFit and become a fully recognized CrossFit gym!!!! This is crazy to think about, but like I said before this is happening in fitness clubs all over the country. People are placing their trust in folks who ONLY have 16 hours of training!! Again there are some great CrossFit coaches out their but an organization that allows for this kind of loose process, losses a lot of respect in my opinion.
Constant variable change
A few years back people recognized that doing the same workout all the time is bad and that you hit don’t make progress. So a very unscientific conclusion was “lets change things up, all the time”. While changing up your workout and the stresses on your body are very important, this is an oversimplification. The body needs specific adaptations to imposed demands, the same kind of workouts, for at least 4-6 weeks on average. So every month or two you should be on a new program building on the former. CrossFit has a new workout everyday and there is little to no science about how they arrange their challenges. This “go hard” all the time mentality, feeds into this lack of fitness knowledge of the regular exerciser. And as a result you end up not making the progress you want and end up making the movement dysfunctions in your body that much worse. Instead of forging elite athletes, they are hurting the miseducated.
I would like to say the best thing about CrossFit is their ability to build community and to use functional tools to train more whole body skills. But until they place higher standards on their workouts and instructor credentials, infuse a little more science into this great fitness community, they will continue to hurt people and lessen the general publics understanding of health and fitness.
What’s your thoughts on CrossFit? Have you ever tried it?
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