CrossFit is all about constantly varied “functional” movement performed at high intensity.
Their definition of fitness is: “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains” (CrossFit.com). To translate that into how people normally talk, that means the ability to do a butt-ton of work for various amounts of time in various amounts of ways. Whoever can do the most work wins at being the fittest.
Here’s a weight.
Here’s a rope.
Here’s a box.
Who can do it the most in 15 minutes?
That sort of thing.
All pretty cool stuff, right?
Hard work is awesome. Our bodies are awesome. Winning is awesome. Triple victory.
This whole CrossFit thing was started by Greg Glassman, “over several decades ago” (CrossFit.com). I’m assuming that means more than 3 but less than 12.
Like any impressive movement, it started from humble beginnings and a strong propensity for hard work. As CrossFit expanded, it became increasingly important to standardize the practice. And so, CrossFit precisely defines their rules of movement:
- Hips have to sink below parallel on an air squat.
- Full extension must be achieved atop the box on a box jump
- Hands off the ground on a (hand-release) pushup.
No big. All part of the logistics of maintaining an even playing field.
BUT, as sure as the grass is green, the winter is cold, and the ocean is wet: Movement + measurement = competition. And from these measurements naturally evolved a sport.
(A tip of the hat to Crossfit Rise Above for posting.)
The Sport of Fitness was born.
CrossFit set out to increase work capacity over a broad time and movement spectrum and then evolved into a sport – The CrossFit Games. Whoever can produce the most work under the given circumstances is crowned the champion.
Faster. Longer. Harder. CrossFitter.
And so CrossFit is challenging as hell. The tough-as-balls nature of the sport attracts ultra competitive A-types and everyone is working their asses off.
So far, SO awesome (and we haven’t even gotten to the GOOD part yet.) Because the most magical part of CrossFit is that it’s become a community. An awesome community. A movement.
From the fitness program that is CrossFit, a enthusiastic crew of CrossFitters have emerged. Go to any CrossFit box and you’re sure to come across a friendly and welcoming band of dedicated fitness freaks. These folks are getting REALLY amped about exercise (how awesome is THAT???) and they’re happy to share their passion. Makes sense, when you think about it…
Anytime you bring a crew of people together to work ridiculously hard, good things happen. It’s why teammates on championship dynasties are so tight-knit, successful businesses create lasting friendships, and wing-men are fiercely loyal. Because doing tough shit brings people together.
CrossFit brings people together.
This is great. This is SO great.
CrossFit has taken the lifts we trainer geeks adore – the clean, the snatch, the squat, the chin up – and they’ve made a sport out of ‘em. This sport is attracting massive, national attention and it’s getting folks ridiculously amped about exercise. I can’t even tell you how excited that makes me. The world needs MORE of this.
Anyone who isn’t a hater will agree – CrossFit has done a lot of really awesome shit. Really, really, really awesome shit.
But unfortunately the story gets a little more complicated. All that glitters is not gold. At least not pure gold. Because when you set up an environment that encourages people to push their body to the extreme, you have a responsibility to protect them. I’m going to say that again because it is vitally important:
When you set up an environment that encourages people to push their body to the extreme, you have a responsibility to protect them.
We’ve seen Spider man:
“With great power production comes great responsibility” (or something like that.)
We’ve also probably seen the YouTube clips…mismanaged execution of CrossFit is terrifying:
But there are bad coaches in any realm and some athletes have no business doing CrossFit.
It’s common sense. CrossFit isn’t for everyone. Some athletes need specificity. If you want to get awesome at, say, lifting ridiculously heavy things (a worthy goal, in my book) CrossFit isn’t your ideal training program. Plus, there’s the fact that challenging a variety of strength qualities at the same time in an ultra competitive environment, while awesome for some, is downright dangerous for others. Kind of basic logic that nobody in their right mind could possibly disagree with.
Ideal programming for my Grandmother is going to be different than ideal programming for, say, an Olympic athlete.
HOLD THE PHONE!
…we don’t change programs…The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind.
I‘m not going to romanticize the art of exercise selection or the importance of program design, but…actually that’s EXACTLY what I’m going to do. ‘Cause that shit’s important.
My Grandmother, bless her heart, has different needs than Michael Phelps. Phelps needed to win gold. My Grandma needs to watch the Golden Girls. And I wouldn’t recommend CrossFit to either.
In order to teach someone how to utilize their body towards its maximum potential, it’s not merely a question of load and intensity. To claim otherwise is a gross misunderstanding of, you know, everything.
But that’s not really my biggest concern with CrossFit. Because my Grandma doesn’t even know what CrossFit is. And I’m confident that common sense will prevail – different populations have different needs and that means CrossFit isn’t for everyone. Plus, an intelligent CrossFit coach can make all the difference in allowing for a huge spectrum of clients to find success with CrossFit.
So what’s my biggest concern?
My biggest concern with CrossFit is that there is a growing community of enthusiastic fitness freaks who want to get REALLY good at CrossFit. And if you want to get really good at CrossFit, just doing CrossFit is a BAD IDEA.
CrossFit is designed to challenge every possible type of training – “the unknown and the unknowable,” as they say. That’s A LOT of shit. So much shit that we can’t even think up all that shit.
So if you want to be awesome at CrossFit, you want to be awesome at EVERYTHING (nothing if not ambitious.) You want to be well conditioned and resilient. You want to be strong. You want to be technically efficient. You want to be powerful. You want to kick in doors and ride unicorns at the same time. And if you want to be awesome at everything, the worst thing you could do is try to train everything…every workout…everyday…with no progression.
An analogy (if you will):
Let’s say you want get a law degree, a medical degree, a business degree, and a black belt – sort of the life equivalent of CrossFit. Would you study law for 10 minutes, study medicine for 10 minutes, study business for 10 minutes, and then do 10 karate chops? NO. It’s just not the most efficient way to learn.
What if instead you went to Law School for a while, then went to Med School for a while, then went the Business School for a while, then went to The Dojo for a while? I’m not saying you need to get your full degree or there can’t be some overlap, but you’d at least spend LARGE chunks of time studying and improving each aspect. Then you might circle back around and spent a little less time studying each aspect. Eventually, when you’ve mastered each aspect, you could practice them all in tandem.
I was taught never to criticize an idea unless you can offer a better alternative. So I wrote a training guide that accomplishes exactly this.
It’s 5 months of training broken into 5 different meso phases. It’s founded upon high level adaptive strategy. If you want to be awesome at everything, you train a few things A LOT of the time, and then move on to other things. Through smart programing and intelligent progression, you maintain previous qualities while shifting focus towards improving new qualities. It’s the principles that govern periodization which are the same principles that govern the development of human physiology.
Strength qualities and energy systems need TIME and FOCUS in order to improve.
In other words, CrossFit is not the best way to become a CrossFit Champion.
Here is a better answer…
===> BTX: BANDANA TRAINING EXTREME <===
*This article was originally written for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Published on schwarzenegger.com on July 23rd, 2013.
*CrossFit is a registered trademark of CrossFit Inc. They lose their shit whenever you mention their name.