Crossfit: Good, bad or just a fad?

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Update: Also, be sure to read this article here as well on another opinion on Crossfit. 

There’s a new rage in the fitness world field called Crossfit.  If you haven’t heard of it, here’s a short video from Crossfit themselves showing you what it’s all about.

According to Crossfit.com,”Crossfit itself is defined as that which optimizes fitness (constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity). CrossFit is also the community that spontaneously arises when people do these workouts together.”

Now, introductions out-of-the-way, here are my thoughts and my opinion on Crossfit.  I support the idea of Crossfit, which is to increase one’s general fitness level using functional exercises and support from the workout group.  However, I’m against the Crossfit trainers, or any fitness professional for that matter, who are not appropriately coaching their clients.  Here’s what I mean by this:

EDIT: the Original video was taken down, so here’s a replacement.

Apparently, they are attempting the continental clean and jerk which is an advanced lifting move. And according to the video’s description, is “Supervised by Strongman Certified Coaches.”  I’m pretty sure that the first girl attempting the continental clean and jerk was pretty close to dislocating her shoulder and/or having the bar drop right on her head. SNAP CITY!

Pete McCall, an ACE Fitness Expert & Exercise Physiologist, comments on the above video, “[This] is not an indictment against Crossfit, but a reminder of why it’s important to emphasize good form when learning and performing challenging exercises.”

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Now, don’t get me wrong.  There are coaches out there who teach their clients very well and there are some who don’t. Not all coaches are created equal.   I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I know that I should have safety number one in my philosophy.

“If a trainer demonstrates a technically challenging exercise that you don’t feel comfortable attempting your next exercise, run (not walk) away from that trainer in order to avoid an unnecessary (and completely preventable) injury,”  Pete McCall.

From what I understand, Crossfit includes plenty of highly technique heavy exercises including but not limited to Olympic lifts like the snatch and clean-and-jerk.  These exercises are highly dependent on technique.  However, most Crossfit clients are weekend warriors or newcomers trying out something other than the typical gym atmosphere.  They are more than likely to have no background on Olympic lifting.  Properly teaching exercises like the snatch and other technique heavy exercises is extremely important.  Without proper technique, you are setting yourself up for injury and possible death.

I’m not kidding about death, read this article here.

“Always make sure to ask, understand and practice the basic movement before progressing to the more challenging movement. As great as it would be to tell brag to friends and family that you completed a difficult continental clean and jerk, wouldn’t it be better to be able to say you did it with proper form and without injuring yourself? Master the basics first.” – American Council on Exercise.

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.” -Michael Jordan

If done properly and correctly, Crossfit is a great thing for general fitness.  Notice, how I say general fitness.  If you’re an athlete considering Crossfit as an option for your off-season conditioning, consider this:

Lack of sport-specific exercises

Crossfit workouts are performed by following the WOD, workout of the day, posted by your instructor.  For the most part, it’s the same generalized workout for everyone.  It’s highly unlikely that you will be doing anything to get your 40-yard time faster, your rotational/core power stronger, your vertical height higher etc.  On another note, you might be doing things are detrimental to your athletic health, like those popular Crossfit ring dips or muscle-ups.  Read Eric Cressey‘s article on why, for the most part, dips are bad here.

Lack of correct sport-specific energy systems

Crossfit is performed at a high intensity with little to no rest in-between sets; you just move to one exercise to another.  A typical session is an hour-long, with roughly, I’d say 20-30 minutes of actual working out.  They other time spent would be on the warm-up and cooldown afterwards.  If you’re going all-out for those 20-30 minutes and you’re sporting event doesn’t last that long, why train that way?  What I mean is that, if you’re a soccer play who uses intermittent bursts of energy throughout a two-hour match, why wouldn’t you train yourself for that type of event?  Or if you’re a baseball player whose bursts of energy last no longer, usually, than 30s, why would you train yourself to exhaustion?  Train with your sport in mind.

Cost

Crossfit

In all honesty, you’re better off spending those hundreds of dollars at a place where they specialize in training athletes like a Parisi Speed School or Cressey Performance.  Not every athlete, or person for that matter, is the same.  They will create a specific workout for your sport and more importantly you.

Summary:

  • Like any exercise, great and safe if performed with correct technique
  • Great for general fitness (if performed correctly)
  • Not so great for athletes
  • Make sure you are familiar and comfortable with the exercise and when in doubt ask! You know yourself better than anyone else does.
  • Safety first!

References:

Crossfit

Fitness Professionals Outraged By Viral Video From a Crossfit Gym

Strength and Conditioning Programs: Crossfit for Baseball?

Baseball Strength Training Programs: Are Dips Safe and Effective?

Getting Fit, Even if It Kills You

Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning – 2nd Edition

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