Crossfit is not just a fad (but it needs to go the way of the Dodo)

The definition of a fad is a behaviour or movement that gains enthusiastic and rapid popularity among the masses due to its novel nature.  Once the novelty of the behaviour or movement wears off, the fad quickly dies.

When I was in primary school, one day everybody brought Tazo’s and slammers.  The next week, they started deftly spinning yoyo’s around the world.  Yoyo’s eventually went out of fashion and people started skipping.

I could keep going but I think you get the idea.  When the calendar ticked over to the year 2000, not only did the computers not take over the world ala the Terminator, but also Greg Glassman founded the ‘exercise movement’ Crossfit.

At the time it was revolutionary.  Comprised of gymnastic movements, high rep Olympic lifts, high intensity bodyweight exercises and heavy loaded power lifts, it introduced Average Joe’s and elite athlete’s to a world of metabolic conditioning and strength training that appeared unparalleled at the time.

The Crossfit movement quickly gathered steam and, as of twelve years later, there are upwards of 34,000 affiliate gyms, or ‘boxes’, littered around the world.  Crossfit is definitely not a fad.

Speak to a Crossfitter for ten minutes.  They’ll swear black and blue that they’ve found the fountain of youth.  A place where only the hardest of hard can survive and achievements aren’t gauged by how many people comment on that half-naked picture you took and posted on Facebook after chest day, but rather by how many times you’ve thrown up in the day and how many torn callouses you can count on one hand.

How do I know this you may ask?  For close to two years I ardently and strictly followed the Glassman Gospel to the letter.

Complete ‘Fran’, where you punish your body by completing 21 reps, 15 reps, and finally 9 reps of a 45kg thruster and pull ups, on a Monday then Angie- 100 pushups, 100 pull ups, 100 squats and 100 sit ups as quickly as possible- on the Tuesday followed by 7×3 deadlifts on the Wednesday?  Glassman MUST know what he’s doing, after all, all those people posting their times on the CF website can’t be wrong.

At the peak of my CF experience I hit a sub 4:30 minute Fran.  At my lowest moment, I was exhausted, drained, had stopped making strength gains and my cortisol levels had spiked, suppressing my T-levels and general manhood.

There’s no denying that Crossfit has helped countless people, and introduced even more average joe’s to effective exercises that they otherwise wouldn’t have considered.  Anything that get’s people off the couch and physically active deserves a tick.

Yet, Crossfit also has it’s naysayers.  A quick google search will reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of people who raise valid and interesting points regarding the dangers of Crossfit.

Mention these arguments to a Crossfitter and quite often you’ll be met with the same cold shoulder and “you just don’t understand” attitude that a religious zealot would give you if you try and denounce their deity.

Personally, I have two major objections to Crossfit.  Firstly, the programming is, simply put, inane and dangerous.  Quite often WOD’s (workout of the day) will include high intensity and high volume Olympic lifts with a secondary movement, either aerobic or bodyweight based.  Not even Olympic lifters perform snatches, cleans and jerk’s outside of the 1-5 rep range.  They are simply too taxing on the body.

Let’s take a look at the previous three WOD’s on the CF website:

WEDNESDAY 120718

“Fran”

Three rounds, 21-15- and 9 reps, for time of:

95 pound Thruster
Pull-ups

TUESDAY 120717

“Isabel”

For time:
Snatch 135 pounds, 30 reps

MONDAY 120716

“Elizabeth”

21-15-9 reps of:
Clean 135 pounds
Ring dips

Thrusters, snatches and cleans are the dominant and taxing movements.  All three movements contain the same essential biomechanics.  They are all hip dominant, full body and require a Herculean effort on behalf of the posterior (glutes, abdominals and erector spinae) chain.  After one of these workouts, you should take a few days off to foam roll, walk and recover, not to mention the fact you’ll be acquainted with your gyms spew bucket and feel as if Jabba the Hut was sitting on your chest.

Yet Glassman has you doing them back to back to back as quickly as possible.  The logic here, if there is any, is dangerous and it is no wonder that so many Crossfitter’s boast of Rhabdomyolysis, a process where muscle begins to break down and poison the blood.

My second umbrage with CF is that it has opened up the world of metabolic conditioning to inept and unqualified personal trainers.  Nowadays, a trainer can walk into a training session unprepared, tell their client they’ll be doing random exercise A, B and C for continuous 20 minute rounds, and sit back whilst their client sweats through a poorly thought out circuit than provides no scope for further progression.

At the end of the session, the trainer can simply say it’s ‘metcon’ work and the client feels satisfied since they’ve done new, novel exercises they’ve never tried before, albeit with horrible form and poor integration into a meaningful strength and conditioning program.

Whenever my students need to write a persuasive or analytical essay I always espouse the need for expert opinions.  Expert opinions allow for an extra level of credibility to your argument.  Jason Ferrugia, in a blog posted just earlier this week, stated,

“I’d love to be able to perform a perfect triple back flip, walk up the stairs of the Capitol Building on my hands and be the greatest US Olympic lifter of all time who could easily smoke NFL wide receivers in a race.”

Crossfit is a jack of all trades master of none workout philosophy.  Too many people are abhorrently bad at one thing (such as Olympic lifts) yet, instead of working hard to perfect a snatch, they jump from one area of fitness to another like a jack rabbit hopped up on stims.

(What an awesomely witty pun, aren’t I smart!)

Dan John, the Yoda of strength training, tried CF for a time as well.  In his book, Never Let Go, he states,

“Both excessive and deficient exercise ruin physical strength”

Crossfit promotes excessive exercise, as demonstrated by the aforementioned workouts, and allows for too many people to perform dangerous movements with poor biomechanics in the name of speed over form.

In the end, CF isn’t a fad, Michael Jarosky got that right in his Age article (although I severely question the credibility of anyone that says he had the ‘privilege’ to be trained by a Biggest Loser trainer), but the poor regulation of workouts, increased acceptability of lazy trainers boasting ‘metcon’ work without understanding how to properly implement it into a strength and conditioning program and the rampant health concerns, from the less serious decreased testosterone levels and increased cortisol to the more sever rhabdo, make it a dangerous exercise movement that is in need of a few good poachers.

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10 Responses to Crossfit is not just a fad (but it needs to go the way of the Dodo)

  1. Fantastic condemnation of CF. I cannot stand it.

    • jonoprecel says:

      Thanks. I’m glad you liked it!
      Like I think I may have said, the poor programming and sacrifice of form for reps makes it a minefield of injuries and overtraining for 99% of the population.
      Plus, it gives trainers an excuse to not know what they are doing and say, “today we are doing a CF workout.”

      • Yes, as a powerlifting, I will be the first to say that it is overwhelmingly crucial to my sport to program one’s lifting progressively. CF horrifies me. It’s strength training that has undergone some sort of horrible mutation.

      • jonoprecel says:

        It’s like what they say, “doing Crossfit gets you good at doing Crossfit”. Sure you may be able to perform 30 consecutive reps of poor form Hang Power Snatches but good luck performing the basic strength movements with efficiency.

      • exactly. My boyfriend and I often parrot what you just said back and forth to one another when the subject of crossfit comes up/someone in the gym appears to be doing some crossfit WOD. I’d rather build my squat to maximal strength. I’m not going to do it crossfitting.

  2. demogirl06 says:

    Love the article. Here was my two cents on the subject: http://mariamaestevens.com/?s=crossfit+cool+idea

  3. frank eugene says:

    I really enjoyed crossfit for 18 months before I tore my bicept tendon in crossfit. .As a male in his 50’s I tried to keep up and lift the same amount of weight as most of the other men and women all in their 20’s..I may and may not have surgery to repair my tendon..I do miss crossfit and maybe one day I will go back….

  4. Proud Cfer says:

    Babyeaterlifts, CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. Focusing on functional lifts. The BackSquat, FrontSquat, and OverheadSquat are extremely common in programming and often many CrossFitters run progressive overload squat programs, (Smolov,5/3/1, etc) Just because you do “Crossfit Metcons” does not mean a Cfer does not focus on getting maximal strength gains in the functional and Olympic lifts. Top Cfers, have sub 2:15 Frans and can also back squat 450+ pounds raw.

    • jonoprecel says:

      Hi Proud Cfer,

      Whilst you are right, that the core of Crossfit is indeed the core powerlifting/Olympic lifting moves, such as Back/Front Squat, O/H Press, Bench Press, Deadlifts, Cleans, and Snatches, the issue is with the programming methods of these lifts. Just the other day a CFer suffered a horrific injury, leaving him paralysed from the waist down, as a result of a workout that involved using your 3RM Snatch.

      Also, to say that a Crossfitter is also focusing on maximal strength is faulty logic. To progress in any of the aforementioned lifts, it is imperative that you utilise linear, or undulating, periodisation whilst employing the principles of progressive overload. Most CFers, if following the main website, will only do a max deadlift once every couple of months, if that, and as we know, there is little transference between Met Con work and maximal strength work.

      Lastly, top CFers very rarely use the CF template to train, instead opting for their own programming, which will have one day of maximal effort work, one day of Met Con, some Bodybuilding work and so forth. Also, drugs run rampant in the Crossfit Games, so claiming that they have a 2:15 Fran (which I also have, and is not really that impressive considering all it does is make you want to puke) and Squat 450 pounds raw is like saying that Arnold got his physique because he ate a lot and lifted heavy.

  5. Linnie says:

    I started Crossfit about 2 1/2 months ago and I love it. I know I am a lot stronger than I lift during class, but I would much rather finish my rounds using less weight without causing myself injury than to over exert my body to fail. Proper technique is the key and I have noticed the strength I have built in doing so. I will be 50 in a couple months and I feel better than I have in the years I was lifting straight at the gym. The instructors are very motivating and very helpful whether one is a new member or not. Always about being safe.

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