Thoughts on CrossFit

Most people can ride a bike, and that’s all they want to do with it. But some, want to use that bike to do a double backflip off a jump.

I get asked about my opinion on CrossFit daily.

In the past 10 years, CrossFit has done a lot to help the fitness industry. Barbells, sleds, medicine balls and squats are now seen in commercials on TV. Bodyweight training has become a trendy fitness term. I think that is a good thing for the fitness industry. We need to move away from big commercials gyms which amount to an army of people mindlessly riding ellipticals. CrossFit is leading the charge against that. Plenty of strength and conditioning coaches have been saying it for much longer than CrossFit has been around, but it seems to be the push that fitness needed to start making the shift.

The reason CrossFit has been able to do this is that they do a really good job of building a community and getting people out of their comfort zone.  I’m thrilled that more and more people want to learn how to squat, deadlift and perform the Olympic lifts.

Learning these movements takes a base level of strength that a lot of people don’t have when first starting out a fitness program. It requires a ton of mobility and stability that take time to develop if you’ve been working at a desk  for the past 15 years.  The amount of people who get injured doing CrossFit workouts is significant.

CrossFit programs are usually designed for large groups of people. I think that the best way to get results is to individualize programs. This way, each individual gets his or her own specific needs met, and can be given a plan that progresses in difficulty as their  movement skills and strength improve.

Everyone moves differently, has different levels of strength, range of motion and training history. Doing the same workout for everyone increases the likelihood of injury.  This is why a movement assessment is so important before starting a workout program. If you’re going to have someone catch a barbell overhead in the bottom of the squat, known as a snatch,  you should probably make sure they can do a good squat and that they have adequate overhead mobility first.

The Olympic lifts, which are a staple in CF programs, are very difficult to teach and take a long time to master.  When someone gets into CrossFit, they should be familiar with these movements to ensure they can train in a safe manner. The Olympic lifts are highly technical and shouldn’t be performed for high repetitions or in a race where the goal is to finish as quickly as possible.

CrossFit has been producing some really great coaches though. I’ve learned a lot from top-level CrossFit coaches. In order to do this, I needed to get rid of my bias towards CrossFit. A lot of these coaches could reach more people in the fitness industry if they weren’t associated with CrossFit.

Because of these coaches, CrossFit is producing some incredible athletes. It’s really impressive what some of the CrossFit Games athletes can do. They are fast, strong, super lean and they have a huge engine that never slows down.

People need to recognize that the CrossFit Games is an extreme sport. Everyone can ride a bike; other people want to do back flips off a jump. That is competitive CrossFit – it takes something that everyone can do (exercise) and brings to the extreme.

A problem arises when someone gets into CrossFit because of these high level athletes athletes, tries to emulate what they are doing and get injured. They don’t have the movement skill, strength, or time to dedicate into becoming a freaky-talented athlete.

The thing to remember is that as CrossFit’s popularity has spiked- more and more boxes, what they call gyms, are being opened everyday. Their business model allows anyone can open a CrossFit Box. That means that there is absolutely zero consistency between boxes – different coaching styles, different programming, different memberships prices. There is no consistency, and I think that becomes an issue when people’s’ health is on the line. So, do you want to just ride a bike  or do you want to try to do double back flips and dramatically increase you chance of injury?

There are positives and negatives of CrossFit, but when it comes down to it, I think a more sustainable approach to fitness is needed for most people. One that slowly progress movements based on an assessment. Strength and conditioning is the preventative medicine of the future. The more people that start living a healthier lifestyle, the better. CrossFit is getting more people to do that, and that’s great. If you think CrossFit is for you, make sure that you know your own limitations, modify movements when necessary and always listen to your body.

P.S.The CrossFit games are on TV this weekend, and my DVR will definitely be recording them.

Thoughts on CrossFit