Help Me Understand CrossFit

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Am I the only paleo blogger that isn’t embracing the extreme “functional” workout program known as CrossFit? I’ve read articles from their journals, watched videos and talked to members. To me CrossFit seems like another lunatic over-training program. However, I accept the premise that I am still uninformed, so I am keeping an open mind.

My concerns about CrossFit:

  1. Injury prone – Highly technical moves, climbing ropes to the ceiling and other extreme exercises seem like highly inefficient ways to target muscles. When I watch the promo videos for CrossFit, all I can think about is survivorship bias. The ones that succeed are those that didn’t injury themselves or those with superior recovery skills.
  2. Momentum is Not Strength – Doing something fast may feel great and provide a wonderful sense of accomplishment, but when you flip weights or hold things in lock out position, you are taking tension off the targeted muscle. Your joints take the beating. But you’ll be 20 forever, so who cares?
  3. Beat Your Body Into Shape Mentality – I know this exists everywhere, be it CrossFit, spin or Zumba. This idea that we need to run ourselves to complete exhaustion via extreme volume or extreme movements in order to become more fit is dead wrong. You should work with your body not against it. Do what it takes to trigger results and no more. Dr. Doug McGuff uses the elevator button analogy. Once you’ve hit the button, wait for the elevator. Don’t keep pressing the button. That body you beat up in your 20s and 30s is the same body you’ll have when you get older. Treat it well.
  4. The Commercialization of Extreme – This is the main thing that most turns me off about CrossFit. Every few years another extreme fitness program surfaces. P90X anyone? The promise of turning your lumpy weak body into an Olympic athlete with some extreme program sure sounds appealing. Sadly, they all have high failure rates. Some people will succeed doing any program and then falsely credit whatever program they did instead of superior genetics, youth or a good diet.

crossfit-box-jump

Photo by adrian valenzuela

Look I understand the appeal of CrossFit. It looks like fun and it has a great sense of community. The people who do stick with it and don’t get injured tend to be in awesome shape. I personally think they would be in awesome shape following most workout plans and that CrossFit offers nothing superior.

Almost ten years ago when I had my own home gym, I went to Home Depot and bought a thick rope. With it I constructed a setup where by I could do rope pull-ups. I felt like a bad ass doing that exercise. That is until I lost my grip and tore a muscle in my ring finger. I was sidelined for months while it healed. During that time I couldn’t close my left hand. I lost far more strength during my recovery than I ever gained doing that silly exercise.

I would love for someone to explain what CrossFit offers that can’t be achieved in a safer, more efficient manner. Frankly, I just don’t understand it.

47 thoughts on “Help Me Understand CrossFit

  1. JM

    I’ll take a stab at addressing your points. I’ll start by making one assumption. You have quality coaching and not someone who went to a weekend cert and then opened a box. With that said.

    “Injury prone – Highly technical moves” Any good coach scales all the workouts. Can’t or don’t want to climb a rope? You can do body rows, pull-ups, partial rope climbs. Whatever you feel comfortable doing.

    “Momentum is Not Strength” Crossfit tends to define their workouts in terms of power. The formula escapes me at the moment, but it is essentially work over time. The momentum and slop that people observe is generally accepted by the Crossfit community as a natural by product of competition and pushing yourself.

    “Beat Your Body Into Shape Mentality” No doubt that many gyms believe in extremely high volume training. Much of the training is mental conditioning in my opinion. Pushing way beyond what you thought was possible.

    “The Commercialization of Extreme” Yeah, years ago it was elite and cool. Now that more people are getting into it, the atmosphere is changing. Same thing happened with Brazilian jiu-jitsu. When I started in the Mid 90’s no one except the wealthy and zealots knew about it. Training was arduous but humbling. Now you walk into a dojo and some 20 year old kid thinks it’s the UFC.

    I’ve been Crossfitting for many years. I think the best part of the gym is the community. I’ve come to view the classes as games or challenges. They can be raw and challenging and prone with risk. I enjoy that element. Other people come in and scale the workout down to what they’re comfortable with and leave. But people keep coming back because the gym has created a tribe of people that enjoy the social interaction.

  2. Gil

    1. The people who injure themselves are those who try to bite off more than they can chew. A main purpose of crossfit is it supposed to be scaled to ability. Some people don’t like doing less than everyone else and make a bad judgement call on what they are going to do. There are little kids and grandma’s who do crossfit, but they typically are and shouldn’t be doing the same exact workout as the college aged athletes. For the record, I’ve never climbed a rope during the years I’ve been involved with CrossFit.

    2. Momentum may not be strength, but it is function and skill. The purpose of crossfit is that it is a type of functional fitness. For instance if you are escaping a predator and need to get over something, if you have the ability to use momentum to your advantage, then it might save your life as it can accomplish more than strength. Also, it still does involve strength. When doing kipping pullups (momentum driven pullups) I can do significantly more, and feel it significantly more the next day.

    3. CrossFit is the “sprinting” of the primal life. Primal Blueprint says to do some sprinting occasionally and CrossFit is a sprint. The people who are doing CrossFit 5-6 days per week are doing it too much, and yes, I think this is an issue in the program.

    4. First, this ties into number 3. With CrossFit gyms being a business, they want to sell more expensive memberships, encouraging people to buy the unlimited pass. This does make people pretty prone to overtraining as they want to get their money’s worth. Also “CrossFit.com” is what started it, but most gyms do their own programming with crossfit philosophy but different workouts.

    In conclusion, I think that it is a very good program for people but it does have to be done smart, and not overdone. A few days per week of CrossFit, combined with some hiking, swimming, martial arts, or any other less intense form of physical activity I think is the best set up. Remembering to take your rest days also makes a huge difference.

  3. @JM – Thanks for commenting. I still think of exercise in economic terms. What is least effort and least risk I can take to get the maximum benefit. Every exercise has a varying degree of risk of injury.

    Can one ever get more muscular benefit doing rope climbing over a chin-up? I suspect they would actually get less – plus injury risk spikes. There is a similar cost-benefit analysis with other exercises.

    A friend on mine on FB commented “Technical lifts aren’t meant to be done for time, you are risking serious injury, and more time down.” When I watch the videos, that is what I am seeing.

    I hadn’t considered the mental conditioning aspect. Something to ponder. Thanks.

  4. @Gil – Thanks for commenting.

    When I examine a system, be it nutritional, fitness or finance, I look for failure paths. Most people just focus on the successful outcomes and assume that if they just follow the plan and do everything just right that success will come to them. What is hidden are those that do everything they are supposed to, but fail. That is the majority.

    I’m in better shape than 99% of men my age. It is not because I worked out harder or have better genetics. It is because I didn’t over train or take excessive risks in the gym.

    Sprinting is cool. One CrossFit video showed a foot race where the competitors were running down a rocky dirt road. Makes for a cool video, but I’d rather do that sprint on more level grass.

    As for “biting off more than you chew”, all it takes is for 1 bad rep where your mind wanders or your footing slips to sideline you. I don’t think the risk is worth it.

  5. chuck

    there are many exercises i learned from crossfit. i own kettelebells and gymnastic ring…recently sold my rower. i did hurt myself using my rings and it took a while to recover. probably wouldn’t have happened using isolation machines. i personally enjoy mixing weight training with skill training. the mind/body connection required to perform some of these skills i feel helps with proprioception which hopefully will help me in later life coordination and injury prevention. most of my skill stuff is with kettlebells as i don’t own free weights. i had shoulder surgery about 15 years ago and i believe my shoulder is now stronger and more stable than it has been for about 17 years. i have friends who do conventional body building workouts and eat like crap who can barely lift there arm over their head.

    i think a crossfit style workout should be limited to 1-2 days per week. i also have a post in the works regarding crossfit but the topic is different.

  6. matthew

    As a former disciple of crossfit, back in the early days, prior to its massive commercialization… I have to say that it is extremely effective at getting people to an advanced (but not elite) level of fitness. While instructors do attempt to scale, nobody should be doing ring dips, cleans, snatches, jerks, etc (even assisted) until they have built up a basic level of fitness that a lot of people walking in off the street do not have.

    Unfortunately, as it has gotten more extreme it seems to have been taken over by folks who think it is not a good workout, if you don’t vomit at the end.

    There is an aspect of mental conditioning to it, but from my own personal experience once you get the gist of how crossfit workouts are designed and master all the forms, you can often do better in a more “paleo” fashion by just striking out on your own. I’m not sure how doing what is essentially triple super setting over high intensity exercises for exactly twelve minutes is not as bad as cardio. CrossFit is aimed at maximizing power output, not necessarily strength or endurance. Your power curve goes from y = 5 over a 30minute – 1hr interval with cardio to a power curve of y = 25 over a 6 – 12 minute interval with CrossFit.

    Final point– CrossFit is much more about the social aspect than any secret workout sauce. It’s almost a cult like environment. If you wanted a really “paleo” workout just go to the gym and wander doing exercises taking no breaks. It will save you the $240 / month for an EXTREME social club.

    The area I would recommend from CrossFit though is the explosive power work (which mostly comes form gymnastics and olympic lifting anyway). Absolutely critical for most sports.

  7. @Chuck – The ring stuff seemed extreme to me. I can see how an injury could occur doing that move. Bodyweight, somatype, height and coordination are all playing a role.

    @Matt – Excellent point about developing explosive power as it applies to sports. Conditioning Research interviewed Luke Carlson about explosive power. He said: “If the weight actually moves fast during strength training, momentum is introduced and muscle tension is reduced (as the musculature is essentially unloaded); this is the exact opposite of the goal of strength training and the requirement for muscle fiber recruitment.” That addresses it from a pure strength angle. But I like what Chuck said: “the mind/body connection required to perform some of these skills i feel helps with proprioception which hopefully will help me in later life coordination and injury prevention.”

  8. chuck

    I hurt my low back on the rings doing an inverted pike after workout that really lit my low back up.

    My back was probably pretty pissed at me before I started messing around on the rings. I strained my erector spine pretty bad. Was out for months till a good chiropractor determined I was way too tight in my hips. She did some active release on me and I was nearly 100% a week later. But, as I said, this wouldn’t have happened on a machine.

    I believe machines are definitely safer. I still need some sort of athletic skill challenge in my life. This way of exercising challenges both my coordination and my strength. That is why I may choose something more dangerous.

  9. Dan G

    What ever the type of training you are trying to succeed at their is one thing that is for sure you should be able to train with good energy and enthusiasm if not it’s going in the wrong direction

  10. Mike

    MAS,
    I’m not “paleo”, but I work out regularly, and I too think crossfit is some kernels of truth mixed in with a lot of hype and marketing. The truth is brief intense exercise works better than marathon training for most of us. the economics are better, as you point out. That said, I do work out with bodyweight exercises and db’s and kettlebells (another huge marketing empire) for convenience. I do enjoy some of the ballistic movements,(swings, presses) but don’t do them to exhaustion. At 61, I can’t afford injury. It is possible that as you age these types of activities, if not overdone, can have some benefit. No one knows for sure. I do fell more confident hiking over rough terrain, doing MA, etc. I agree with Chuck, a few minutes 1-2 times a week, and some lower stress activities in between.
    In my teens and 20’s I did a lot of hard physical labor, and it’s overrated as fitness, believe me. the payoff is poor. the extreme exercises and puking level intensity appeal to a certain mindset. Also, I’ve seen pictures and video of “coach” Glassman. I think he should talk to Dr. Doug Mcguff.
    MG

  11. NW

    I’ve done rope climbs and rope pullups for a long time and never had the problem you mention. This is also the first time I’ve heard of it. Sounds like you have poor grip strength and should of started with an easier version. For example, have a rope hanging to the floor –> Lay on your back –> pull yourself to a standing position. Because your feet are on the floor the whole time that takes some weight off.

    No offense, but you were probably doing something beyond your current capacity. That not the fault of the exercise.

  12. @NW – Just because you’ve never had a problem, doesn’t mean that rope climbs are a safe effective exercise. You survived that exercise, I didn’t. Every exercise has a risk factor.

    I do not see how rope climbs develop strength better or even equal to chin-ups. I do see vastly increased risks with it. If I hit total muscular failure doing a chin-up, I can still slowly lower myself to a standing position. If that happens at the top of a rope climb, I’m screwed. So for safety reasons, the rope climber will reduce intensity. If my goal is developing strength, logically it makes more sense to favor the exercise that allows me to generate more intensity. If my goal is become a great rope climber, then sure I need to climb ropes.

    I think this explains my fundamental disagreement with CrossFit. Because the moves are often highly technical, intensity must be reduced to do them in a safe manner. The volume and frequency of workouts only goes to further reduce intensity.

  13. thomas

    Ha! Some other poster likened this to a cult; another mentioned the “community”. At some fitness expo I saw a big demo area for Crossfit. I stood and watched for a little bit.

    It was a farce.

    I really think it is about psychological needs of the participants being met/unmet. There were so many people giving each other “props” (high fives, O-yeah, work it!, etc.) it seemed like a “boy band” summit meeting. If I recall correctly, too loud music was also being played. It was dumb but amusing.

    I didn’t even think about the physical risks involved either which I can’t figure out if that makes it sadder or funnier. I noticed a lot of the women were very unattractive at this particular demonstration I witnessed. I just figured they were seeking any validation whatsoever hence their crossfit participation. God knows they weren’t getting any compliments on their faces.

    Maybe it works though. All I know is that it seemed more about being thrust into a mental state than a physical one. Whatever. Watching the video has made me hungry for a cheeseburger.

  14. Peter

    Hey Michael,

    I like your open minded questioning.

    I run a CrossFit gym, and my approach to Crossfit maybe different to what others are doing – so I can only speak for myself.

    I see the training that my gym does as being focused on longevity and for supporting (and improving where possible) what people are doing outside the gym.

    We scale A LOT – and make it the basis for all our sessions – skill and quality of movement FIRST – always before speed, time, weight and ego.

    In that respect we may not be ‘hardcore CrossFit’ but, quite frankly I believe there is nothing to be gained from beating the crap out of your body, especially with too much volume, too much weight, not enough recovery and at a pace you can’t have safe technique.

    Clearly in any programme, system or business you’ll find the good, the bad and the ugly.

    CF has a challenge in such much as quality of coaching is self policed. This is really the issue. I would always seek out a knowledgeable and experienced coach – what ever activity I was looking at doing.

    With regards to your wanting to understand CrossFit….

    “Injury prone – Highly technical moves -”

    This really depends on your sample size – and compared to what? . In addition all movements can be scaled or adjusted to make them user friendly for beginners…

    “Momentum is Not Strength – you are taking tension off the targeted muscle. Your joints take the beating. But you’ll be 20 forever, so who cares?”

    Momentum is not strength… true. “You are taking tension off the targeted muscle” – CrossFit doesn’t target muscles… It target movements – the muscles being used are a by-product of the movement. Locking out of your joints.. that’s what you do when you hold a heavy weight up above your head (for example), Its normal, natural and safe provided you don’t have any pre-exisiting mobility or ROM issues etc INMHO. I would say…If you’re concerned that your joints are taking a beating perhaps you’re using too much weight for your current ability?

    “Beat Your Body Into Shape Mentality – I know this exists everywhere….”

    I disagree with this approach to fitness/ training irrespective of the methods being used. It’s a surefire way of burning out – I’ve seen others do it… and I shake my head.

    Training hard has to be appropriate to your own specific goals, and in balance with things like recovery & life!

    “The Commercialization of Extreme” I agree this is true – it creates media coverage. This is what it is. Good or bad… maybe its both or neither.

    Thank you for creating debate and discussion!

    Warm regards

    Peter

    CrossFit Christchurch, New Zealand.

  15. @Peter – Thanks for the comment. I really liked what you said here:

    “CrossFit doesn’t target muscles… It target movements – the muscles being used are a by-product of the movement.”

    That is the best explanation I’ve heard so far. I do basic Mobility exercises prior to lifting weights. I’ve found it has helped me psychologically prepare for strength training. In a world that wants to box us in via desks, car seats and chairs, having sessions of free moments 1-2x a week is a great thing. If I take that understanding and combine it with some strength movements, I think I better understand CF now.

    I’m going to ponder the movement aspect.

  16. Peter

    Michael – I’m glad to have helped in some way!

    I think the key is that everyone uses (within the CF community) different approaches – sometimes I find taking away the name – and focusing on the purpose of your training plan helps remove the hype from what your aiming to achieve.

    I greater coach than I once said something along the lines of

    “Use the least amount of training possible to bring about the best results”

    Your 1-2 free weight movements per week – IMHO – is fantastic – and something we could all realistically aim for irrespective of goals or ability.

  17. Dan G

    Very well spoken Peter what may be beneficial to one may be detrimental to another their is no one size fits all we have limitations in what we can do and what we will receive something that is never spoken what makes Michael Jordan in Basketball but not in Baseball let me here any fitness trainer tell me so let’s put things into perspective human knowledge only goes so far and it is also full of misjudgment opinions and failures including me posting this thanx to all

  18. chuck

    MAS:
    You said: “In a world that wants to box us in via desks, car seats and chairs, having sessions of free moments 1-2x a week is a great thing.”

    This is why I try to work out standing up and without shoes on whenever possible. Too much of my life is already spent off my feet. I suspect that is a contributing factor to the back problem I had.

  19. JAB

    Before I add my comments I would like to offer that I think that there is no “right” answer. I have never tried P90X and would agree that it appears to do too much damage with much too long of an “extreme” workout. There have been plenty of studies to suggest that short workouts 1x-2x per week will provide greater results in terms of vascular and heart fitness than much longer “cardio” workouts. Most crossfit workouts do not exceed 20 minutes and I would say the majority are performed under 10 minutes. Highly technical movements are rarely integrated into a workout and when they are the weights are greatly reduced. Strength training workouts are simply strength training lifts, not for time or hurried in any way. As was stated previously, all workouts are scalable to meet with each persons’ abilities. I have seen many success stories in our gym and honestly I cannot think of an injury or “failure” in the two years I have been there. It is important to have good coaching and for each person to understand their limitations. Weekend warriors get hurt no matter what they participate in.

  20. Kris @ Health Blog

    I’ve been doing crossfit for about 5 weeks now and I haven’t suffered any injuries. The trainer we have is very specific about form and makes a big deal about us letting him know if we have pain somewhere.

    You could of course reach good results as well with other workout programs, but I find Crossfit to the the funnest type of training I’ve found in my life.

  21. Jay

    I did crossfit for a while. My rope climbs didn’t end until I would fall off the rope. I would place pads on the floor below me and climb till my arms tired and my hands didn’t hold me on any longer. Then, I would crash to the floor. That’s how I knew I was done with my rope climbing session. I twisted my ankle twice and during my recovery time my crossfit coach Dusty forced me to still train by doing muscle ups, pullups, and ring dips till my hands would blister and bleed.

    As my ankle healed I slowly started sneaking into a Fitness 19 gym to work out on an elliptical machine. During one mornings workout on that machine, as the burnt calorie count reached 500, I realized that this was a much lower impact workout and provided much less risk than the downhill rock path runs I had been doing with crossfit. The elliptical was not nearly as dangerous as those rope climbs were. Was I onto something? YES!

    After my elliptical breakthrough I joined Fitness 19. At first it was out of pure necessity as the Crossfit San Ramon gym didn’t provide any elliptical machines for me to train on. It was at Fitness 19 that my entire workout world was turned upside down. Coming from a purely crossfit background of workout till you faint, puke, or piss yourself I have to admit the training style of the Fitness 19 crew was a bit underwhelming at first. But, after a few visits to the gym, and a complimentry meeting with a trainer, I could see why so many people were seeing results with the Fitness 19 program. They were targeting their muscle groups. This is where crossfit had failed me in the past.

    Sure, with crossfit I was getting faster, stronger, more agile, flexible, and had better balance, endurance, accuracy and stamina. But, as my Fitness 19 coach pointed out, I was not targeting any specific muscles. Also, with crossfit, I was prone to injury while falling off those ropes and running downhill on rocks. Fitness 19 was providing me with a safe, muscle targeted approach to fitness. Did I mention they have elliptical machines?

    Fitness 19 is safer, and better than Crossfit… and they have elliptical machines.

    Jay (AKA Fitness 19)

    I

  22. Eric Lepine

    Hey MAS!
    I think you have every reason to be concerned… Crossfit is certainly appealing in many ways, especially to the masses who have never followed any other type of “program” and thus have nothing relevant to compare it to (the biggest proportion of the cultish aspect of Crossfit; one of course has to distinguish between this cultish aspect, CF headquarters and then, the ever-growing “sport” of Crossfit and Crossfit “professional” athletes), and it also greatly appeals to the unmotivated, the ex-athlete or the “still-competitive ex-collegiate jocks” or military-type guys out there. I’ve been studying the Crossfit thing extensively for a good five years now. I’ve also debated for and against it with various authorities. I’ve come to a conclusion similar to Keith at Theory to Practice, namely: A fitness program involves juggling with elements of a three-dimensional “risk-efficiency-reward” scale. Some folks, for example, are willing to gamble a bit (or a lot in many instances…) in the risk and/or efficiency areas (for example, using high-rep ballistic gymnastic movements such as kipping pull-ups or muscle-ups, or O-lifts every 3 weeks!?!?!?) for the chance to enhance their “reward” outcome (however they choose to define this said “reward”). Some sports/endeavors/activities will inherently demand more risk from the athlete, both in competition and in training. In essence my thinking is this: if you’re an average joe who just wants to “get fit”, do you really need to incur the added “risk” involved in training Crossfit-style? Probably not…

  23. GWhitney

    A lot has been said on this already. I’ll just briefly add that this is how some people interpret the Darwinian “survival of the fittest” imperative.

    The idea being – the fitter you are, the longer you’ll survive.

    But I think most of the CrossFit routines get it wrong. It’s not about running a mile or rowing 500 meters.

    Surviving used to mean being the guy who could run the fastest 50 yards and pull himself up a tree the quickest…

  24. @Chuck – Excellent find! I love this passage:

    “I’m excited to be able to push myself to full capacity without risking injury. With CrossFit, it’s too easy to injure yourself as you push yourself with more weight in lifts or kettlebells, more height on boxjumps, and so on. Yes, there’s lots of attention to form, but when you get tired, just one bad rep can do real damage.”

  25. Rachel

    My advice is: Don’t drink the Crossfit Kool Aid. Don’t go into a Crossfit gym, even if they offer you free intro classes. Never sign up on a Crossfit mailing list. Don’t watch a friend’s Crossfit Class.

    I am a runner, and I know some runners that decided to try Crossfit as a way of cross training. These were not weekend joggers, but people that run half marathons and marathons. Most quickly decided the Crossfit program’s workouts were too extreme for them. The WODs were making them too sore to do their best running. So they decided to go back to working with a personal trainer.

    A few other runners decided to stick with Crossfit and see if they could get used to the workouts to the point they were not feeling so sore. Unfortunately, both got injured doing Crossfit WOD, and as a result, were not able to compete in some races they really wanted to run. After that, they also decided that doing Crossfit was counterproductive to their running goals.

    For every Crossfitter that becomes an Elete Crossfit athlete by subjecting their body to the torture of Crossfit Workout of the Day routines, you can be sure that many, many more will end up in the emergency room with an injury that will sideline them from doing ANY exercise for weeks, if not months.

    So again, DON’T DRINK THE CROSSFIT KOOL AID!

  26. @Rachel – I think you are right. Whenever I look at a system, I always study the failures and CrossFit is chock full of failures. It is my belief that those that succeed with CrossFit would succeed on other safer programs.

  27. Peter

    Hi Rachel and MAS,

    Had to reply to your comments about CrossFit 🙂

    CrossFit is not for everyone – if you really enjoy running I would question the need to do CrossFit!

    However, making a blanket statement about a strength and conditioning programme is IMHO is an unrealistic view which fails to take into account things like – common sense – did your runner friends do too much and become injured, did the coach at the CF gym scale their workouts gradually or did your friends let their egos take over (the mind-set which makes you think you’re invincible) and become ‘over-trained’ by doing too much, too soon?

    It would be easy to say that I’ve seen many (if not all) the runners I know become injured through running – so what makes running OK and CrossFit not?

    My point is that someone having the wrong approach to any sport or training regime is hazardous – to single out one fitness approach and not acknowledge the inherent risk of EVERY other ‘way of getting fit’ is just plain silly.

    It’s not what you do… it’s how you go about doing it.
    If I run too much, too soon I get injured… If I play tennis too much, too soon I get injured…etc etc etc etc……

    P.S MAS examine a good coach of any sport or training regime, including CrossFit and you’ll be surprised by what you find… Safer is a relative term, see above.

    Thank you for the debate – it’s healthy!

    Warm regards,

    Peter

  28. @Peter – Just to be clear, I am not a fan of distance running. Been there, done that. It was hell on my body. Way too many failures in that sport. Could I have designed a better running program? Sure, but fortunately I don’t need to jog to have a healthy ticker.

  29. OregonRunner

    In my opinion CrossFit is extreme. When the founder of it is overweight and doesn’t even do the workouts, what does that tell you. He also has admitted in a New York Times article that CrossFit can kill you. Anybody who would pay $150 a month for a workout regimen that the owner of the company doesn’t even do is either stupidir has a lot of money to waste. Avid CrossFit disciples will defend it as they’re being taken to the ER but as far as I’m concerned, I already have a religion, I don’t need to do CrossFit…

  30. @OregonRunner – I was unaware of the NY Times article. Thanks!

    Mr. Glassman, CrossFit’s founder, does not discount his regimen’s risks, even to those who are in shape and take the time to warm up their bodies before a session.

    “It can kill you,” he said. “I’ve always been completely honest about that.”

    This guy sounds like a real jerk.

    But for Mr. Glassman, dismissals of his extreme workouts merely help him weed out people he considers weak-willed. “If you find the notion of falling off the rings and breaking your neck so foreign to you, then we don’t want you in our ranks,” he said.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/22/fashion/thursdaystyles/22Fitness.html

  31. OregonRunner

    Thanks for quoting some of the article and providing a link for people! I think, especially with the downturn in the economy people are thinking more about where their money is going. Well CrossFit disciples, this is where your money is going – to a gentlemen who is (literally) getting fat from your hard earned money to do a workout program that he admits is dangerous, even deadly at times, but doesn’t even care…

  32. [email protected]

    I’m totally opposed to Cross Fit but they obviously are appealing to a large and growing segment of society. That article is seven years old and in that time Cross Fit particpant numbers have probably quadrupled… Plus all that TV time.

    As MAS knows, I’m a high intensity interval training fanatic and I advocate doing HIIT workouts 5 to 6 days per week – but each of my “WODs” last a *total* of 8-12 minutes – not 45-60 minutes…

  33. What I found fascinating about the article was it wasn’t about some rogue affiliate post-commercialization, but it was the founder himself preaching lunacy from the start.

  34. OregonRunner

    As to CF’s numbers increasing and appealing to a large segment of society, yes this is definitely true. I think the big appeal to it are the sense of community it encourages (or what is often described as ‘cultish’) as well as its extremely competitive philosophy. First of all, more than ever, people want that sense of belonging and community. Most people want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves and CF provides that. Also the extreme sense of competition appeals to a lot of people too. If you are member you can log into their website and input the new bests you have accomplished in your workout. It’s not unusual to see someone bragging about how many pull ups they were able to do – and all with a broken hand!!!!!

  35. [email protected]

    Yes – all good points OregonRunner. We, all of us, are leading increasingly virtual lives with not fully-satisfying virtual relationships. There’s nothing more “real” than sweating, vomiting and bleeding alongside members of your tribe – I’m not being sarcastic.

    But I’m in the late stages of my hunter-warrior life cycle (aged 47). All that communal secreting of bodily fluids is more for warriors in their 20s…

    My eldest son is 14 1/2 and I can see the passing of the warrior mantle before my very eyes. My focus is on maintaining strength and speed while increasing wisdom – that’s hopefully my contribution to the family’s evolutionary fitness.

  36. Jay

    Speaking to the point that several of you have made regarding CrossFits level of danger/lack of safety.
    What most of you are saying is CrossFit provides the same level of “results” or strength or fitness as other, much safer means of training…
    My response: bullsh$t. Either you are not as strong and fit as you think you are, or you are hugely underestimating the level of fitness a competitive CrossFit athlete has.
    There are several ways to test my position. One way is by doing a simple comparison of abilities. I like to use a quote I heard once: “We (a competitive CrossFit athlete) can do everything you (a work out with your machine, don’t hurt yourself, I strained my ring finger on a rope doing pullups person) do, just as good as you. You can’t do anything we do.

    There are many tests that can gauge someone’s level of power, strength, speed, etc. If you are skeptical, find a CrossFit athlete and work out with them. It doesn’t need to be a CrossFit workout either. You pick the workout.
    The most humbling test will come from you attempting to compete against a CrossFit athlete in a CrossFit workout. This brings me back to my first test of comparison…

    We can do everything you do, just as good as you. You can’t do anything we do.

    If you need help finding any competitive CrossFit athletes, we are all around. You can look us up online, go to a local CrossFit gym and ask around for someone who competes. Usually a trainer or gym owner will be the easiest. Or, you can come to a local competition and talk to some athletes there.
    Just mention that you would like to test their level of fitness by doing some activities. They will most likely be up for the test…. Have fun!

  37. @Jay – Thanks for the comment. Other CF people have made similar points. I’m working on a new blog post to further this discussion.

  38. OregonRunner

    @Jay I personally have never denied that CrossFit gives you results. If it didn’t people wouldn’t be willing to do it. I have friends that are avid CrossFit disciples and they are in better shape than me – they can run faster and lift more weight. I’m secure enough with myself that I can face that and move on.

    At the end of the day, I guess it just depends what your priorities are. CrossFit appeals to the highly competitive person who needs to prove themselves to others. It also provides a sense of community. Personally I know that there are plenty of other workouts and gyms that provide a REASONABLE level of fitness, without the risks of CF. I think if you want to do CF and it works for you, great. It’s a whole lot better than sitting on the couch and eating all day. But I think to promote it without mentioning the risks is almost irresponsible. People should be fully aware of the culture at CF where you are a hero if you work out until you puke and no matter how much pain you are in you keep going until your interval time is over. A new CFer in the hands of a rogue or inexperienced trainer is a real danger.

    Last but not least, I don’t know if you’ve read the NY Times article referenced earlier in this blog, but it quotes the gentleman who owns CF. After reading his own words (he himself admits CF can be dangerous), I could never cough up $150 a month to his company. Oh wait, I do get that free T-shirt if I work out til I puke…. Tempting…

  39. steve

    Instead of bashing something with over the top statements and a few examples, why don’t you go to a CrossFit gym and ask the people there how and why they like it ?

    I agree that you don’t need to kill yourself every workout – but it is beneficial to push yourself 1, 2, 3 times a week. It’s beneficial to mix in power lifts (deadlift, squat, presses), olympic lifts (clean and jerk, snatch), skill work (rope climbs (yes, rope climbing), handstands, etc). What’s wrong with doing a heavy lift followed by 5-15 minutes of conditioning ? Then mix in some mobility work before and some stretching afterwards.

    Whoever said that CrossFit trained movements, not muscles, was right. Real life movements (lifting a couch to help a friend move, sitting down, picking up a bag of something and heaving it up on your shoulders) all require movement, not muscle isolation.

    and whoever said that the elliptical was a great exercise – shame on you – and don’t think for a minute the calorie counter is accurate in any way.

    For the runner – runners are getting injured in very high numbers – from foot injuries, ankle, knee and hip, and lower back injuries.

    how many people that posted can do 10 pull ups, unassisted ? Is that too crazy and extreme ? I’d say it’s a sign of strength.

    Power = wt x distance / time

    and yes, I do own a CrossFit Gym

  40. @Steve – I completely understand why people like CrossFit and we agree that the elliptical is crap and on the dangers of running.

    Before I stopped counting reps, I was up to 20 unassisted pull-ups. These days I slow the movement down, especially on the negative and focus more on time under load. Fewer reps, slower movement and greater muscle fiber stimulus. And no more shoulder pain.

  41. Fred

    My experience is similar to Rachel’s. I started doing CrossFit in March 2011 and found that I was often to sore to train effectively. My half marathon times got slower (did 9 last year). I decided to stop Crossfit for a couple of months and go back to the gym for more traditional strength training. Lo and behold, I did two half marathons in January 2012 that were faster than anything I did in 2011. I attribute that to not being as tired or sore and able to train better on my runs. It is hard to race fast if you cannot train fast. I think I will stay with this formula leading up to my first full marathon in DC in October 2012.

    PS: I loved Crossfit and the community, but it was not helping me meet my goals.

  42. Brad

    I am a CrossFit affiliate owner. I was CF when CF wasn’t cool 😉 blah blah.

    Take all the emotional fervor for and against it away. Kill the fashion and (gasp) the community aspect of it. Boil it down. It is an exercise program. The good thing about it is also a weak spot. That is, it’s open source. You are free to program as you want (speaking from a coaching point of view). There used to be a shirt worn by Linux geeks that said “if there’s something wrong with your linux box (yes ‘box’) then YOU did it.” This applies to a CrossFit trainer’s success as well.

    I often hear “CrossFit type” workouts (a few of the comments here used that term). I have yet to hear persons who use that term be able to define what that term means. I program 1 rep max days (typical CrossFit type workout). I program the occasional 5k run or row (typical CrossFit type workout). I do not program a “Filthy Fifty” workout regularly. I often force the scale on someone against his/her ego. Also, if a CrossFit gym doesn’t program anything but 20 minute metcons then it is at fault for not following the real deal. We are taught to program and scale for VARIED workouts. If Joe Beast can do a workout in 3 minutes and Bill Newb took 15 then his scale was not appropriate. Bill Newb should be within a minute or so of Joe Beast.

    At my gym we also program mobility.

    I am known to force someone to take a rest day or week. This should be taught by any good trainer.

    Bad CF trainers exist. So too do stubborn clients. I’ve had guys leave us because I was “holding them back.”

    I ramble on.

  43. Sam

    Why do you bother with these Crosshit people.
    Which pro teams use Crossfit as its main fitness component??????
    Crossfit fuck that, I’m not trying to be the best at exercise.
    I want to be a proper professional athlete.

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