If you’ve read my posts on Facebook for any length of time, you know I am not a fan of Crossfit… at all. In my humble opinion I believe 95% of the coaches are under-educated, misinformed about programming and biomechanics, and lack adequate experience and academic credentials.
However you cannot deny Crossfit is one of the largest fitness movements since Richard Simmons got people moving back in the 80′s. (Ok, that might be stretching it a bit). Crossfit affiliates are just that, an affiliate. The Crossfit company does not regulate how much education or experience one has, how they operate, how workouts are programmed, nor do they require any screening and/or movement testing, etc. What they do require is everyone attends and passes their Crossfit Certification in order to call themselves a Crossfit coach or open a CF facility.
Now I will admit, even though I personally do not like Crossfit I will admit there are positives about the program. First of all, it has gotten a tremendous number of people off the couch. That obviously is positive. For an organization to grow from a few hundred affiliates’ in 2008 to over 6,000 sends a great message. Also they have their version of the Super Bowl, The Crossfit Games, and again the popularity and exposure has been tremendous. Second positive point, it has gotten more people to start cutting out processed foods and sugary drinks and focus back on whole, natural foods. Again, I 100% agree with this approach. Third, Crossfit advocates exercising at a higher intensity using multi-joint movements (Squat, pushups, Deadlifts) instead of focusing on smaller muscles and lower intensity. A basic principle is more metabolic tissue, i.e. muscle, equals greater energy demanded by the body to perform the movement… again I agree with this. Finally, you can’t deny CF members are passionate and dedicated. Ask any Crossfitter and they will gush like a smitten school girl about their WOD times, and if you say anything negative about their beloved box be prepared for them to mount a defense the 75th Ranger Regiment would be proud of!
This is about where I stop agreeing with the CF principles.
A couple points I do not agree with at all. First of all, regarding nutrition. I want to start out by saying I am not a Registered Dietician or a Licensed Nutritionist so my viewpoints are either my own, or I have learned from the professionals. If you have any questions regarding your nutrition, particularly if you are under the care of a physician, consult with your doctor or a RD/LD. While I agree cutting back on processed foods, sugary foods, and foods laden with high amounts of saturated and trans fats are good, limiting your food choices to fruits, vegetables and lean meats is not balanced. Let me be clear here… carbs are NOT BAD for you.
Limiting white pasta, white potato’s, white rice is good. Notice I said “limit”, I did not say “eliminate”. Having brown rice instead of white is good, eating a sweet potato instead of a white potato is outstanding, whole wheat pasta is correct portions is much better than a huge bowl of white pasta with marinara sauce. Listen, this Paleo movement is really nothing new. Ever heard of the Adkins Diet? Guess what people… Paleo is nothing more than Adkins repackaged and modified slightly. Funny thing is Adkins was widely popular in the 80′s and 90′s, but studies started coming to light that was not in favor of this lifestyle. A Swedish study published in the British Medical Journal followed 43,000 women between the ages of 30 and 49 for 16 years. Those who consumed low-carb high-protein increased their risk for heart attack and stroke by as much as 28 percent when compared to those not strictly on an Atkins-type diet, even when other factors such as smoking, obesity and hypertension were accounted for. Another nutritional issue I have with is when someone tells a child, “milk is bad for you.” Now I did not witness this, but I have been informed one of the local CF affiliates in my area was conducting a camp for kids. Again… camp for kiddo’s is a cool idea. However, one of the instructors told the children that drinking cows milk was bad for them and they should avoid this. One of the kiddo’s came home and told his mother he didn’t want to drink milk because this was bad for them.
Btw… he is only 6 years old! Now there is a 6 year old little boy who is concerned if he drinks milk it will be bad for him? Really???
Are we getting to that point where we are bypassing the parents and telling kids “this is bad for you” or “don’t eat this because it’ll make you fat.” As the father of a 15 year old daughter, I can assure you when she was that age if ANYONE went over my head and filled her head with this crap, he/she and I will have some words I would have pulled her out of that program immediately without question. On another note, as a former wrestler (16 years) who admittedly had an eating disorder during this time, this is not the message kids need to hear.
Second thing I do not agree with CF about is their exercise programming. A video has been making the rounds for the past few years on YouTube. I’ve seen it, as I’m sure many of you have. The video was taken at Albany Crossfit and in the detail lines it says it was from an event with ‘veteran Crossfit athletes and Strongman Certified Coaches.’ The ‘strongman certified coaches’ are trainers who have attended the course, which is one of many offered exclusively by Crossfit. Btw, I have yet to meet a Crossfit coach who trains professional strongman athletes. BTW, If you are a CF coach that works with a Strongman athlete on the competition circuit hit me up because I would love to talk with you. The following is most likely the worst of the worst you will most likely ever see.
You don’t need a degree to see this is absolutely disastrous. To their credit, majority of the Crossfit community, affiliates and all, has condoned this, but it reinforces that proper coaching makes the difference.
Couple things you’ll notice, you can hear the ‘coaches’ in the background as men and women (including teens) take turns attempting to clean and jerk a loaded axle bar. An axle barbell is just a thick barbell, usually about two inches in diameter. This extra thickness makes the bar harder to hold onto, so it forces you to use more grip strength. In the video, client after client is encouraged and cheered on in using absolutely horrendous form. They are basically doing whatever it takes to get the bar overhead. In the first seconds of the video a girl drops the bar on her head! I was hoping that would be it, but instead more clips are shown, more irresponsible coaching is yelled out, and more people swing their backs into hyper extension and pull improperly trying to do what these Crossfit coaches tell them. Not one person appears to be lifting a reasonable amount of weight for their strength level. If you are lifting a weight that is so heavy you feel like you have to swing your back to move it, then you are using too much weight, plain and simple.
The main problem here is that they are coaching regular people, who are not strong, to perform a strongman lift. Strongman is a sport, and it’s a sport for an elite class of weightlifters. Farmer walks are one thing, but axle clean and jerks? Really, Crossfit? There is a lot to be said for risk versus reward. Crossfit has really taken the nation by storm and I really hope some voices of reason will step up in that movement. Crossfit instructors are taught that perfect form is not important, they want maximum effort on everything, and every workout is against the clock, basically trying to get the best time out of anyone in the room. Read this if you don’t believe me. Power cleans are not about time, this is not a race for the finish line.
If you are someone who is considering Crossfit, please make sure you work with a good coach, I know they are out there and I have met many. The above video does not represent Crossfit as a whole, but let me ask you this… how could no one in this gym not see that what they are doing is grossly irresponsible? You even hear people saying “you got it, you got it” to the girl who drops the bar on her head. No, you idiots, she does not. As a coach
Combining Olympic lifting with power moves and strongman lifts can be a good thing, but when performed past exhaustion this is a recipe for disaster. Now injuries are part of fitness… I get that… in my experiences in competitive sports and training I have had my fair share of injuries, some quite severe. However, as a 18 year veteran of the fitness industry, one of my primary objectives to to insure my my clients do NOT injure themselves. If I have a client get under a bar and perform an overhead pressing movement for, let’s say 30 reps, do you think they will get fatigued possibly setting themselves up for injury?
Just a thought.