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The Real Problem With Crossfit

I’m sure you’ve clicked on this post for one of two reasons:

  1. You love Crossfit and reading Crossfit-bashing posts makes you feel like you’ve joined an exclusive club that understands the merits of Crossfit while the rest of the world revels in it’s own stupidity
  2. You hate Crossfit and reading Crossfit-bashing posts makes you feel like you’ve joined an exclusive club of elite fitness professionals that are “too smart” for the bogus methods that Crossfit utilizes

I’m sorry to say that I won’t be satisfying either of those motivations.

The problem with Crossfit? I don’t really see that many.

Are there occasional problems with the science behind the workouts? Sure. Are there problems with coaches? Definitely. Are there problems with the snobbish behaviors that it sometimes encourages among it’s members? Perhaps.

But make no mistake, the problem isn’t Crossfit.

The fradulent science that Crossfitters sometimes use to support their methods? Sure, Crossfit’s programming might be pretty messed up at times. As we’ve seen in the Crossfit Games, Crossfit HQ isn’t really concerned with being an all-inclusive, accessible fitness organization (which is ironic because the word inclusive is blatantly in their site’s description of Crossfit). But walk into any commercial gym and ask around. I’m sure you’ll find some fradulent science.

“Crunches burn the fat around your belly,” anybody?

And about the coaching? Read this article. Then I recommend that you check out a few personal training gyms in your area. It doesn’t matter what part of the fitness industry you’re in, bad coaching exists everywhere. Coaching is an art, but fitness is the business. There’s a difference between being a good coach and a good gym owner.

The superiority complex that Crossfit breeds? Sure, it’s there. But that same type of belief has separated bodybuilders and powerlifters for decades. Everybody wants to be part of the elite crew, so that’s what they’ll sell you.

But if you don’t like Crossfit, then don’t do it. Stop supporting it by watching the Games on ESPN every year. Don’t buy a membership. Don’t do the WODs. You don’t have to do Crossfit.

Crossfit isn’t the problem. It’s the entire industry.

The most frequent grievance that you hear from anti-Crossfitters is probably the injury rate.

I mean, hell, if you Google “crossfit injury rate,” the first thing that comes up is a short paragraph citing The Journal of Strength & Conditioning with a rate of 73.5%. (For the record, the current injury rate of the New England Patriots is only 22.7% and we’re all freaking out.)

But let’s look deeper at this. If you Google “injury rate of runners,” a short paragraph gives you 53.9% and 55.4%, depending on what types of shoes they’re wearing.

And if we look at strength sports (powerlifting, strongman, & Olympic weightlifting), we find similar numbers. On average, there are somewhere between 1 and 5 injuries per 1,000 hours of lifting. Let’s just call it three. If the average strength athlete trains for approximately five hours each week, they’d probably sustain an injury once a year.

In my personal opinion, I don’t think the Crossfit injury rate is that high. Certainly not much higher than it’s colleagues above.

The problem is that Crossfit is more strongly marketed to novice trainees. It’s catches on with ordinary people because it helps you “get in better shape” and burn bodyfat. The average gym-goer doesn’t walk in looking for the machine to help them increase their deadlift. And despite what many guys say, they care far more about being lean than about filling out a larger t-shirt.

The problem with marketing Crossfit to beginners is that Crossfit shouldn’t be for beginners. Crossfit is for athletes that have a grasp on the fundamentals of fitness. But new trainees want to skip the fundamentals and head straight to the fun stuff.

Because fundamentals don’t burn bodyfat.

Whether you’re accustomed to using the FMS performance pyramid or you prefer to look at things through health-related and skill-related fitness lenses, the answer is the same. You must build a base of mobility, stability, and coordination before (in the words of Gray Cook) you add strength to dysfunction.

These qualities: mobility, stability, flexibility, balance, coordination, basic strength, endurance, cardiovascular capacity. These are all on the bottom tier of the pyramid. This is basic fitness. Most every person I assess is deficient in at least one of these areas.

Crossfit, powerlifting, endurance sports, and Olympic weight lifting are all second-tier activities.

You can’t expect to perform second tier activities before you’re mastered first tier qualities. Can’t touch your toes? Can’t put your hands over your head without compensation? Go ahead, do Crossfit (or powerlifting, or Olympic weightlifting, or distance running), but don’t be surprised when you’re all jacked up after a month.

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