Crossfit exploded onto the scene in the last decade as one of the most popular forms of fitness around. These days a crossfit box (what crossfit gyms are called) can be found on every second corner in larger cities around the world. It has amassed a huge following of loyal patrons along with a lot of criticism. I decided to have a look at the criticism to decide if it is fair and warranted?
What exactly is Crossfit?
Most crossfit workouts will claim to incorporate some form of functional method of weight lifting, gymnastics and cardio – based exercise. This type of exercise takes place at a high intensity with different loads and elements from different disciplines. It mostly takes place in a class – based exercise regime that invites team participation, goal setting and challenges. What most people tend to agree on is that it is a unique way of incorporating elements of strength, mobility and endurance, unlike most other sports. Essentially crossfit is marketed as a holistic fitness approach and if you like to participate in numerous forms of sports or disciplines; crossfit might just be the sport for you.
AVERAGE PERSON. Crossfit does a good job of training the average population and provides a great outlet for people that tend to lack motivation and commitment when being responsible for their own training regime. Having a class or coach depend on you has a massive effect on motivation and attendance along with pre designed programs that give individuals a set path forward as opposed to trying to figure out what exactly to do during your workout time. Always remember when starting out any new form of fitness to ensure that your body is well able and capable. I have seen too many average joes getting injured or burning out as they try to keep up with your more experienced types. Any new activity has a period of adjustment and as such your immune system will be placed under pressure if you up your work and not your fuel! I recommend having a look at adding some ZMA supplement to your diet when upping your exercise regime as a good starting point. Consuming more zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 may provide many benefits, such as improved immunity, blood sugar control, and mood. This especially applies if you’re deficient in one or more of the aforementioned nutrients. (Prometheuz ZMA GENE).
COMMUNITY. Crossfit does an amazing job with community. People that participate tend to be very welcoming to new-comers and share a sense of pride in trying to create a comfortable atmosphere. Crossfit is not an individual sport as many would believe; it is a community sport with a very strong support system.
This sense of community has crossed over to numerous avenues such as sport supplementation and gear marketed specifically to crossfit athletes providing your crossfit community with more ways to express themselves and feel a sense of belonging that is usually reserved for team sports.
GETTING BARBELLS INTO PEOPLE’S HANDS. A lot of people, especially women and the elderly, were afraid of using barbells as it was considered outside of the norm and something young fit males do. These days one doesn’t need to look far to see the huge success stories of women and the elderly using barbells to improve physique and muscular gains. Crossfit took away the stigma of girls can’t use weights and age restrictions on barbells. Due to the stigma being essentially abolished by crossfit, barbells have now become a staple in most gym programs with people and trainers feeling more confident than ever to include barbells in their program design.
STAPLE WORKOUTS MEASURE IMPROVEMENT. Crossfit has many staple workouts, such as using the Fran (a couplet of barbell thrusters [a front squat/push-press combo] and pull-ups), workouts that do not change over time. You will often hear people in the crossfit community talk about Fran time. This means the time it took you to complete the Fran workout, and as such gives you a scale to gauge more or less where you are in relation to other athletes. Repeating a workout such as the Fran at a later stage will give you a good indication of improvement and as such motivates people to attain a certain goal.
CROSSFIT IS A COMPETITIVE SPORT. With the invention of the Crossfit Games as a competition that takes place yearly, crossfit has truly become a sport in itself. Having something to compete in not only gives athletes something to work towards, but also aligns your training with a specific goal in mind. Once a goal has been set people tend to be more motivated to keep to a routine and stay committed.
TIME is of importance in most crossfit workouts as the pressure to complete the workout in a certain amount of time dictates the intensity. The problem we have here is that most people struggle to check their ego at the door and as such tend to lift heavier weights than their body is accustomed to. Trying to lift these heavy weights at high speeds, people tend to neglect proper form and technique that leads to a range of serious injuries.
COACHES are unfortunately not always properly qualified to manage you as an individual. Coaches have the responsibility to continually monitor your form and technique to prevent any serious injury. Unfortunately with the amount of crossfit facilities and gyms popping up, it really is hard to find a decent coach. Most personal trainers are not adequately qualified or knowledgeable enough to teach proper technique when doing bigger lifts and as such crossfit tends to have an alarmingly high injury rate. I always ask my athletes when considering an exercise think about risk versus reward. If not properly coached to perform a deadlift, you know your risk is too high as you could easily throw out your back. Swop the deadlift for a simpler exercise that targets the same muscle at a lower risk to get you injured! Unfortunately this is not the reality for most crossfit boxes as technique and form is compromised by poor coaching, time availability and high loads. Most crossfit gyms are also limited in their knowledge of nutrition as too much focus is placed on the exercise and not on proper nutrition and supplementation to ensure your body performs optimally. Mixing your workout with the correct supplements can make a huge difference! For crossfit I recommend Burnin Build Sub Fat for Muscle as this product was created to burn fat and increase muscle mass. This fits perfectly into how the body utilizes fat as an energy source in your high intensity based workout regimes such as a crossfit bout. (Prometheuz Burnin Build).
HEAVIER IS BETTER MENTALITY. Most crossfit boxes unfortunately rate performance by how heavy of a load an individual can lift. Lifting more is not always better! Maintaining proper form and technique to prevent injury is a smarter approach to training if you aim to have any sense of longevity in your program. This mentality gets carried over to new members trying to fit in on day one by lifting a load that the body is not conditioned or accustomed to. Trying to deadlift 275 lbs on your first day to try keep up with the rest of the group will more than likely lead to you throwing out your back!
VOLUME AND REPS. Crossfit is built on high repetition schemes such as the 21 – 15 – 9 rep scheme that essentially means, you do each movement in the workout, with a fixed weight, for 21 reps, then 15 reps, then 9 reps, for time. This is a high intensity workout so you are trying to complete it in the quickest time possible. It is easy to understand how people lose their form and technique by trying to achieve the reps as quickly as possible. It is nearly impossible to do a technique intensive exercise such as a deadlift or squat with these numbers of repetitions without losing form and technique compromising your body and placing yourself at high risk of injury.
BEGINNERS BURN OUT. When starting out with any new activity that the body is not accustomed to it is essential that you start at a gradual pace and build yourself up over a period of a couple of weeks before moving to more complex movements. Most people will walk into a crossfit gym and be thrown into the same workout as experienced and fit people! If you have never properly trained your glute muscles, more than likely you will not be able to squat with adequate form. Why are we then squatting on day one? When your glutes don’t fire properly you have what we call “gluteal amnesia”, this in effect means glutes are not firing at all or not in the correct sequence, causing muscles such as your hamstrings to take over when you are squatting. Overactive hamstrings pull your pelvis into an anterior tilt due to its insertion on your pelvis, causing tight muscles on your lower back and compromising your risk of injury.
Keeping this in mind it is easy to see how someone not accustomed to training can easily throw out their back or injure themselves in key areas that the body is weaker. Unfortunately most crossfit boxes throw all ages and levels into the same group exercise class and do not take into account that individual bodies are complex structures and each person should be treated according to their athletic ability and condition.
SPECIALIZED IN NOT SPECIALIZING. Crossfit tends to breed athletes that are average at everything. What I mean by this is that when looking at crossfit boxes, most boxes tend to focus mostly on metabolic conditioning and they lack in some strength aspects. Personally if you are somebody looking to get really strong and are not so much concerned about your conditioning that is where crossfit boxes may not be the best for you. Crossfit focuses on doing a lot of everything, so you are steadily going to get better at everything. Where if you are mostly after one specific goal, such as strength gains you could achieve this must faster focusing on only that one specific goal.
MONOTONOUS REPETITION. Most crossfit boxes tend to be very crossfit specific as crossfit in itself has become a sport with competitions and even a world games. This leads to most boxes training the same 9 – 12 movements over and over. Not varying in your program design can lead to monotonous repetition and boredom as these programs lack any eventfulness. Not only will this cause a plateau in your gains but most people will do the same movement with improper form, so many times that it starts to become second nature changing the body’s natural biomechanics. It is always important to broaden your training regime and challenge your body in different complex and varied movements. Do not let lazy coaches and trainers keep you stuck in the same monotonous routine! There are always exceptions where knowledgeable coaches and trainers broaden their programming to keep you from stagnating, so make sure you are at the correct box!
I am an advocate for any type of physical activity but I firmly believe that risk and reward needs to be considered when performing any complex movement. Do not compromise your body to try and fit in with the latest trends! Always ensure that the person responsible for training your most important possession, your body, is knowledgeable enough to understand you as an individual and your capabilities and limitations. Never compromise your form and technique and always manage the load according to what your body is capable of while maintaining proper form. If you feel a joint is uncomfortable you should have already stopped!