It's no wonder that strength and conditioning coaches get a little pissy about CrossFit when their stapline is 'FORGING ELITE FITNESS'.
After all, what could they possibly know about forging elite fitness? We work with athletes and only we know what it takes to forge elite fitness!
For years now, CrossFit has been an easy target for 'elitist' strength and conditioning coaches and I've sat and listened to friends and colleagues rubbish Crossfit. Do you know what, I've probably even had the odd dig myself and I would suggest that many of those comments (mine included) have come from a position of ignorance.
But here's the thing, I've started to reconsider my position.
Maybe CrossFit doesn't Suck.
As a certified strength and conditioning coach I've been tutoring aspiring S&C coaches for the past 5-years and on every course I've seen an increasing number of CrossFit enthusiasts and coaches. Now in the beginning conversations were tough becasue I thought S&C was superior and CrossFit was something failed athletes and S&C wannabes did. It wasn't proper training and the CrossFit games were stupid!
In the early days I think standards within the emerging Crossfit Boxes were low and I wasn't a fan of what I was seeing or hearing. My early interactions tended to confirm my fears and during those embryonic conversations I was often met with vitrilioc abuse if I dare suggest that constantly varied, functional movements done at high intensities may not always be the most appropriate approach to training.
However, during the last couple of years I've had the pleasure of working with a number of CrossFit coaches that are actually pretty balanced indivduals that don't mindlessly bang out WOD after WOD after WOD. They actually sit down and create logical, systematic training programmes and dare I say it, work hard on technique!
So why do we hate CrossFit?
What I think happened was that the strength and conditioning community S**T themsleves because all of a sudden facilities were popping up around the country that looked very similar to their supposedly high end training facilities, and recreational athletes and members of the general public were all of a sudden taking part in training that looked very similar to what we were doing with our athletes.
CrossFit was bringing functional training to the masses and we didn't like it!
We weren't special anymore!
So why have I mellowed my opinion?
1. I've actually entered into conversations (not arguments) with CrossFit coaches and enthusiasts and I've liked a lot of what I'm hearing. They're proving to me that they don't just have a completely random, constantly varied approach to programme design. They follow structured programmes and train with a purpose. CJ Martin runs Invictus Fitness and is a coach I spoke to recently from Invictus and guess what, he is a good guy (not least for the fact that he's shorter than me!) with solid thoughts on training. He's not a 'Pukey The Clown' T-Shirt wearing numpty!
2. I've seen two of the best CrossFit athletes train and I was impressed. I was fortunate enough to see Josh Bridges and Matt Fraser train recently, and they're athletes. I know they're athletes, because I've spent 18 years working in performance sport and I'm telling you now, they're athletes.
3. I've decided that just because the CrossFit games doesn't really flick my switch and I can't really see the point in training, to then compete in training, doesn't mean I should rubbish it. The guys that compete at the games love it and dedicate themselves to it. Just because I don't particulalry like their chosen sport doesn't mean I can't appreciate the training, time and effort they put in to being the best. I don't really like American Football but I appreciate the athleticism of the players.
4. Who's decided it's not a proper sport? If we don't think CrossFit is a 'proper' sport, shall we take some time to consider some other daft sports?
Powerlifting - lift big heavy weights on 3 lifts (Deadlift, Bench and Squat). Trust me - I've seen some powerlifters that have zero movement capacity outside of those 3 lifts and are banged up as a result of their highly repetitive training.
Weightlifting - lift big heavy weights on 2 lifts (Clean and Jerk, Snatch). Both examples of sports where the training is actually the same as the sport - is that not one of the reasons why we ridicule CrossFit? Hmmmmm?
Strongman, lift big heavy things and compete in events that change each year. Is that not what we ridicule CrossFit for?
You see where I'm going with this!
5. Maybe we are comparing apples with oranges when we say that CrossFit is dangerous. Sure I can jump on Youtube and amuse myself watching montages of CrossFit 'fails' but I can probably dig out a load of clips of general gym goers doing very similar things and looking just as ridiculous. Sure, some of the techniques we will see are terrible and not acceptable but we are comparing apples with oranges. If I go and watch a game of pub football at the local park I'm not going to see amazing technique. I'll see out of shape men running around with terrible tekkers and probably pulling a muscle during the process. Does that mean the English Premier League is rubbish? I've seen terrible S&C coaches deliver awful training sessions. It doesn't mean that we are all terrible coaches.The trick, as with most things, is find the best coach and the best facility. If you do that you're going to be less likely to injure yourself.
6. CrossFit, like it or not, has thrust 'functional' training into the public arena and we now have men and women training in a manner that is far more athletic - that's got to be a good thing, surely? I reckon the emergence of CrossFit has also given Weightlifting coaches a whole new revenue stream, coaching the coaches!
Peformance Coach, Darren Roberts thinks CrossFit has had a positive influence on the fitness lanscape...
Excerpt from Wiggle Interviews Peformance Coach - Darren Roberts
'Has the development and popularity of Crossfit style workouts made any difference to you clients perceptions of training methods? I get asked this question a lot! CrossFit and that style of training has done more to improve and progress real fitness amongst the general population than anything else I've seen. It's also helped people understand that the way you look is from function, from being fit and strong - not the starved, dehydrated and airbrushed hyper real fitness cover model. 5 years ago a facility with a rig and floor space to move free weights were only available to athletes - now there are facilities everywhere with all walks of life training with functional barbell and bodyweight movements. I'd be fascinated to know what's happened to participation levels in Olympic lifting and weightlifting competitions these last few years. For my athletes who haven't had the benefit of institute based training from a young age (a good thing in my view) they now have access to good facilities and training ideal for them because it challenges them physically and mentally.'
So here are my final thoughts.
Whilst I'm a lot more open minded than I was a few years ago, I still have a couple of concerns. The appropriatness of some of the training methodolgies that are used by the masses has to be questioned (constantly varied, functional movements done at high intensities is not a sustainable training method for delivering long-term athletic success). You can't just throw shit at the wall every day and see what sticks. You will at some point need to work out exactly what shit you need to throw and where to throw it.
The injury potential in the majority of CrossFit boxes still makes me nervous, but I think this is undoubtedly linked to the level of coaching and programme design, and the same can be said for pretty much any sport/training system, right?
I think we attack things that we don't fully understand or feel threatened by watching a montage of CrossFit 'fails' or reading a couple of forum posts from an industry expert doesn't always paint the whole picutre.
If your a 'snobby' S&C coach that loves to be a hater, find yourself a decent CrossFit box and coach, have a go and then pass comment. But until you've experienced it you should probably pipe down!
If CrossFit is your thing, go for it, just make sure you find yourself a decent CrossFit box and coach.
I would love to know what you think.