The more people talk about training trends lately, the more you hear the word Crossfit. While all the rage this year (partly driven by the Crossfit Games airing on ESPN) and promotion as a functional training system, Crossfit is hardly a FUNCTIONAL training system. Sure, many people have gotten results from Crossfit, at least aesthetically; however, the key question is, at what cost physiologically?
I have numerous issues with the Crossfit method:
- Olympic Lifting Techniques. Crossfit classes give little to no instruction on how to correctly execute an Olympic lift. These lifts are very complex and require much practice to execute effectively and safely. Secondly, Olympic lifts are designed to develop explosive power, which is achieved by moving heavy weights at high speed for very few reps (5-6 max). Crossfit prescribes routines that include upwards of 20-30 Olympic lifts in a single set. To accomplish that high a number of reps, the weight lifted would be extremely low thus rendering the exercise pointless. 20 reps with a low weight may get you heart pumping a bit, but it will also possibly cause an injury. Why? My third point, no person should be attempting Olympic lifting without the correct base training and ability to pass a movement screening test. Crossfit does neither before insisting participants perform such lifts.
- Progress? Crossfit workouts also lack any kind of progression system or evaluation system, as every workout is totally random and different from the one prior, thus rendering it impossible for the trainee and trainer to assess progress and strength improvements.
- Pack it in! Crossfit gyms cram as many bodies as possible into classes. Classes occurring during high volume times (before and after work during the workweek and morning classes on weekends) are excessively crowded. High rent urban area can expect more crowding. Insufficient space to execute power training results in either, 1. Substantial time waiting your turn for each exercise, or 2. Injuries, as seas of unskilled people flop around imitating the exercise they’ve just seen for the first time. I’ve see collisions, kicks, falls and weights dropped on fingers within the same class. All accidental, but all avoidable. It’s the gym and the so-called expert who are responsible for maintaining enough space between users, clear pathways and training areas and preventing unfit students from attempting exercises that may aggravate old or create new injuries. Forget about receiving any individual attention to perfect your form in a room of 20-40 people.
- Instructor Quality. I saw an ad to a nameless Crossfit gym seeking instructors. No credentials were required and pay was $12/hr. Putting your safety in the hands of a untrained high school student who is watching you and a roomful of other individuals is a risky venture. Many former military men and women teach Crossfit classes. Note service for our country as a bonus to proper personal training credentials, but not instead of. Safety first.
- You’re a Number. A “love all, serve all” attitude doesn’t fly in group fitness. Crossfit gyms do not distinguish between fitness levels of participants. In the World of Crossfit, there is no specific exercise prescription based on individuals. A 67 year-old grandmother and her 14 year-old granddaughter get the same workout as a 25 year-old ex collegiate lacrosse player who’s been Crossfitting there every day since he graduated. Based on age, gender, physiological make up and injury history, it’s not possible what that any two individuals should be doing the same workout. While weight amounts can be adjusted for participants’ varying strengths, but only in weight based exercises, which frequently are the minority of exercises in these massive classes, since it takes more money and space to supply equipment, than demand endless sets of bodyweight only exercises. Note, yes you can throw your back out executing most any exercise with poor form.
- Momentum vs. Muscle. Use of momentum during basic lifts, Crossfit teaches a technique called “kipping” which basically uses the body to generate momentum in order to complete more reps on certain basic lifts such as push ups and pull ups. While this allows the trainee to do more reps, they are no longer focusing on the muscle groups the original exercise is designed to train. This also eliminates the eccentric phase of muscle contraction; thus, muscles are essentially only doing half the work they should be doing. Using momentum to complete sets also exponentially increases risk of injury to joints
- Quantity Over Quality. General use of poor technique, Crossfit emphasizes the number of reps completed during workouts as opposed to proper execution of the movements. It is widely accepted in the exercise world that in order or strength training to be safe and effective, correct technique is vital. The quality of the lift should always trump the number of lifts. Crossfit does not adhere to this principal.
Crossfit as a concept has many flaws, which in my opinion, make it unsafe and unlikely to yield long term results and true strength gains. Instead, see a qualified exercise professional, undergo a proper evaluation and get a personalized and measurable program that will deliver results and safety concurrently. Even on limited funds you can buy a few sessions to learn what exercises are best for the results you desire and the proper form that will shield your from injury and propel you to a fit bod you can be proud of. Be honest with your trainer and yourself.