Let the great Crossfit debate begin (aka, Fitness Commandment #3)

Okay, let me start by saying that this post is really supposed to be my third Fitness Commandment, which is as follows:

Safety first… always.

That’s the rule, plain and simple.

However, as I’ve thought about this post, I can’t help but think about Crossfit, as it really has become all the rage these days.  The images of people grimacing and suffering through the incredibly challenging workouts are becoming commonplace.  And people are beginning to think that’s how workouts should look.  It’s hard to find people as devoted to their workouts as Crossfitters.  They proselytize the Crossfit name and defend their workouts with a fierce passion.

Today more than ever, we’re seeing the fitness industry push to the “extreme.”  Crossfit isn’t the only problem, just the most outspoken proponent of extreme fitness.  Fitness DVDs like Insanity permeate the TV airwaves even though nobody in their right mind should use that training program (professional athletes don’t do that many plyometrics, so even rather fit people really have no reason to embark on such a silly adventure).

The problem with Crossfit is the general ambivalence of the organization towards safety.  The Crossfit brand itself has a HUGE problem with quality control, and that means your local Crossfit gym might be an excellent place for you to workout, or it may completely break you.  As far as Crossfit is concerned, their affiliates need only be concerned with the “elite” and “tough” nature of their brand.  Whether the affiliate cares about safety is its own problem.

There’s no one way that Crossfit gyms are required to teach people how to do all their complex exercises or acclimate people into their extreme program.  Many of those exercises, the Olympic lifts for example, are absolute favorites of mine.  That said, someone who has never done a clean or a snatch before has absolutely no business doing that exercise as a part of a workout routine that is going to be done to absolute exhaustion.  Actually, those lifts don’t have any place PERIOD in a workout that is going to be done to exhaustion.  They are power exercises and shouldn’t really be done when completely fatigued – there are plenty of other, more appropriate exercises that can challenge you as a part of that kind of workout that are not so dangerous.

Every workout involves some risk.  My problem is when a program pushes people into a great deal of risk because it’s flashy of them to do so (and Lord knows, the Crossfit Games are now televised, and you need to add some flash to watching people workout).  Some “Crossfit” gyms, meaning Crossfit affiliates, don’t do that, and that’s great.  But you see too many videos like the one below out there (look at the form of the power snatch at 2:39 and compare it to the correct form on the video below it – not even close, and this lady is just begging for a herniated disc or torn shoulder rotator).

Some trainer at that gym should have stepped in and said, “No, I’m not going to let you put yourself at that kind of risk.”  But no one did.  And if they’re not there to look out for the safety of the people exercising under their watch, what the hell business do they have teaching exercise?

I’ll end with this thought.  I’m all about the functional movements that Crossfit teaches.  I love the idea of getting people off of treadmills and out of machines.  But with those movements, someone MUST consider appropriate intensity and teaching progressions, and that’s an area where the Crossfit community as a whole has failed miserably.

How about you?  Ever tried Crossfit?  What are your thoughts?

‘Til next time!



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4 responses to “Let the great Crossfit debate begin (aka, Fitness Commandment #3)

  1. Jinni

    Hi Mark! No, I’ve never done Crossfit and can’t speak for or against it. It doesn’t really appeal to me as a fitness solution. I’m curious to read any replies though.

  2. JGS

    I don’t go to a crossfit gym, but I often do workouts from their website. I do really like what I see as their basic principles: short, intense sets of whole-body exercises–I’ve found I’ve gotten stronger (useful strength, not just bench press stats) and fitter as well.

    That said, I don’t follow their exercises religiously. Anything I’m not comfortable with (like most of the Olympic lifts) I skip and sub in something I’m comfortable doing up to the exhaustion point. I can definitely see issues with classes (regardless of the branding) that push you to do more than you’re ready to do leading to all kinds of injuries. Honestly I think that’s a potential issue in any class situation, but certainly complex and heavy Olympic-style lifting exacerbates the potential for serious damage.

    My $0.02…

  3. Over 50 but working for 100.

    While I know a few Crossfitters (and, btw, they complain fairly regularly about how sore they are), I have never gone to a Crossfit gym, so I can’t really comment on either the gyms or their videos. However, I CAN say that for me Commandment #3 is probably Commandment #1. I have found in my experience that being injured sets back my fitness WAY MORE than being careful.

  4. Brittney

    I do crossfit. And you hit the nail on the head, Mark. When the risk of the exercise out-weighs the benefit you should be stopped by a professional. That’s what fitness professionals are there to do, know the difference. No one who made crossfit is a certified in anything outside of crossfit. Enough said.

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