“Why I don’t do CrossFit”: A Logical Response

crossfit-trainingEvery now and then, I read an article that specifically spells out why doing paleo, CrossFit, weightlifting, etc. is a bad idea. I do this to stay humble and up-to-date with the most recent arguments against some of the things I tend to endorse. There has been an article circling around recently that fits this exact criteria. It’s an opinion article written by a woman named Erin Simmons outlining just why she doesn’t do CrossFit. These types of articles don’t usually upset me (everyone is entitled to an opinion), but when they are being shared over 200,000 times on Facebook and popping up on my news feed like beach selfies during spring break, I feel like I should respond to it.

To start,

This is an opinion article, which basically means anything the author wants to say, can be said no matter the accuracy. Im not saying the article is factually inaccurate, just pointing out potential reasons for the impressive number of shares.

Secondly,

This article was written by Erin Simmons, who is a fitness blogger, aspiring fitness model and former Track and Field athlete at Florida State. As the article says, she has also been an assistant coach for the T&F team. From the information I have gathered, she has no experience whatsoever in the fitness or strength and conditioning industry.

Thirdly,

Having read through Ms.Simmons blog, and taken a look at a number of her recommended workouts and fitness videos, it seems she is a big proponent of circuit training (what CrossFitters sometimes call CrossFit). She recommends workouts such as:

  • 10 minute abs where you switch ab exercises every 30 seconds for 10 straight minutes!

To quote her website: “Three great things about this workout: 1) it’s very flexible and customizable, 2) it’s an ab killer, and 3) it’s only 10 minutes!” (Hmm! Sounds like something I have heard of before!)

Another one of her workouts:

pinterestchallenge_11

In case you can’t read that, it says:

Run 800m

3 rounds: 10 sit-ups, 10 pull-ups

Run 1200m

3 rounds: 10 “cross-body” sit-ups, 10 pushups

Run 1600m

3 rounds: 10 leg lifts, 10 squats

Then repeat.

A circuit with running, body weight movements and a little gymnastics? Sounds a lot like CrossFit!

and another…

p-wo

High rep olympic lifts and body weight movements for speed?? I think Ive done this workout at a CrossFit gym before!

Now I am no expert, but if these workouts said WOD on top, I don’t think any CrossFit gym in the world would say “but that’s not CrossFit!” I know that I have programmed a number of workouts for my fitness club at Denison that look very similar to Ms.Simmons’ recommended workouts. Again, these are just observations about the reasons why this article received so many shares, and reasons why the article was categorized as opinion.

Fourthly,

Here is a video of Erin Simmons working out at a CrossFit gym:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyUmWOWYL_Q

Fifthly,

here are Erin Simmons’ major arguments against CrossFit:

1) Performing Olympic and Power Lifts for high reps is dangerous.

Why? Because form can break down, too much stress on your muscles is bad, and none of her coaches at FSU recommended it.

My Response: Yes, form breaks down when you do a high number of repetitions, and yes that is dangerous. Point taken. Yes, some gyms still program in workouts like 30 C&J’s or 30 Snatches for time, and yes these workouts are very popular in the CrossFit world. However, these workouts are considered highly skillful workouts, and are usually only performed by very experienced athletes. Plenty of olympic lifters (as in Dimitry Klokov, Jon North, all Oly-lifters I have ever lifted with/known) have done these workouts before at high weights and not gotten injured. Yes, if you are fairly new to olympic lifts, and you have a weak core and weak stabilization overhead, then you should not be doing these types of workouts. Doing high reps of weightlifting movements is NOT dangerous. Bad form, weak core, and poor body awareness is dangerous. I have worked for S&C coaches who have had athletes do ladders of olympic lifts with 50-60 reps up to 80-90%!

Side note: CrossFit gyms that have these types of workouts programmed into the W.O.D are likely (and hopefully) scaling movement and weight for beginner and lower level athletes.

2) CrossFit coaches can get certified in a weekend

Why? This is not enough time to understand how to coach form on complicated lifts, and others have PhD’s and Master’s degrees in Kinesiology

My Response: True, you cannot learn everything there is to know about S&C and other things CrossFit related in one weekend. I have attended one of these weekend certifications and I can attest to the fact that there were a number of people that left that certification who I would not trust to coach someone in CrossFit. However, I would venture to guess that most people who become CrossFit trainers do not simply sign up for a Level 1 CrossFit certification one weekend, and become a full-time CrossFit coach the next. Many gyms have required internship programs and require much more experience beyond just the CrossFit L1 cert. On another note, having coached S&C and CrossFit for a few years, I think I can say that it is not THAT hard to coach even a beginner athlete in olympic lifts, power lifts, basic gymnastics, etc.

3) Other people also think CrossFit could be bad

Why? Rhabdo, Weekend Certification, Randomness, No specificity,

My Response:

Yes, rhabdo is bad. I don’t think I have ever gone to a CrossFit gym (and I’ve been to a few) where they encourage or praise people to get rhabdo. I have also never seen anyone get rhabdo (I have been in and out of CrossFit gyms for about 4.5 years). Rhabdo is bad, CrossFitters who compete in CrossFit have gotten it before, and so have other athletes who do other sports. Many people compete in CrossFit, and when you compete in a high intensity, some times endurance-like competition, people are going to get rhabdo. That’s just the nature of the beast. No one is encouraging it, and most of the membership-paying clients at CrossFit gyms don’t get rhabdo.

As stated above, weekend certifications cannot teach you everything there is to know about kinesiology, exercise science, or strength & conditioning. However, not everyone can get a PhD or master’s degree, but EVERYONE needs help with there squat, deadliest, oly-lifts, etc. The goal of a Level 1 CrossFit cert is not to make the world’s best trainers, it’s simply to give passionate people a chance to learn more about certain movements, and about the CrossFit methodology (similar to a USAW, Kettlebell cert, etc.). These certifications are not the end-all be-all of training.

CrossFit has encouraged people to train for the unknown and unknowable. One of Greg Glassman’s talents is marketing. Telling people that your training program will train you for anything sounds pretty badass and will make people want to try your program. For competitions, this works out great, because it forces competitors to cover all their bases and not specifically train for one event. In reality, CrossFit gyms might just have the hardest programming job in all of the fitness world. CrossFit gyms have to program for clients who have vastly different goals, have had little, or a lot of experience with exercise, and who come in to workout 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 , 7  or Zero times per week depending on various factors (scheduling, paying for different memberships, motivation, etc.). To put it more simply, on any given day, week or month, a CrossFit gym has no idea who will be showing up to workout. Any S&C coach, personal trainer, etc. knows exactly who they are working with on a given day and knows exactly what their clients goals are and how to obtain them. Having said that, I have never worked at a CrossFit gym where the programming was completely random. There is always some form of Meso-cycle or Macro-cycle within the programming.

Finally,

Erin Simmons finishes off her article by giving this note:

“[Note: I’ve showed this article to a new people who have been in CrossFit for some time, and I’ve noticed a slightly disturbing trend. There is a sort of “brainwashing” that occurs from the first time a person steps into a box (CrossFit speak for “gym”) that creates an “us vs. them” mentality. Boxes have attempted to combat the bad reputation of CrossFit by saying that other gyms do bad stuff but their gym is different, their coaches know good form, their gym focuses on safety. This is simply not true and every single thing that I’ve posted in this article refers to every single gym that follow CrossFit. There are no exceptions, if you’re following the WODs, it’s not good for you, it’s not safe, and you’re putting your health in danger. Take it for what it’s worth, but please believe that your box is not different, no matter what your coach says.]”

It baffles me that Ms.Simmons believes that with close to 9,000 affiliates world-wide, not a single CrossFit gym is different. I have only visited maybe 10 affiliates and I have definitely seen drastically different qualities of training from gym to gym. Erin Simmons said in her article that she went to 2 CrossFit classes. How exactly can she claim that no CrossFit gym is different after being to just 2 out of 9,000 gyms? I think Ms.Simmons has yet to learn the lessons that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, you can’t judge a fitness program by the first 2 sessions, and all of these lessons from the guys at Westside Barbell: http://www.musclemag.com/10-lessons-from-westside-barbell/#.U4U-LMZH34Y

Well anyways, here is a link to the article if you want to take a look at it: http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/why-i-dont-do-crossfit/

Remember to always check who is writing an article before you embrace or share it’s contents (particularly on social media), and don’t knock something until you’ve tried it. Okay that is all.

 

About The Author

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Max is a passionate pursuer of integrative health. He has been drafted by a professional baseball team, worked in publishing scientific laboratories and spoken to groups of students on health and well-being. He is currently a biology major and philosophy minor at Denison University. Max spends his time reading, weightlifting, traveling and learning. Email Max at mungar810@gmail.com.

3 Responses

  1. Jennifer
    Jennifer May 28, 2014 at 9:56 am | | Reply

    Great response, Max!
    I feel like a broken record every couple months having to spout off my thoughts and defending Crossfit. The last time a post like this went viral, I wrote up my thoughts on my blog (http://www.winetoweightlifting.com/2013/11/15/crossfit-dangerous/). It’s just frustrating (especially when she used the term “brainwashed”) because unless you are on the inside, you just don’t KNOW. These people writing these negative articles are uneducated in the sport and that’s what it is– a SPORT.
    I think there is a distinction between doing it as a sport and doing it as a workout as well. Two different worlds, training and exercising. But I think it all comes down to the responsibility of the athlete.

  2. Chris
    Chris May 28, 2014 at 10:16 am | | Reply

    Hey Max, love the article! I am in the exact same boat as you. I like reading the anti- articles to keep abreast of what is being said and saw this one many times. I read it and due to the volume of shares, felt I needed to address it on my blog, which I did today. We make similar points, however I think you did it in a more level-headed way which I greatly appreciate. I also noticed that her shared workouts were very CrossFit in nature… hmmmm. Well I hope she is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame. Love your article, thank you for writing it.

  3. Stetson Thacker
    Stetson Thacker May 28, 2014 at 3:53 pm | | Reply

    Good response Max!

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