My last blog announced my soon-to-be opening business Raw Fitness Performance, a small training studio dedicated to Sports Performance, Personal, Small Group, and Bootcamp Training located in East Cambridge. In the blog, I included a drawing of the layout and highlighted the equipment that will outfit the training space, e.g. Kettlebells, Olympic platform, squat rack, chin/pull-up bars, dumbbells, medicine balls, climbing rope, etc. I’m pretty sure it is the choice of equipment that has people asking me if I am “CrossFit.” (If you don’t know what CF is, here’s a link to get caught up; http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CrossFit.)
Let’s get a few things straight. I am not “CrossFit.” I am not a CF affiliate, nor am I a CrossFitter, or whatever you call someone who participates in CF. I do not plan to open a CF “box,” CF lingo for gym. I don’t necessarily have anything against CF, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you should know something about the latest and greatest fad to come along since the vibrating weight loss belt. CrossFit has exploded onto the fitness scene as “forging elite fitness using fundamental movements performed at high intensities” and it has everyone talking.
Now before I am accused of being a CF “hater,” hear me out. I remember when I first heard about CF about 6-7 years ago when it was just starting to blow up. I actually liked the idea behind the high intensity philosophy; after all, research continues to provide ample evidence that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) results in greater fat loss, increased work capacity, improved strength, power, and conditioning in half the time compared to other exercise modes. I agreed with their functional approach that people needed to work HARDER, push themselves by getting off the machines and grabbing some dumbbells, climbing some ropes, or throwing around some heavy weights. After all, I’ve been a Strength and Conditioning Coach for almost 25 years now, and have seen the positive results of that type of training, both personally and professionally. But scratch under the surface and you see their “constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity” to violate most sound and scientific strength and conditioning principles. As a result, people are getting hurt. Yet CF claims to have roots in the strength and conditioning field. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) states “the ultimate goal for strength and conditioning professionals and other sports medicine specialists-athletic trainers, physical therapists, physician assistants, and physicians-is to help individuals achieve maximal physical performance without incurring injury.” The NSCA, founded in 1978, is the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning, supporting and disseminating research-based knowledge and its practical application to improve athletic performance and fitness.
Participants are asked to do complex movements, such as overhead squats, Olympic-style lifts, squats, Kettlebell swings, and gymnastic moves like kipping and hand stand push-ups, without enough physical preparation to handle the high levels of stress those types of exercises place on the joints and soft tissue. It’s not only the couch potato I refer to but even those that make health and fitness a regular part of their life that are getting hurt. Throw in some bad coaching and you have a recipe for disaster. Too many participants are getting injured. Why?
I believe this is a three-fold problem:
- It is easy to get a CrossFit-Level 1 Trainer certification.
- It is FRIGHTENINGLY easy to own and open a CF “box.”
- Their programming is flawed for long-term success.
To obtain a CF-L1 cert, you take a weekend course, 7 hrs/day, 14 total hands-on hours, with the focus being to provide attendees the understanding to better use CrossFit methods for themselves; and to provide attendees an initial and foundational education to begin training others using CrossFit. The cost is a $1000 and if you pass the 50 question exam at the conclusion of the weekend course you earn the certification. BOOM. Easy. Once you have that cert, you can now become an “affiliate” and open your own CF “box” by paying an additional $3000/year to license the name. Done. BLAM!
Flash forward, now you are training OTHER people with little knowledge and even less experience using “functional, aka complex, movements performed at high intensities, aka fast speeds.” And for real, you think 14 hrs of a hands-on introductory course is enough preparation for RUNNING YOUR OWN SHOW and TRAINING OTHER PEOPLE? I remember thinking that my CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) I got in 1991 through the NSCA just before starting graduate school was going to prepare me for becoming an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach while at UMass-Amherst. On the very first day in the weight room I quickly realized I knew jack! I have worked hard to become the coach I am today, learning and developing a training philosophy that has evolved over 25 yrs of coaching experience. This is the best example of my coaching style and philosophy I can give you.
Again, in theory, this type of training sounds all hunky dory. Fast and furious, short and sweet, more bang for your buck, get in and get out kind of workouts!! Yehaw! Sign me up. But buyer beware, because this type of workout places a high metabolic stress especially on the central nervous system, which over time has been shown to lead to overtraining, detraining, or injury. The body cannot meet the demands of high intensity exercise every day, week in week out, month after month. For example, here is workout of the day (WOD) done for time that some dude did and posted on his FB page:
50 box jumps
50 wall balls
50 back ext
50 push press
50 knees to elbow
50 walking lunges
50 KB Swings
50 pull ups
50 DU’s (Double Unders)
Whew! I’m tired and sore just reading that. I hope to god the dude who did it had a decent level of core stability and strength. Otherwise that is one ugly-ass workout! And to be honest, I would never give an athlete or client that kind of workout. It’s just not my style.
But my point is this; only time will determine if this type of programming is any good. As it stands now, I’d say CF is headed for disaster. Too many CF “boxes” run by too many inexperienced trainers, with not enough quality control. It’s reckless and dangerous for the participant and the industry. And yes, I realize not everyone falls into this category, that there are good CF trainers out there doing good things. But I think CF needs to cool their jets and figure out how to curb the impending disaster that seems to be looming large. Too many people are getting hurt. Just google CF + injury and you can read for yourself.
So when I am asked, “Am I CrossFit,” the only similarity I see is that I use similar equipment and I like to throw around heavy weights. Other than that, we are worlds apart.
Now this is what I’m talkin’ about!!