The dreaded discussion – CROSSFIT
Crossfit is an extremely hot topic among fitness communities, and it’s been that way essentially since crossfit came into being. It’s controversial. It’s debatable. And it’s been both largely criticized and largely supported. These very strong opinions of crossfit both good and bad are very pervasive among the fitness world, and they’re very easy to stumble upon and be influenced by.
So, I decided to try crossfit (from now on referred to as CF) for myself earlier in the year for the sake of coming to my own, educated, experiential opinion of the damn thing.
Here were the biggest and most common criticisms I heard before joining CF:
(1) Doing olympic/power lifts for reps
– I’ve read multiple articles, and can attest to this myself from personal experience, discussing the idea that doing these kind of exercises (squat, deadlift, snatch, clean and jerk, etc.) for reps is extremely unorthadox. These kind of moves are highly technical. If you need to take breaks during a set, take breaks. If you can only do 1 or 3 or 5 reps, then only do as many as you feel capable. The point of these exercises is to push out clean reps each time following form as much as possible. The point is NOT to try to do as many as you can as quickly as you can. Sure, this is probably an effective workout, but it’s also a damn good way to get yourself hurt. CF does not create a setting in which you feel necessarily comfortable with taking it slow to nail your form or to listen to what your body is telling you after each rep.
(2) Easy certification process for coaches
– In order to get a Crossfit Level 1 certification all that is required of you is two days. (Source: http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/certs.shtml) This compared to the months of studying I’ll need to do to get my NASM cert seems, quite honestly, like child’s play. In addition to this, a CF cert is good for 5 years from the test date. For comparison, a NASM cert is good for 2 years before retesting is required.
– CF ain’t cheap. I paid $180/month, and that was either the same or lower than the price of the other gyms I contacted. For reference, Gold’s gym costs an average of $25/month (source: https://enroll.goldsgym.com/plan/272), and anytime Fitness is $35/month (source: http://www.gymmembershipfees.com/anytime-fitness-prices/).
Since experiencing it for myself, I have to be honest, my opinion has become super mixed. I understand that despite the arguments against CF, there are good gyms and good coaches out there who just want the best for their members. In addition to that, CF works extremely well for some people. They thrive in the environment that CF provides, and they don’t find themselves falling victim to this high risk of injury everyone keeps talking about. (That or they just don’t mind the injury, which is something I’ve seen firsthand.) That’s all well and fine. To those people I say godspeed. But for myself? I will likely never participate in a CF class again, and here is why:
My number one complaint against CF:
(1) Form is consistently sacrificed for reps
– I am an absolute stickler for form. I want to be sure that each time I complete a movement I did a full range of motion, and I did it well. But in CF classes there is just no time to take that kind of care when approaching the exercises that are a part of the WOD (workout of the day). There are people in your face, screaming and “motivating” you to KEEP GOING, DON’T STOP, ONE MORE, NOW ONE MORE AGAIN, GET THAT WEIGHT UP, etc. I treated my body pretty poorly during my time in CF, and it’s simply because I didn’t have time to LISTEN to what it was telling me. In addition to this, you were praised for “pushing through” even if you were doing half (or less) reps. As I said before, this may suit some people’s fancy, but this is just not how I approach my exercises. I’m all for challenging myself, but I do it with my safety constantly in mind.
The other things that didn’t suit my fancy:
(1) The atmosphere
– This is something that is extremely unique to my own personality… I just HATED having people all up in my business during the workouts. I much prefer to put my headphones in, turn the music up ungodly loud, and do my own thing. Having that atmosphere of people cheering on the sidelines did not motivate me to push myself harder or to do more than I might on my own. All it did was distract me.
(2) Literally creating new movements in order to get more reps, aka: the kipping “pull up”
– You could definitely consider this point one of the “shots fired” nature, and I apologize if it offends anyone, but I just do not advocate for the kipping pull up. This is a CF signature move for members to use in place of strict pull ups. But kipping pull ups are not pull ups. I mean, they’re not even remotely the same in level of effort, muscles used, or difficulty. Comparing the two is, quite frankly, inane. If the kipping pull up was viewed and judged as it’s own movement entirely separate from the strict pull up I could maybe get behind the idea of performing them, but I will always prefer to do the strict, full range of motion version of exercises for myself. The kipping pull up just isn’t that. (Good read from a neutral dude: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/all-the-hype-behind-kipping-pull-ups/ – and a great quote on the topic from him, “Why would I want to coach someone how to cheat?”)
The things I did like:
(1) Achieving things I didn’t think I could
– During my first two weeks of CF I attempted and successfully completed back squats loaded with my body weight, and over the entire course of my time doing CF I learned how to do a hand stand on a wall. These are both things that I wanted to do but was afraid to try on my own, and even despite the fear, I didn’t imagine being able to do them so SOON. I think, ironically, the atmosphere does have a lot to do with this. There was an extraordinary amount of camaraderie going around at my gym, and along with that there was a healthy competition burning in everyone. It’s always much easier to try a heavy lift (or turning upside down for a handstand) when multiple people are there to spot you and encourage you. These two accomplishments are definitely something I owe a great thanks to CF for.
A word of caution
I would not suggest CF to beginners in the fitness world. The reason being that beginners are likely not going to be training on their own in addition to their CF classes. Rather they will be attending classes 2, 3, maybe 5 times a week and performing a very wide range of exercises in that time. Additionally, they will only be performing the exercises that happen to be in whatever WODs they’re present for. Exercises will be repeated, but with weeks in between. (CF gyms are known for high levels of variation of exercises, and mine even promoted the fact that “you’d never do the same WOD twice.) Well, the problem with this for people who aren’t training on the side could potentially be one of two things… (1) Risk of injury, of course. Here’s why: they perform said exercise on day one, and then two weeks later they perform it again and use MORE weight, because they want to progress. However, this is not the proper process for progressing in weights. To properly raise your weights you need to be TRAINING for these exercises, which means performing them regularly on some sort of schedule, so that you can slowly progress over time. The idea is not to do squats with 100 pounds one day and then to try them with 120 lbs two weeks later just because you did 100 lbs last time. But if we assume that someone knows better than this, here’s the other potential downfall: (2) They never significantly progress in weights at all. I mean, without some kind of regular and consistent training regimen it would be pretty hard to do.
Now, I’m not saying that beginners to fitness shouldn’t do CF, or that anyone shouldn’t for that matter. I’m just saying that training on the side, listening to your body, being informed in your decisions, and understanding the risk of injury is important. These are the same things that can and should be said for any sport, really.
So, if you enjoy crossfit then go enjoy your little heart out! But me? I won’t be doing crossfit anymore, and now you know why.
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Pura vida and stay strong, Fit4Reviewers. 🙂