Crossfit: Good or Bad?

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Last year I had the opportunity to take the Level-1 Crossfit Certification in Tampa, Florida. Out of the 65 participants at the certification, only about 8 of us, including myself were new to Crossfit (meaning that we had less than 3 months of experience training the “Crossfit” way). I remember sitting in this room with 65 other people and realizing how out-of-place I felt because I was a Crossfit newbie. I had always heard of Crossfit and lived just a couple of hours from where it originated in Santa Cruz, California. But I had never fully participated in any Crossfit workouts, or wore any of the Crossfit apparel that screamed out, “Hey look at me, I have this cool shirt that says CROSSFIT so everyone knows that I do Crossfit workouts!” Out of the 65 participants at this specific certification, 50 had on Crossfit apparel (shirts, sweatshirts, hats, pants). I couldn’t tell the difference between instructors and participants. It was at that point that I realized how huge the Crossfit community actually was.

Crossfit is a training style that will definitely separate the weak from the strong. It not only challenges you physically, but mentally as well. Crossfit is composed of three main components:

1) Metabolic Conditioning – cardiovascular conditioning (running, rowing, cycling, jumping rope, etc.)

2) Gymnastics Movements – bodyweight movements (push-up, pull-ups, dips, plyometrics, isometric holds, etc.)

3) Weightlifting Movements – Olympic style movements (deadlifts, overhead presses, cleans, bench presses, rows, etc.)

Crossfit workouts can vary anywhere from combining all three of the above components into a sequence of intense circuit-training movements, to a workout that focuses only on one movement at a time.  After 2 days of intense-training, and completion of the certification course, I must say that Crossfit isn’t good, it’s GREAT! But let me clarify some points first before all you Crossfit fanatics start doing back-flips and chanting out “Crossfit for life!” Crossfit is great under the right conditions;

1) Quality Instructors – Out of the 65 people at the certification I attended, only about a handful were fitness professionals. The rest were simply Crossfit fanatics who wanted to call themselves “certified” Crossfit instructors. You can’t possibly learn enough in one weekend that will enable you to put the safety and health of someone else into your hands. But you can start charging them for your new “certified” title (not good).

2) Physical Capabilities – Crossfit programs are going to be physically challenging for people with previous injuries or postural imbalances (poor Fruit machines flexibility, muscle imbalances, lack of coordination, joint problems, etc.)

3) Program Variability – Since many unqualified individuals are becoming “certified”, they don’t know how to modify a program based on an individual’s limitations which can result in possible injury.

4) Complexity of Movements – Crossfit uses many advanced movements that if not coached and performed properly, could lead to injury.

On the positive side, I have never personally done a program that has challenged me both physically and mentally the way a Crossfit program has. Crossfit is like interval training, it NEVER gets easier if you’re challenging yourself to what your capable of. Crossfit will build your strength, endurance, and self-confidence if you’re willing to push beyond that “fitness-hell” we call your COMFORT-ZONE!

I’m not saying that Crossfit should be your only style of training, because then you would become one of those single-minded individuals wearing the Crossfit sweatshirt and ignorantly talking about how your way is the best way. I’m telling you to start adding in some Crossfit workouts to your current exercise program now and see how you measure up. I promise you that you’ll challenge yourself in a whole new way both physically and mentally.

If Crossfit is so great then why is part of the Stupid Gym Shit discussion? Because poor instructors and the exponential growth of Crossfit has caused it to lose some of it’s credibility. Ask around, people either love or hate Crossfit. There’s nothing in-between except for what I’m telling you here. If you go to a Crossfit Gym or work with one of their instructors, I challenge you

to do a little bit more research on what they actually know. Quality Crossfit instructors should be very well educated in Olympic lifting techniques, biomechanics, and program design. From personal experience I’m telling you that you don’t learn that in the 2-day certification that I took. Crossfit does offer more advanced certifications and a Level 2 certification on top of their Level 1 certification. But there are literally hundreds of Crossfit Gyms around the world with unqualified instructors beating the shit out of clients in an unsafe and ineffective manner. What good is a program if you’re injured and can’t do anything?

Why does Crossfit certify anybody? MONEY! Crossfit offers numerous certifications

and courses all over the world every weekend. Every course and certification is about $1,000.00. If these are happening all over the world, and you”re packing 65 people or more in each course, well, there’s your answer. Crossfit is growing in popularity with each year that passes, and there will become a point very soon when INTEGRITY will take over profitability (let’s hope sooner rather than later). Find a quality Crossfit instructor and let me know about your experience. Stupid Gym Shit is always on the look out to protect your health and money (can’t have you spending money on Stupid Gym Shit topics).

If you live in South Florida and want to check out a credible Crossfit Gym, go to www.911crossfit.com

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15 Responses to “Crossfit: Good or Bad?”

  1. Billy Beck III

    Great post on Crossfit B-Francis and awesome recommendation on Jim Sayih’s 911 Crossfit! Jim is Mr. INTEGRITY. He’s the Man!

  2. Gabrielle cooney

    Hey Bryan! Enjoyed the article about CrossFit, I mentioned before that I attend a CrossFit Gym in Vacaville, have for about a year and a half now. You’re right about the quality or should I say qualifications of the trainers. I’ve been lucky with mine, from the beginning we discussed my ability to participate in the program, we work around and through an old injury that rears it’s ugly face every now and then! For me CrossFit has been the greatest, it has taken me way out of my comfort zone, but it has also given me more confidence, I’m very confortable walking into the gym and working out with anyone that’s there. Most of all I like competing with myself, pushing that workout just a little further every time! Thanks, Gabrielle

    • Bryan Francis

      Gabrielle, great response and you sound like you’re at a great location. If done correctly, Crossfit is both a “kick-ass” and highly effective program. Keep it up!

  3. Will Sawyer

    Great article. I am getting ready to ad some additional workouts to my routine. I am committed to the 60 day Challenge, but am going to start adding 5 swiming sessions a week and when the the zero whether leaves some outdoor fun!

  4. TJ

    Bryan,

    I am the Fitness Trainer for a fire department. I have been involved with fitness for the past 20 years (I’m certified with NASM, ACE and have a Bachelors Degree in Health and Fitness). There is one individual in our department that has been bitten by the CrossFit bug. He is one of the individuals that you mentioned in your article. CrossFit is the only thing he thinks, talks and dreams about. He “infected” our department with this cult way of thinking; if you are not a CrossFitter then you are a lowlife and wasting your time with the “other” types of workouts (HITT, Cross Training, Circuit Training, Weight Lifting etc). He wanted to make it mandatory for every member of the fire department to only train using the CrossFit ways. He proceeded to start “training” individuals and at the same time injuring some (one was a career ending injury). He received his Level 1 cert. He has no other training background or education. I did some research into CrossFit and we share the same thoughts. In fact I had to document my findings and present it to the fire chief. As I was reading your article and found it to be very refreshing that there is another individual out there that has the same insight and commonsense as I do. Everything you mentioned in your article is the exact same thing I mentioned in my presentation. I know this is kind of long winded but I just want to let you know that I agree with everything you said and to thank you.

    • Bryan Francis

      -TJ, I really appreciate your comment and sadly, that is EXACTLY what my entire article was talking about. I’m a big fan of Crossfit if structured properly and systematically. The problem is, most of these “certified instructors” have absolutely no clue on how to teach an effective movement from start to finish. People posses so many muscular imbalances and postural deviations from years of improper movement, and when you force them into a position or lift with any amount of resistance (light or heavy), your only setting them up for failure, and eventually injury.

      All power lifts and Olympic lifts are very complex and advanced movements that take a lot of practice to master. I highly doubt this guy has all you fire-fighters outside with PVC pipes practicing movements thousands of times without any weight.

      Some professional sports teams have even adopted Crossfit as there primary style of training. And from personal experience working with these athletes, they posses some of the most prevalent muscle imbalances possible because they’ve done the same repetitive movements their entire lives for 3/4 of the year. You personally sound like a pretty intelligent person and it’s sad that stubborn minded individuals think that what works for them, is the answer for everyone else as well. When you understand muscle imbalances, movement patterns, range of motion, and muscle activation, you quickly realize that this type of training can be very detrimental for a lot of people.

      With the proper training and evaluation, Crossfit can be a great program to incorporate into any conditioning program. I’d NEVER say that you should only do Crossfit, because I just think it’s one of many tools that can give you results. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and best of luck with the outcome of your current situation!

  5. Grant F.

    good article! and the picture of the squat jerk is unbelievable. girl has serious mobility.

  6. Yvette "Joey" Liebesman

    If you’re not wearing a heart rate monitor, training in your zones and/, or, don’t know the meaning of your monitor’s readout, you’re not getting max benefit from your workout.

    The next most important thing to maintaining long term records of meaningful cardio pulmonary volume and intensity, is reduction of imbalance within the body.

    Resistance training should be done to reduce imbalances, only. Increased strength w/o reduced imbalance is a temporary parlour trick.

    The most powerful system is as weak as its weakest link or eccentricity. Reduced imbalance = increased output.

  7. Raeesa

    I had an introductory CF session and um….wow…there’s a lot thrown at you at once.

    There is no way I can do all of those things well enough not to hurt myself.

    I’d rather go about it slowly, and do fewer things well and tackle more when I feel comfortable. WOD are great but I had this “against the grain” resistance to joining anything that sounds monetarily hierarchical.

  8. Sam

    Don’t even try to tell a crossfitter that thirty sets of five reps is overtraining.

  9. Sam

    Glassman/Crossfit founder: “disregard for conventional wisdom … derived from hanging out with fitness athletes for 30 yrs”
    Garbage bro science

  10. eric

    i just started the crossfit at my gym after years upstairs in the weight room, i look forward to the challange. Most of the instructors are or were personal trainers from the main gym and ive known them for years. They are better at what they do than i.

    Also one of the trainers happens to be kelly guillory. Shes a beast. With her and the other personal trainers running the show, i feel like im in good hands.
    The 2day crash corse seems a dad easy to teach the clean and clean and jerk, so i guess i will have to be careful when i do them and just do what i can.

  11. kathy davis

    As an ACE certified personal training since 1996 I’m always asked what I think about a new workout fad.My assessment of Crossfit is completely the same as yours. The program is as good as the folks leading it. Yes it does work but risk of injury is high on the list and there are lots of limitations for those that have previous injuries and mobility issues. Great write up!

  12. Steve

    Great article. I am new to crossfit (60 days) and even after 2 years of MMA I find myself sore as hell the day after a workout like i never was before. I train in Israel and have been very lucky to find a place with experienced trainers who have had to turn people away because they will not hire someone who is not an experienced trainer