Why P90X and CrossFit Are Wrong for Athletes | STACK Coaches and Trainers

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5 Reasons Young Athletes Shouldn't Use Standardized Programs Like P90X, Insanity and CrossFit

June 9, 2014

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Because they’re so challenging, standardized workout programs like P90X, Insanity and CrossFit have become popular with fitness enthusiasts in recent years. But should a 25-year-old ex-jock’s workout look like a developing adolescent athlete’s? A workout isn't always the right choice just because it’s hard or popular. Here are five reasons why standardized programs like CrossFit and P90X aren’t appropriate for high school athletes.

1. No Coach

DVD workouts like Insanity and P90X are appealing because they can be performed alone at home. While this approach is simple and convenient, it presents major problems for athletes. A big part of learning skills such as footwork drills or plyometrics is correction through a trained coach's observations. Without a coach present, athletes can form bad habits that hurt their performance and lead to injury. Plus, many of these programs are high intensity. Without a coach to act as a guardrail, high-intensity workouts can increase an athlete’s risk for injury.

2. No Screening

Since many standardized workout programs don’t require a coach, athletes don’t get the benefit of pre-screening processes such as the Functional Movement Screen. These tests make sure athletes don’t carry strength or movement imbalances caused by seasonal play into their training. Building strength on top of these imbalances can greatly increase an athlete’s risk of sport injury. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Strength and Conditioning Association recommend an orthopedic pre-screening before starting training.

RELATED: Should Youth Athletes Strength Train?

3. Random Programming

Most standardized programs are randomized. In P90X, one day may be plyometric based, another will be yoga and so on, with the only goal being to get a good workout each day. CrossFitters pride themselves on "not knowing what is coming next," and the program bills itself as "planned randomization." Unfortunately, athletes need repetition, practice and progression. They need to start at an easy skill and increase difficulty once they’ve mastered that skill. They can’t do this with random daily activities.

4. No Mechanical Lessons for Speed, Lateral Movement and Deceleration

Athletes don't just need to run and jump, they need to learn how to move correctly. According to Peter Twist, movement is one of the three pillars of youth development. Companies such as Velocity Sports Performance, EXOS, IMG Academy and Ignition APG have become famous for training even the best collegiate athlete to move better. Neither P90X nor CrossFit contain systems for teaching these skills.

5. Maximum Lifts

CrossFit is big on max lifting attempts—their boxes sponsor max-out week events and post results nationally. Both the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that adolescent athletes should never perform maximum attempts until their skeletal growth is finished at the end of puberty. The consensus is that the increased risk of injury outweighs any gains made through maximum lifting.

RELATED: Youth Strength Training Do's and Don'ts

- Tony Duckwall is the athletic performance director for KIVA volleyball and IFHCK field hockey and co-owner and sports performance director for Louisville-based EDGE Sports Performance....
- Tony Duckwall is the athletic performance director for KIVA volleyball and IFHCK field hockey and co-owner and sports performance director for Louisville-based EDGE Sports Performance....
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