Why You Should Think Twice Before Doing CrossFit

Learn why CrossFit is a poor workout choice for athletes and average Joes.

The first time I heard someone say that they did Fran and Chrissy, I was confused. Little did I know that these terms  are part of the vernacular of the biggest fitness craze in recent memory.

I've written a lot on CrossFit before. And if you're familiar with those articles, you know there are many things I like about it. For example, CrossFit has managed to get more people to lift with a barbell, which is huge. Training the primary movement patterns used in barbell exercises helps you get bigger, stronger and healthier.

However, the exercises aren't necessarily the problem; time sensitivity is the issue. Squats, Deadlifts and Olympic lifts are performed at a high intensity and for as many reps as possible in a given time.

And that's the one and only factor that keeps me and my clients off the CrossFit bandwagon.

Where CrossFit Misses the Mark

Any type of high-intensity exercise has a prerequisite: you must build a foundation that allows you to do it without getting injured in the process. Unfortunately, many strength coaches agree with me that the majority of fitness enthusiasts who jump ship from their Globo gym to join the nearest CrossFit box simply don't possess that foundation.

Some CrossFit facilities take the time to develop a foundation of strength and technique, but many don't. Yes, you can say this is an issue with the entire fitness industry, but the microscope focuses on CrossFit because of the advanced nature of many of the exercises.

To make things worse, when you throw the time factor into the equation, you mess with your body's ability to recover between sets. It may make for a helluva workout, leaving you drenched, short of breath and burning fat by the second, but it's all at the expense of your form and technique—a truth that even the pioneers of this training system acknowledge.

Don't even get me started on the movement debacle known as Kipping Pull-Ups. Just don't do them. Period.

But It's Considered a Sport. . .

On the positive side, racing the clock during workouts, posting your results within a community of likeminded individuals and competing against other individuals creates camaraderie, community and a sense of belonging.

This has turned fitness into a sport via competitive meets, like the CrossFit Games. That sounds great, but it's not ideal for everyone.

Sports do not promote long-term health. The demands of most sports sacrifice joint health, muscular balance and stability. In fact, a good sports weight-training program centers first around injury prevention and maintenance. Strength development is a secondary goal.

So, let's consider two examples:

  • A football player who is already battered from his season, but also participates in CrossFit
  • A 40-year old ex-athlete who had to quit competing because of nagging injuries.

Is adding another sport to their routine a good idea? I don't think so. The sport will further break down their bodies and possibly lead to an injury. (That's why baseball players shouldn't do CrossFit.)

What We Can Learn From CrossFit

The CrossFit mindset is slowly infiltrating the masses.

  • Will you get lean doing CrossFit regularly? Yes.
  • Will you be at a greater risk for injury in the process? Yup.
  • Are there safer methods out there for the average Joe? Absolutely.

As a strength and conditioning coach, I find it easy to dwell on the problems with CrossFit, but we need to realize that CrossFit is here to stay. So we need to progress it forward.

My recommendations: nix the time factor; implement better coaching and progression; and tailor some WODs to the individual's needs. The resulting system might possibly be the best one available to the masses.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the idea of CrossFit seems to outweigh its application, leaving a morass of compound movements stacked upon one another with questionable technique. Chiropractors and physical therapists everywhere are thanking CrossFit's founders for their new vacation homes.

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