CrossFit has popularity going for it. Spokespeople Rich Froning and Julie Foucher are arguably two of the fittest people on earth. But if you are training for a sport, you’re better off following a quality training program that focuses on your specific goals. Here are five reasons why.
1. CrossFit workouts lack focus
CrossFit workouts are so varied, it’s difficult to focus your training on a specific goal. They try to train for strength, power and endurance all in one session, and that is unrealistic. If you are a doing a workout like “Fran,” you can’t possibly maintain high intensity for an extended period.
2. Speed training suffers
Since many CrossFit workouts are not as intense as they claim, what exactly are they training? The answer is conditioning. Several studies have shown that CrossFit is great for improving VO2 max and reducing body fat. If you are trying to condition for your sport, several CrossFit workouts are great choices. However, for most athletes, speed training is more important than conditioning; and speed training requires rest periods to maintain intensity and speed.
3. Group classes aren’t specific to the needs of your sport
As a strength coach, I write programs for many different athletes, all of whom have specific needs based on their sport and their position. The fact that CrossFit is done in a group setting limits the possibility of individualized programming.
Among the factors I consider when writing a program are not only selecting exercises, but also ruling out exercises—i.e., determining which exercises I am not going to prescribe. If I am training a baseball player who relies on arm health, no way in a million years would I ever have him do Kipping Pull-Ups, Muscle Ups or even Thrusters. If I am training two football players who play different positions, I would not write the same program for them. A defensive lineman and a wide receiver have different goals and need different programs to focus on those goals. If they show up for a group class, one of them or perhaps both will not be getting what they need.
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4. You miss out on progressive overload
Because you cannot effectively adapt to both high-intensity, low-volume and low-intensity, high-volume training at the same time, you cannot follow a basic principle of strength training, which is progressive overload. If you squat 200 pounds for 6 reps this week, you should progress to 210 pounds for 6 reps the following week. The progressive overload model, along with periodization, has been around forever and has been proven to improve performance.
5. Technique deteriorates with fatique
For a strength coach, rule number one is to keep your athletes on the field. CrossFit has many great benefits, including increased VO2 max and improved body composition, but almost all CrossFit workouts are done to fatigue. But with fatigue, you lose technique. Even if you can do a Deadlift with perfect form, when you are asked to do 30 as fast as you can—even at a sub-maximal weight—you will risk injury and you won’t perform at your best.
The goal of training programs for athletes is not to wear them out. It’s to get them performing their best on the field.