Crossfitters are the Scientologists of the fitness industry. We all know someone that does crossfit, and funnily enough all they talk about is Crossfit. Why is that? It’s literally impossible to speak to someone who does Crossfit without hearing about it. They’ll always find a way to work it into the conversation.
Mind you, I play rugby, but rugby is manly, not sure I would feel the same about Crossfit?
Despite the grueling ‘workouts‘ involving hanging from a pull up bar then flapping like a cod on a fishing line for multiple rounds of self-inflicted scoliosis and more injuries than a lifetime supply of rocktape could ever actually hold together, we have to agree that it’s become rather popular, whether you think that is a good thing or not.
Now let’s not hate too much as any fitness modality has their good and bad bits, and it’s largely down to the people that ‘represent’ the movement’, and getting in a workout (as long as you’re not hurting yourself) is better than sitting around doing nothing, but…
Here are the top 5 things a Crossfitter is guaranteed to say to you:
Claim 1 – It’s the best workout you can get.
I get that you can get in the gym, smash your whole body with some full body movements, get the heart racing, and then leave. But if you leave completely beat up, shoulders hanging from their joints, hips sore, and with a lower back that’s on fire, is that really the ‘best workout you can get’?
Now for a good box that programs properly, I take my hat off to them for making rounded ‘athletes’ out of ordinary people. That’s the good bit about Crossfit.
But a workout, or training as I like to call it (training has purpose, a workout is movement without purpose), is all context driven. Sure if I wanna just be fitter and healthier, crossfit could be a good way of making me a well rounded individual, but not doing 4 sets of 20 snatches after 2 weeks in the saddle, that’s more training volume for the snatch that many do in a week.
Claim 2 – Kipping Pull-ups are hard
Truth – Not really.
Evidence – The conversation always goes the same way.
- “Kipping pull-ups are stupid”
- “No they aren’t, they’re hard”
- “Why do you do them though?”
- “You can do more reps in less time”
That aside, it’s obvious that any vigorous activity is going to be difficult. I’d imagine spinning in a circle on one leg whilst playing the bagpipes is quite the challenge too.
It’s still stupid.
Do your pull-ups properly, engage your back, get your chin over the bar and stop cheating!
Claim 3 – The injury rate isn’t THAT high
Truth – Yes. yes it is.
Evidence – First off, let’s take a look into a typical Crossfit gym – What do you see?
- You see multicoloured mummies held together at the joints by Rocktape, wraps, bandages and other forms of strapping,
- You see a ‘coach’ with a weekend certification teaching complex movements to anyone that walks in the door,
- You see tee shirts romanticizing Rhabdomyalysis.
But mostly you see that today’s workout involves people with poor mobility performing highly technical Olympic lifts for reps whilst in a fatigued state after doing sprints on a rowing machine super settled with throwing a barbell at each other…
Finally. There’s always this little nugget:
Crossfit doesn’t work like other franchises, because it’s ‘arms’ are classed as ‘Affiliates’. What this means is that, unlike Subway where if you eat a sandwich with a rat in it in London, England, an incident form is filled out and it is fed back into HQ where the data is stored, Crossfit has no such system.
This means that the typical defence of ‘there’s no record of Kipping pull-ups damaging shoulders” is a moot point because there are no records kept of injuries. We say BS.
Claim 4 – Crossfit is the ultimate test of fitness and the Crossfit champion is the fittest man in the world
Truth – Crossfit is the ultimate test of ability to do Crossfit. And it’s champion is the best in the world at Crossfit.
Evidence – Fitness is not something which is broad and all encompassing. Fitness is described as “The ability to fulfill a specific role or task” which means that you can’t be generally fit, only fit for certain things.
Baring in mind that the current Crossfit champion doesn’t have (if taken as standalone things) world class sprint times or Olympic lifts, an elite powerlifting total, an impressive farmers walk or an impressive marathon time, it’s difficult to really imagine giving him that crown.
Yes, he can do them all pretty damn well at the same time, which is cool and shows great general physical preparedness (GPP), but the only specific task requiring that is… well, Crossfit.
Claim 5 – Eating low carb strict Paleo is a sensible thing to do
Truth – Eating strict paleo (when viewed as a low carb diet as many people do) and trying to be an athlete is a BAD idea.
Evidence – Crossfit, or the Crossfit I have seen is largely Glycolytic.
Glycolysis needs carbs, well, that’s if you want to produce energy optimally and not flake around on the 25 rep snatches like a bear doing the samba with a umbrella.
Truth is, high intensity training needs glycogen and that means carbs. I’m not talking a handful of berries here either.
This is one area, as a nutritionist, that has grated my ears with the crossfit movement. Clients talking to me about their new paleo diet being all low carb and them losing lots of weight as a result of it.
Which for many ‘general population’ dropping a load of the junk carbs and processed foods is a good thing, there gonna lose weight and feel better, but taking them all out and expecting recovery, performance, sleep, libido, energy and overall well-being to still be optimal is impossible.
If the muscle had lots of glycogen on hand it’s able to do its job properly.
If the muscle gets carbohydrates after being ragged through 10 sets of the daily WOD then it can recover properly and you don’t feel like you’ve been in a car crash the next day.
Crossfit needs a moderate carb diet at least, that’s around 200-250g minimum, so more sweet potato and less berries!
Are Crossfitters bad people?
No. They are probably just a little misguided, which primarily comes down to the coaches teaching Crossfit. Heck my girlfriend does Crossfit and she loves it, but knowing the coaches that teach her know their shit, she’s not doing kipping pull ups for time, she’s moving properly and getting strong.
Any fitness group has its good and bad eggs. My last article touched on body builders, we can all be a funny bunch.
After all Crossfit has caused chicks to wear yoga pants and it’s become fashionable, so it’s not all bad.
Perhaps we should be helping them and showing them the proper way to lift weights? Teach them that eating to make gains isn’t all about organic kale? Maybe even informing them that what they just did doesn’t quite qualify as a deadlift?
I don’t know.
I just can’t get past those damn pull-ups….