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Exercise, Risk & Reward. Err…are you really going to do that?

When I meet someone new & we get to chatting this is almost without fail how the conversation pans out:

New Friend: “So what do you do for a job?”

Me: “Im in the fitness industry.”

New Friend: “Oh like Crossfit?”

A seemingly harmless follow up question but one that really gets repetitive & frustrating quite quickly. Now before you jump on the comments section & proclaim your love for Crossfit (CF) & how its the best thing since Schapelle can go boogie boarding again. Let me explain the reasons I avoid CF as my primary training methodology.

Crossfit is virtually undefinable. The CF community claim everything under the CF banner. If you do a strength circuit, its CF. If you run 1km as fast as you can, do some push ups & repeat. Yup, its CF. When really all these training methods have existed well before 1995 when Greg Glassmon created the CF cult. In fact its the opposite, all CF workouts utilise lifting movements borrowed from others disciplines such olympic lifting & pure weights training. CF hasn’t invented anything new they have merely merged existing options & added a superior marketing scheme.

CF has 6,000 affiliated gyms worldwide. Each week hundreds of new CF trainers are approved (after their 2 day course & $1000USD) to begin their Crossfit preaching. What you don’t know is CF trainers are taught something called: CrossFit Slop. A policy of such that allows technical lifting form to degrade in an effort to allow a higher work output to be completed. An injury prevention nightmare. CF is marketed as something everyone can do, but some of these ‘everyones’ will be the people who need strict technical form the most. (Injured, pregnant, ageing, novice or adolescent). How many of these trainers fail their 2 day course because they are competent to stop or correct the trainer when technique has degraded so badly it becomes an injury risk? A point to think about before you hire your next CF trainer.

In January 2014, Kevin Ogar was left paralysed from the waist down after he was injured during a CF competition. A barbell he was “Snatching” thundered into his back, severing his spine at T11 & T12. There was no medical staff onsite. Was this purely a CF injury or freak accident? There are too many factors at play to make the assumption that the blame rests solely on CF. Did it play a part, certainly. CF however, are not unfamiliar with injuries.

In fact, CF as a community almost tout these injuries (Shoulders, Achilles & Rhabdomyolysis) as trophies. A marker that they pushed so hard their body couldn’t keep up. Sure, high performance athletes get injured all the time, they really shouldn’t be injured in the gym. A proper strength & conditioning coach will have a great handle of programming workload to avoid unnecessary injuries. Despite that however, when injuries do occur these professional athletes have weighed up the risk/reward ratio of injury versus being paid millions of dollars. They also have corporations that are happy to foot a significant medical & rehabilitation bill.

Novice trainers respond quickly to a given stimulus. This is why CF works so well for the majority of people. Going from doing nothing to something will always elicit a positive response, for a short period of time. A new Personal Best (PB) lifting record or decreased testing time are all common. CF is exercise though, its not training. With exercise, progress slows & the laws of physiology are undeniable. The same happens for people who only run, they become more efficient at it but it becomes less effective for them. In 2006, 12,568 runners were studied for 9 years. The majority added body fat except for those who increased their running distance by 3 fold.

Now I certainly don’t hate CF. Actually, I quite respect it. It has done what the fitness industry prior couldn’t. It’s got average people off their couch & training, not just “training” but actually incorporating a barbell. In my opinion using the barbell for olympic lifts for a large number of reps is questionable. However, the amount of work CF’ers get through is impressive.

But those guys & girls at the top end of CF that you see on TV competing at the CF games. They use overload progression in gyms that aren’t CF. The marketing team will have you believe that they only do the WOD but they employ strength & conditioning coaches to periodise programmes for them.

So CF might be right up your alley but make sure your body is up for it & your technique can hold up under fatigue & competition first.

*CrossFit neck push ups featured in this photo.

Matt is a trainer that prefers to see people making improvements rather than rehab.

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