Over the past year I have been debating whether or not I should show up randomly for a drop in session at a Crossfit facility. In fact, my first surge of curiosity came when I interviewed my fellow blogger friend, Katie Kiely, last year on this very blog (read that post here). I always catch the Crossfit games every year and watch as the participants do gut wrenching workouts for time at the events. There is no question that the athletes that compete in this competition are fit. In fact, these people are so fit it disturbs me. My gripe with Crossfit over the past year though has been centered upon a fundamentally different fitness philosophy that I hold in comparison to Crossfit as a whole.
Just what is that difference in fitness philosophy? Here’s an excerpt from last years interview with Crossfit enthusiast, Katie Kiley. I believe this summarizes my position perfectly.
- Crossfit Katie: Form is really the fundamental component to becoming a better crossfitter. You can never move faster or more weight unless you become more efficient with proper mechanics. It is true that there are plenty of people out there doing movements with improper form, but that can be found in each and every sport or fitness facility out there. I can only speak for my own coaches, but form is highly emphasized before speed or increasing weight, especially as a safety concern. Every coach and gym is different however.
- Crossfit Katie: Again, I think you find injury in most every sport out there. Whether it’s from overuse or improper form there’s always going to be chance of injury when you’re putting your body through new stress. I personally have healed a running knee injury through crossfit, and my body has never felt healthier or stronger. You need to train smart no matter what sport you’re participating in. If you have knowledgeable coaches and are smart about how quickly you choose to progress and how serious you take rest and recovery, no I don’t think crossfit induces more injuries than another given activity. In addition, you use muscles in constantly varying ways so the chance for overuse is far less.
My point here is that the “do-as-many-reps-as-humanly-possible” attitude had turned me off to Crossfit as a whole. As a strength coach under RKC, I cannot advocate “cheating” my form on lifts, nor would I ever teach a client how to rush through a specific movement in the name of doing as many reps as humanly possible. I believe that over compensating form in order to do as many reps as possible leads to injury. I will maintain my position on this principle. However, in my previous interview, Katie Kiely had brought up an interesting point that had the gears in my brain turning for an entire year (thanks a lot Katie for that! :-p) Her argument was that form is a crucial element to crossfit because “you cannot move faster or move more weight unless you become efficient with proper mechanics.” This interesting tid-bit of information lead me to venture off to Crossfit Pittsburgh to see for myself what the whole Crossfit culture was really like in real life. I am a firm believer in not overly criticizing something until having tried it in the first place, and so…off I went to do my very first WOD.
In 20 min work up to 2 RM Jerk
In 16 minutes;
Every even minute do 2 Squat Cleans at 70% of 1 RM
Every odd minute do 5 Hand Stand Pushups
Now, I am not too familiar with doing clean and jerks (I am currently practicing these with kettlebells and haven’t quite nailed it yet. The mechanics of the move are kind of tricky) so I decided to do barbell push presses instead. I did not want to do the 2 rep maximum for my push press as I wanted to hone in on my own form. With kettlebells, I can now do double 20kg military presses (roughly 88 lbs), and on the barbell I did a 4 rep maximum of 85 pounds. That was good enough for me in 16 minutes. The second half of the workout required squat cleans, which is a movement I havent done in a good number of years. So once again, I checked my ego at the door and did them with the barbell only just to work on my form. I felt that working on the core strength and stability with these two separate moves (squat cleans and hand stand pushups) was unique (though my previous upper body workout of doom kind of hindered me from doing a ton of hand stand push ups. Better safe than sorry from injury).