CrossFit is polarizing. It seems like these days you either love it and it’s all you want to talk about or you hate it and you wish you could slap your friend that can’t shut up about how much he loves CrossFit.
Initially, my experience with CrossFit was something that didn’t involve lululemon shorts, chalk everywhere and some specialized pack of vitamins to help me WOD harder. I was introduced to it by two Rangers at the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, Texas.
The two guys were both CrossFit coaches that had been in blast injuries and both had lost a leg. They were both below the knee amputees and were very high level. I saw these guys doing muscle-ups as part of their WOD one morning and spoke with them after. They told me they were doing CrossFit and invited me to train with them the next morning. So the next morning, that's exactly what I did. I got through the training session and at the end eventually had to puke into a trash can. As I wiped the puke off my face, they both laughed because they had been there before and I realized I had found something pretty awesome!
Back when I first started CrossFit, it was more underground and less mainstream than it is today. CrossFit has grown and evolved with it’s success over the years, as it has to (and should) do. I think you need to give credit where credit is due, however, and CrossFit at least deserves credit in these 3 areas:
1. Adults started doing Gymnastics
As a parent I feel some type of movement base needs to be developed in our kids (read more here). You could use a martial art, dance or something like gymnastics. The fact that grown adults are trying to learn hands stands, hollow holds and kipping movements is phenomenal. If we can all agree that gymnastics is a great movement base for our kids, why aren’t we working on it ourselves? We absolutely should work on gymnastics skills and CrossFit made that one of the central foundations of it’s training.
2. It Saved American Weightlifting
When people say the word weightlifting most people think bodybuilding. Shit, 5 years ago I was one of those people. I couldn’t have told you the difference between lifting weights and weightlifting. Through CrossFit, I’ve been exposed to a sport that involves arguably, the hardest movement in sports, the snatch.
When the last summer olympics were on I looked specifically to see when weightlifting was going to be shown. The summer olympics before that all I would have cared about was swimming and track and field (because we dominate those sports! #merica). I only wish I could have gone back and started weightlifting when I was much younger.
So, is it fair to say that CrossFit saved American weightlifting? Yes it is and if you don’t believe me here’s a podcast I did with Glenn Pendlay and one with Don McCauley. They both give all the credit in the world to the fact that CrossFit has made weightlifting matter again.
The last bit of proof, if you even need anymore, would be the the young weightlifting phenom CJ Cummings hitting a 175kg clean and jerk (video below) at the US Nationals this month. It’s an unofficial youth world record for his weight class. Where did he get his start into the sport? At a CrossFit gym!
3. Brought Back Real Training
Last week my wife and I went to see the movie Jurassic World. As we stood in line at the movie theatre in Atlanta, we had to stand next to a gym with a ton of huge glass windows. This gave us a significant amount of entertainment and helped pass the time in a relatively long line. Why was it entertaining? It was entertaining because I look back at how I used to train and I see it’s the same as what these people were doing at the gym by the theatre.
Too often people go to a nice air conditioned facility, grab a towel for the off chance that they actually sweat and head straight for the elliptical. They plug their headphones in and watch Paula Dean describe why you need 4 kinds of cheese in your macaroni and cheese to really make it correctly. Thirty minutes later after having maintained their fat burning zone it’s time for some leg extensions, bicep curls and possibly some dumbell bench press if there’s time. Grab your post workout smoothie on the way out and in your mind you’re the fucking man!
Training should be hard. Training should encompass large compound movements. It should get your heart rate elevated; who cares what your so called fat burning zone might be. Training should allow you to go hiking, swim with your kids, do yard work for 2 hours and run away from a dog that would love nothing more than bite your leg off. Maybe there were other people that were training in this fashion before or during the time CrossFit came around. What CrossFit did was make it mainstream. I’m glad they did and so are thousands if not millions of other people around the globe.
I know this is a polarizing topic. If you have an opinion leave a comment. Thanks for reading.
-Dr. Danny, PT, DPT
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.