Crossfit…..NOT A RANT!

Spencer Hendel












**Note:  If you were expecting me to be my highly opinionated self in this post then please stop reading now.  Crossfit is a very hot topic right now and I simply intend to give my .02 cents, no more and no less – and for once I’m trying the professional thing ;)**


As my travels have taken me all over the place during the summer, it seems that the most common question I received is “have you heard of Crossfit?” or “what do you think of Crossfit?”  Well first of all, I have not been living under a rock for the last 5 years so yes I have heard of Crossfit, and my feelings on cross fit are mostly that its a good program.


Before I go further, its only fair that you understand I have only done 2 cross fit WOD’s (in an actual cross fit gym – I’ve tried a few others on my own).  One of these was “Fran,” a benchmark workout that consists of thrusters and pull-ups.  I completed it in just under 4 minutes and by CrossFit standards that is slow!  The other workout was a beginner workout that I did as part of an intro class at my local affiliate.  It consisted of a 400m run, 15 pushups, and 15 squats done for time (there were several rounds).  I will be the first person to admit that on paper both of these workouts look very easy, the completion of them is not so easy.




As described by the company themselves, CrossFit “delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive.”  They do not claim to specialize (although specialties such as football and endurance have developed) but rather are looking for universal scalability to make for a perfect training experience for any committed individual regardless of experience.


To be honest this seems like they are side stepping the question of what they actually do. From a 10,000 foot level it appears like a bunch of random exercise thrown together in an effort to kick your ass.  As you know, this is the antithesis of my programming where every element has a precise reason for being in the program.




First of all, any program that gets you off your ass and moving is fine by me.  With obesity rates on the rise and our country being at its all time fattest, I just want to see people MOVE!

As I read deeper and deeper into cross fit and their methodologies, and as I watch the games on TV, I really like the athleticism that CrossFit develops.  Coming from the physique industry where I see a lot of “all show, no go” physiques, the guys in CrossFit look the part and can really bring it.  I was lucky enough earlier this year to preview the 2012 Reebok CrossFit games for Men’s Fitness and I can honestly say that the training these guys do is INTENSE, much harder than I’ve ever heard anyone say they train for a physique competition.  What is most impressive is that at 200+ pounds, each and every athlete was very functional and still possessed an insane amount of flexibility – that is something very rare for guys of that size and speaks to the efficacy of CrossFit programming.


The other cool thing about CrossFit is the environment.  If you have never witnessed a CF workout, I certainly encourage you to go to your local “box” (this is what they call their gyms) and check one out.  The atmosphere is awesome, and everyone is encouraging each other – thats the kinda stuff that keeps people committed, and commitment leads to results!  When I attended the class this past weekend there was a near 70 year old woman completing the workout (a scaled version…explained later) along side several twenty and thirty-somethings – thats pretty cool!




Whenever you hear someone bad mouth CrossFit, it usually has something to do with people getting injured.  I freely admit, I’m not a huge fan of taking highly skilled movements (olympic lifts) and attempting to apply speed – it can be a recipe for disaster.

HOWEVER, this is simply how it appears on the surface.  As I have dug deeper, and called several friends that are in the CrossFit “cult”, I have found out that it really all comes down to the programming.  Earlier I mentioned a near 70 year old woman completing a scaled workout.  When workouts are “scaled,” it means that different levels of progression have been built in that are appropriate to different fitness levels.  Creating different levels of the workout is crucial to maintaining safety.

Now some gym owners are lazy, and only create one workout.  In the CF community those are called “ass hole WOD’s,” basically the owner is being an ass hole and just wants to kill you.  As I always say “any ass hole can make you tired, a good trainer can make you better.”

So while the general premise of skilled movements being done for time may not be my favorite thing in the world, it does appear that there is a safe way to progress into it.


Another issue that has been brought up is that there is no focus on development.  Well for the physique industry I guess this is a huge negative, but CrossFit never claims that it will give you a great body, it claims that it will make you a better athlete (which in all fairness usually leads to a better physique).  This comes down to a matter of a choice – what do YOU want?  If you strictly care about your physique, train accordingly.  If you want a good physique and want to be able to perform, then maybe you should incorporate some elements of CF…thats an individual decision.  However, going to CrossFit strictly for physique enhancement would be like going to an ice cream parlor and expecting a world class burger, just isn’t the right place for what you want.




Like I said, this is not meant to be a rant in any way, rather to inform.


Regardless of what you think about CrossFit, its popularity and growth is undeniable.  “Boxes” are popping up all over the place and people are flocking to them like crazy.  From a business perspective, CrossFit is very lucrative.


I will be honest and say that I am warming up more and more to CrossFit.  When it first came out several years ago, I was one of the haters.  This was youthful ignorance at best, but at least I admit it.  Now that I am more mature and I can look objectively on the programming and the sport, I can honestly see the other side.


CrossFit is neither good nor bad, its just another way of training.  However, if you choose CrossFit as your protocol – PLEASE find a good gym with an educated trainer/owner.  Do not go somewhere that only does “ass hole WOD’s”!!!!


I highly encourage everyone to check out CrossFit Hilton Head as a great example of the POSITIVE side of CrossFit:  Not only is the owner great with programming, they are very philanthropic and support several local causes – VERY COOL!



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