This will undoubtedly be one of my most controversial
pieces and I’ve avoided the question in a public forum
for years, since 2006 on the old dragondoor forum.
This is a question I get asked A LOT.
There is no doubt about it, CrossFit is extremely popular.
So popular in fact that Reebok bought them last year for
8 figures. (I think it was $32M, but I don’t remember.)
And now, there’s the CrossFit games.
Before I give you my thoughts, let me just say that I’ve been
aware of CrossFit since about 2002-2003. I remember
looking on their website thinking –
“Hmmm, yeah, they’re saying all the right things, but
something just doesn’t look right here…”
At that time I had just stepped out of the college strength
and conditioning scene, and one of the things I couldn’t
wrap my mind around was the specializing in “non-
I just couldn’t see the point of training like several different
types of athletes if you weren’t going to compete. It
seemed like there was no focus – except generalization –
and that was celebrated.
I just didn’t get that at the time.
And honestly, I still don’t.
So here’s my unvarnished opinion on CrossFit:
It’s way better than a sharp stick in the eye.
Here are some good things I like:
– I like the fact that it gets people interested in moving –
and not on a treadmill or elliptical either.
– I like the fact that they are like a strength and conditioning
facility – all barbells, kettlebells, and other useful implements.
– I like the fact that they have a bodyweight training component.
– I like the fact that they recognize the benefits of strength.
– I like the fact that they are willing to use the Olympic lifts
and power lifts and their variations.
– I like the fact that they use kettlebells.
– I like the fact that they’ve built a community.
– And this is sure to be controversial – but like I was discussing
with a friend of mine recently – the CrossFit Games. You may
think it’s stupid – but it reminds us of the World’s Strongest Man
competition, only for “regular” people.
Here are some things I don’t like:
– The very high injury rates. Lots of people get injured doing
CrossFit. One of my friends has built his massage/post-rehab
training practice around injured CrossFitters.
– The teaching methodologies seem to be lacking. In other
words, the ability to instill to their instructors either the need
or the know how to accurately assess new members and
give them the correct progression for the exercise they’re
supposed to be doing.
(Yes, yes, I know, it’s supposed to be scalable…)
– The focus on the quantity v. quality mindset – which almost
always leads to injuries.
– The programming, part 1: I don’t believe in training as a
generalist. I do believe in generalization, but many of my
programs have a theme to them, based on my background
in college coaching and weightlifting.
– The programming, part 2: I once trained a guy for the RKC
and he told me about his CrossFit workout that he did a
couple of days before –
30 barbell Cleans with 95lbs
30 barbell Push Presses with 95lbs
30 barbell Bench Step Ups with 95lbs
That’s just the wrong tool for the job. Period. You should
NEVER do those kinds of reps with the Olympic lifts.
Especially not using a barbell.
That’s what kettlebells are for.
Was it any coincidence that he had a strain in his mid-back?
I think not.
Oh yeah, here’s something else I do like:
EVERYBODY has now heard of CrossFit or at least knows
something about it even if they can’t remember the name.
That makes for good business.
If I had to do it all over again, I might even buy a CrossFit
affiliate – just for the brand recognition. (Might.)
But I would teach StrongFirst methodology to the members.
We’d focus on –
What’s really interesting is that when you focus on 1&2, #3
seems to automatically happen.
And when you focus on #3, #4 seems to automatically
happen. You don’t really have to go searching for it unless
you truly want to.
For example, in “Kettlebell STRONG!” you’ll learn that
for best results in double kettlebell training you should
just focus on “owning” the rack position for a little while –
“Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable” I call it.
I can’t tell you how many people – like Chris Lopez, SFG2 –
up in the Land of the Great White North (Canadia, eh?)
have told me that just spending time in the rack position
(technique) has made on pressing and squatting strength.
(#3 – Strength).
And that just makes the KBs feel lighter (which means of
course that you’re getting stronger).
Not only that, but technique acquisition should and would be
The techniques are based on principles.
And the principles apply regardless of the exercise or the
One technique builds off the previous one so you can see
the common themes and relationships between exercises –
There is a specific order in which you should learn the
double KB exercises.
And this order allows you to not only feel comfortable with
the exercise, but apply what you learned about it to the
next exercise, making that exercise easier to perform.
And you’ll see how each exercise relates to the other.
Again – Systematic.
And let’s not forget simple to complex.
So again – technique, more technique, then strength, then
That’s the way it’s done.
That’s the way you avoid injuries.
That’s the way you get strong.
And that’s how you reach your goals, no matter what
P.S. If you’re a CrossFit box owner, please don’t write to me
telling me how “wrong” I am or that you’re different.
I’m sure you are serving your members to the best of your
ability and deeply care about their well-being.
Keep on doing what you’re doing.
BUT if you’re members are plagued with injuries, it’s time
for a gut check – an honest assessment of what you’re
doing. It’s the only way you’ll get better as a trainer and
in the long run, you’ll help more people out.