In Part 1, we broke the ice on some of the Pros and Con’s of CrossFit.  The other point to take away from Part 1 is that CrossFit is simply a branding label.  There are no guarantees on the type of training or coaching at a given CrossFit Box.  This brings us to many of the comments about Part 1.  There were basically 3 categories of responses I got  from Part 1

 

    • The “I totally agree” group
    • The “I hate you, CrossFit rocks and this the only way to train!” group
      • This group is beyond my help in any facet, but I’m happy to say it was quite small among our readers (only one :).
    • The “Well, what about this box or this coach’s methods?” group
      • Part 2 is manly for this last group

 

I want to make one thing perfectly clear to all readers.  I am not an, “I hate CrossFit” blogger.  If you have read some of our magazines or other articles, you would know I have an “I hate bad fitness practices” point of view.  There are good and bad personal trainers, nutritionists, strength coaches, doctors, physical therapists, and the list goes on. At a recent PICP level 4 course, I had the pleasure of meeting a great coach who runs a CrossFit gym that doesn’t necessarily follow the CrossFit methods.  This is just one example of coaches out there who run quality programs that also carry the CrossFit brand.

 

Bar none, there is no more effective training method for any goal or sport than having a personalized program by a qualified PICP coach.  The reality, though, is that some people don’t want to spend the money on private or semi-private training, and others just simply prefer working in a group training environment, because they enjoy it more.  So is there a niche for good coaches to use a system like CrossFit?  The answer is yes if your goals are general fitness, and you have no health issues, but here are a few requirements…  (Please note- many of these points are not limited to CrossFit, but can be applied to any fitness program).

 

Things you need in a CrossFit Coach or Box

  • Coach trained in teaching Olympic Lift Techniques Outside of CrossFit
    • One of the best things about CrossFit is the fact that it promotes the benefits of Olympic Lifting.  That being said, Olympic Lifts are some of the hardest things to teach and require a very structurally balanced person to perform them safely.  Having a coach trained in teaching Olympic Lifting technique as well as preparation training for this type of training means you will be getting quality reps that will improve your workouts.
  • Program that uses Olympic Lift as strength exercises, so no more than 5 reps per set and adequate rest for the stabilizer muscles and nervous system before repeating
    • Olympic Lifts are explosive movements that require tremendous coordination and joint stabilization.  Performing these exercises for greater than 5-6 reps decreases the quality of the exercise and puts extra stress on stabilizer muscles.  If you train these movements with high reps, it teaches the body to recruit the wrong muscles, destroys form and technique, greatly increases risk of injury, and burns out your nervous system.
  • Periodization that changes the strength and hormonal qualities of the workouts each phase
    • In traditional weight training, one workout can continue to produce results for the average person for about 6 workouts.  If your CrossFit coach is programming properly, you will have strength days that need to follow this type of system.  Not changing or constantly changing your variables every workout will provide minimal results, systemic fatigue,  and will result in training plateaus.
  • Coach that has nutritional education beyond that of CrossFit (preferably)
    • This is more of a “nice to have” than a “need to have.”  Getting people to follow the Paleo diet is a great start on improving their health through nutrition.  However, optimal results will require a little more detail as far as types of carbohydrates, and macronutrient guides.  For those with digestive issues or years of poor diet history, there may be many other things to be addressed such as dysbiosis, food intolerances, and proper digestive support.
  • Preparatory program and criteria to be met before you can participate in WOD style programs
    • This is perhaps the biggest reason that you want a CrossFit gym that has a coach that is also a qualified strength and conditioning coach like a PICP coach.  The CrossFit WOD style of training requires all participants to be of similar physical capabilities.  I’m not talking strength, but I’m talking flexibility in the shoulders and hips, strength balance between limbs and proper stabilizer strength to support dynamic movements. It only takes about 2 minutes on youtube to find a CrossFit Box video where the person’s knees are caving in because they are not structurally balanced and should not be performing Olympic lifts yet.
  • A coach who understands the benefit of prehab exercises for the shoulders, hips, back, and knees
    • When you are constantly pushing the body with big lift functional movements, many times the supporting muscle groups take a back seat.  A good coach will make sure that these muscles are taken care of to insure joint health and progress in the big lifts.
  • Separate strength training and energy system training.
    • When I say train strength, I am referring to using consistent rep and rest schemes versus energy system training which is where the workout consists of short or no rest between sets or exercises, and uses things like the AMRAP or timed sets. Ideally there would be 1-2 energy system workouts per week and 3-4 strength workouts offered per week by a good CF Box.

 

Things to avoid in a CrossFit Box

  • They use the website WOD.
    • Luckily, many of the CF Box’s do not just put up the website WOD for their members.  These workouts are almost never ideal and do not follow any of the recommended principles above.
  • The workouts are always maximum intensity, and are not periodized.
    • Intensity and volume need to be periodized and used appropriately.  A big critique of many CF Box’s is that the intent of the workout is just to be hard.  The goal of your programs should be to make participants strong, lean, and healthy.  Many coaches are being ridiculed for just trying to make people puke to prove that CrossFit is intense or hardcore.  This type of training is not what produces athletes at the CrossFit games or athletes on any level, I promise.
  • They use the zone diet plan.
    • The moment someone has you weighing your food, you need to walk out the door.  Food, calories, carbs, proteins, and fats are not all created equal.  The zone system is not a healthy way to lose weight.  It’s a great way to lose muscle and health while being overstressed and obsessive.
  • They do not provide information on nutritional support through supplementation.
    • Nutrition is responsible for the majority of body composition changes.  Whther you want to gain muscle or lose fat, the nutrients you’re getting are going to be a major factors in the results you see.  If you want to train with a high intensity, it is nearly impossible to do so consistently with out properly supplementing your nutrition.  Coaches that are anti-supplements tend to be the coaches that are anti-education.  Any coach or personal trainer with a good nutritional base will know the value of supplementation.
  • They start beginners out on the WOD
    • A lot of boxes are starting to implement the technique period before allowing members to participate in WOD programs.  It needs to be more than just technique, though.  There needs to be specific criteria for flexibility and strength in certain supporting muscles that should be met before allowing members to participate in the WOD.  Many coaches rush the members into the WOD because either the member wants to do them and they are afraid of losing their interest, or they are bad coaches and don’t take the time to develop their members properly, because they are lazy and don’t really care about your health, just your money.
  • They do not offer individualized training to prepare beginners for WOD and work on technique, structural balance, and flexibility.
    • To add to the previous point, a good CF box should have training available for development and for those who have plateaued from WOD style training.
  • They use dumbbell or kettlebells for Olympic lift style movements.
    • Really, there is just no excuse for a coach or personal trainer of any kind to use these kind of movements.  The ironic thing is that they are often looked at as developmental lifts for Olympic lifts when in fact the coordination and stress on the shoulders is much greater using a barbell, even with heavier weights.
  • They do not have an education outside of CF.
    • I listed a lot of education to look for in the first section.  At the very least, you want to make sure you have a coach that is diversely educated.  No matter how good your system of choosing may be, having a narrow education base is grounds for failure.
  • They use aerobic training in their WOD programming.
    • No activity should last more than 2 minutes in a workout, or in rare cases, 4 minutes tops.  So incorporating long rungs or rowing sessions in a WOD is a poor and lazy way to program.  This type of training will take away from your weight training and makes the workout more unfavorable from a hormonal standpoint.

 

 

If I had a friend or family member that insisted on doing CrossFit I would just disown them (kidding!).  I would demand that they find a box that utilizes the above, but I would also suggest using the following strategy… Because CrossFit is limited on the types of programming it can use, it’s not a system I can suggest year round.  So don’t go scrapping your gym membership just yet.  Two ways you could incorporate CrossFit with a regular resistance training program would be to rotate it with phases of resistance training or to use CrossFit as your energy system training only.  Rotating would involve taking a stretch of 1 or 2 phases of strength training and then spending 4 weeks at the CrossFit Box.  The second method is to use CrossFit as your form of energy system training.  Traditionally most CrossFit WODs were just energy system workouts in the form of circuit training.  So performing your lifting days during the week at the gym and then hitting a CF workout on Saturday would be another option.  Bottom line, any smart trainee knows there is no perfect training system, only the right training system at the right time.

 

In Part 3 I will discuss CrossFit for kids, athletes, and the orthopedically challenged.


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