Throat Punch: The Influence of CrossFit

TAGS: harry selkow, CrossFit, programming, powerlifting, strength training

elitefts™ Sunday Edition

As I usually do, in the last week of December, I reflect on the things that made the prior year good, bad, indifferent, or just downright awesome! I look at the world as it is and then what it could have been, what things I contributed to it, and what things I totally missed the express train with. This year isn't any different as I get ready for the upcoming promises of “bigger, better, more, and less.” I don’t call them New Year’s resolutions as much as I consider January 1 a “starting point.” Mind you, I never wait for Mondays to begin nor do I wait for any tomorrows. I stopped bad habits because it was a Tuesday and because I wanted to do something now! But for many of us, January 1 is a good springboard.

My big goal is to literally “speak no ill.” That doesn’t mean that I won’t have an opinion. It means that if it doesn’t impact the parties concerned in a reinforcing manner, I’ll just keep it to myself. (Be warned, if I change the subject that you're speaking about for no apparent reason, it might quite possibly mean that I have nothing positive to say on the matter.) I have many opinions on many different subjects. With some of them, I'm confident that I absolutely know what I'm talking about. With other things, I have opinions based solely on outcomes that I've witnessed. Yet again, when I don't have any basis for a conclusion, I'll listen to the arguments and base my reasoning deductively. An example I know that creates controversy among the strength and conditioning community—and I'm absolutely sure that we all have opinions on this—is CrossFit.

Before we get into the finger pointing and nay saying that's associated with the real strength and conditioning world, let me first say that I'm really not impressed with the argument of people wanting to get into shape and the use of any system over another. I'm all in favor of getting Mr. and Mrs. Baggadonuts off the couch and into the gym.

I've been “renting” space in two different CrossFit affiliates for roughly the last four years. I’ve seen good coaching and I've seen absolute garbage spewing from people. Then again, in conjunction with that, I’ve seen powerlifting at its finest and I've seen some of the most uninspired sewer sludge, as well. I won’t even begin to tell you my feelings about “sports-specific” or “bodybuilding” or the thing that I've witnessed.

Any one of us who participated in sports from the mid 1960s through the mid 1980s participated in a type of CrossFit as part of our strength and conditioning. Back then, we called it “circuit training.” It was a very unsexy way of putting a time limit on a series of exercises that were used to get a training response in multiple bioenergetics systems all at once. It was designed to save time and maximize the gym time usage for a larger population of athletes at the same time.

We then were instructed to go “lift” the main lifts that were important to our coach (not even a strength and conditioning coach but more likely the athletic trainer).

So a fellow shows up, gives it a sexy name, and creates a following. There are many things that I disagree with, but the one undeniable truth is that CrossFit is something very positive. It gets people to do lifts and exercises that were once used strictly at the higher levels of athletics. If you remember, in the mid 1970s, a fellow by the name of Arthur Jones revolutionized the fitness industry with his one set to failure program and the Nautilus centers that jumped up all over the country. “Plate heads” left the YMCAs and garage gyms to follow this guru back then much like the masses following the founder and upper tier CrossFit headquarter dudes. So what? I’m not one to point a finger, but aren’t these guys creating opportunity for a lot of people who enjoy the fitness industry?

Good for those of us who really don’t want our cheese moved. Good for those of us who are benefiting from the “fall out” of misused programming and unguided coaching. I, for one, have gained multiple participants from the CrossFit program who weren’t getting what they wanted. I train them up and send them back into that program fixed from their injury(ies) and stronger, faster, and able to compete at higher levels. On the flip side, when the CrossFit participant comes to me, he usually has a higher understanding of exercise and nutritional programming. He tends to ask more intelligent questions when it comes to performance improvement.

In the 1980s, I took time to participate in triathlons. Back then, the “some was good, more is better” mentality was rampant. I can identify with the mentality that is now not just swim, bike, and run, but let’s jump, skip rope, add some Olympic lifts and a few sprinkles of powerlifting,and call it by a chick's name. What is wrong with wanting to get off my own fat a$$ and get into shape? I wish that PX10009 offered the feedback that CrossFit does. I might jump on that bandwagon, too.

Be mindful—I'm not jumping ship, nor am I about to even begin to taste the Kool Aide, but I can't speak ill of a program that brings people into a gym—my gym! Go to one of the competitions and look at the bodies that are the 10 percent, the ones that compete at the high level. They are unquestionably hot and rockin!

I'll continue to service the CrossFit community, the ones who want to exceed at the competition level and the ones who get bulled over with the thought that they could compete at that level. Everyone deserves to feel as a champion feels.

I won’t say anything negative (remember my 2014 goal?) about the founder, nor the programming. I will also stay positive and say only good things, so I’ll leave out “associations” that have sprung up because of the sexy circuit training marketing. But for 2014—go get ‘em CrossFitters! I’m waiting over here to help you when you need it!

As for the rest of us, don’t be the guy who starts the “rubber necking traffic jam.” If you aren’t affected by it, don’t let it bother you. Move on! Do your thing without worrying about what the “other” guys are doing. You have enough to think about with technique, progression, and getting f**king huge.

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