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Thoughts on Crossfit

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 12:43 pm
by Matt Z
Out of curriosity I checked out the Crossfit website recently. It has some interesting articles, and seems like a fairly good program for general conditioning. However, there were a few things I didn't fully understand. For example:

1.) Crossfit workouts inlude a LOT of chin-ups, along with muscle ups and climbing, but bent-over rows seem to be completely absent. In fact, BB and DB rows aren't even included in their catologe of exercises. Meanwhile, one of the articles actually refers to the supposed lack of upper-body pulling movements in weight training. What gives?

2) The site makes frequent reference to improving limit strength along with relative strength, strength endurance, cardiorespiratory capacity, agility, flexibility, etc. However, the WODs don't seem to include any real strength training. The only way I can see anyone building or even maintaining limit strength on the Crossfit program is if they were either relatively weak to start with, or supplemented the program with conventional strength training. Likewise, I don't see any real stretching for flexability.

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 1:01 pm
by Matt Z
Also, the Crossfit people seem really determined to sell people on Crossfit as a system, rather than just a loose collection of ideas on fitness. This seems strange to me since the whole Crossfit concept is pretty recent and clearly still evolving.

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 1:24 pm
by stuward
I have seen it acknowledged by Crossfit that strength training is lacking. Supplementry training is needed and they often refer to "Starting Strength" by Rippetoe. The also have ME Black Boxes that you add in on an as-needed basis.


Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 1:29 pm
by TimD
Matt, I like a lot of the Crossfit ideas, and I'm sure PDell and Daniel will chime in too. Before i get to the specific questions, I do think there are a lot of "Kool Aid" drinkers out there that put Crossfit above everything else and have very little tolerance for other ideas.I ain't one of 'em. Take what's good from it and apply it to your own training.
1.(No you didn't ask this specifically, but here goes). You should check out their FAQ. The posted WOD's are not the only workout you're expected to do/ A good warm up and cool down are highly recommended (think stretching, flexibility). Also, while the WOD is the main focus for the day, it is highly recommended to practice some basic skills if you thinkyou need to, i.e, OL technique, gymnastic of MAA drills, etc I actually paid a visit to my local setup here in Va Beach, and they do a lot of that before and after focusing in on their WOD.
2. The strength thing. You will see they do focus certain days on it, but that is one of the most common points brought out by many. A;so, recently, since Coach Rippetoe became associated with Crossfit, more strength days than before are being incorporated, plus many are using the ME black box template rather than straight crossfit, where you rotate ME *max effort days) focusing on 1-3 core lifts, and alternate them with the more standard Metcon(metabolic condtioning) days. For instance, they run 3 on 1 off, and 2 rotations might look like this; ME, metcon, ME, off, Metcon, ME, Mecon, off, repeat, or it might look like this, Metcon, MR, Metcon, off repeat same, putting focus on metcon. Do a search over there on their site for ME blackbox.
3. The chin, row issue. The focus there is "kipping chins", meaning using the whole body power for getting yourself up and over something, say a fence. The program was isiially used for police, military firefighters, and MAA types. There main concerns are to get a great back, but rather to get quickly over a fence or something like that.If you prefer rows, then by all means do them.
Hope this has at least partially answered some questions. Yes, I like a lot of things about crossfit, I alsolike a lot of things about what they do over at Dragondoor with KB's, but it's like anything else, take what's good about it, and use what is useful for YOU.

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 9:47 pm
by pdellorto
Yeah, here I am chiming in. I'll try to hit your questions directly. Before I go into my usual dense paragraphs and run-on sentences.

1) Yeah, lots of pullups/chinups (it usually says pullups, but any grip is okay - wide, narrow, supinated, pronated, mixed, whatever - mix it up is the attitude). The ideal is kipping - although some people (like me) also use jumping ones. The claim is that this builds up your dead-hang ability better than doing dead-hangs; I don't know if this is true but lots of people seem to think it does, and they've got more experience doing both than I do. Kipping chinups are lots of work, though, and I know my one-rep dead-hang weighted chinup has gone up from doing jumping pullups in large numbers.
But no rows, except for the occasional "renegade row" - pushups done on a pair of hex dumbells, with a one-armed row done in between. I think the idea behind the lack of rows is that you're doing so many other exercises that hit the muscles rows do that you don't need them. They do lots of Concept II rowing machine rows, though.

2a) Limit strength work isn't the core of crossfit, but it's there. If you look back through the WOD archives, you'll specific weights (say, 21-15-9 of Handstand Pushups and 225# deadlifts) but also rep-only workouts (Clean 5x3, or Deadlift 7x1). Limit strength is supposed to be built in those latter workouts - they seem to center on 5x5, 7x3, 7x1, and 10x1. That said, some people don't find that adequate. They do what's called an ME model - swapping one day in three (on a 3-on-1-off schedule) of the WOD for some maximum effort lifting in a rotating series of compound lifts - often deadlifts, back squats, front squats, overhead squats, weighted pullups, and cleans.
I got into Crossfit only a few months ago, so I have no sense of the history - but it seems like the ME model isn't quite as important as it was in the past. Lots of heavy lifting comes just isn't on a specific weekly or monthly cycle. About once a month you do the Crossfit Total - essentially testing your 1RM in the Back Squat, then Shoulder Press, then Deadlift. It's supposed to let you know how you are progressing and folks seem to use it to judge their overall progress as much as times on benchmark workouts.

2b) Stretching is something you are expected to do on your own - either during the warmup or after the workout or both (usually dynamic before, static after, to judge by comments and the message boards). Same with warming up - there is a whole official Crossfit warmup (the CFWU, as they call it) which includes samson stretches, overhead squats, pullups, dips, situps, etc. Me, I bike to the gym and then do that barbell/dumbbell complex I wrote up a week or so ago plus some goblet squats for form practice and then get going.

3) Yeah, lots of people are really into crossfit, and don't see anything else as valuable or productive. I'm not one of them. I think there is great stuff out there that crossfit can benefit from and doesn't utilize, and so I use it myself. But there are a good number of results-oriented folks there as well, folks who care about getting there, not the journey. I'm one of those folks who uses crossfit as a basic workout philosophy and guideline, not a specific prescription that must be followed.

Like I said earlier, I got into crossfit recently - thanks to folks here, actually. I looked up barbell thrusters, found the video, checked out the website, and said...heck, some of this looks fun, it might be a nice change. It seems to be working for me, but I'm also doing barbell/dumbbell complexes, a weekly full-body workout, and MMA training - and changed my diet at the same time. So I can't isolate its benefits. But I do like the emphasis on intensity, functional movements, and mixing endurance, power, and limit strength all together into one goal. The WODs can be fun, too, especially when they are deceptively that seem like you should be able to bang them out easily but turn out to be real rippers.

For some of the WOD design philosophy and crossfit philosophy, I found this Crossfit Journal articles really helped me understand.

And this one too, for the idea of how WODs are put together, especially "functional couplets." ... ossFit.pdf

I hope that helps. I'm enjoying crossfit, but yeah, I could do with more heavy lifting and less "anything less than crossfit 24/7 and Zone dieting is poor exercises and bad eating" attitudes. But it's fun stuff, and I think it's productive.


Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 9:49 pm
by TimD
One item I missed, that I realized when re-reading. The crossfit idea is not really new. a lot of it is borrowed from the pastThe higher reps with DB's has been used for years, and goes back probably hundreds of years, as does the idea of "how fast" and "how many".Back in HS, our coach used many of these concepts. When I was wrestling, he surprized us big time by putting us in the swimming pool with the waterpolo team and had us doing laps, and by having us run w/ the crosscountry team and finishing it it up with sprints. Our workouts started by warming up with using our partners resistance (in bodyweight) for doing squats, bridges, pushups, and then alone with handstand pushups and rope climbs The running the rak thing w/ DB's or KB's w/ no rest has been around since the start of the 19th century w/ Hermann Goerner. The folks over there at Crossfit are just binging back some very good ideas that got lost since the early 70's when the bodybuilding era (and magazine sales) really took hold and everything got slanted towards a bodybuilding perspective. I'm not knocking that, if you like that idea, great, but it's only one component of the big picture of conditioning and strength training.

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 10:42 pm
by pdellorto
Two other small things

- like Tim said in his next post, it's not new. For me, it was like reading of a cool way to combine the workouts I was doing with the MMA training I was also doing. Essentially, it's helped me systematize the disparate elements I was using to train and bring them together.

- I like the positive attitude. I mentioned the True Believers, but one thing I do like is the "everyone can do this" attitude. I like that folks just assume that everyone can do handstand pushups for reps, deadlift multiples of their bodyweight, run 10K, do muscle-ups, L-Sit, etc. and help you get there.

But I don't want to be a commercial for it. It's just training, ultimately, and it's the the end-all and be-all of training. But it's been useful and helpful for me as part of my complete training package.

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 6:44 am
by daniel4738
Just got back from a Trip to Morocco so here are my thoughts in between replying to the 100s of emails demanding my attention.

I like the idea of Crossfit, but I don't like the way the 'crossfit crowd' perform it. For me, training has always been about performance (of course it's nice to look good).

We all know what the major components of fitness are: Speed, Power, Strength, Endurance (muscular and CV) and flexibility.

The problem is that it's hard to simultaneously build all of these components at the same time in a conventional training program.

Crossfit seems to me to be a way of working all 5 components at the same time, using:

1) High intensity.
2) High(er) frequency (4days on 1 off).
3) Compound movements
4) Specific movements
5) Balanced nutrition.

personally, I am not a fan of the WOD, but it is a good starting point. I am also a big fan of specicivity with regards to a particular sport. I dabble in adventure racing which includes long distance running and cycling so instead of just doing the WoD I try to break my training into

* 1-2 Long distance run or cycle sessions per week (3hrs+) (weekend mornings)
* 1-2 Shorter CV sessions of running/cycling (sometimes flat, interval etc). Specifically to build endurance. (weekday evenings).
* 3-4 High intensity circuit style sessions per week (interval weight training, pure circuit, breathing ladder etc (crossfit style, usually weekday mornings)
* 1-2 Strength and/or power sessions per week, working on Olympic lifts, strength standard lifts. (usually weekend evenings).
* 1-3 Technical sessions per week (ninjitsu or climbing).

What I have basically done is to replace my regular periodized resistance training (8week strength, 12 week endurance) with the crossfit style of training which seems to me to be building functional strength and endurance at the same time.

This is a lot of sessions, but I am normally somewhere in the middle, some days training in the morning and in the evening, but I live in a foreign country away from everyone i know so I am allowed to be a PT hermit. I also enjoy it :)

I think Crossfit has it's place as an aid to specific training, but as a way of boosting all 5 components, I think it is seriously lacking in the CR endurance area. I also think it's a way of 'aiding' training (specifically for sports) as opposed to replacing conventional non-performance training.

Well, I have just had 2 weeks off because of a holiday and I will probably rest another week as I caught a stomach bug, so I will get back in and see if my lifts have dropped substantially. I am also considering something more 'structured' for the circuit sessions over the next 6-8 week cycle.

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 11:59 am
by Hoister
Personally, i like the CONCEPT of Crossfit i think it is a good way of developing a good (maybe advanced?) level of all-around strength and fitness. But i consider it, like any other training protocol, to be just a tool in your training tool box.

The fact that the WODs are randomized and varied to a certain degree gives you that overall broad-ranged benefit.

I see it being very good for athelets who need short bursts of extremely intense effort over a broad range of movements using the entire body - MMA fighters, cops, military, hockey players, etc.

I used this type of training over 15 years ago when i was in MMA - for us, it was the ONLY way to train. It helped me immensely with Hockey and Lacrosse as well.

It gave me a VERY good foundation of strength and CONDITIONING when i went into powerlifting, olympic lifting and strongman.

My only concern with the whole Crossfit thing is the culture and organization who feeds that culture. They have this cult-like following and "us and them" attitude toward other training methodologies. Playground politics, really.

I like to keep in mind the following when i am setting my goals and setting up my training program:
-all training routines work (to a certain degree for a certain amount of time)
-all training routines spill over into other areas of training (to a certain degree and for a certain amount of time)
-all training routines make you better at the specific things you are doing (movements, activities, etc) within the training protocol.

That being said, people just need to keep in mind that [insert training methodology here] will make you very good at what [insert training methodology here] does.

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 12:49 pm
by Matt Z
"The program was isiially used for police, military firefighters, and MAA types. There main concerns are to get a great back, but rather to get quickly over a fence or something like that.If you prefer rows, then by all means do them." -- Tim D

I've always thought of rows as a fundamental strength movement as well as a muscle building exercise. For example, in a double or single-leg takedown horizontal pulling strength is very important, especially when your opponent tries to sprawl.

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 1:29 pm
by Hoister
Matt Z wrote:"The program was isiially used for police, military firefighters, and MAA types. There main concerns are to get a great back, but rather to get quickly over a fence or something like that.If you prefer rows, then by all means do them." -- Tim D

I've always thought of rows as a fundamental strength movement as well as a muscle building exercise. For example, in a double or single-leg takedown horizontal pulling strength is very important, especially when your opponent tries to sprawl.
I agree, MattZ. I prefer rows to pullups or chinups - for general S&C. But as TimD pointed out, rows might not help a Cop grab hold of the top of a fence and pull himself over as much as jumping or kipping pull ups might. Again, a matter of the Right tool for the right job.

As for your example - rows would be a better tool for training to improve your single/double leg takedowns than chins - tire flips and lumberjack squat cleans are even better, along with some scoop and slam drills with sandbags or wrestling dummies. Perfect tool - a training partner to takedown. Again - look at the tools available and use the best one for your requirements.

You and i have very different training protocols (and probably goals), but that doesn't mean we can't benefit from one anothers' approaches once in a while.

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 2:10 pm
by Matt Z
I'm not knocking chin-ups. I think they're a great exercise. I'm just saying that to be truly well rounded a program needs to include both vertical and horizontal pulling movements (ie chins and rows), as well as squats, deadlifts and presses.

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 2:29 pm
by TimD
Matt, I think that you will see that all of us that did respond had a basic point in common.; that being that a lot of the crossfit ideas are very good, aren't new, and use what you think you can benefit from. As an end all, be all program, it really isn't, and wasn't really meant to be. It's non-specific overall strength and conditioning. Like Hoister said, take what you nee and maybe add some of your own ideas for YOUR goals and specific needs.

Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 2:24 pm
by MikeS
I did Crossfit for about six months last year, doing at least a modified version of the WOD every day, and loved it. It seemed to build a really good base of fitness, helped cut fat off my admittedly already skinny frame, and added some strength as well.

I had to stop because all the pull-ups gave me tendonitis in my left elbow. I've been doing theraputic exercises since I stopped, and the tendonitis seems to have gone away, but I decided that rather than return to Crossfit immediately I would do some basic strength work first, so that's what I'm doing.

I think Crossfit can also be good for people who don't have a lot of strength to begin with, if you modify the WOD appropriately, but I didn't find it very good at building up raw strength. So my plan now is to do strength work (including grip strength) for a while, then possibly start back up on the Crossfit program next year.

Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:42 pm
by stuward

I get the same thing with my elbows so I limit the pull ups. Wide pronated grip hurts the most. I can get by with occasional chin ups and most rows.

Doing any program for too long can cause issues. I remember back in university I was doing the 5BX program. It went along fine for months until I got shin splints from all the running on the spot and jumping jacks.

I think you can get a lot of the benefit of Crossfit by taking the parts that work for you and incorporating them into your routine. They certainly have a lot of good ideas. I don't think it's wise to just do their program blindly if it's causing problems.