Crossfit is all the rage amongst many in the police and military community. For those of you who are not familiar with Crossfit, let me explain what all the hype’s about.
On the Crossfit website is posted the following definition of “World-Class fitness”:
Five rounds for time of:
400 meter run
95 pound Overhead squat, 15 reps
Three rounds for time:
Run 400 meters
1 1/2 pood KettlebellX 21 swings (or 55 pound dumbbell swing)
So in the case of Nancy, a person would do a 400 meter sprint, then 15 reps of overhead squats, competing this circuit five times. He would keep tabs on how long it took him to complete this WOD and try to improve on it the next time the same WOD came up.
On some days, the WOD may be deadlift singles, training a person for raw power.
There are tons of different exercises in Crossfit and the website has videos that demonstrate most of the more esoteric movements. All of the workouts, due to their intense nature and ability to generate monumentalloads of lactic acid, will stimulate Growth Hormone release. This is a great thing.
But I’ve got some problems with it. My first problem is the intensity, day in, day out perscribed by Crossfitt. I believe this level of intensity will lead to over training and in the end, result in sub-par performances. Though changing the exercises daily does have the effect of acting as a “rest”, it is not enough to make up for the fact that virtually every Crossfit workout–five times a week–are pushing your body to the max. Can humans withstand this type of work load? Sure, as can be witnessed by ultra-marathoners. But it is not really the road to heath and happiness–or ultimate performance in sport. This amount of trianing will lead to muscle breakdown, and all the other things that come with overtraining, like sleep problems and mood disorders.
My second probelm with Crossfit is the compromise of strength that will occur should someone adopt this form of training as an everyday practice.
As noted in the article written by Andrew Burne at Curtin University’s School of Physiotherapy:
Sale et al (1990) suggested that resistance training performed on the same day as endurance training may impede strength development when compared to training for either on separate days.
And… Dudley and Fleck (1987) suggested that individuals performing concurrent strength and endurance training may become over-trained relative to subjects who perform strength or endurance training alone. I have found this to be the case for myself. Every so often, I’ll have a day when i do both cardio and stregth trianing, but it’s infrequent–and I always pay the price.
Most imprortantly: Residual fatigue has been suggested to occur following the endurance component of a concurrent program, which may compromise the ability of muscles to develop tension during the strength element of concurrent training (Hennessyand Watson 1994). If sufficient tension cannot be generated during the strength component of a concurrent program, optimal strength development and adaptations may not occur. It has been suggested by Craig et al(1991), that if the endurance trainingis performed prior to the strength training, residual fatigue may impair muscular force out-put and thus impair strength development. Sale et al(1990) also found that concurrent strength and endurance trainingperformed on alternate days produced larger strength gains than concurrent training performed on the same day, which indicates that residual fatigue from endurance training is a possible mechanism responsible for the observed inhibition in strength development.
Even Greg Glassman admits that too much mixing of endurance and strength training results in poorer results in both areas. He believes though, that the Crossfitway of training better simulates actual sport activities and real-life events such as grappling or fighting, because those events incorporate stregnth and endurance at the same time. Glassman says that while Crossfit athletes may not be able to lift as much as power-lifters or run a 15K as fast as a dedictated runner, they perform better in a wider variety of events and are healthier. He uses rather extreme examples, such as a power-lifter who can deadlift 900 lbs. I agree that someone who can deadlift 900 lbs is probably not that healthy, as they are over-specialized. I would also remind Glassman though, that someone who can lift 900 lbs is probably using illegal anabolic steroids.
The primary problem is the volumn of the Crossfit workouts. While a couple of two or three mile runs a week are unlikely to have much of a negative affect on strength training, smoking yourself everyday certainly will. Also know that while strength is compromised by excessive endurance training, endurance athletes actually gain an advantage from strength trianing, (Paavolainen L, Hakkinen K, Hamalainen I, Nummela A, Rusko H. Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power. J Appl Physiol. 1999 May;86).
But I would not do the strength and endurance training on the same day–every day. Your results can be far better if you separate your training.
Next–a cult-like mentality. Cults are poison and cause people to lose their ability to think for themselves. Many people will ruthlessly follow the appointed WOD, regardless of how they feel or how they are performing. Crossfit has T-Shirts, and the people on the airbase here in Weisbaden Germany who do Crossfit walk around sporting the clothing as if they were declaring tribal affiliation. Many of the Crossfitters around here and online will hear nothing of other training methodologies. Anything else is pure heresy.
There’s health concerns too. Reports of exercise induced death. There’s something called rhabdomyolysis. It’s as bad as it sounds. When a person overdoes exercise, that is a person’s body is not adequately adapted to intense work, his or her muscle tissue can break down and leak into the bloodstream, causing death or permanent disability. Crossfit is intense, to say the least.
Besides mixed-martial artists, there are no professional athletes that I know of who use Crossfit as their primary conditioning program. And, I question in an anecdotal sense, Crossfit’s effectiveness. Anything is better than nothing, but the system I use, which relies heavily on intuitive training, is more effective it seems. There’s no Crossfitter around here outdoing me. Do I randomize my training? Yes. But I also allow time for recovery and don’t blast myself day in, day out. My section sergeant does Crossfit and on many days he’s limpingaround here, sore and tired. I think a training regimen should leave me more prepared, not less. Excessive fatigue, soreness and other symptoms of over training compromise soldier readiness.
In the end, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to throw a Crossfit WOD into your training once in a while. But there are better ways. Healthier ways. Crossfit asks too much and returns too little. It over-randomizes training, resulting is athletes who are not nearly strong enough. And it’ll burn you out, too.