Crossfit is an extremely hot topic among fitness communities, and it’s been that way essentially since crossfit came into being. It’s controversial. It’s debatable. And it’s been both largely criticized and largely supported. These very strong opinions of crossfit both good and bad are very pervasive among the fitness world, and they’re very easy to stumble upon and be influenced by.
So, I decided to try crossfit (from now on referred to as CF) for myself earlier in the year for the sake of coming to my own, educated, experiential opinion of the damn thing.
Here were the biggest and most common criticisms I heard before joining CF:
(1) Doing olympic/power lifts for reps
- I’ve read multiple articles, and can attest to this myself from personal experience, discussing the idea that doing these kind of exercises (squat, deadlift, snatch, clean and jerk, etc.) for reps is extremely unorthadox. These kind of moves are highly technical. If you need to take breaks during a set, take breaks. If you can only do 1 or 3 or 5 reps, then only do as many as you feel capable. The point of these exercises is to push out clean reps each time following form as much as possible. The point is NOT to try to do as many as you can as quickly as you can. Sure, this is probably an effective workout, but it’s also a damn good way to get yourself hurt. CF does not create a setting in which you feel necessarily comfortable with taking it slow to nail your form or to listen to what your body is telling you after each rep.
(2) Easy certification process for coaches
- In order to get a Crossfit Level 1 certification all that is required of you is two days. (Source:http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/certs.shtml) This compared to the months of studying I’ll need to do to get my NASM cert seems, quite honestly, like child’s play. In addition to this, a CF cert is good for 5 years from the test date. For comparison, a NASM certification is good for 2 years before retesting or continued education is required.
- CF ain’t cheap. I paid $180/month, and that was either the same or lower than the price of the other gyms I contacted. For reference, Gold’s gym costs an average of $25/month (source:https://enroll.goldsgym.com/plan/272), and anytime Fitness is $35/month (source:http://www.gymmembershipfees.com/anytime-fitness-prices/).
Since experiencing it for myself, I have to be honest, my opinion has become super mixed. I understand that despite the arguments against CF, there are good gyms and good coaches out there who just want the best for their members. In addition to that, CF works extremely well for some people. They thrive in the environment that CF provides, and they don’t find themselves falling victim to this high risk of injury everyone keeps talking about. (That or they just don’t mind the injury, which is something I’ve seen firsthand.) That’s all well and fine. To those people I say godspeed. But for myself? I will likely never participate in a CF class again, and here is why:
My Number One Complaint Against CF:
(1) Form is consistently sacrificed for reps
- I am an absolute stickler for form. I wanted to be sure that each time I completed a movement I did a full range of motion, and I did it well. But in the CF classes I took there is just no time to apply that kind of care when approaching the exercises that are a part of the WOD (workout of the day). There were people in my face yelling at me to KEEP GOING, DON’T STOP, ONE MORE, NOW ONE MORE AGAIN, GET THAT WEIGHT UP, etc. I treated my body pretty poorly during my time in CF, and it’s because my competitive nature prevented me from listening to pain cues, and the atmosphere around me promoted my working through the pain rather than listening to it. Something extremely important to note here, though, is that any gym is only going to be as careful and knowledgeable at its owners and trainers. I do believe I wound up at a gym where form was sacrificed for volume, but I also believe that this isn't aways the case.
The other things that didn’t suit my fancy:
(1) The atmosphere
- This is something that is extremely unique to my own personality… I just HATED having people all up in my business during the workouts. I much prefer to put my headphones in, turn the music up ungodly loud, and do my own thing. Having that atmosphere of people cheering on the sidelines did not motivate me to push myself harder or to do more than I might on my own. All it did was distract me.
(2) Literally creating new movements in order to get more reps, aka: the kipping “pull up”
- This is a CF signature move for members to use in place of strict pull ups. But kipping pull ups are not pull ups. I will always prefer to do the strict, full range of motion version of exercises for myself. (Good read from a neutral dude: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/all-the-hype-behind-kipping-pull-ups/ – and a telling quote on the topic from him, “Why would I want to coach someone how to cheat?”)
The things I did like:
(1) Achieving things I didn’t think I could
- During my first two weeks of CF I attempted and successfully completed back squats loaded with my body weight, and over the entire course of my time doing CF I learned how to do a hand stand on a wall. These are both things that I wanted to do but was afraid to try on my own, and even despite the fear, I didn’t imagine being able to do them so SOON. I think, ironically, the atmosphere does have a lot to do with this. There was an extraordinary amount of camaraderie going around at my gym, and along with that there was a healthy competition burning in everyone. It’s always much easier to try a heavy lift (or turning upside down for a handstand) when multiple people are there to spot you and encourage you. These two accomplishments are definitely something I owe a great thanks to CF for.
A Final Note
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn't do Crossfit. I'm a huge proponent of doing whatever it is that you enjoy for your fitness. What I am saying is to listen to your body, make informed decisions about your facility and coaches, and understand that the risk of injury is present. These are the same things that can and should be said for any sport, really.