People have different fitness goals. Some people’s primary objective is to improve their athletic performance. Some people’s primary objective is to change the way they look or improve their physical appearance. Others just want to get healthier by implementing various forms of exercise. Regardless of a person’s primary fitness objective, most would agree that the best way to accomplish the goals is to do it is safely. Training smart is as important as training hard (more important actually).
Other factors must be considered when training. Age is one of the factors that must be considered. As we age, our joints become less “cushioned” and we tend to be less flexible as well. These must be considered when embarking on any training regimen. Remember, training smart is critical when exercising. Don’t just train hard, train smart.
Crossfit is still a very popular fitness fad at the moment. It’s excellent at improving endurance and can aid in fat loss. Many people love Crossfit because they feel they are competing against a clock, against others, and against their personal bests in WODs (workout of the day). The idea isn’t a bad one. You perform several exercises back to back to back, with little or no rest, with high intensity. It is resistance training and cardio combined into one workout. Because the workouts are very intense and exhausting, they are typically pretty short. A 20 minute cross fit session will zap you.
Do I believe Crossfit is the best choice for sculpting and building a body safely and effectively? No. Do I believe people who apply basic bodybuilding principles in resistance training programs achieve better overall looking physiques than people who only do Crossfit training? Yes. Overall, the bodybuilders physique will look better than the crossfitter’s. Legs alone on a bodybuilder are usually far superior to a person who only does Crossfit.
But for those who love and want to do Crossfit, let’s talk about ways it can possibly be improved. There is one basic change that I believe will improve Crossfit, and will decrease the chance for injury. Here is the change…remove the Olympic lifts from the program. Doing Olympic lifts, as fast as you can, while you are in a state of exhaustion, against a clock, is the single most stupid thing about Crossfit. Remove those specific lifts and replace them with other lifts or exercises that do not endanger the back as much, and you now have an excellent overall training system that significantly reduces injury…even for the new workout person. It’s not that those particular lifts are bad, it’s the condition in which they are performed in a Crossfit program.
But don’t listen to me, listen to Dr Stuart McGill. Dr McGill is a is a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON, Canada). His advice is often sought by governments, corporations, legal experts and elite athletes and teams from around the world. According to Dr McGill, “the spine is most at risk when it is flexed and loaded with high compression and when it extends while still bearing the high compression”. Apparently, the Olympic lifts like the clean and jerk, the snatch and the deadlift used in cross fit (in Crossfit’s exercise program of exhaustion, fast lifts) are the problem with Crossfit.
Dr McGill goes on to say “The flexibility required in the hips and shoulders in many cases is a gift from your parents. No matter how much stretching is attempted, some will never have the hip and shoulder socket anatomy to deep squat and support a bar overhead. But they will try, and their compromised form will create substantial injury mechanisms. The spine’s discs are quite tough and resilient to high load when they’re not bent but remain in a neutral posture. Second best is when they are flexed and then loaded, but they must not move. Think of flexing the spine when picking up an atlas stone and the spine is curled over the stone and lifted with extension at the hips – the spine stays locked. The injury boogeyman appears when the spine is flexed and then loaded with high compression, and then it extends while still bearing the high compression. Here, high reps of these bending movements while under the high loads from the bar slowly delaminate the collagen fibers that form the outer rings of the disc. Eventually the cumulative effect is the gel-like nucleus of the disc seeps through the delaminations causing a disc bulge. We have performed dozens of experiments over the years to prove this”.
The entire article from an interview with Dr McGill can be found at https://www.t-nation.com/training/doctors-view-of-crossfit (by Dr John Rusin). It is an excellent article and is not necessarily an anti-Crossfit article. But it is very informative.
So if you enjoy Crossfit, good for you and continue it…but safely. If you have a good Crossfit instructor who does not put a new lifter in compromising situations (Olympic lifts), then count your blessings. Train smart and enjoy fitness.
For more information on how to eat and train to change the way you look, email Mike Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org.