Wednesday, 2 July 2014

How Crossfitters Should Train: Like Athletes

Its almost costomery to bash crossfit on fitness blogs and websites and while there are some good things to crossfit, it doesn't help itself with the tide of bad things also. But I'm not going to simply put it down but offer up an alternative.

The main philosophy of crossfit is to be a good all rounder when it comes to strength, endurance and athletism.  I see nothing wrong with this as a fitness goal. Wanting your body to be prepared for any situation and empathising physical performance above aesthetics. In some ways this is not too different from my own philosophy of being strong to be useful although I value strength above endurance

The problem comes from the application of training for this goal. Completely random haphazard workouts with no way of gauging progression. High rep Olympic lifting turning an exercise designed for explosive power into a sloppy and dangerous one. But even worse than this is the complete defiled abomination that is the kipping pull up. What I find ironic is that a regular pull up would be much more useful in developing the attributes they desire than kipping would. They are superior in building strength and if you needed to actually climb something chances are you wouldn't be able to swing and kip your body around.

Crossfit is basically classed as a sport now and what's interesting is that a lot of the top competitors don't actually do traditional crossfit by following WOD's. They develop their own ideas about how to increase performance.

But here's the thing. There are many sports where a mix of physical characteristics are needed. Sports like Rugby where athletes are massively strong and muscular but also have amazing sprinting speed and the endurance to play for 80minute matches.

There's MMA where fighters have to have the conditioning for 5min rounds as well as the strength to knock out an opponent and grapple with them.

 There's under 90kg strongman where competitors have not only amazing static strength but incredible work capacity and speed the pull trucks,  load and carry implents like farmers walks, yokes and medleys.

In the world of athletics there are multidisciplinary events such as the decathlon and heptathlon. Athletes have to have good performances in a mixture of running distances, throwing and jumping events. Take Jessica Ennis the British 2012 Olympic champion in the women's Hepthalon. I bet she could beat any female crossfit competitor in the crossfit games simple because her levels of strength, speed, endurance and athletism are so high. Without even needing to practice specific events. And she still has better abs than any of them.

If your goals are to be a good all rounder than why not study the training of these kinds of athletes and apply it to yourself. I'm not going to research all the training methods these athletes use but generally a few similarities arise. They periodize their training. Peaking for specific events and spending periods of time emphasising the development of certain areas above others. They work on weaknesses. Needing an all round level of physical skills will expose weaknesses quite obviously. Athletes in these disciplines work hard to improve their weakness as it makes a a dramatic improvement in performance. They develop skills in seperate training sessions rather than trying to mishmash everything together. They will have weight sessions to build strength, sessions for speed drills, sessions for endurance. Rarely do you see them try and combine everything at once. They use the right tool for the job. They might use Olympic lifting for power, weight lifting for strength and something sport specific for speed and endurance such as sprinting for rugby or sparring for MMA.

Your training should take you closer to your goals and to do that you need to learn from others who have what you want to achieve. A training method should be judged on the performance it creates not how much it makes you sweat or by how many people are in the group. I would love to see a high level athlete from one of those sports go in and dominate the crossfit games. Unfortunately this won't happen because they will be too busy training for sports that matter rather than trying to be the best at exercising.