I was recently asked to weigh-in on a video published by Discovery News about the safety and efficacy of CrossFit. I was really surprised that Discovery Network would put out such shoddy work. I actually did not even realize it was them until Adam Gerken brought it to my attention. I am still surprised, but I guess they stood to get more traffic with a poorly done video hopping on the CrossFit hate wagon.
For some reason I can no longer access the video on their website, so I will link you to the Facebook post instead: https://www.facebook.com/gscalf/posts/700685355182
Here are my quick thoughts on the video typed up, edited, and proofread for the blog:
<note that the points follow the timeline of the video, and it makes sense to watch the video before reading this post>
There is a certain pervasiveness lately of this idea that Crossfit values killing yourself during the workouts. I understand where it comes from though. CrossFit values consistent, hard work. People that don’t like to work hard day in and day out probably leave a good CrossFit gym thinking their coaches were asking them to kill themselves with every effort. CrossFit coaches that yell at you to kill yourself exist, certainly, but I have a hard time believing they are the majority or even a vocal minority. So I would like to posit that that specific claim has no basis. If it does, then so does American football (especially 3-a-day summer practices), bootcamp workouts, and many other sports and fitness movements.
None of the coaches at my facility are going to push a new person to lift heavy weights quickly. There is a process. There is a journey – as expounded by the many recent blog posts. And we are constantly harping on our members about this. We even go as far as to pull a member back from going too heavy on a set or exercise. We want them to get the stimulus they need in order to progress, and that doesn’t always mean more weight. But there are bad coaches out there. They exist. They push people too far too soon. I don’t know how to fix that, but they exist, once again, in so many other things from NSCA-CPT to fitness trainers at The Rush to high school football coaches.
Making the claim that no CrossFit gyms make a point to set health and lifestyle goals for their clients is a pernicious falsehood. I guess I really take issue with the greater tone of the video here as it makes so many broad, sweeping claims. There exist piss poor coaches in every discipline. There exist poor business people in all fields of business. There are poor leaders in our military and government. I had several miserably ineffective teachers growing up. But I am not going to keep my kids from playing sports. I will not stop frequenting every business out there. I will continue to vote and be active in my community. And I will send my kids to school when they come of age (although, because of a neat thing called ‘choice,’ I will send them to the best school I can – just like what people should do when choosing a strength and conditioning facility or gym).
The NSCA-CPT (National Strength and Conditioning Association – Certified Personal Trainer) course is both cheaper and requires less time and commitment than the Crossfit Level 1 course and certification. So to say that the CrossFit Level 1 is a poor certification based on the length of time it requires to achieve and the low price is an argument with no grounding. This is especially true when the video goes on to speak so highly of the NSCA and its accreditation. Also, I have held several certifications including the NSCA-CPT. And your knowledgeable coach CGreg has held the gold standard NSCA-CSCS for several years. Almost every single one that I have held/hold has sucked, including the CrossFit certification. I don’t place much faith in a certification or even a four-year degree. It is much more important for the coach to continue his or her education on their own and possess an open, discerning mind. And I think that goes for any profession.
The PLOS One study that likes low weight high reps is exactly what the majority of CrossFit conditioning looks like.
The idea that Olympic weightlifters value gradual increases and progressions in their training is exactly what we at Ktown do. And I think most people everywhere else do that.
The NYT quote from the CrossFit bro who loves to “kill” himself is sensationalism at its best. Why would they quote someone like me saying, “I really enjoy making very small improvements over a very long period of time because I know it will keep me in the sport longer and make me healthier and happier.” They need to sell subscriptions and papers. They need to sensationalize a lot of news and stories these days to compete in an ever-shrinking market.
Rhabdo is not a cute nickname given to rhabdomyolysis by CrossFitters. No one is trying to lessen the seriousness of its effects. Just like coronary heart disease is shortened to CHD, rhabdo became a way to convey a meaning quickly. A couple things regarding rhabdo: 1) very, very few people in the S&C field knew what it was until CrossFit began publishing articles warning of its risks way back in the early 2000s, 2) any good CrossFit coach knows how to keep anyone from getting rhabdo, 3) in 5 years and over 10,000 hours of classes, no one has suffered from it at Ktown. Does it exist? Yes. Does working out raise your risk? Well, of course. Does CHD and diabetes exist? Yes. Does sitting on a couch and not working out raise your risk? Well, of course. Is one or the other more life-threatening or cost more to the individual and the American people? I think so, and I don’t think it is rhabdo.
The OSU 16% injury and dropout rate was a very poorly run study. A lot of people, especially journalists, think that every scientific study is created equally. Sadly that is not true. Just like some CrossFit coaches are better than others, some studies are better than others. I am biased, for sure, but that study was poorly run. There exists tons of literature debunking it, and the study designers and lead scientists stopped arguing for its validity a long time ago. The CrossFit gym in Ohio that the study was conducted at is now suing the NSCA for falsifying data, and CrossFit Inc. is suing the NSCA for damages to their brand. CrossFit Inc. contacted the NSCA journal editor prior to publishing warning of the falsified data, but nothing was done about it. More to come in this post about the competition between the NSCA and the CrossFit community and Inc.
The fact that no major league team, military organization, or Olympic program does CrossFit means absolutely nothing. I could turn this in to a million other illogical claims: no other Olympic program does floor routine from gymnastics, etc. Does that mean the floor routine is not valuable? No. Why would an NFL team chase performance in energy systems that work in anything but the 3-5 second range? Why would an Olympic sprinter want to add muscle mass to their upper body? With all that said, the 49ers and Saints both heavily utilize and publicize their use of CrossFit in the off-season. A smart S&C coach knows how to implement the portions of CrossFit that will work for their athlete(s), and the smart S&C coach might also do well to not implement a single element of CrossFit.
Finally, the claim is made that the NSCA hasn’t accredited CrossFit. That makes a lot of sense to me. The NSCA is a business. Why would you lend a competitor a helping hand? Competition is good in a market. But I would never put any stock in to the claim from the NYT that the Washing Post is a horrible newspaper. The NSCA lending accreditation to CrossFit would rob them of very valuable income sources like their NSCA-CPT and CSCS certifications, their NSCA Journal of S&C, and NSCA membership dues. So just because a rival business to CrossFit hasn’t signed off on it, it does not mean something is completely wrong or broken about it.
Also, I want to add in a new paragraph on something that has been bugging me for months. A friend of mine commented in the thread later and said this: “At some point we have to stop placing all of the blame on the trainers. A bad trainer can put you on the wrong path, but you still have to choose to walk it. We don’t give the trainers all of the glory when athletes succeed, so maybe this rush to vilify them when an athlete is injured needs to be tempered as well.”
I think Shawn hit the nail on the head here. You have choice whether or not you do CrossFit. You have a choice whether or not you work out at all. You have a choice whether you do CrossFit with a gym full of coaches that have exercise science degrees and place a huge emphasis on continuing education or at a place with a lesser product.
Choose with your dollars. If you had a bad experience with a CrossFit gym, understand that we are not franchises, each one is different, and you may find that one gym suits your tastes over another. In the end, you always have choices. No need to take to social media or even chat with friends and family and lambaste what is arguably the greatest health and fitness movement ever.