Sunday, June 28, 2009

To Crossfit, or not to Crossfit?

Whether 'tis nobler to push the body to extremes of performance
or to listen to the voice of sanity and care about good form?

Crossfit is still popular for workouts.  I've never personally done a Crossfit workout, though I do like the idea of Crossfit in principle.  It's well-rounded, high intensity training, and the workouts never get stale since they're always changing.  It's a breath of fresh air to see people doing a Crossfit workout after observing the legions of people going to the gym to zone out on the ellipticals or treadmills every day.  How people can do the same ineffective workout day after day is beyond me.

That being said, there are a few aspects of Crossfit with which I have serious philosophical disagreement.  The cultural emphasis on training hard, while admirable, should be tempered a bit.  Training hard without training smart is just a recipe for injury.  For example, compound, multi-joint exercises (deadlifts, push presses, squats, snatches, etc) are neurologically demanding exercises and really should be done with correct form to keep your joints healthy.  Simultaneously training these exercises with heavy weight, high reps, and high speed just isn't a good idea.  Unless you're training with a weight that's way too light, your form will break down over high-rep multi-joint exercises.  That's just going to put unnecessary stress on the joints involved in the movement.  It's even worse if you're dealing with a beginner or someone unfamiliar with the exercises.  There's absolutely no reason for someone unfamiliar with a deadlift to do max effort deadlifts in a workout... well, not unless that person doesn't care about their spinal health anyhow.

I both love and dislike the randomness of the daily workouts.  On one hand, workouts never get stale if they're constantly changing.  On the other hand, if you're training for a specific goal (like increasing strength or speed), the complete randomness of the workouts means you'll always have mediocre progress towards your fitness goal.  Also, there's seems to be no thought behind the exercise selection.  Doing a ton of push presses a day after doing a ton of dips (or some other equally thoughtless combination) is a great way of causing long term shoulder problems.

Finally, there's the "Uncle Rhabdo" mascot.  There's the fine line between funny and tasteless.  IMO, Uncle Rhabdo crossed that line.  Rhabdomyolysis just should never happen in a workout.  I realize that it's rare, but the fact that it has and can happen during a Crossfit workout is disturbing.  I only ever train to mild nausea and then start easing up.  Exactly what do you gain by training any harder?  It gets counterproductive at that point for the vast majority of people.  And the "no pain, no gain" attitude which pervades Crossfit may go just a little too far.  Having tired and sore muscles after a workout is ok.  Being proud of training hard enough to get injured or training through an injury is stupid, not a badge of honor.

I probably will dabble with Crossfit at some point.  I do like parts of its philosophy.  But at the end of the day, I'll probably modify the workout to focus more on the training smarter instead of just training harder.

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