Crossfit-The good, the bad and the not that ugly, your buddy would hit it
This article from the RAW Program pretty much sums up the good and bad of Crossfit type workouts- Are Crossfit and Gym Jones Compatible with RAW (Word doc.) They can put things on paper in smarter terms than me, but it’s exactly how most of us in the strength and conditioning world feel about this type of programming.
The Kool-Aid for Crossfit, Gym Jones or any other program of high intensity all the time is a strong brew. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. It has a lot of good things going. Bodybuilders get smoked cause they have to do actual hard conditioning. Triathletes get destroyed by having to lift things heavier than their bike for the first time. Everybody but the gymnasts get crushed by the bodyweight exercises. There is a ton of balance in the crossfit program….from a strictly exercise standpoint. Where there isn’t balance is in intensity level. It’s high intensity all the time three days on, one day off.
This Kool-Aid is can be very poisonous for extreme type A personalities running missions to drink. There are people in this world that have an extremely high recovery capacities. No matter what you do to them, their body recovers…faster than those around. They don’t necessarily recover to an optimum level, they just recover better than everybody else. This in lies our paradox. Extreme Type A personalities with this recovery capacity perform better on constant high intensity programs like Crossfit. This makes all the rest of us think we can do the same, cause we are aggressive type A personalities as well. Unfortunately the rest of us got the short end of mother nature’s stick, and our nervous system just can’t handle it and will go into over-training very quickly. The recovery monsters also over-train, but for what ever reason it just doesn’t affect their body as it should. These 1 percenters are the posterchilds for extreme workouts without pharmaceutical enhancement. They succeed in spite of their training not because of it.
So here’s what it boils down to. If you are not in a position of risking your own life or saving that of others, go for it. If you’re running missions or a first responder, you need your nervous system at full strength. The risk vs the reward is not worth it. In fact Coach Sonnon has mentioned in the Tacfit program, “It is better to be fully recovered, than in your best condition”. Read that again and ask yourself are you fully recovered or constantly shooting for better conditioning regardless of cost?
The other negative to Crossfit as an actual program, is approximately 75-90% of those that ‘do’ crossfit, have absolutely no clue what it is. They do the workouts, feel challenged, see results and think they can mix and match their own wokouts or design thier own programs. Every program and workout designed by a good coach, will always have subtle things that will never be known, unless you know what to look for. Doing any program for a couple months will not enable you to see these small but very important details. It takes years of study and designing programs. And sometimes you may never even see them then unless you pick the brain of the coach that designed it. Don’t be ‘That Guy” that thinks he knows, yet truly knows nothing. The following video is a good example of the good and the bad. Good being variety some good form on the the o-lifts by the girl. Bad being they chose absolutely the worst examples for each catergory. A girl jogging while smiling is ‘Speed’?! The kettlebell form was absolutely attrocious. In the following video, they do a much better job, and the differences between the ‘doer’ and ‘knower’ of Crossfit is obvious.
My personal experience with Crossfit on deployment left me unable to perform one ring dip prior to R&R. After two weeks of no training, just relaxing and light stretching, I knocked out 50 with ease. My nervous system was fried. I couldn’t access my conditioning because I wasn’t recovered till after a two week(almost three with travel) break.
A lot of the fire service, special ops and swat teams have been pimping the Crossfit. It is good, but it’s not ideal for those of us in those professions. I do like it and there is a ton of resources on the crossfit site. The individual workouts are excellent, they just need a different format which will be covered below.
But I can’t live without my Crossfit!! Well guess what there is a way to do it without total burnout. But it is NOT to be done during active mission status. It’s called a hard controlled push. Push hard for 4 weeks. Then take two weeks at a low intensity working on strictly recovery and compensation. NO hard training, just active recovery in a style as guided by the Low Intensity day described below. Self-discipline is the key here.
Another version I’ve found to work with other programs is three weeks of increasing intensity followed by a down week. I’ve mainly used this in periodized models where the down week was learning the new exercises and getting the weights to the right level. Then for three weeks steadily increase either the weights or total reps. It’s a bit harder with program semi-randomized like Crossfit and would take an enourmous amount of discipline to maintain the appropriate levels of intensity. I wouldn’t reccomend this format for time dependant workouts. It works best with stregth workouts that you can more easily have discipline over the volume and intensity.