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A personal perspective on CrossFit

by | Apr 9, 2019 | gym idiots, Uncategorized | 1 comment

I have been roasting and attacking CrossShit for more than six years now on a fairly regular basis, and with very good reason. At its core, CrossShit comes down to combining anaerobic Olympic and powerlifting movements with hard cardio, and your reps and movements are measured and timed against a clock and a count.

This sounds great, in theory. The motivating philosophy behind CrossFit has always been that every aspect of a person’s fitness can be measured, tracked, and therefore improved upon. In this respect – and ONLY this one – CrossFit is not that different from real sports, like powerlifting or sprinting or rowing.

After all, in powerlifting, you are measured against how much weight you can lift, according to specific and precise standards. (Never mind that a lot of powerlifting federations have absurdly relaxed judging standards, so you can “squat” higher than the damned Swiss Alps while wearing a super suit, a belt, wrist and knee wraps, special lift assist shoes, and use eight spotters, and STILL have it called a “legit rep”.)

In running, you are measured by how quickly you can cover a specific set distance against other competitors. The same is true for rowing.

In combat sports, you are measured against the clock, and you are free to do a number of things within that time limit, depending on the style of your chosen art and the rules therein.

So, let’s give CrossShitters their due and admit that, in theory, their idea of “sport” actually has some merit.

But that is as far as we can go in conferring any sort of legitimacy upon this ridiculous offence to common sense and good form.

As I have pointed out for years, the reason why CrossFit is incredibly stupid is because it combines high-intensity cardio with high-intensity weightlifting. This is beyond idiotic precisely because it violates the norms of both forms of training. The effort necessary to do a 2K rowing erg is very different from the effort required to deadlift or squat your own body weight for reps. The first form of exercise is aerobic – beyond a certain point, anyway – and the second form is decidedly anaerobic.

It is a very bad idea to mix the two forms of exercise. Doing so guarantees physical stress, burnout, and injury, especially if your instructors who put you through these torture camps called “CrossFit classes” have no idea how to do proper squats, deadlifts, or pullups.

Now, my bitching about CrossFit was mostly restricted to what I could see through videos and read about online. I swore a long time ago that I would never, ever pay for a CrossFit class or membership and would never confer legitimacy upon this particularly egregious form of stupidity.

Unfortunately for me, during my recent trip to Arabistan, I was pretty much required by my host – who is rather large and out of shape – to go with him to a “cross-training class” that he attends once a week.

I realise that he was simply trying to be a good host. He was in fact the groom at a wedding that I attended last year in Russia (therein lie some very long stories that can only be properly told when accompanied by copious quantities of alcohol), so he knew me from a while back, and he knew from the wedding festivities that I am in pretty good shape, I like to lift heavy shit, and I know what I’m doing in a gym.

So we went along to his gym a couple of weeks ago and I attended his “cross-training class” as his guest.

Make no mistake, though: it wasn’t a cross-training class, it was a pure CrossShit class.

The instructor was a nice enough chap from PommieBastardLand, working, as so many foreigners do, in the Emirates to make some money tax-free, and good for him. His workout plan, however, was anything but nice.

It started out with a cycle of 500m rowing ergs – child’s play for me, I do those in under 2min and use them as my warm-ups on squat days – followed by a 1000m erg on the ski machine, whatever the hell that is, followed by 10 push-ups and a bunch of lunges with a weight.

None of this is particularly difficult if you are in decent shape from years of powerlifting and martial arts. I was, and am, very far away from peak fitness, due to all of the traveling that I have been doing of late and due to various issues with schedules and injuries, but that “warm-up” didn’t trouble me too much.

The next phase of the “class” involved doing 5 super sets of 20 back squats, 12 front squats, and something else which I forget now. The idea was to keep everyone working hard to the point of near-exhaustion for 2 minutes per set.

Again, this was deeply unpleasant, but not really impossible. For me, squats are a way of working out frustrations and releasing stress – though I have to admit that the front squats threw me a bit, since I don’t do those, at all.

The problem wasn’t all of the squats. The problem here was that, in the class of 6 or so people, including my own good self, almost everyone was squatting way above parallel. And instead of correcting the more egregious mistakes that were present from people lifting much lighter weights than me, the instructor chose to come on over and try to correct my front-squat form.

Now, he was well within his rights to do this. As I said, I don’t do front squats, so my form stinks with those things. It takes a bit of time for your muscles to adjust to the very different position of a front squat and the very different way in which the bar sits on your body.

However, when you have people, especially girls, of which there were two in that group, trying to do squats with bad form and bad training, and if one of those girls happens to have bad knees – which she did, and does, I know her quite well – then the number of reps that those people complete is flatly irrelevant.

What matters is whether or not they are doing those reps correctly, not whether they are simply completing them. Quality, not quantity, is what builds strength and power and fitness.

This was not, however, the end of the torture session – er, I mean, workout. The last work phase involved pyramid sets of 20 deadlifts, 20 dumbbell clean-and-presses, and 3 pull-ups or muscle-ups, then a set of 15/15/3, then 10/10/3, then 5/5/5. You get the idea – the goal was to get in all of these reps in the 20 minutes or so that we had remaining.

Yet again, this was not impossible for me to do. Pretty much everyone else had to quit halfway through because the sheer number of reps required, and the extreme fatigue that inevitably set in, was too great for them. I was lifting heavier weights than they were, faster, and with better form, but that was only because I was fitter, stronger, and more experienced with lifting.

I am not, by the way, trying to make myself look like a paragon of fitness. I am not. I am simply someone who loves to lift heavy shit and loves to go straight-up savage in the gym. I am actually nowhere near peak fitness right now and will not be for quite some time.

And here I was, experiencing CrossShit training for the first time in my life.

I was deeply unimpressed.

The instructor actually had the nerve to say to one of the other trainees at the end of the class that his goal was to keep changing things up so that people would keep coming back. Otherwise, if people were just doing the same thing every time, they would get bored and lose interest.

Dude. THE ENTIRE POINT of lifting heavy shit is to GET GOOD AT LIFTING HEAVY SHIT.

And the way you get good at doing any one thing is to do just that thing, over and over and over again.

You do not get fit and strong and tough by “confusing the muscles” and changing up your workout routine every few days. You simply get good at exercising, at that point. If I want to do that, I’ll sign up for a spinning class. Or, better yet, I’ll just put on some trainers and go for a run – or at least, I’d consider it, if it weren’t for the fact that my left knee is completely buggered.

(That latter injury was exacerbated recently by playing football – the gay effete European kind – with a bunch of decidedly not-gay, not-effete Russians. They’re a fun bunch, don’t get me wrong, but after that experience, I understand perfectly why Americans hate soccer so much. It’s STUPID.)

You get fit by learning how to lift weights properly, with really good form, and through progressive overload – that is, by adding a little bit more weight with every workout session.

There are two ways to train with weights. Either you do a huge number of repetitions with light weight – OR you do a small number of repetitions with heavy weights. Both lead to increases in strength and fitness.

However – and this is key – the only way to get really strong, really fast, is to learn how to lift heavy weights.

It is one thing to squat 135lbs for 20 reps. I could do that on my worst squat day at the gym. It is an entirely different thing to squat 315lbs for one rep.

At peak fitness, I could do that without a belt, right down to below parallel and back up again. And, by the way, I’m not even particularly strong. There are guys who read this blog who make me look like a puny weakling.

Someone used to squatting 135lbs for lots of reps is literally going to collapse under the weight when he has to squat 315lbs.

And someone who is used to squatting 315lbs, especially for reps, is going to see his strength and gains go right into the shitter if he starts doing high-rep workouts instead of heavy-weight workouts.

Why? Because his muscles and bones and tendons are used to having massive loads placed upon them. Weightlifting is true strength engineering, because it takes time-tested and simple principles and uses them to build a body capable of handling those kinds of loads.

The miracle of the human body lies in its adaptability. A body pushed to handle heavy loads will adapt under Wolff’s Law to do precisely that. A body pushed to handle light loads will adapt instead to handle that. Being good at lifting light weights never translates into being good at lifting heavy weights. The two are simply not the same thing.

That is why CrossShit = NO GAINS. That is why powerlifters who do CrossFit always end up losing all of their strength. And that is before we get to the wear and tear on the muscles created by such intense timed workouts.

There is a reason why powerlifters and weightlifters rest between sets, sometimes for many minutes. The body needs time to recover from hard work. A workout program that ignores this critical and basic fact of human anatomy is one that will lead to burnout, injury, and eventually, muscle destruction.

All three problems are endemic to CrossShit and similar programs. Such fads simply do not respect the human body and its definite need for rest and recovery between sets.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to complete a 5×5 workout. If you are a lifter, it takes as long as it takes. And you don’t need a personal trainer to motivate you by giving you lots of different exercises to do in the hope of making you fit.

There is a general life lesson to be learned here: to be successful in life, you do not need to be sort-of-skilled in lots of different areas. By and large, all you really need is to be really good in a small number of fields, and then learn how to maximise your strengths in those areas as competitive advantages.

That is a basic rule of life, and it applies just as much to health and fitness as it does to money, power, and women. Find out what you are good at, and then stick to it.

That is why CrossFit is so monumentally stupid. It literally goes against every principle of human nature and common sense.

And now, with that in mind, I will leave you with a selection of great anti-CrossFit memes while I go get some shuteye. I’m still exhausted after all of that running around from last week and am only just getting back to a semblance of normalcy and relaxation now.

Enjoy the memes, boys, and remember: CrossFit destroys your gains. Don’t EVER do it, even if there are hot chicks in the box with you.

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1 Comment

  1. Andy

    Would like to see your perspective on Planet Fitness next. Be sure to go on Free Pizza Day. 🙂

    Reply

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