CrossFit Pros and Cons: A Fair and Balanced Analysis
CrossFit – love it or hate it, you can't deny that it's made a huge impact on the fitness industry.
My hope is to offer a fair and balanced look at the "CrossFit pros and cons" to help you decide if this style of training might be for you.
CrossFit Pros and Cons: A Fair and Balanced Analysis
For those of you who have been in a coma for the last few years, let's do a brief summary of CrossFit:
CrossFit's specialty is not specializing. The goal is to optimize performance in all 10 fitness domains: Endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.
Put simply, CrossFit's goal is to develop overall fitness or “functional” strength.
Should a linebacker, power-lifter, or gymnast train at a CrossFit facility? Of course not. Athletes should find a coach specializing in their sport. However, CrossFit would be a good option for military, police officers, and fire fighters.
These people are faced with a variety of unforeseeable challenges. They need to be competent at many things, because their life could depend on it.
How is a 400 lb bench press going to help you flee a burning building in time?
What good is a 5 minute mile in a never-ending trek through a desert with heavy equipment weighing you down?
Certain people need to be competent at many things – not excellent at a few things. CrossFit would be a good option for folks faced with unforeseeable challenges.
But if you're reading this blog, the odds are you're a regular person desiring fitness or weight-loss. Should you do CrossFit? It depends.
For the last month, I trained at Mohr Fitness, a CrossFit facility with locations in the cities of Kingsport and Johnson City, TN. I'll tell you about my experience and offer some thoughts to help you decide if CrossFit might be for you.
What I Liked About Mohr Fitness
Individual Attention to Safe Execution
CrossFit is often criticized by strength and conditioning coaches because of their use of complex Olympic lifts in high repetition ranges. A person performing these lifts for high repetitions could easily hurt themselves if they're unable to maintain proper form once fatigue sets in.
Sadly, a lot of CrossFit facilities are guilty of letting exercisers push beyond this point, so some folks do injure themselves. I'm happy to say Mohr Fitness is different.
Before a person is even allowed to perform complex movements against the clock at Mohr Fitness, they are required to perform 1,000 perfect repetitions of these lifts. I was unfamiliar with some of these lifts myself when I started (movements with neat names like the Clean and Jerk, Power Snatch, so on – for some reason, the most difficult lifts have funny names!).
-If the Workout of the Day (WOD) included a lift I wasn't comfortable with, they modified my WOD with a more basic movement I could perform safely.
Dustin Mohr (owner and head coach at Mohr Fitness) actually makes three separate WOD's to cover each experience level, and his coaches keep a close eye on the form of their clients, modifying the WOD for each individual exerciser so they can train in a way that is beneficial and safe.
-Community Environment to Encourage and Motivate
WOD's are performed in a group class environment, which is excellent for people who have a hard time motivating themselves to exercise on their own.
Mohr Fitness has created a positive community where every class member encourages each other to perform as well as they possibly can every single day. The strength in numbers often empowers people to perform better than they would on their own, and I can honestly say I was surprised by enhanced performance due to this atmosphere.
Experienced Coaches Who Know What They're Doing
Another frequent criticism of CrossFit is how easy it is to become a certified trainer. The Level 1 certification only requires a two-day-course and passing a multiple choice test. This enables poor trainers unequipped to teach complex movement patterns to their clients, which can result in client injury.
Dustin Mohr acknowledges this reality and aims to be different. He only hires competent and experienced coaches who can safely lead his clients to their fitness goals.
As you know, I'm a trainer myself, and I was impressed with Dusin's coaches. I'd like to brag on one of his coaches in particular – Eric Hammonds. Eric drilled proper cues in my head, and relentlessly worked to improve my movement patterns.
Eric taught me to squat deeper than ever before. I have a condition called scoliosis which results in a curved spine and occasional back issues, and it was always hard for me to get to the bottom depth of a squat without rounding my back – because rounding your back could result in injury or pain at heavy weights, I would normally stop a bit short of full depth when doing squats just to be safe.
But Eric, the intelligent and relentless coach he is, managed to get me squatting deeper than ever before while maintaining a flat back. I'll never be able to thank him enough for that, and this goes to show that even personal trainers can benefit from personal training.
We should never get cocky about our abilities, because we could all stand to improve at something. Nothing accelerates development like a knowledgeable set of eyes watching our every move, giving constant feedback about what to adjust.
What I Didn't Like about CrossFit in General
Why So Many Sit-Ups?
CrossFit seems to be obsessed with sit-ups, one of the silliest exercises in existence. Sit-ups are usually used with the goal of developing the core, but they place a tremendous amount of pressure on your spine, which can lead to serious back problems with repetition.
Many of the WODs included a high volume of sit-ups, and I had a slight back ache after a couple of them as a result. I would encourage Mohr Fitness to stand-out from the CrossFit pack and exchange a safer and more effective alternative such as planks for core development.
It Is All So Exhausting
I typically train with long rest periods in between every set. CrossFit virtually eliminates rest periods, which challenged my endurance unlike ever before.
I enjoyed this new challenge at first because it's important to push ourselves on occasion, but at the end of the month, I started to dislike how exhausted I felt after every WOD. I would find myself lying on the ground in a pool of sweat, and had to catch my breath for several minutes before I left.
Some people enjoy pushing themselves to their limits consistently, but I'm not one of them. I prefer varying my training intensity in a way that includes light, medium, and heavy pushes.
This enables me to enjoy my training more, because on the light and medium days, I don't leave the gym exhausted. I leave feeling like a million bucks. Pushing yourself to exhaustion is not necessary to get weight-loss and fitness results.
Is CrossFit For You?
Consider the pros of cons of CrossFit and answer the following questions to determine what you should do.
Do you have a hard time motivating yourself to train on your own, or enjoy training in a group?
Do you like to push yourself to the limit in every single training session?
If you answered yes, CrossFit might be for you, and I would encourage you to consider Mohr Fitness (if you live in the Tri-Cities area, which lots of my readers do; otherwise, ask your knowledgable fitness buddies to help you, or do some research on Google before deciding on a CrossFit box). There are some poor CrossFit gyms out there, so make sure you choose a location with experienced coaches and proven results (Pro-Tip: free trials, ask about them so you can give them a test-run).
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