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Of All The Fitness Programs Out There, Why CrossFit?



Written by Coach Rob

Recently, I have been asked by friends and family,

“So, why CrossFit? With so many fitness programs out there, why did you go with CrossFit?”

I’ve answered in a similar fashion every time. I don’t believe a perfect approach exists – in fitness, nutrition, martial arts, or anything else for that matter – but there are some approaches that are far better than others. I believe CrossFit fits that bill.

This is why I believe the CrossFit methodology is a cut above the rest.

CrossFit is Constantly Varied.

Humans are adaptation machines. This unique ability to change, to grow stronger and smarter, and to overcome challenges is the reason we are still here. It is the reason we thrive in all corners of the planet, from the Arctic to the Sahara. When we face stress of any kind – extreme heat, cold, starvation, fatigue, or infection – there are two possible outcomes, live or die. If we live, we grow stronger. When the type and degree of stress are controlled, we can grow immensely.

CrossFit takes that principle and applies it to fitness. Constant variation produces the greatest results. Your goal may be to lose weight, move around the house a little easier, improve your 5k time, gain 10 pounds of muscles, or increase your max deadlift. Changing the stimulus gets you there faster.

Consider the adult who has not exercised in the last 6 months. She decides to go for a 3-mile run. She finishes dripping in sweat and is sore for the next few days. A week later she goes for another 3-mile run. The run is difficult but the soreness only lasts a day this time. For the next two months, she continues to run the same distance at a similar pace, once or twice per week. The run gets easier and easier. Why? Her body has adapted. But the stimulus remained the same. Her body adapts less and less with each subsequent run – she no longer loses weight, her cardiovascular endurance begins to stagnate, her muscles stop toning.

Constant variation prevents stagnation. CrossFit programming shocks the body with each workout by modifying the movements and intensity, producing the greatest physiological adaptations possible. Keep in mind that variation does imply random. Coaches do not have a roulette board of movements that they spin each week (Okay, maybe the really bad ones do…). Instead, workouts are specifically engineered to improve all aspects of fitness: anaerobic and aerobic energy systems, strength, power, balance, speed, flexibility, agility, accuracy, and coordination. Additionally, keeping things fresh is much more enjoyable, as anyone who hears Call Me Maybe in 2017 can attest to.

CrossFit uses Functional Movement.

Functional movement is not bicep curls in the mirror.


Functional movement applies to life outside the gym. It allows you to move around freely and safely. It gets you picked first during the schoolyard lineup. It keeps you alive during the zombie apocalypse.


Technically, functional movement is multi-joint. Functional movement draws power from the core and transfers it outward to the extremities. It applies a large amount of Force over large Distances, producing the greatest amount of Work (Work = Force * Distance).

In short, functional movement is full body movement applicable to everyday life. How do you safely pick something heavy off of the ground? Deadlift. How do you get off of the toilet? Squat. How do throw a bag of rock salt on the top shelf in your garage? Clean & Jerk. How do you vault over a tall fence? Pull-up. How do you escape from a burning building? Run. Practicing functional movement in the gym allows you to perform outside of it.

The reason I practice functional movement is the same reason I practice martial arts. I’d rather be prepared for what might happen then be helpless when it does happen. Becoming fit for life begins with functional movement. Oh, it’s also fun.

CrossFit is performed at a High-Intensity.

Intensity is essential to producing results. But don't worry, intensity is relative to the individual. The amount of Work done divided by the Time it takes to complete it equals Intensity (Intensity = Work / Time). The more intense the workout is, the greater the results.

Functional movements performed at high-intensity have been shown to increase aerobic and anaerobic energy systems more than any other type of training. This is why interval training has become so popular. Perhaps the best part is that large gains in fitness do not require more than 45-60 minutes of physical activity several times a day. More is not necessarily better. Generally, when an athlete trains for longer than an hour the focus is on skill acquisition, with only a marginal increase in fitness resulting from it. Therefore, CrossFit programming can fit nicely into a busy lifestyle.

Putting it all together.

By varying the intensity of a workout that contains functional movement, we produce balanced athletes.

“Fringe” athletes are without a doubt impressive. Anyone who can lift 1000 pounds or run an ultramarathon undeniably deserves respect. However, CrossFit argues they are not necessarily the “fittest” athletes in the world. In my opinion, it is far more impressive for someone to be able to deadlift 2x their bodyweight, run a 10k, and also be able to hold a handstand – which many CrossFit athletes are able to do.

Some opponents of the CrossFit methodology claim that it is dangerous and designed for young athletes (most likely shirtless or in booty shorts). This could not be farther from the truth. Every workout and movement can be scaled to the level of the participant. This could mean modifying the load, intensity, or complexity of the movement. CrossFit can be scaled for the Olympic athlete or your grandmother.

 

Take this example of how one could develop a workout that is equally challenging and appropriate for you and your grandmother...

Workout of the Day (WOD):

“Nancy” – 5 Rounds For Time of:

400 meter run

95 pound Overhead Squats, 15 reps

Let’s say we have an elderly athlete who cannot run and lacks the range of motion (ROM) to overhead squat. We could modify this workout, while preserving the stimulus, to…

Scaled “Nancy” – 5 Rounds For Time of:

250 meter walk

Air Squats, 10 reps

 “Okay, so you can scale the workouts so that anyone can complete it, but that doesn’t make the movements any less safe.”

Injuries are possible in any athletic endeavor. But I would argue the risk of exercising is far less than the risk of not exercising. Inactivity is not the answer. We must be mindful of prior injuries and ROM issues, however, functional movements taught well and performed under the eye of a competent trainer dramatically cuts down (or eliminates) the risk of injury. This is why picking a school of fitness - like Trebel :) - that has your best interest in mind, not simply ushering you into a group class and forcing you to learn-as-you-go, is so important.

Squatting well – by hinging your hips, driving your knees out wide with fairly straight feet, and maintaining a braced spine – is the opposite of risky for most people. Performing a technically proficient squat, contrary to popular belief, is actually therapeutic for your body. But it must be performed the right way.

So, pick your coach wisely. Don’t perform a movement you are not comfortable with because then you do increase your risk of injury. Most of what I said has been said before and probably more eloquently here.

Group Class Programing for Monday, April 17th, 2017:

1. Clean & Jerk 2-2-2-2-2

2. Life:
Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can of:
15 Air Squats
10 Ring Rows
10 Elevated Push-ups

Fitness:
Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can of:
25 Air Squats
10 Piked Ring Rows
10 Push-ups

Performance:
Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can of:
10 Pistols left leg
10 Pistols right leg
10 Strict Pull-ups
10 Strict Ring Dips

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