For most S&C coaches, Crossfit is a taboo subject. It’s about time we got over that. When it exploded in popularity 6 or 7 years ago, most of us were horrified by the number of “Crossfit fail” compilations that appeared all over the internet. Now it’s had time to establish itself as a dominant force within the fitness industry, it would be nice to think that a few things have changed. As I’m currently touring Crossfit gyms round the world (#crossfitworldtour if you didn’t know already), I hope I can provide a little unbiased perspective.
With regards to facilities, Crossfit gyms usually nail it. It’s exactly why I search them out at every location of the MotoGP championship. Space is the most important thing if you ask me. It’s where most Globo gyms go wrong, filling all that valuable space with shitty and expensive machines. Then they’ve got all the equipment you’d want in any high performance facility, weights and barbells galore, racks, kettle bells, ropes, bands and plenty of space (it’s worth mentioning twice).
Crossfit gyms provide an awesome community of friends (cross fitters) who train together, encourage and motivate each other in a supportive environment. This is what most people need from a gym. Environment and culture is everything. It’s what makes the whole process enjoyable and progressive, especially for so many people who don’t do well in traditional gym formats. There’s no row of treadmills or “weights section” to stick to or avoid; it’s all inclusive and everyone does everything. Every box I’ve been to has been extremely welcoming. Fist pumps and high fives all round, what more could you want?
Resistance based training using compound movements combined with cardiovascular exercise for the objective of developing all round athletes. (It’s basically circuit training). They train for strength, power and endurance. Awesome. Mobility work is thoroughly encouraged and sessions usually include technical movement prep within the warm up. Big tick. The main concerns arise from the consistent high intensity nature (you can’t go hell for leather all the time without eventually running yourself into the ground) and the inevitable breakdown of complex movement patterns performed under high loads in AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) type workouts. Not perfect but way better than 20 minutes on each CV machine followed by some 3kg dumbbell curls or the same 3×10 programme of chest & bi’s, back & tri’s, shoulders & abs (skip legs) at Globo Gym.
By far the most important factor in deciding whether or not to pursue Crossfit is the coach. A good box all depends on the coach/coaches who run it. If your coach allows your form to go to shit when doing 50 snatches because that’s today’s WOD, sack them. If your coach pays close attention to your movements and lifting technique throughout the whole session without putting you at risk of injury, he/she is doing his/her job. If your coach spends considerable amounts of time with you developing lifting techniques and complex movements such as squats and cleans to ensure you have the competency to perform them with heavy loads, spot on; if they chuck you straight into a WOD class after a brief introductory session, think again. If your coach to athlete ratio is between 1:1 and 1:5 in a class, they can pay close attention to your technique; if it’s more like 1:20 they’re not going to even notice when you break your back. If your coach structures the week/month with varying levels of volume and intensity, encouraging light days and recovery days in between your max effort ball breaker WODs, that’s great. If your coach has a no pain no gain attitude of always pushing your limit, you’re in trouble.
So the simple thing about Crossfit is it’s as good as the coach who runs the gym. On that note, a good athlete doesn’t always make a good coach, so make sure you’re there for the coach not just a guy who made it to the Crossfit games or regionals. The great thing about this is that there are some great coaches out there running great gyms, (HINT: The best of them probably deviate slightly from the traditional crossfit format). Furthermore there’s an abundance of S&C coaches out there looking for work so this is an area where a lot of good coaches can thrive working with some of the generally more dedicated average gym goers.
I’m all for Crossfit when it’s executed well. Just take responsibility of finding a great coach who will give you the attention you require. There are a lot of those cringing “Crossfit fail” compilations for a reason. As the standard of coaching continues to improve and Crossfit evolves, hopefully these will become a thing of the past. If you’re an S&C coach reading this and still thinking nah I’ll stick to my 5/3/1, you could probably do with some conditioning 😉
All the best,
p.s. Shits and giggles, we love a bit of BroScience: