The Problem With 90% of Crossfit Boxes

 In Training & Exercise

This is not a bash on CrossFit, or rather, the concept of large group classes. I wrote this to shed some light on what changes ought to be made to make the universal practice of “CrossFit” more effective. Hopefully it’s more well known by now that this type of training is nothing new and has become popularized by the genius of their trademark and marketing. The trademark has directed a great amount of attention to other areas that may have been not so well known amongst the general public (Olympic lifting, Powerlifting, Triathlons, etc.) and has raised the bar for friendly gym competition and community. 

I have programmed CrossFit workouts and metcons for specific athletes and I have even done few named CrossFit WODs myself. However, this is not a free pass for everyone to be thrown into the mix of doing WODs that were intended for athletes and competitors past the intermediate level. Why 90%? Well, from my observation, there is a small niche of boxes who program and coach well. 9/10 times you will find an unqualified coach, who’s only certified by Crossfit’s handout certification standards (if you can afford it, you can receive it just show up).   

The great CrossFit competitors and gyms follow principles set and followed by strength & conditioning professionals. So I feel confident saying that the majority of the top boxes are really just good strength & conditioning gyms who happen to implement some of the Crossfit workouts and metcons. Any coach with a background and strength & conditioning (whether that be professional, collegiate, or in the private sector) will know that only athletes who have been trained properly should be doing high risk Olympic lifting, gymnastic movements, and other training modalities. This isn’t even to mention how important it is that these athletes are efficient in every area if they are performing these under a constrained time (AMRAP, for time, etc). Members who are not sound athletes or capable of executing the demands of the workout without good form should train under a progressive program design that can pin point their current level of fitness. 

For our readers who may be part of or had gone to the 90% we are referring to: take note.  If you are, have been or know a newbie, and have been/witnessed someone being thrown into a workout after walking through the door and cheered to “finish strong”, ask them why. If there is no reason behind the rhyme: get out. No assessment, no complimentary technique session, no sit down talk…I’ve had dozens of people who were consults turned client say this is exactly what they experienced. How were these people able to understand their baseline and what/how they should progress to get to their goal? What if they didn’t have a goal? Were they at least given a short term and long term goal within reach? Nope.

Approaching training with such a mentality isn’t so much IF but WHEN will you tear a rotator cuff from kipping pull ups, herniate a disk lifting something you shouldn’t, or any other injury you see with high risk athletics.  This is where I’ve seen 9/10 boxes fail and why some are slowly running their business into the ground. You wouldn’t take a first grader, give them two reading sessions at a middle school level and then expect them to excel in a university level literature course. This is a recipe for disaster, and not in the best interest of the client/participant. After all, if you pay premium for anything, i.e. a CrossFit gym membership, it should reflect what is best for you and reaching your goals. 

The local boxes that don’t have an open gym or don’t allow members to use their own program design from a respectable strength & conditioning or weightlifting coach are a sorry excuse for a gym. If the workout involves snatches and you can’t perform an RDL or Hang Snatch High Pull, leave and don’t go back. If your coach doesn’t know what those are…well, I think you get the picture. Who cares if it’s not what the board says? It’s just white board and marker and should be adjusted for you when you are ready to Rx.  Scaling is not, “oh well I’ll just go lighter”, if you can’t do it or get into the position, don’t do it. There is always something else you can do that will yield the same caloric expenditure, work on your athletic development, and keep risk of injury low.  You may ask how you can become like the athletes in the games without doing CrossFit WODs or working out at a box. Newsflash, most of them have a coach who programs and periodizes their workouts year round. YEAR ROUND. Very unlikely you will find this at a local box who just writes up what they think will be a tough WOD for the day.

In conclusion, if CrossFit is something you want to train for and compete in: go for it!  I think competitive CrossFit is a great sport. Unfortunately, it’s popularity and lack of qualified instructors and coaches have lost much in theory and application. With that said, take the time to find an experienced coach who will give it to you straight, write you a great program, and take the time to do technique work before throwing you in the daily WODs. In my next article, I will discuss some universal standards that need to be met before I personally let someone “CrossFit”. I will brief on some very important concepts when considering one’s ability to perform and compete in CrossFit with a low risk of injury. 

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