March 12 , 2012


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Crossfit is big right now in the fitness industry.  It’s been picked up by Reebok as they’re promoting the Crossfit Games and the WOD’s are starting to show up on prime time television on the Biggest Loser.  Not to mention that there are Crossfit boxes popping up everywhere all across the globe.  It’s definitely not a fad and the wave seems to be getting bigger.  However, even with its growing popularity and happy followers, Crossfit has been criticized by many strength and conditioning specialists, coaches, and trainers for its non-periodized programming and seemingly random and unsafe methods of training.

I’ve always been drawn to Crossfit but I’ve only recently started experiencing the modalities they train in and how some coaches program as I followed a couple months of Crossfit programming from Crossfit Invictus.  On the surface it does seem that the programming is pretty random but you can’t deny that their athletes are ridiculously fit so the programming has to be doing something right.  Right?  I wanted to find out the methodology and reasoning behind Crossfit programming and more importantly I wanted to see if their programming could be used to train sport-specific athletes as we train with golfers, basketball players, volleyball players, and lacrosse players that have an in-season that needs to be programmed for.  Can a such a randomized program be used to train sport-specific athletes?  There was only one way to find out for sure so this past weekend Aaron and I attended the Crossfit Level 1 Certificate Course at Crossfit Vancouver.

Crossfit lists ten general physical skills (cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy) with which they define fitness as having a blend of all ten of these physical skills.  The following note was taken right out the Crossfit Training Guide course material:

It should be fairly clear that the fitness that CrossFit advocates and develops is deliberately broad, general, and inclusive.  Our specialty is not specializing.  Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.

Their programming then is designed with one goal in mind:  To develop work capacity across broad time, modalities, and domains.  The modalities are weight training (e.g. deadlifts, squats, O-lifts), gymnastics (body weight pushups, air squats, ring dips, handstand pushups), and mono-structural or metabolic conditioning (e.g. rowing, running, jump rope, biking).  Crossfit doesn’t use any different exercises within their programming.  They just use them all as they’re tried, tested, and deliver the most bang for your buck.  So the success of any one Crossfit program is its ability to be constantly varied and demand the athlete to work at high intensity.

What about all the injuries we here of??  I believe that topic is best left for another blog post so for the scope of this post, we have to assume that the athletes have the physical prerequisites to train, i.e. they’re functional and their technique in any exercise within each modality is sound.

After an awesome weekend of learning from great Crossfit coaches from all over the U.S., I asked one of the coaches how one might use Crossfit programming to train a sport-specific athlete like a football player or golfer.  She told me that a gentleman by the name of Chip Pugh who is the director of athletic performance for Tennessee Tech University has been using Crossfit to train many of their athletes for the last four years.  All the functional movements that are used in “normal” strength and conditioning programs for sport-specfic athletes are used in Crossfit so there’s no reason why Crossfit programming cannot be incorporated in a periodized program broken up into an off-season, pre-season, in-season, and post-season.  An example could be an off-season strength building phase that could use Crossfit heavy weight-lifting (e.g. 2-2-2-2-2 deadlift).  Another example could be pre-season metabolic conditioning could use a few Crossfit WOD’s on the athletes.  Why not?  Click the link that’s attached to Chip Pugh’s name to read more of how they use Crossfit programming on their athletes in a sport-specific periodized program.

Like I said I’m new to training in the sport of Crossfit so I’m glad to understand its programming methodology and why it’s so random and varied.  It’s important for me to immerse myself in Crossfit and its culture so that I can make a call based on experience.  I’ve been used to training sport-specfic most of my life  as I trained for basketball in high school, college, and university.  I still play ball for fun every once and a while but since I’ve started incorporating the randomness and unfamiliar training modalities of Crossfit (mainly gymnastics) into my own training program, I’ve noticed I can still hang with the young guys on the basketball court and most definitely beat them in a Fran.

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