The cons of CrossFit training

This is the third article in a series of three. The first outlined what CrossFit is, the second detailed the pros of CrossFit training, and the third will detail the cons. The goal of this series is to educate those interested in the sport of CrossFit so they can make a sound choice when deciding whether or not CrossFit is for them.

By now, you should understand the main reasons why people join a local CrossFit box:

  • To become part of a community
  • To get the most out of their workouts
  • To live better lives outside of the gym

It is no secret that CrossFit does all these things and that it does them well. And yet, if you’ve mentioned the possibility of joining a CrossFit box to a friend from your local globo gym, there is certainly a chance they made you second guess your thoughts. With all the pros that come with CrossFit training, do these nay-sayers have any solid ground to stand upon?

In short, they do, but maybe not for the reasons they think. Here are some things you might hear people say when they actively voice their problems with CrossFit (and why they may or may not have a case):

“You’ll get hurt.”

You might. You might not. But are your chances of getting hurt at a box any worse than when you’re working out at a gym? No, not if you have a good coach/trainer running your class.

The truth is that CrossFit relies heavily on coaches who are not necessarily ready to instruct others on how to properly perform movements, and I say this because they only thing a person has to do to become a CrossFit level one coach (CF-L1) is pass a one-time weekend course.

Grant it, this course is not exactly “easy” to pass, but it does not cover many aspects of coaching. Instead, it provides the participant with a solid base of knowledge, focusing more on why CrossFit is practical and beneficial than other workout regimes. This is great information to possess, but it doesn’t necessarily help those who have little-to-no experience coaching others get ready to take on a full class of potentially novice CrossFitters.

If you want to avoid injury, you want a coach who knows each and every movement well. You want someone who can spot your flaws in a matter of seconds and help you fix them. While some CF-L1s can do this, you’re better off looking for a box that employs level two (CF-L2) coaches, as the second certification level focuses more on coaching than it does general education. By working with coaches who are better prepared to help you learn to move properly, you’ll put yourself in a better position to succeed and remain injury-free.

Side note: Another overlooked aspect of injuries is recovery. Incorporating self-myofascial release (SMR, or “foam rolling”), stretching, healthy sleep and nutrition habits, and proper warm-up routines will contribute to keeping injuries at bay, whether you’re a CrossFitter or not.

“They don’t do real pull-ups.”

I hear this all the time, so we need to set the record straight on what “real” pull-ups are.

A “real” pull-up is a “strict” pull-up, where the back and shoulder muscles perform the majority of the work. A “fake pull-up,” which is technically called a “kipping pull-up,” is actually a gymnastics movement. The power for the movement is generated from the hips, and doing this rhythmically requires a great deal of coordination, cardiovascular endurance, and strength. It is an exercise one must be able to master in order to progress to the chest-to-bar pull-up, and then the bar muscle-up (both of which have plenty of benefits you are missing out on if you only do strict pull-ups).

Strict pull-ups are one of the best exercises you can do to train your shoulder and back muscles. But they aren’t the only exercises that can help in that regard. When performed correctly, the kipping pull-up is just as effective as the strict pull-up.

“They only talk about CrossFit.”

Yeah, this can get pretty annoying.

Some CrossFitters love to remind people how they train out of a box, and for non-CrossFitters, this is painful to listen to – especially if the CrossFitter insists on bringing it up every time they’re around. It is certainly one of the negative aspects associated with CrossFit, and it is important to know that not everyone acts in such a way – especially not since CrossFit has increased in popularity over the last five years or so.

“The price is absurd.” 

They’re not wrong. A monthly membership at a CrossFit box can cost members anywhere between $100-200 every 30 days, depending on the type of plan you purchase. This is significantly more expensive than a standard gym’s monthly price, and standard gyms typically offer more included services and longer operating hours.

So, why is CrossFit worth it?

  • You’ll be able to use certain pieces of equipment that are unavailable at most chain establishments (ropes, rigs, and glute-ham developers – or GHDs, to name a few). If you’re serious about taking your fitness training to the next level, these instruments can be vital assets.
  • Boxes are structured so that users can attend classes, which is basically like having a personal trainer for anywhere from 10-25 sessions per month (which would cost you way more than $200 in a local gym). Oftentimes, coaches will also work with you one-on-one before or after class to help refine your movement patterns, and this extra help can go a long way towards improving PRs and preventing injuries.
  • CrossFit boxes are small businesses. You get to know the owners, become friends with them, share ideas, and establish lasting relationships in the community. Do you know the owners of your local gym right now?

I do believe that some people have a point when they bash CrossFit. There is a higher risk for injury when performing some of the movements seen in CrossFit, especially if good coaching isn’t seen as a priority in the eyes of the box owner. Some of the movements everyday gym-goers, and even competitive athletes like powerlifters, see CrossFitters perform are viewed as strange or even laughable, despite their proven health benefits. Some CrossFitters have egos that need to be checked at the door, and the price is definitely viewed as a drawback.

In short, CrossFit is not for everyone – but it could be. The idea behind CrossFit is that anyone can do it, regardless of your age or fitness levels. Every workout can be coached and scaled. The point is that you can do CrossFit, regardless of what other people have told you.

Maybe HIIT is not for you. Maybe you enjoy bicep curls and bench press more than rowing, running, and kettlebell swinging. That is completely okay! As long as you are making time to work out in the gym and performing the movements you choose to perform correctly, you’re making an effort to better yourself. In my educated opinion, CrossFit is the most efficient and overall best way to do this, but that doesn’t mean it is every person’s bread and butter. If you are going to hate it, CrossFit is not for you. You need to enjoy your time in the gym, whatever that means for you. 

For more advice on how to better your physical and emotional self, check out the other fit tips from Frankie.

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