Form, Purpose and Why Crossfit Needs to Change? (Efficiency Over Action)
November 19, 2015
Training has become so prominent in society that inevitably we have become blind to the lack of focus on form and technique. With so many variations and concepts funneling through the industry, we have convinced ourselves that the way you look and your status validates your instruction. This is false and facilitates an immense amount of misinformation. I understand that lifting techniques and exercises do vary in how they are performed, however as with the fundamental progression of strength and hypertrophy, too much variation is detrimental. Innovation and creativity are needed in the industry, but the abundance of it has created a “quantity over quality” approach to fitness. It has simply become a “how much can you do” activity. Efficiency is obsolete. We stress completing a certain amount of repetitions or lifting the most weight rather than our form and purpose behind what we do. So let’s get into the two aspects that are diminishing in today’s world:
Form: Exercise is moving in a pattern that the body is designed to move through with resistance in order to elicit a stimulus for change in the body. Our body is extremely resilient and accommodating to the stress we place upon it. This is an amazing quality, but when abused leads to a major downfall. As you train with improper movement patterns and lackluster form, the body will adjust accordingly and begin to strengthen or weaken certain areas of the body relevant to your actions. For example – a simple movement such as the flat dumbbell bench press should be performed with retracted shoulders (meaning pulled back) and a full range of motion that drops the elbows below the midline of the body. However, most people perform the lift with protracted shoulders (meaning forward rounded) and lower the weight to about 1/4-1/2 the true full range of motion that the exercise requires. So instead of a full stretch on the chest and forming a good base of support using your lats and traps, we get a shoulder and triceps heavy half press with little to no foundation to generate force. Simple example for a simple exercise that is completely wasted and performed incorrectly since no one stresses form and technique. Efficiency. Efficiency. Efficiency. Why do 4 sets of half-ass bullshit reps when you could perform 1 set with proper form and get a better stimulus and result? Logically you do less to get more. In any other scenario or setting you always take doing less to get more if that is the case. In exercise it usually is the case. If you want to go home and tell everyone you did 50 sets of chest exercises, were in the gym for 2 hours and killed it then go right ahead. For an individual looking to maximize results and gain a skill rather than create a glorified hobby I suggest being efficient and learning technique. Now this is where CrossFit pisses me off. Its concept is great. It builds a community, creates a multi-faceted approach to training and requires discipline and dedication to truly become a quality CrossFit athlete. However, performing advanced lifts and exercises require advanced practice and training on technique. They also require a vast amount of energy. CrossFit promotes non-stop circuit training involving power movements, which need to be performed with proper form. Unfortunately, as you circuit train your energy lowers, your form diminishes and your risk of injury increases. So explain to me how I can take an average person, teach them power cleans, snatches and the push press? Then tell them to run a 400m sprint, do 10 handstand push-ups and some box jumps and expect their form to be on point. Even if you stuck to just Olympic lifting, teaching a class of 20 on highly advanced lifts that need individualized attention for proper cues and corrections, leaves enormous gaps in form and technique. As I said before the body is extremely resilient and thus injury is not as prominent as it should be based on how CrossFit handles it’s athletes. If you want to feel tired and fatigued from training stop wasting your time doing power cleans and do 100m sprints with some push-ups in between for 17 cycles. Guaranteed you will be dead after that. That is my issue with CrossFit is emphasizes fatigue and volume and neglects form and most of all purpose. Why are you doing what you do? Why deadlifts 5×5 followed by 30 kettlebell swings and a 400m sprint? Ask them why and see their response. Exercises are compartmentalized for a reason. If you want to achieve a high level at one you must focus on it specifically. It amazes me how CrossFit has taken concepts and combined them and somehow created a more specific form of exercise rather than a comprehensive one.
Solution for CrossFit: Train your athletes in specific lifts on separate days. Master form. Master technique. Ensure they are safely and properly performing each exercise. Challenge them to advance in the particular exercise modality of the day. For example – focus two days a week on strength movements, two days a week on power movements, and a day for endurance activity. Then combine these concepts for an actual test once they have perfected their form. End every week with a day of actual CrossFit Games style activity. You cannot train that way every session. It is inefficient and does help people acquire skills through lifting. Like I said great concept, but wrong mentality…oh and can we please teach people to get their elbows all the way through and up when they clean. It hurts me inside to see vertical forearms and tucked elbows when a young athlete lifts and no one corrects them. And stop putting pictures up if that is your form…it is wrong.
Purpose: Some people lift to gain muscle. Others to lose fat. Whether it is strength, power, hypertrophy or any other reason everyone has a purpose to their training. My issue is why do you not train in accordance with that purpose? If your purpose is vague perhaps a CrossFit workout is for you, but most people have specific goals and rationale behind their exercise regimen. Muscle Gain/Fat loss – train at a high intensity, minimal rest intervals, circuit training (supersets, tri-sets, giant sets). Volumize. Strength Gain – longer rest intervals, high percentage of 1RM lifting, compound lifts. Frequency. Power – low repetitions, low resistance, emphasize form and explosion. (Athletic movement requires speed and technique, stop stressing heavy loads on power movements…save it for strength) My point is that your purpose is everything. Do not waste your time exercising without a clearly defined one.
Final Words: Do not tell me your can do 1000 crunches or 100 pushups. With proper form most people can not do half of those numbers. Train with a purpose, understand what you are doing, and practice the lifts before you load them up. This falls more on the trainer, coach or instructor than the trainee, but still for your own sake put the time in figuring out how to approach your goal in the best way. Cut the ego out and do it the right way. Our whole country functions under this principle of “look at me and what I did”. But what did you actually get from it? What are the results? What are the consequences? Action is worthless without purpose. And what the hell are Kip-ups? Why are they a thing people do? It’s strictly for CrossFit competition. Again if you do not compete stop doing them because they are pointless otherwise. Focus on your needs and address them appropriately. If a community is your need then do CrossFit. If maximal results are your need then be specific to them and avoid the fitness industry facade or new fad. Simplify your actions through purpose and efficiency. Do not do just to do. Have a reason and get a result to show for it.