Whether you love or hate CrossFit you've probably heard the following criticisms:
"CrossFit makes you weak"
"You can't build real strength doing CrossFit"
"CrossFit turns men into women"
The above statements can be found on countless blogs, message boards and fitness forums all over the internet. The people making these criticisms are usually personal trainers or body builders who have never stepped foot inside a CrossFit gym. Their opinion of CrossFit is usually formed by reading opinions of other folks who have also never stepped foot in a CrossFit gym. Hello echo chamber - nice to meet you!
These critics have a basic misunderstanding of what CrossFit is and what kind of training goes on inside CrossFit affiliates. They look at the WOD posted on CrossFit.com and proclaim that you could never build real strength with such an unstructured program. There is a kernel of truth here (isn't there always in all great lies?). You won't build any real strength if you just show up, stretch, do a light 15 minute metabolic conditioning WOD and then hop in the car to head home. The critics would lead you to believe that this is what happens at CrossFit gyms. Nice straw man - unfortunately it isn't close to the truth.
Quality CrossFit affiliates have their own programming that consists of a warm up, twenty minutes of strength training followed by a half hour of skill work and conditioning. The strength training is usually part of a larger six to eight week cycle focused on specific goals. If your coaches know their ass from a hole in the ground, and you show up and put in the work, you will get stronger. Period.
But right now I'm being just as bad as the critics. Without presenting evidence I'm just spewing nonsense right? Wrong. What follows are examples of CrossFitters who are strong as hell. These aren't the folks you'll see on ESPN at The CrossFit Games in July. They are just everyday people who show up to the gym day after day and get after it. Everyday athletes - what this site is all about.
Jackie Demiro - 235 lb Front Squat
Jackie is one of our favorite former Athlete's of The Week and she lifts an absurd amount of weight. It was hard to decide which video to post as the best example of her human horsepower - she cleans 205 lbs, can do a 260 lb back squat for 3 reps and has the body control to do strict muscle ups. She lifts more than most dudes wandering aimlessly around globo gyms talking about their "gains".
Jordan - 505 lb Back Squat
To finish off our test week, here's Jordan making a 505# #BackSquat look easy! #CrossFit #crossfit201 #fitness #fit #lift #rx #lifting #squat #gains #swole #pr #bemorehuman #wod #workout #betterthanyesterday #train #gym #box #strength #muscle #practice #strongman #crossfitguys #ryourogue #strong #trainharder #fitnesscult #weightlifting #constantlyvaired @mathewfras @dan_bailey9 @jameshobart @jasonkhalipa @amalleolo @spec1414 @jkearneycf @bsmit13
This is my buddy Jordan back squatting 505 lbs. That's right - 505 lbs. Are there power lifters who can squat more than that? Sure. But for your average human, that is just a shit ton of weight. Definitely more weight than most personal trainers who call CrossFit gyms "playpens" and tell their clients not to squat below parallel. When Jordan started doing CrossFit he was a pretty strong dude but he's gotten even stronger. He shows up every day, stays late and puts in the work.
Kate B. 315 lb Deadlift
Kate is a former Division I college rower who made the transition to CrossFit about three years ago. When I first met her, she was a naturally gifted athlete with the kind of work capacity that can only be built with years of grueling crew workouts. What she didn't have was a ton of strength - that came from countless hours of work at her CrossFit affiliate. She's one of my favorite athletes and a really awesome person. You can read more about her here.
Maximillian - 330 lb power jerk
Maximillian is another former Athlete Of The Week who puts up big numbers. He works hard at the Oly Lifts and can get 330 lbs overhead with a power jerk and has a 240 lb snatch. While these numbers won't get Max to the Olympics, they are pretty freaking impressive considering that Oly Lifts are only a small part of his overall training regimen.
(Side Note - the vast majority of folks spending thousands of hours working exclusively on their snatch and C&J at barbell clubs will also not be heading to the Olympics.)
Not just about strength
I'm sure a lot of fitness professionals are watching the above videos and saying something like "these people are strong, but they could be even stronger if they did something other than CrossFit". Sure. Why not. I don't doubt that Jordan (above) could get his back squat up to 600 lbs if he quit all other aspects of his programming and focused solely on powerlifting.
But then what?
Maybe he could place in a few local powerlifting competitions, but he wouldn't be able to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. I have great respect for the top powerlifters, weightlifters and distance runners - specialists can do incredible things. But for the vast majority of us, a more well rounded approach to fitness is the smart move. Is it really that impressive that you finished in the top thousand at the NYC Marathon if you're not strong enough to pick up a couple bags of groceries?
Here is Jackie DeMiro again, this time doing strict muscle ups. Definitely not something she would be able to do if she specialized exclusively at powerlifting.
Finding the right gym
I'm not going to sugarcoat it - there are some CrossFit gyms out there with crappy programming that will not build strength. With over 11,000 affiliates there are bound to be a few sub-par gyms, just like there are plenty of terrible certified personal trainers. The key to finding a great CrossFit gym is to ask the right questions:
What is their strength training philosophy? Do they program cycles with specific goals? If not, move on.
What is their open gym policy? If they don't have some sort of open gym or specific time for you to work on weaknesses, move on.
What is the background of the coaching staff? Are they former competitive athletes? Do they have a background in strength training? If they can't teach you things you don't already know, move on.
If you are reading this and have never been to a CrossFit gym, I hope we cleared up some misconceptions and armed you with the right questions to ask if you decide to give CrossFit a try.
If you are an avid CrossFitter and are tired of defending CrossFit from your globo gym buddies, just send them the link to this page. Ask them to send you back a video of their 505 lb back squat. We'd love to see it!