Calling Shenanigans

By Jon Gilson

[Editor's Note: This was originally published on June 14, 2006. Hence the Dick Cheney reference.]

I've heard a lot of criticisms of the CrossFit method. Most of them revolve around two issues: our attention to form and our lack of sensible progressions.

These criticisms are the stand-by for the ill-informed fitness commentator. The underlying assumption in both of these statements is that we'll sacrifice anything and everything to go faster.

The myth goes something like this:

Our need for speed means we don't give a flying f*ck if our backs are rounded and our shoulders are hunched. Deadlifting? Who cares how, just get it off the ground. Push-ups? Just touch whatever's closest to the floor.

Yeah, right. This myth is propagated by a bunch of dumb f*ck journalists and pundits who've never taken a CrossFit class under a qualified trainer. They called three juiced-up personal trainers at Bally's and asked for the scoop.

I can't go two minutes without having a fellow CrossFitter put me in check.

Back rounded?

"Chest up!"

Not engaging the posterior chain?

"Heels!"

Not extending the thrusters?

"Head through!"

Form is incredibly important to us. If a CrossFitter's form endangers his or her health in any way, they're stopped dead in their tracks.

This doesn't require a whole lot of elaborate dialogue. To the uninitiated, our form looks horrible when we hit high reps. Sure, it gets worse as time goes on, but we're trying our damndest to keep it under control.

Fatigue leads to a breakdown in form. It's a fact. Still, I'd rather be fatigued and kicking ass than lying on the mat, whining about how I can't seem to get any stronger. Form isn't always perfect, but it's not neglected either.

We're often criticized for lack of progressions. We don't do the same workout for months at a time. Our workouts are random. How the hell are we supposed to get any better?

Ironically, this criticism comes from the same people who preach the benefits of density training as loudly as possible. Density training is simply doing more work in the same amount of time or the same amount of work in less time. The bodybuilding bandwagon is all over density training as a great way to pack on muscle mass by promoting an anabolic environment.

We're constantly doing density training. We don't call it that, but when you're trying to beat your Fran time, you're trying to do the same amount of work in less time. When you bang out Cindy like a jackhammer on meth, you're trying to do more work in the same amount of time. Density training.

It's not in a bodybuilding context. We're not doing isolation curls and quarter-squats. But, muscle-boy, I'm doing the same thing you are. I'm just doing it with functional movements.

Your body doesn't care how you move weight. At least, it doesn't care as much as we'd like to think. Your body will adapt if you do more work in less time. Period. It doesn't care if you're doing a thruster or a push jerk or a squat or a pull-up. It thrives off of power output.

When I say power, I don't mean it subjectively. Not like, "Gee, that Dick Cheney sure has a lot of power." I talking about the pure, Newtonian Physics definition of power. Watts. If you haven't heard it yet, hear it now. Work equals force times displacement times the cosine of the angle of displacement. Divide by time, and you get power. Power is measured in watts.

More power equals more adaptation, equals one monster of an athlete. Power output manifests itself in better body composition, increased strength, top-shelf endurance, and blistering speed.

On a daily basis, a CrossFitter puts out more power than the next three gym trainees combined.

Next time you see some nonsense about what we do and don't do at CrossFit, ask yourself two questions.

1. Do I concentrate on my form, even when I'm tired?

2. Is there a good way to measure progress without doing the same thing twice?

If you can answer yes to both of these questions, I believe you can tell the critics to f*ck off, and feel perfectly justified in doing so.

Or, you could just sign them up for a free week of CrossFit. We'll straighten them out.


Jon Gilson is the founder of Again Faster and former member of CrossFit’s Level I Seminar staff.