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Does CrossFit Work?

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Does CrossFit Work?

All the cool kids are doing CrossFit these days. Does it work? Should we all become “WODKILLAS”?

 

“CrossFit won’t just transform your body,” an acquaintance told me, with a glint of fire in her eyes, “it will change everything–who you are, how you view the world, what you think is possible.”

I’m a big believer in the life-changing power of being fit, but she was being a bit too dramatic even for me. I felt like I was being recruited for a crusade or pilgrimage, not a workout program.

This type of talk is common among the CrossFit crowd, which is growing at an exponential rate these days. But is it everything its followers–no, believersclaim it to be? Does it really transform mere “working out” into something transcendent and sublime?

Let’s find out.

What is CrossFit?

In case you somehow don’t already know, CrossFit is a high-intensity exercise program that focuses on performing a variety of strength and aerobic exercises, ranging from push-ups to sprints to clean and jerks.

The exercises are usually combined to “Workouts of the Day,” or “WODs” as the initiated call them, which are often short (about 30 minutes) and extremely demanding. Performance is tracked and ranked to encourage friendly competition and measure progress.

For instance, here’s what a CrossFit workout looks like (this one is called the “Fran”):

Do the following as quickly as possible:

Three rounds, 21-15- and 9 reps of:
95-pound Thruster
Pull-ups

But CrossFit is more than just getting in a workout. It’s the culture that has made it so popular. Check it out:

Brilliant marketing, that’s for sure. (I wonder if CrossFit’s founder, Greg Glassman, has read this book?)

But does CrossFit live up to such claims? Does it justify the hype?

I don’t think so. Let me explain.

CrossFit Doesn’t Get to Re-Define the Meaning of Fitness

The Oxford English Dictionary defines fitness as “the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” And fit is defined as “in good health, because of regular physical exercise.”

Using these dictionary definitions, we can measure our fitness level in several ways:

Thus, as we get fitter…

  • We become stronger.
  • We become better at dealing with the cardiac stress of physical activity.
  • We become leaner and more muscular.
  • We become more flexible.
  • We improve our body’s ability to use food for fueling and regenerating itself.

Well, in CrossFit lingo, fitness has a different, much more short-sighted definition–one that Glassman invented, and that he claims is the first “meaningful, measurable way” to define the word:

“Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”

So basically, according to Glassman, you’re as fit as you can do CrossFit. Clever and convenient. But silly.

You’re not as fit as you can do CrossFit.

Case in point: watch some CrossFit videos online or head into a CrossFit gym and you’ll see a lot of weak, overweight, inflexible people that think they’re Spartans because they can do 30 kipping (fake, stupid) pull-ups or finish the “Murph” and then make a quick visit to Uncle Pukie’s.

These people are not fit.

Now, I don’t say that to rag on people that aren’t in great shape. I respect anyone that puts in work to improve their fitness, regardless of their current condition.

But I AM ragging on the unfit CrossFit snobs that think that because I’m not a part of their “WODSQUAD,” I’m physically inferior in some way.

Wait a second…I can out-lift, out-run, and out-stretch you, and I’m bigger and leaner than you…but you’re elite because you can hit Olympic lifts with poor form and do air squats until you puke?

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CrossFit Isn’t the Ultimate Way to Get Fit

With that out of the way, let’s talk about actually getting fit, starting with a simple proposition:

An activity is as effective for fitness as it builds strength and aerobic endurance, and improves body composition, flexibility, and metabolic health.

Simple enough, right?

Well, if you’ve ever been pitched on CrossFit, you were probably hit with quite a few buzzwords:

  • Functional fitness
  • General fitness training
  • Full-body workout
  • Metabolic conditioning
  • General physical preparedness

The spiel usually boils down to the claim that performing a wide variety of exercises is the best way to achieve overall fitness and an aesthetic physique. That a traditional exercise program just can’t deliver the goods like CrossFit can.

Well, CrossFit does have its merits. The workouts are tough and involve doing real exercises, and you will see results if you stick to it.

But it isn’t the best way to get fit.

Let’s first look at research on what happens when you combine strength and cardiovascular training.

Researchers from RMIT University worked with well–trained athletes in 2009 and found that “combining resistance exercise and cardio in the same session may disrupt genes for anabolism.” In laymen’s terms, they found that combining endurance and resistance training sends “mixed signals” to the muscles and impairs their ability to adapt to either.

They also found that cardio before the resistance training suppressed anabolic hormones such as IGF–1 and MGF, and cardio after resistance training increased muscle tissue breakdown.

Several other studies, such as those conducted by Children’s National Medical Center, the Waikato Institute of Technology, and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland), came to same conclusions: training for both endurance and strength simultaneously impairs your gains on both fronts.

Now does this mean CrossFit won’t improve both strength and endurance? No, of course not. But if you want to get big and strong, or if you want to maximize your aerobic capacity, science says that CrossFit isn’t the best way to do either. 

Thus, it’s no surprise that most CrossFitters aren’t particularly muscular or strong, and have mediocre cardio. In fact, the only CrossFitters I’ve known that had exceptional strength, size, or cardio were following a traditional weightlifting and cardio program on top of doing CrossFit.

In my experience, both in my own training and in working with hundreds of others, the most effective way to both build strength and improve aerobic endurance is to separate weightlifting and cardiovascular exercise.

That is, follow a traditional approach to improving fitness.

CrossFit and Overtraining

Part of the CrossFit culture is taking “no pain, no gain” to a whole new level. Training to the point of absolute exhaustion makes you a “warrior.” Puking after a workout is a vaunted sacrifice to the gods of gainz.

Well, unless you’re on drugs, this is a fast track to overtraining, which can lead to serious problems. It can become chronic, which is a gradual onset of overtraining symptoms like general fatigue, depression, restlessness, loss of appetite, loss of desire to work out, and more. Or it can be acute, and in extreme cases, deadly.

A man named Makimba Mimms was awarded $300,000 in damages from a local CrossFit gym and his trainer for injuries he sustained during a CrossFit workout in 2005. Those injuries included rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which severely and rapidly damaged muscle tissue is released into the blood stream, which can lead to kidney failure.

The Workout of the Day, or “WOD,” that almost killed Mimms was renamed the “Makimba” and categorized as a children’s workout. Har har. Poor taste in jokes aside, nobody is immune to rhabdo.

For instance, in January 2011, 13 football players at the University of Iowa were hospitalized with rhabdo after doing a workout that included 100 squats with 50% of their one-rep max. It wasn’t a CrossFit workout, but was similar in that it had them performing compound lifts for high reps and under extreme fatigue.

Here’s the simple fact of the matter:

If you’re not on drugs and you’re training to complete physical exhaustion multiple times per week, and especially if your workouts include weightlifting, you’re going to end up overtraining. It’s only a matter of time.

 CrossFit and Injuries

One of the first things I noticed about people I knew doing CrossFit was almost all of them had gotten hurt. Sprains, pulled muscles, even torn ligaments.

I wasn’t surprised. Why? For a couple reasons.

The safety of the CrossFit workouts depends a lot on the coaches. If a newbie is going to perform a compound lift like a deadlift or squat, or an advanced Olympic lift like the snatch, he had better know exactly what he’s doing. If the coach hasn’t taught him perfect form, or pushes him to move a lot of weight or go to absolute failure (which is common in CrossFit classes), the likelihood of injury goes way up.

Unfortunately, however, a good coach can only do so much. CrossFit comes with an increased risk of injury built right into it. How so?

Because CrossFit has you trying to hit heavy Olympic lifts when you’re fatigued, which is a recipe for injury. Research has shown this with the squat: as fatigue sets in, form invariably gets worse. Interestingly enough, our perception of range of motion even changes with fatigue–what feels like the bottom of the squat actually isn’t.

If you’re fatigued, you should not be trying to perform heavy weightlifting exercises, and especially not big compound exercises like deadlifts, squats, and Olympic lifts. 

Don’t believe me?

“The problem has to do with fatigue and going to failure,” says Stuart McGill, Ph.D., a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. “Some exercises are conducive to this and others are not.” McGill puts Olympic lifts in the “not” category.

“Repeating movements where form is compromised with fatigue really does not fit the philosophy of Olympic lifting to reduce injury risk and enhance performance.”

This is one of the reasons why the American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 3 minutes of rest in between heavy weightlifting sets (1-6 reps).

So, you’re not guaranteed to get hurt doing CrossFit, but you’re at a higher risk of injury if you follow the regular protocols.

Unsurprisingly, the few guys I know that have been doing CrossFit for any meaningful period of time without getting injured are experienced weightlifters and insert proper rest periods in between heavy sets of lifting.

So Should You Do CrossFit?

The answer to this question really depends on your goals.

If you’re looking to get fitter and have some fun, then CrossFit isn’t a bad choice if you have a good coach and know how to avoid overtraining and injury. People also love the competitive environments and camaraderie of CrossFit gyms, which is totally understandable.

But if you’re looking to maximize strength or muscle gains, or maximize your aerobic capacity…CrossFit is not the optimal choice. You’ll do better following a proper weightlifting or cardio training program.

 

What are your thoughts on CrossFit? Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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Depending on how you eat, train, and rest, building muscle and losing fat can be incredibly easy or incredibly hard. Unfortunately, most people make many different mistakes that leave them stuck in a rut.

And that’s why I wrote Bigger Leaner Stronger for men, and Thinner Leaner Stronger for women: they lay out EVERYTHING you need to know about diet and training to build muscle and lose fat effectively…

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I’m Mike Matthews and I’ve been training for nearly a decade now. I believe that every person can achieve the body of his or her dreams, and I work hard to give everyone that chance by providing workable, proven advice grounded in science, not a desire to sell phony magazines, workout products, or supplements. More about me.

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360 Comments
  • Lianne

    overrated and a cult-following. i think a lot of the members join for a “lack” of self motivation to do this on their own. i agree with all your points. GREAT article.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Lianne. Yeah the group element is a big draw, and there’s nothing wrong with that per se.

  • MassNERDerer

    I haven’t had a chance to go read the article from RMIT University about endurance and strength training together, but this has me thinking about circuit training. Mike or other readers, do you have any recommendations for circuit training? Such as, number of exercises, rep schemes, etc. Be curious to hear if this is at all similar or not.

    • Mark E.

      MassNERDerer: If you get Mike Matthews book “Cardio Sucks! The Simple Science of Burning Fat Fast and Getting In Shape” circuit training is one of his first cardio workouts. I bought it for .99 cents via Amazon Kindle. Easy read, informative, and really helpful on being creative with cardio I thought! Hope that helps!

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks Mark!

    • Michael Matthews

      You should read the papers I link in that section of the article. They’re really interesting.

      Circuit training is okay cardio. I give some routines in my book Cardio Sucks. They’re just not useful for building size and strength.

  • Mark E.

    Great article!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Mark!

  • Guest

    MassNERDerer: If you get Mike Matthews book “Cardio Sucks! The Simple Science of Burning Fat Fast and Getting In Shape” that is one of his first cardio workouts. I bought it for .99 cents via Amazon Kindle. Easy read, informative, and really helpful on being creative with cardio I thought! Hope that helps!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

  • Alan Cherney

    I have been doing (select) Crossfit workouts with some buddies as a form of high intensity cardio, and I love it (beats running or recumbent bike). I don’t use heavy weight, mostly it’s just keeping my heart rate high for a bit and inserting rest periods like any intervals.

    That being said, it doesn’t subtract from my heavy lifting and I keep it as far from my heavy lifting as possible. Additionally, if the workout calls for heavier lifting, I usually dial it down to not tax my muscle groups for their real workout that week.

    The cult members get bothered that I don’t bow to the Crossfit gods and always say “yeah, i’ll do it for cardio”.

    Crossfit? I think it can have its place if done correctly.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment Alan. Yup, you can definitely use CrossFit for cardio. I give some CrossFit-esque routines in Cardio Sucks. Lighter weights, circuits, etc.

      You’re an experienced lifter at this point and know how to avoid the overtraining and injury issues, so you’re in the minority when it comes to the CrossFit crowd.

  • joe

    Biologically speaking, if that thing enhances your chances of genetic eternity it is good. Honestly, It doesn’t look like it does.

    • Michael Matthews

      Longevity is good, yes. :)

  • Steve

    Great article as always. At one time I would have fallen for all that
    BS. Now, thanks to your books and website I’m a bit wiser (and injury
    free). I’ve read a lot about how dangerous P90X plyometrics, and plyo
    in general can be too. It’s amazing how people are easily duped. (Me
    included!)

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Steve, I’m glad you liked it. I’ve actually not read about the dangers of plyo work. Feel free to link me!

      • Steve

        Will do when I get home from work. :)

        But as a summary: it’s to do with the amount of foot strikes (landings) that pro’s do in a session (I think less than 40) compared to these amateur workouts that have you doing hundreds in an hour. It’s injury territory especially as there are no instructors there to watch their form. Also, apparently it’s something that won’t make that much of a difference (if any) to non-athletes. I’ve read even the Navy Seals avoid plyo training because the risk of injury to benefit ratio is too high (although I’m not 100% on that – I would need to verify it).

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah I could totally see. Interesting. Please do share the studies if you can dig them up…

          • Steve

            No sorry. I think you misunderstood. I only know of studies that show a mild benefit from doing plyo. I’ve just read from other training ‘pros’ that have voiced their concerns over the liberal use of plyo in home and amateur fitness programs – hence my summary. However, if you read the safety concerns on this wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plyometrics you’ll get my point (I hope).

            The Navy Seals comment I can only find on forums – so it could well be BS.

          • Michael Matthews

            Ah right. Yeah plyo work basically sucks for building strength and muscle, but it’s okay for just generally staying fit.

  • skg

    I found that my upper body strength decreased after doing crossfit for a month; I couldn’t bench press or do as many pull-ups as before;

    • Michael Matthews

      That was probably due to over-training and/or under-eating.

  • Martin krueger

    Crossfit is a great Sport and need a lot of Dedikation for endurance and weightlifting Sessions . This is the only Way to perform a WOD in a Good and healthy Way. I am a rower and icehockeyplayer and Take the best Crossfit Elements to Support my other Sports. I also do not need a Coach in Front jelling at me so i do it Most of the Time alone. 90 % in a Gym are also Not Real Sportsmen or Woman so this is the Case for Most of the People in a Crossfitgym aswell.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Martin, I’m glad you’re liking it. Keep it up if you’re doing well!

    • mim

      Its not a sport. Its trying to be the best at exercising.
      90% of people aren’t real sportsmen? Nice statistic you plucked out of your rectum.
      What is the definition of a “Real” Sportsman/woman?
      I looked it up for you “a man who engages in sports, especially in some open-air sport, as hunting, fishing, racing, etc. ”

      You just said crossfit is a sport so if they go to a crossfit gym, by your logic, they must be a sportsman/woman?

      What level of a sport do you have to participate to be a “Real” sportsman. It says you are a Rower and a Ice hockey player. Obviously you don’t Olympic row and play in the NHL?

      so why would 90% of the people at the gym not play a local club level sport? This statistic is improbable. Or are you suggesting that a club level sport participant is not a “Real” Sportsman/woman?”

      • jimbobv2

        So is Olympic weightlifting not a sport?

        Or is powerlifting not a sport?

        What about strongman?

        CrossFit competitions are just another variation on these sports, IMO.

        • Michael Matthews

          Agreed.

  • Edmarc Else

    Ive been doing crossfit and multisport (triathlon) for awhile since its big in the military.Ive seen some performance gains but not as exponential as many crossfit fanatics claim. After doing in depth research about sports medicine, muscle physiology and Mike matthews books, I found a better balance of doing my workout routines. In my experience, doing the majority of my workout based on traditional strength and cardio routines definitely helps in getting fast times in crossfit WODs and on top of that shows better results in terms of physical aesthetics. I would go for 4 days of straight of traditional strength and cardio training (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) do a day off (Friday) and do two crossfit workouts on Saturday (one WOD in the morning at 0600 and one in the afternoon at 1800) and take Sunday off. I just use crossfit as a time trial of my overall fitness synchronizing different muscle groups in my body to work together in doing functional fitness. I do light weight crossfit wods during my deload week or replace my cardio routine with crossfit if i decided that week to do more wods. I am more careful on how much weight I lift in crossfit because it is easy to mess your form in crossfit when you reach you fatigue threshold. You dont have to go for the prescribed weight in the WOD if you cant do them with proper form for the recommended amount of reps. I try to avoid the hit the wod hard till you puke motto in crossfit since the acidity in vomit is very harmful to the tissues that line upper GI tract which could lead to absorption issues and other related GI problems. Even up to this day I am still looking for a better balance for putting crossfit in my routines. I only do it for competition with my friends. Most of the Marines that I know that thrives on athletic ability follows traditional strength and cardio routines and putting a day or two in a week doing crossfit. Crossfit is fun but I personally think that it is OVERHYPED by most followers.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great comment Edmarc!

      I think what you’re doing makes total sense. I would do the same just for fun and for some cardio.

  • Dauri Kowitz

    Great article!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

  • AJ THEODAS

    Went along for three sessions during my deload week and must admit I enjoyed it!! Will go every couple of months when it’s time to take a break from heavy lifting!! Great stuff again mike. Was hopin you would do an article in crossfit!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Ah yeah for that purpose it’s totally fine. Another BLSer-turned-powerlifter does CrossFit for his cardio. He just doesn’t hit heavy lifts and treats it as HIIT.

      I was talking with a bikini competitor today that does the same. Her instructors get mad that she “doesn’t take her CrossFit seriously,” hahah.

  • Danno

    The kipping pullups are the absolute worst fake Crossfit exercise. The “cult” members try to justify how hard the exercise is by posting pictures of their bleeding palms on social media to justify how much of a warrior they are, when in fact they have just rubbed the skin off their hands from the kicking momentum used to do the fake pullup. If they did real “strict” pullups, they wouldn’t have this problem… Have you heard about the Crossfit cure “flossing” Mike? Google that one for a good laugh:)

    • Michael Matthews

      Totally agree. Kipping is just ridiculous. I bet the guy in the video I link in this article would struggle to get 20 proper wide-grip pullups.

      Strange on the flossing. Seems dumb but who knows it might actually have merit. Would have to see if there are any studies on it…

      • Junction_Boy

        I’d take that bet. Challenge Chris Spealler to a pullup contest.

        On kipping pullups: is the gymnastic kip on a bar just a “fake muscle up” or is it a totally different movement? They have the same start and end points, but the path and musculature used to make the journey is different. Think about it. Maybe ask a gymnast. Is the jerk a fake press or a different movement? Same starting and ending points. Draw the analogies. You may still dislike the kipping pullup as a strength and conditioning movement, and some in the crossfit community would even back you up. They’re tough on the shoulders. But fake? Why does using hip drive instead of arm strength make something fake?

        You should definitely look into flossing and the rest of Mr. Starret’s mobility program. It’s good info, and his book is an excellent read.

        • Michael Matthews

          Hahah kipping pull-ups are just silly. One should do pull-ups to get stronger, and kipping pull-ups are HORRIBLY inefficient at accomplishing this.

          I’m into Starrett’s work. Just don’t know anything about flossing. And I’m sure it has little relevance for the average gymgoer.

          • Junction_Boy

            They aren’t for developing pure strength. They’re used as a conditioning movement. CrossFit programs typically use weighted or L pull-ups for strength development. Also, you don’t have to look very hard to find applications where hip drive assistance is useful for pull-ups. Check out the salmon ladder on American Ninja Warrior. Who’s going to be better at that: someone who only trained strict pull-ups, or someone who trained both strict and kipping?

            Don’t speculate, go learn about it. You might be surprised. Or you might think it’s silly and write another article about which we can argue. :)

          • Michael Matthews

            Haha the average person doing CrossFit will NEVER scale the salmon ladder in their lives, nor would they want to.

            They’re working out to build muscle and get lean and strong, and kip-up pull-ups suck for this.

  • Marissa Georgiou

    Thanks Mike. Literally this week I’ve been contemplating joining a xfit gym. Then I saw the price… Twice as much as a traditional gym membership! And restricted hours too. One of the reasons I thought about joining was to make some fitness friends but I’m not sure about the cult status either :) I think I will stick to bodybuilding and powerlifitng :)

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah the prices are outrageous. The power of marketing for you…

      Stick to proper lifting, diet, and cardio, and you’ll be able to do whatever you want with your body.

  • Danno

    Crossfit gyms also have no mirrors in them by design. Squat’s without mirrors to check your form is a recipe for disaster.

    • Michael Matthews

      Good point.

    • Stuart Cullinan

      Although there is an argument to say that mirrors can also contribute to poor form. Eg: Contrary to popular belief deadlifts should be done with your head in a position that keeps your spine straight. Keeping your head up to check form prevents this. That said I do find mirrors useful for form checks if you r training alone or starting out.

      • Michael Matthews

        You can’t really check DL form with a mirror anyway. You’d need to look to your side… I kind of like having a mirror in front of me when I squat just so I can make sure I get low enough.

    • CRN DPT

      If you can’t squat with good form without a mirror you have no body awareness and are going to hurt yourself in the gym.

      • Danno

        Absolutely, all beginners should squat without mirrors , so that when their cf coach goes to help the other 35 people in the gym oh wait. ” box ” they can blow there back out when the lose their form. Brilliant cf troll logic:)

        • Michael Matthews

          Hehe.

      • Michael Matthews

        Very true.

      • Michael Matthews

        I like to have a mirror because sometimes when I’m going heavy my perception of the bottom changes. I think I’m getting below parallel but I’m barely making it.

        • JS

          I can’t stress the importance of mirrors enough. I just saw that comment about how CrossFit gyms don’t have mirrors. SERIOUSLY – olympic lifts, deadlifts, squats, no mirrors? That is just stupid. Mirrors are what keep you in check, just as Matthews just mentioned, ‘when you go heavy sometimes you think you’re getting below parallel but you’re barely making it’ – this is incredibly true. Most peoples form deteriorates after each repetition, it’s almost instinctual for our bodies to do this to protect our muscles from overload or excess strain – a mirror helps you ensure that you are maximizing the effect of those 4-6 reps.

          • Michael Matthews

            100% correct. Thanks for sharing.

          • Tobias P McSnerd

            Not really. Mirrors often distort the integrity of your neck and back and disrupt proper form, especially on squats and deadlifts. People vastly overestimate their utility for self-checking, because they are only getting a front view, thus fooling themselves about mistakes visible from the side. It can also delay development of proper form based on kinesthetic sense, not visual feedback.

            Proper form in back squats and deadlifts is keeping your chin slightly tucked and entire spine neutral, not craning your neck to watch yourself in the mirror. This means you will be looking at a point on the ground some feet ahead of you at the bottom, and straight ahead at the top. Re-targeting the gaze when you transition helps with form, just like when ballerinas keep snapping their head around to the forward position to keep their balance.

            If you are having trouble squatting to proper depth, a much better solution than a mirror is cork yoga blocks. Stack them up to the desired height between your heels and tap them lightly with your butt at the bottom. Most people need to focus on keeping the feeling of their weight in the heels and keeping their knees out, not looking at their butts in the mirror.

          • Michael Matthews

            A front mirror won’t mess with your neck. Trying to look to the side can, of course.

            But yes I agree that ultimate you need to learn what a proper rep feels like. You should be able to squat and deadlift with your eyes closed.

            Regarding depth, I’d recommend a mobility routine over that:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-improve-flexibility-and-mobility-for-squatting/

          • Tobias P McSnerd

            If you are craning your neck to look forward while your spine is at an angle, that is a neck distortion. If you leave your neck in that position at the top of the squat, you’ll be looking at the ceiling. That’s not a neutral spine. Neutral spine means neutral all the way up to your head, which is why you should be looking at the floor 10+ feet in front of you at the bottom of a squat.

            The extreme way low-bar squatting powerlifters due it actually causes chronic neck problems. Try reading advice from a real experienced coach like Rippetoe or Jim Schmitz. Using a mirror not only distorts the spine, it is the wrong kind of feedback. The ultimate goal is to memorize the FEELING of squatting properly, not fostering a lifelong dependency on looking in the mirror. Kinesthetic feedback not visual feedback.

            Using a box or blocks as a depth gauge while squatting is a completely separate issue from a “mobility routine”. The latter is about making it physically possible to achieve a full squat and might take years, the former is about making sure your form is right while you are actually squatting. I have been stretching in the squat position for 10+ minutes per day for over a year, AND using the blocks to make sure I squat to full depth. I suspect I’ll keep doing both for at least another year.

          • Michael Matthews

            Not sure what kind of gym you’re in but mine has floor-to-ceiling mirrors, so you don’t have to look forward. You look at your crotch.

            Extreme low-bar squatting is silly unless you’re powerlifting.

            If by full squat you’re talking ATG, it may take that long. If you mean parallel, that should take no longer than a month or two if you can’t do it right off the bat. Most people can.

          • Tobias P McSnerd

            Try putting a baseball or tennis ball under your chin to keep your neck in a neutral position while you squat and see where your eyes naturally look. Unless you are extremely upright or front squatting, it won’t be your butt in the mirror. The number one error I see when people squat, by far, is people hyperextending their back because they are looking at themselves in the mirror. However, as I said repeatedly, the main point is not the spinal distortion, it’s the fact that using a mirror for visual feedback is unequivocally the wrong way to learn a physical skill.

            My observation of people at gyms differs greatly regarding common squat flexibility. Almost everyone I see who attempt ATG flexes their lower back at the bottom because they go too deep. Most of the rest can’t make parallel and are hyperextending their upper lumbar and staring at themselves in the mirror. As to how long a stretching program takes to get there, I make no claims about most people. It took me nearly 6 months of 10+ minutes of stretching in the squat position per day to clearly make parallel, and 6+ more to get down another 2 to 3 inches. Didn’t you just admit above that you often don’t make parallel without using a mirror as a crutch? How do you know how long it takes to achieve ATG?

  • Joe

    Another great book I have along with BLS, Body by Science, bash Crossfit a big time. I don’t know if It is to quote it legally. Any hint? If I can I will.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Joe! I’ll check it out. Yeah you can quote from it. Fair Use.

      • Joe

        These programs certainly require high levels of exertion, and engaging in them will produce some elements of fatigue, along with some weakening of muscles and some metabolic effect on the systems of the body, but such activities are not typically performed in accordance with muscle and joint function. As a result, while these activities can cause you to produce a lot of metabolic work and a lot of metabolic by-products of fatigue, you will not necessarily be achieving efficient muscular loading and recruitment of motor units, accompanied by the subsequent weakening of the targeted muscles. Therefore, they are not a particularly potent stimulus for positive adaptation or growth. Moreover, you are also accumulating huge amounts of force in the process of their performance, which can lead to injuries to your joints and connective tissues—most notably, your knees and your back—and put you on the path to the development of arthritis.

        Little, John R.; McGuff, Doug (2008-12-17). Body by Science : A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week (pp. 54-55). McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.

        • Joe

          He continues saying that a cross-fit workout is preferred by our organism as it does not require a 100% contribution from any muscle group but much less percentage from multiple muscles groups at the same time. That means that the energy expenditure in an cross-fit workout is over as soon as the workout is completed, leading to sub-par results.

          By the way, McGuff bashes “cardio” training even more than cross-fit training!

          • Michael Matthews

            Hmm well by that then wouldn’t he be saying that compound lifts aren’t as good as isolation? (Which would be wrong.)

            What doe she say about cardio?

          • Joe

            In fact he advocates for the top compound exercises but performed up to failure. But he is all about health and not about getting ripped.

            I bought his book thanks to this conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PdJFbjWHEU

            About cardio, he basically says it does not improve health nor the cardiovascular system. The experiment quoted is an eye opener:

            “An elegant study was performed in 1976 in which the experimenters recruited thirteen subjects and trained them on a stationary bike. However, they had them train only one leg; the other leg wasn’t trained at all. The trained leg employed a sprint and/or an endurance (steady-state) protocol. The subjects performed four or five such workouts per week for four weeks. After the study, when the researchers tested the subjects’ VO2 max by having them repeat the exercise with the trained limb, they noted an increase in VO2 max of 23 percent. This low-intensity, steady-state exercise was supposed to produce a central cardiovascular adaptation, but when the experimenters tested the subjects’ untrained legs, they discovered that the untrained limbs showed no improvement in VO2 max at all.”

            Little, John R.; McGuff, Doug (2008-12-17). Body by Science : A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week (pp. 39-40). McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.

          • Michael Matthews

            Interesting, thanks for sharing.

            There’s nothing wrong with training to failure, but how many sets you should do to failure per workout depends on total workout volume, and the rep range with which you are working in matters a lot. Training to failure in the 4-6 rep range will work very well for building muscle and strength, whereas training in the 12-15 rep range to failure won’t.

            Regarding cardio, hmm I’m not sure how he can dismiss cardio altogether based on that study?

            A good article on the subject:

            http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/sorry-science-says-running-good-you-not-bad

        • Michael Matthews

          Totally agree. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jonathan

    I think our experiences with the people in Crossfit differ, as I’ve met some great crossfitters who don’t follow it as a cult of any sorts. Aside from that, great points here. I like to do Crossfit once or twice a week for cardio but I stick to WODs with lower weights and more focus on rowing, sprinting, etc. I also have a client I am training right now who always wants to do Crossfit, but his main goal is to gain strength/size. So I throw in Crossfit-style training on Saturdays but have him on a more traditional plan throughout the week!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Jon. it sounds like you’re using CrossFit correctly–avoid over-exertion and injury, and treat it as a fun way to get in cardio. Good call with your client!

  • André Itami

    Great article, Michael! The ads just say how good can it be but don’t tell us about overtraining and injuries.
    Thanks for advice us and give your opinion.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Andre! I’m glad you liked the article!

  • Floyd Lerdahl

    I come from competitively racing and coaching triathlon and specificity is everything. Meaning if you wanted to get better at something you needed to focus specifically on that thing like maximum endurance, muscular endurance (sustainable speed/effort), swim form, etc…
    Similarly with weight lifting if you want to get stronger focus specifically on those things that will make you stronger. Like deadlifts, squats, and other compound exercises.
    Crossfit tries to be the opposite of specific and make you work on everything at once. The result would predictably be mediocrity at everything, excellence at nothing.
    Also I lose sleep over those pull ups. So terrible.

    Great article!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Floyd! Great comment and you’re totally right.

    • CRN DPT

      Kipping Pull Ups are not in any way fake like mentioned above in the article. I think one of the main pushes that CrossFit has made is sticking to functional movements. Lets face it-bicep curls are not functional, along with most isolation moves. Our lives are filled with complex multi-joint compound movements. Rarely do we do any movement in a straight plane other than in the gym. How is a Kipping Pull Up functional you might ask? Well-its athlete based and simulates movements that a lot of athletes make during performance. The goal is to go from a position of high stability, break the chain and move from global flexion(bending) into global extension, and then land back in a position of high stability (which looks like your typical neutral spine athletic stance)- all the while maintaining core stability and correct positioning. A few examples are a volleyball serve, a dunk, or a quarterback or pitcher throwing a ball. On top of that- I would venture to say that 80% of most people who do pull ups do so with improper form anyway with a wildly arched back (breaking neutral spine while lifting is NOT OK PEOPLE!!!!). And also.. if you can do 15 strict pull ups I challenge you to try 15 CORRECT Kips. You will find yourself wearing out around 7-8 reps. And as far as injury goes that is not Cross Fits fault. People lack proper mobility for most of the moves but fail to realize that which leads to injury. Not to mention a completion oriented society. People would rather do 100 terribly formed reps, than 10 correct ones. Anyway, sorry for the rant. Just my two cents worth. Posted this above just thought you might like to read it as well.

      • Michael Matthews

        Ehh 99% of people doing CrossFit will never perform those movements outside of the gym…

      • JD

        I hear you !

      • JS

        First comment on the site but I had to say something here. Someone who can do 15 pull-ups with proper form could, honestly, easily, do 15-100 ‘kips’ they’re called. Also, I do not see the benefit of putting unnecessary strain on the joints (wrist, elbow, shoulder – prime suspects for injury even in regular pull-ups) without maximizing the utilization of muscle groups targeted by a pull-up. See, I’m not a professional weight lifter but I train effectively and have been meeting my targets in the way that Mr. Matthews advocates and can tell you just by looking at a ‘kip’ that this movement is at least 50% momentum based. In fact, it employs so many aspects deemed incorrect for proper pull-up/chin-up form, that I am incredulous that people perform these.

        I imagine most people who enjoy kips are intimidated by the difficulty of real pull-ups/chin-ups. I remember being at the gym only being able to do 2-3 pull-ups per set. Sure it was embarrassing at the time, incredibly challenging and demoralizing. But once you get yourself to 10 per set and more you realize just how much you’ve gained and can not only feel the increased muscle efficiency, contracting and power but see it in the mirror.

        Kips look like a recipe for:

        a) if you want shoulder injuries
        b) if you want a wrist injury
        c) if you want a back injury….
        d) if you want to underachieve on training your lats/arms
        e) if you have chickened out of trying some real pull-ups
        f) add potential elbow injuries into the mix here, I’m not 100% on that but from a visual I’m going out on a limb here.

        I am generally a huge supporter of anything that gets people involved in exercise, even if it’s not the most effective form, because in North America we are plagued by low levels of fitness. BUT in this case, I would go even more extreme than Mike Matthews here, I think CrossFit is terrible. It’s not only a ineffective training routine but also it’s financially a poor investment and can often yield negative/dangerous results. It also promotes methods of training that are simply wrong and will usually leave people more demoralized about their fitness level than when they started.

        I will leave you with these few examples as to why you should really think twice about CrossFit:

        1) Olympic power lifters do not train with CrossFit. They exercise extreme caution when preparing for their lifts and take enormous rest periods, often times well above the 3 minute recommendations. Why? Because large, compound lifts are VERY challenging and dangerous and require form, focus and a lack of fatigue to execute properly (and to ensure you reap the benefits).

        2) Hockey Players (who utilize a huge amount of strength, cardio, aerobis and flexibility in their sport) do not prepare with CrossFit. If CrossFit was the ultimate in general fitness to cover the broadest spectrum of physical challenges, wouldn’t each NHL team have this as their primary training camp? Actually they focus on traditional weight lifting + cardiovascular and mobility training on separate days.

        3) Any video you see regarding CrossFit includes plenty of un-healthy, unfit people, training to levels of fatigue that their untrained bodies can’t possibly recover from. A proper weight-lifter CAN work his/her muscles more, your body and lean mass are designed to take more stress. Someone joining CrossFit is not at this stage and will never get their as the level of muscle breakdown is too extreme and yields the loss of lean mass. That’s why 4 months later, those unfit people at CrossFit are either in the same state they were before, perhaps lighter and honestly, weaker, OR they aren’t even there at all any more because of how awful the regimen makes them feel on a daily basis and the minimal or negative gains have deterred them from exercise altogether.

        4) Cost – it’s expensive and if you took the $150/month you spend on CrossFit and just got a regular gym membership ($50 bucks) and took that other $100.00 and added it to your grocery budget to invest into high-quality whole-foods you would be better off.

        5) In-fact to follow-up on point 4, I challenge anyone considering CrossFit to simply skip the exercise altogether and JUST try a proper, whole foods diet geared toward healthy weight-loss and you will likely yield better results than your CrossFit friends and certainly be healthier, as long as you walk places.

        Sorry for the rant but – CrossFit gets me going.

        • Michael Matthews

          Great comment thanks for posting. I wholeheartedly agree.

      • http://www.freshbrands.co.uk/ London Media Agency

        Doesn’t cross-fit encourage the completion of high numbers of poorly performed reps and a ‘completion-oriented society’? Whereas, traditional weight training is about performing relatively low numbers of reps, at a relatively slow, safe cadence with correct form… (One of the key points of the article above).

  • Jeff

    I weight train and do Jiu Jitsu 6 days/week and just added xfit into the mix.
    Its really great for cardio. It also gets me targeting a few muscles I wouldn’t traditionally hit.
    I specifically joined as I love making new friends and xfit has a great supportive community.
    I made 3 friends in my first xfit class whereas I may make 1 a month while training with weights.

    I find that if I listen to my body everything is fine and I don’t get injured.
    The coach where I go is knowledgeable and has helped me with my squat technique.
    If I hit something especially hard at xfit then I just dial it down a bit when working out at the gym or vice versa. I eat quality food/supplements and always take a rest day if things aren’t feeling good. Its up to me to look out for myself.

    I think that anything that gets someone doing exercise is good thing.
    Even if someone may get a better result with a strict structured regimen of cardio / weightlifting not everyone copes well with structure and gives up. A supportive community where they are exercising even if it may not be optimal is better than getting bored and giving up and going back to being a couch potato.

    My goal has always been to find exercise that I love so I will stick to it.
    My personal list is weight lifting, Jiu Jitsu, and now xfit. For others it may be cycling/swimming/running.

    Nice article though Mike as it points out the good and bad of cross fit.
    Many of your points could be made for several different sports.

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome Jeff, keep it up. It sounds like you have a good coach and crew.

      I totally agree that CrossFit fulfills a need. I actually didn’t write this article to convince people to never do it, but to understand its drawbacks, and to have realistic expectations (you’re not going to build a ton of muscle and strength doing it).

      Keep up the good work!

  • Bean Counter

    I lifted for a good while, but I am a typical hardgainer. I started Crossfit and have noticed some great changes. The gym I go to pushes you, however they will stop you if your form goes bad. They also scale it for your ability. I can’t do handstand pushups yet, so I do modified ones. All it is is a combination of lifts we’ve been doing with years combined with agility work. As far as the kipping pullups are concerned, I can do 20 plus strict pullups, and always have since high school. The kipping ones are about intensity and continuous movement, it’s just a different form of the exercise. It doesn’t replace pullups.
    Mike, I have two of your books and I did follow them. They work, I just don’t like to run for thirty plus minutes anymore (cross country and the army killed it for me). Just remember, when you trash crossfit’s commercialism, you should be looking in the mirror. You are in the fitness business attempting to get people to follow your workout routine and you do it through marketing. If you don’t like crossfit that is fine, but don’t bash them for marketing just like you, (websites, books, blogs, etc.) Mike Matthews is a brand, just like Crossfit.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you hear you’re enjoying CrossFit.

      I honestly don’t see any reason to do kipping pull-ups, but 20+ proper pull-ups is impressive. Nice!

      I’m actually not bashing CrossFit for their marketing. It’s what I most admire about the brand actually, haha.

      • CRN DPT

        Kipping Pull Ups are not in any way fake like mentioned above in the article. I think one of the main pushes that CrossFit has made is sticking to functional movements. Lets face it-bicep curls are not functional, along with most isolation moves. Our lives are filled with complex multi-joint compound movements. Rarely do we do any movement in a straight plane other than in the gym. How is a Kipping Pull Up functional you might ask? Well-its athlete based and simulates movements that a lot of athletes make during performance. The goal is to go from a position of high stability, break the chain and move from global flexion(bending) into global extension, and then land back in a position of high stability (which looks like your typical neutral spine athletic stance)- all the while maintaining core stability and correct positioning. A few examples are a volleyball serve, a dunk, or a quarterback or pitcher throwing a ball. On top of that- I would venture to say that 80% of most people who do pull ups do so with improper form anyway with a wildly arched back (breaking neutral spine while lifting is NOT OK PEOPLE!!!!). And also.. if you can do 15 strict pull ups I challenge you to try 15 CORRECT Kips. You will find yourself wearing out around 7-8 reps. And as far as injury goes that is not Cross Fits fault. People lack proper mobility for most of the moves but fail to realize that which leads to injury. Not to mention a completion oriented society. People would rather do 100 terribly formed reps, than 10 correct ones. Anyway, sorry for the rant. Just my two cents worth.

        • odie

          “…bicep curls are not functional..” yea, because bringing any type of drink or food to your mouth, or picking up an object and bringing it closer to your face for a closer look is not any way a curling movement…and no, a kipping pull-up is not functional, unless your idea of functional is flopping around like a fish out of water, and HELL to the NO for kip pull-ups simulating Any of the “examples” you give. Well, it could remotely simulate a jump serve in volleyball, but even then, as with dunking, a squat thrust or burpees would be a better exercise to simulate those. As for anything throwing, how does your fish flop even come close to a movement that is comprised mostly of rotating from side to side at the hips and pushing off of one foot while stepping forward with the other.

          “And also.. if you can do 15 strict pull ups I challenge you to try 15 CORRECT Kips.” BAHAHAHAHAHAHA, you must be a comedian. Well, If you can do 15 “CORRECT” kips, I challenge you to do 1 REAL and CORRECT strict pull up.

          I can tell, from your entire post, that you’re face deep in the butt-crack of the crossfit cult.

          • Michael Matthews

            LOL

          • http://batman-news.com Castanucci

            you need you shoulder to be in motion, when you eat or drink something from your hand, which a bicep curl does not offer.

        • Jesse

          I’ve been coaching football for most of my life and can attest that if my quarterback ever did a “Kipping” pull up, he would be cut on the spot.

          • Michael Matthews

            Hahaha

        • Smokemifyougotem

          People all over the planet do bicep curls every day. Try to pick up a shopping bag without a bicep curl. Pick up a book. Bicep curls happen all the fricken time. Bicep curls can even assist your strict pullups. Kipping pullups being functional is absolute nonsense. Nobody does them. Nobody anywhere does anything like a kipping pullup. It’s basically a promise of a rotator cuff injury or labrum tear. Where is the benefit? Glassman incorperates it because the range of motion is longer than a strict pullup and with his faulty logic it therefore increases the work required to do one. Increase the work capacity and you’ve increased the fitness, he says. What a buffoon. The man knows sweet bugger all about human biomechanics and neither do you. You can go ahead and shuddup now.

          • Michael Matthews

            Lol

          • Brian

            This is unbelievable. Kipping pull ups are NOT used for strength. They are used during the WODs for high intensity anaerobic conditioning. Strict pull ups are for strength. People need to stop bashing kipping pull ups when they don’t even know the full story. It drives me crazy.

          • Michael Matthews

            Would rather do sprints.

  • disqus_vJHUfI3yub

    I have been lifting for a long time and doing the traditional routine, but once in a while just to shock my system I will do a crossfit class. Maybe once or twice a month, some months I don’t do any. Just when I am feeling like I am not progressing, or just want a change.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah I understand that, and don’t see any harm in it.

  • Elcapix

    This is the best article I have ever read about cross fit, I will print it and will carry copies with me, I’m sick and tired of these people that believe they are God because they do 100 pull ups.
    Excellent article…yayyy

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha thanks! 100 FAKE pull-ups at that. ;)

  • EJ

    Who’s the hot chick doing BB lunges? If CrossFit gyms are filled with women like her, it might be worth the risk!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahah

  • Andre K

    Wow Mike I think you’re reading my mind lately! The timing of this article and the one on eating healthy on a budget has been a little creepy for me haha! I was making great progress by following your books for about 3 months and then I let myself lose focus. Although I was doing great, I got greedy and wanted to get back to where I was and beyond but FASTER. I was just about to start Crossfit while still following your nutritional principles. In the back of my mind though I was worried about doing it on my own and comprimising my form. After reading this, I’m pretty sure that I would’ve soon injured myself. Probably would’ve cracked my head open thinking I could do handstand push ups or something like that which I’ve never done before.

    Crossfit says that its about elite athletics and I think thats very important. I imagine that Crossfit is a compliment, a lot fun and a great test for people that have already mastered a vast portion of the gauntlet of traditional strength and cardio exercises. But now I feel silly for considering it as a replacement for traditional lifting and I feel sorry for the newbies that are choosing to start with Crossfit first, ouch.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha thanks Andre! Glad you liked the articles.

      I’m glad to hear you were making good progress. Let’s get you going again!

      And yeah, I agree that CrossFit is probably a fun challenge for people that are already big and strong, but it’s just not a good way to get there.

  • Pat

    I’m a firefighter/paramedic, and I Crossfit 3 times a week, and mix in running some weeks, and lifting heavy other weeks. It is the best form of exercise for my profession, in my opinion. In effect it has made me an occupational athlete. Just as a football player trains different from a basketball player, this training mimics the type of crazy stuff that we do. It’s not for everybody, but it’s for people that aren’t looking to be a powerlifter, or endurance runner, etc. ironman training goes along great with Crossfit as well. I don’t want to be really big in my profession, a lot of guys think they should be, but it doesn’t serve you well. I’ve been a firefighter for 20 years now, and I put guys in their 20′s to shame. The “injuries” isn’t really fair, in the respect that, people constantly get injured when they are out running, lifting etc. If the coach you have running your Crossfit workouts is good, you’ll be just fine, just as if you have a personal trainer that good versus bad. I like your insight in your articles, and while I think this one has insight, I think it misses what Crossfit was originally for, Police, Fire, and military. And for these professions, it is what is needed, so we can train for our “sport” IE profession. Thanks Mike!! Keep up the great work!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Pat! I’m glad you’re liking CrossFit, and I totally understand where you’re coming from.

      Regarding injuries, while I’ve personally never seen so many injuries as I do with CrossFitters I know and come across, the scientific truth is the protocol makes you injury prone whether you like it or not (trying to hit heavy Oly lifts when you’re fatigued).

      Keep up the good work!

      • Dan Bice

        Running has probably one of the highest injury rates of any sport. As much as 70% of participants are predicted to become injured as cited here https://www.aapmr.org/patients/conditions/msk/Pages/runfact.aspx.

        All sports have the potential to injure you if done incorrectly. I ran track and cross country for 8 years but had knee problems when trying to increase my milage until I finally learned HOW to run. No coach taught me that. I learned that on my own, partly through my discovery of Crossfit Endurance. I hope to run my first marathon this year (provided I can afford it) and intend on using Crossfit Endurance to get me there. It can be a valid training regimen and it def produces results. I ran my first 10k two weeks after I started training for it using the methods outlined by CFE. My advice, don’t knock it till you try it. Only then can you see if it will serve you in pursuit of your goals.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks for the comment Dan! I actually don’t know much about proper running as biking has always been my cardio of choice.

  • Austin

    Love the article. I have trained and loved crossfit training in the past but as once a week (with mirrors) and always sticking to form more than getting the reps. I think as you said, its hugely important for the trainer to be good. Ours would assess our lifting weights during the workouts and change it accordingly helping us to keep our form at utmost importance during the workouts. If we did a rep with bad form, he’d make us repeat the rep. That being said, i think overtraining is there if you do several times per week and without full recovery. I am also a hater of the fish pullups as some people i know have called them. Bad form is just a cheaters way to get to the finish. The results will show and some crossfit guys are ripped in the gym i went to.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Austin! Glad you liked it.

      That’s good you had a trainer that knew what he was doing. Unfortunately that isn’t enough to overcome some of the inherent downsides of CrossFit.

      • Austin

        Agreed. For me, it sits in the same category as marathons and other demanding events, to be done once in a while to challenge yourself. Long term of regular relentless assault like that doesnt work so well for me too.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah I can dig that. I would go to a class for fun just to see what I could do, but I would never make it my main source of exercise.

  • Badge

    Crossfit uses bodyweight exercises, olympic weightlifting, rowing that has been around since i don’t know when…theres nothing new to it…people sometimes don’t have the motivation to exercise and they need other people or a group to push them to regularly exercise….in my opinion, that is what crossfit does. There is nothing new and revolutionary. They combined traditional exercises and made it into a sport that invites more injuries. If simple controlled weightlifting exercises done by professionals and olympic weightlifters can sometimes injure themselves in the process, how much more if an average person doing power cleans under time pressure will.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup, the exercises themselves aren’t the problem, but the exercise PROTOCOL is.

  • Fahim Khan.

    Interesting article Michael.

    I am grateful that you shared your views upon this matter.

    My experience with crossfit was short 3 months. I used to attend only once a week for private training. Trainer used to monitor and organize my training according to my needs. During rest of the week, I did my own strength conditioning circuit training, just to cope with once a week gruesome crossfit workout. First 10-15 minutes was warm-ups and stretching, then around half and hour of power training of 6 reps of 3 sets. Then last 10 minutes were circuit training. I was never looking forward for the last tens minutes but at the end I enjoyed it. The trainer taught me how to do olympic lifting and dead lifts. He made sure that my form was perfect. I think this was the benefit of one on one training. If I was training with the groups, I would not have get this much attention from an instructor to get a perfect form.

    There is one thing that I was doubtful of was paleo diet regime. Crossfit gyms are so into it and believed it to be ultimate diet. It is not even orthodox paleo diet as they have changed the diet over the time by adding more carbohydrates in the meals. I felt that they do not understand that the tribal people of america, they were comparing us to, did not have surplus of food as us and also they had very active lifestyle, hunters or farmers.

    At the end of these three months, I was getting leaner and stronger. My trainer made sure that my form was fine except for those pull up, lol. I could not continued due to exams, sickness and my trainer could not schedule a private session for me as they got so busy with kids crossfit. :(

    By the way, there tournaments videos and documentaries have full of exceptionally fit and leaner guys which makes people attract to these gyms.

    There are few problems:
    1. Where are their evidences behind their workout regime?
    2. What college qualifications do these instructors have to be eligible to be a trainer and be a nutrition adviser? Is it recognised? Or they just have a diploma from the crossfit HQ?

    Michael, thank you very much for writing this article as it helped me to see things from different perspective.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Glad you liked the article.

      I can totally see the benefits of working with someone knowledgeable on a one-on-one basis. Unfortunately most people can’t do that.

      I’m going to write an article on Paleo soon. The short story is it’s a generally healthy way to eat, but the historical aspect is flawed and the avoidance of things like dairy, certain grains, and legumes isn’t really justified.

      I eat fairly Paleo simply because I eat a lot of meat, veggies, and fruits, but I also eat grains and legumes.

      The big guys in CrossFit are on drugs, and have been hardcore weightlifters for quite some time. They didn’t achieve their physiques doing CrossFit (nor naturally).

      It’s terribly easy to get certified as a CrossFit trainer, which is part of the problem.

      • Pedro

        On drugs? You are just talking trash about them, so that you can get your point… that’s not the way to go… don’t like it? don’t eat it…

        • Michael Matthews

          When people can deadlift and squat the same amounts as advanced chemically enhanced powerlifters, they can’t claim natty. End of story.

          • Pedro

            Sorry, but your point is stupid, can’t respect you…

          • Michael Matthews

            Lol

          • Paul Clay

            Not quite. The numbers top Crossfiters put up are respectable, but by no means close to the top power lifters. Check out the stats on games.crossfit.com and http://www.usapowerlifting.com/rankings2010/. The drug thing is another conversation, but making sweeping generalizations about “big guys” in Crossfit is poor form.

          • Michael Matthews

            I didn’t say top powerlifters, just “advanced” lifters. Meaning they have several years of lifting under their belts and are competing.

            And if we want to drop powerlifter and replace with bodybuilder, that works too. :)

  • Engin Burak Anil

    Thanks for the article Mike! In the last section of Rippetoe’s strength training book there is a reference to some actual statistics on injuries per sport. I would love to see how crossfit compares to other sports in terms of injuries.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Engin! Yup, good point. There are quite a few studies that show how low the incidence of injuries are with traditional weightlifting. The fact is if you know what you’re doing, it’s a very safe activity.

  • James Marshall

    Great article Mike. Id be interested to see your thoughts on TRX Band training if you have any?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks James! I think the TRX system is useful if you’re on the road and can’t hit a gym, but it’s not going to get you big and strong.

  • Pingback: The Definitive Guide to the Paleo Diet | Muscle For Life

  • BBLubin

    I appreciate the reality check that the article presents.

    I’ve been doing Crossfit for just 4 months now and really enjoy the variety and challenge of the workouts.

    Thanks for reporting seemingly factual and well-rounded information.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Really glad you liked the article, and keep it up if you’re enjoying it!

  • Doug

    I did crossfit for awhile and found exactly the above. Overtrained with my fitness goals NOT met or even approximated, plus it’s expensive. Plus you get everyone’s ego/high school cliquey ness going and then you really have recipe for injury.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup, that’s par for the CrossFit course.

    • garek007

      Yeah F cross fit…. 150 bucks a month for a mish mash of exercises I could come up with myself for 40 bucks at my local gym

      • Michael Matthews

        I guess if you have a crowd you like and a good coach it could be worth it.

  • Kim

    Interesting read. I have been crossfitting for 3 plus years and have never had an injury. I feel like you make a lot of generalizations. How many Crossfit gyms have you actually been in? In our gym it’s very common to see people using a PVC pipe during a WOD that involves some sort of lift and I have never seen anyone puke. Than you comment on fat overweight people. Well maybe if we check on these people in a year you will find that they don’t look so overweight anymore. Do you make fun of overweight people at a normal gym? People have to start somewhere. All that being said people have to find what works for them. And that to me is the beauty of fitness. There is no one direct way to get there. As long as people are up and moving I think it is great. I do agree with core weakness being a problem in CF. Look at most crossfitters, upper abs and developed and not the lower. No activation of the TVA. Crossfit isn’t perfect, but show me a workout program that is.

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great you’ve been doing CrossFit for 3 years without injury. keep it up.

      I’m not making fun of all CrossFitters in this article–just the ones that think that they’re better than the rest of us (and you have to admit–there are a LOT of CrossFitters that think like this).

      I totally agree that CrossFit is one way to get fit. And I’m sure it’s fun!

  • IowaObserver

    Crossfit is a nice concept because I believe if people are are least trying to better themselves then that is good for them. However, Crossfit is kind of for those “all star” high school athletes who never made anything more out of their ability. It brings them back to a time when popularity and rewards were based on athletic performance and achievement. I wouldn’t recommend Crossfit for the very nature that it focuses on faster and much more repetitious movements rather than form and muscle building. Final note to go with my opinion of crossfit; the girls…they become almost gross to a point because of their muscle mass. It’s not the cute muscle mass that girls get from other exercises, it’s like college linebacker muscle mass..

    • Michael Matthews

      I agree on all points. And regarding girls, the issue isn’t really CrossFit but it’s building muscle without also getting lean. It just makes them look bigger…

  • gjansen

    While you do make some decent points about some “cross fitters” who are over the top with their belief, I also think you are full of crap. Look up some of the top ranked athletes from the CrossFit Games. I can almost guarantee that they can run circles around you when it comes to overall fitness and strength. Not only are they strong, but they are lean and big as well. It doesn’t matter what you do for fitness. With the right diet and adequate exercise anyone can get big, strong, and lean.

    • Michael Matthews

      Lol you mean the top-tier drug beasts that lift weights for a living? Yes, they are more fit than I am.

      Feel free to address any of the actual points I make in this article…

      • Bruno L

        Shall we also mention that the athletes from CrossFit Games are:
        A) Athletes
        B) Also lifting regular weights and following a regular program

        Someone who does nothing BUT CrossFit will have absolutely no place in those games, I know this from experience as a friend competed and he hits the gym even more often than he does CF.

        • Michael Matthews

          Very true.

    • Russ Vanover

      Every person I know that does Crossfit gets injured so much they cannot keep their training consistent. Also, as Mike pointed out, the science clearly highlights that Crossfit is a good way to stunt your progress if that is all you do. I’ll go one further and say that most of the people that I know that are ‘avid’ kinda have a cult like mentality about it.. They ignore all the science and dangers of chronic overtraining.

      • Michael Matthews

        Yeah, everyone I know that consistently did/does Crossfit has sustained at least one injury serious enough that it kept them out of the gym for 4+ weeks (usually knee and shoulder stuff).

        Some do get REALLY defensive.

        • Peter

          That’s funny – I belong to a gym of 80+ members for 2.5 years and I’ve never missed time to injury. There have been 3 or 4 members who have been injured, less than the injury rate on my high school cross country team. You must know people who go to a gym with bad coaches, but I suffer less injury now (none, so far) than I did with every other sport I’ve ever competitively participated in (cross country, snowboarding, track, skateboarding). You don’t have to like CrossFit, but not everyone there has a crazy fitness goals, and so we don’t care if it won’t make us the fastest or the strongest, it does make us faster and stronger than we were, while feeling better. Most of us like to go blow off some steam and do so in a communal environment, and then go home to our family.

          • Michael Matthews

            It sounds like you have good coaches, which is great. I hear you on what you like it. Makes total sense. Keep it up.

    • mmafan3 .

      Many of those athletes were strong and in shape before crossfit, not as a result therof. Also, handstand pushups between bars during a competition??? Ouch!! Honestly..Overall fitness? These guys are good at well, Crossfit, not much of anything else.. I just hate to even imagine the montage of injuries many of these folks will have down the line. I used to do CF but got out when my “box” started doing off the wall crap and injuies started creeping in. I now train hard, but smart, which is an adage that CF doesn’t seem to adhere to. One thing I do notice about most CF followers is that even the slightest bit of criticism sends many of the faithful into a tirade. What up with that? The man, Mr. Matthews wrote a critical, yet respectul and objective piece supported by evidence, yet you still attack him.

  • evilpinkloli

    I think the benefits of Cross Fit have a lot to do with your coach. After learning about Cross Fit for two years and becoming bored out of my mind with my running/P90 X routine, I recently signed up at a gym. My coach is awesome. He didn’t pressure me to get a membership. He told me to decide for myself after a few freebie classes with him. He constantly reminds us how important good form is. He makes us time our rest periods between sets (2-3 minutes). He modified my exercises because of shoulder surgery I’ve had. Injury can occur with any exercise regimen. But obesity is a much larger threat, IMO.

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great. I’m glad you’re doing well with it and have found a good coach. It sounds like he knows what he’s doing! Keep it up!

  • Darren S

    Great article Mike. Just to put it out there, I have been doing crossfit for almost two years. As many other people have commented, the quality of coach is the biggest factor on strength, cardio and safety. I have heard horror stories of terrible and unsafe coaching, but fortunately have not been a part of that. You mentioned heavy olympic lifts in a fatigued state – seems to me that usually we would do mid weight lifts if we are pushing towards fatigue simply because form suffers and creates more of a potential for injury. When we are working towards a heavy one rep max or two rep max we take a couple minutes between lifts and focus on form. Either way, I see the crossfit culture and arrogance and dont care for that stuff. And my inclination is that people who are arrogant probably didnt become that way when they started crossfit, they’ve probably always been that way. I wont lift with bad form because I believe the proper technique will be more efficient in moving more weight safely. One other point I wanted to bring up that you didnt address, which is commonly overlooked, is the amount of stretching and mobility we do. We spend about 10 minutes stretching and foam rolling every day. Thanks for the article! Ack, one other thing: is over training possible working out for one hour a day 5 to 6 days per week? Considering the workouts are usually 6-15 minutes. Thanks for your knowledge.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Darren!

      It sounds like you’re doing it right with the weights. Keep it up!

      Good point on the stretching and mobility stuff. That’s very helpful.

      No, you should be fine training for an hour per day, 5-6 days per week. Just make sure you get enough sleep and food, and I do recommend 1 full day of rest per week (no exercise whatsoever).

  • Junction_Boy

    This article is one straw man argument after another.

    1. The blurb you provide is not the full definition of fitness according to crossfit, it is but one of three. Glassman needed an 11 page PDF to definte the term for purposes of crossfit.
    2. Crossfit is not billed as a way to get strong OR fast OR idefatigable. It’s about AND. Yes, training for endurance blunts gains in strength and vice versa, but we’re not talking about training for strongman or for a marathon… the research you cite is not appropriate. In fact, Glassman cites and discusses that very same study in a discussion of fitness and the limits of human potential.
    3. On overtraining and injury, you ignore the concept of (and need for) scalability. You wouldn’t take a beginning powerlifter and set them doing 500 pound deadlifts or a beginning endurance athlete and have them run a triathlon for their first training session.

    You are certainly not obligated to like or promote crossfit, and I realize that it’s not good for your business for crossfit to do well, but your dishonesty (whether intentional or due to ignorance) is offputting.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment!

      I pulled the definition from Crossfit.com, and here’s how it’s presented:

      “He [Glassman] was the first person in history to define fitness in a meaningful, measurable way (increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains).”

      Sorry but I’m not seeing the “first in history” revelation here. In fact it’s just a poor definition.

      2. When I lift weights, I’m doing it to maximize strength. When I do cardio, I’m doing it to maximize cardiovascular capacity. Keeping them separate maximizes progress.

      Combining them might be fun, but it’s less effective in terms of actual results, that’s all.

      3. The #1 most common issue people write me about with CrossFit is overtraining. Those that do well have great coaches, which can be hard to find.

      Lol CrossFit has absolutely no effect on my business.

      • Junction_Boy

        Of course you pulled that definition from their web site. As with any straw man argument, your position is bolstered by quote mining. The 11 page pdf I mentioned is available for free on the crossfit journal. Anyone can read it and see that you aren’t presenting the full picture.

        Those studies don’t support your position. They clearly show that strength and endurance training interfere with each other, and it is easy (and correct) to make the leap that if what you want to do is increase strength any endurance work will limit your gains, but they don’t support your assertion that training them in separate sessions while trying to make gains in both is more effective than training them in tandem as many of the iconic crossfit workouts do. You also conveniently overlook the fact that crossfit.com programming includes both pure strength days and pure metcon days.

        I actually agree with you on #3. People are often stupid, and that includes strength and conditioning coaches. However, it’s not like overtraining suddenly became a problem with the advent of crossfit.

        “Lol CrossFit has absolutely no effect on my business.”

        You wrote an article about it…

        • Michael Matthews

          Understood on points #1 and #2.

          Honestly I think you’re taking too much offense at the article. I’m not anti-CrossFit.

          I just don’t think it’s the fitness end-all that many people believe it is, and if your goal is to build muscle and get lean as quickly as possible, it’s NOT the way to go.

          Rephrase: CrossFit doing well has no negative effects on my biz. :P

          • John

            Seems like you just made an article on Crossfit to surf on a trending topic and attract people on your blog. Which is fine, except when it’s only parts of the picture.

            You calling out people offended when someone points out the fallacies in your article is just poor defence. You should spend less time at the gym and more time researching what you’re actually writing about.

          • Michael Matthews

            Wut?

            I didn’t call out anyone. I addressed each of his points and he never responded.

        • John

          You just hit the nail on the head. As for most blog writers, laziness is a common trait when writing articles about things they actually didn’t bother to fully research. Garbage in, garbage out.

  • Glen G Harrison

    My brother is always trying to get me to do this. Iv done it with him a few times and just didn’t enjoy it. I enjoy just lifting weights the old school way. But he just thinks its the greatest thing out there. Thats fine but like i said to him if i don’t enjoy doing it then whats the point. But its just in one ear straight out the other lol.

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m the same way. Different strokes different folks. :)

  • David

    While I’m not into crossfit so much, I just read an article by Clarence Bass arguing that mixing aerobic and anaerobic exercise is fine:

    http://www.cbass.com/Weights_Aerobics.htm

    Best,
    David

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for sharing!

      My only question with the McMaster study is how it would have gone if they would have used active, or ideally resistance-trained, men instead of older, sedentary men that will make “newbie gains” no matter what is done.

  • Christian

    I’ve only been doing crossfit for 3 months now, but i know that it isnt exactly how the undertone of this article makes it seem. It isnt perfect, but it sounds like you just havent been to a good gym. I signed up for Muay Thai at Trans fitness in longmont colorado, and Crossfit was just a perk of joining. It’s great, the instructor is awesome, and form goes before ANYTHING. Like mentioned above, PVC pipe is used A LOT. You have to kind of graduate from using the PVC pipe in order to move on to the actual weights just to assure that you have good form. I just dont want any readers picking up on the slightly negative tone this article carries. Crossfit is a good way to change your life in the way that you REALLY learn to push yourself to your limits. Again this may vary with your instructor.
    Anyways, interesting points in this article. Very well written and a good read overall. Thanks Michael!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for commenting Christian!

      The instructor makes a HUGE difference. A good one can make CrossFit safe and enjoyable, a bad one can make it dangerous and unbearable.

      Keep up the good work!

  • Illysa Hamlin

    I am so tired of CrossFit snotty people. You didn’t even get on them for only working in the sagittal plane of motion. I officially have a crush on you, this article rocks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha thanks, glad you liked the article. :)

  • architecthis

    do you have any proof of the competitors using roids? Just curious, I’d guess that they are using too but I was wondering if any have been popped? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Well some of the top-tier competitors lift more than record-holding natural powerlifters and have FFMIs outside the natural range, so that’s about all you need to know…

  • mitchnva63

    Wow, Mike, looks like you really opened a proverbial can of worms with CrossFit supporters. My only question is why they are on your website if CrossFIt is the real deal. I am not knocking CrossFit at all, no more than other programs. Hey if it works for them that’s great. I was just curious why they would be reading articles on your site. I have friends that are in CrossFit and I am cool with whatever works for them. I think what makes CrossFIt fun for people these days is that it is not bodybuilding but more of pushing the limits. I can see where that would appeal to many, plus, the groups. I figure it just leaves more weights free at the gym…lol.
    Keep up the great work Mike. I think reading debates on these type of subjects is really good. It gives people a chance to express why or why not something like CrossFit is for them. Besides, as a personal trainer, I see people killing themselves in the gym everyday because they are too afraid to look stupid on how to execute a certain lift. Worst offender: Squats, 2nd: Deadlifts.
    But on a final note: Do what you love and can be passionate about!!!
    Mike, thanks again as always for a great article.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha yeah I figured it would go that way.

      Many people doing CrossFit are interested in health and fitness in general, so they may like and agree with some of my articles regardless of this one. :)

      And yeah, I’m not even saying CrossFit is terrible–I just don’t think it’s as amazing as some people believe.

      Yup I have to witness the atrocious squats and deads too. I try to help sometimes but some people don’t want to hear it…

      Thanks a lot for your support!

    • Austincop

      As a former cop (10 years), who has spent plenty of time in regular gym sort of workouts, running until I puke (in police academy because we had to) and an avid martial artist for two decades, I can forthrightly say that CrossFit has put me in the best shape of my life (I’m 47). I thought I knew how to squat, clean, jerk etc – but the excellent coaching I’ve received during my workouts has shown me proper form. My belief is that staying humble and simply wanting to be fit and strong is key. As has been previously stated, good coaching is key. I travel frequently across the US in my work as a security consultant and carefully choose the CrossFit facilities in which I work out. Some suck – just like some gyms suck – just like some people suck. Great coaching and understanding the concept of scaling within a WOD is very important.

      Realizing that this sort of workout is designed/intended to make one generally strong and “functionally fit” with great aerobic/anaerobic balance and true staying power and mental toughness is also important. Any cop, firefighter or paramedic who actually has to be prepared for anything and anyone at anytime will appreciate what this workout routine and culture will do. It increases mental toughness, it makes you strong and flexible and gives you the edge in true life or death situations, which -no offense- most of the people writing here have never experienced.

      I’ve not found a more balanced means to achieve fitness and longevity.

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks for the comment!

        That’s awesome you’re doing so well with CrossFit and I agree that the coaching is the key.

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  • abdul

    fuck crossfit

    • Michael Matthews

      Lol

  • Kasialo

    Haters gonna hate..

  • Dean

    Firstly, I wanna say, that everyone has an opinion about Cross fit men and women.. Secondly. yes it does changes lives.. I was a regular “gym” guy and there are so many political things that people bring up about Cross fit, versus working out… It don’t’ matter what you do, when you do it, how you do it… as long as you are healthy, and not I guess “roiding” it up.. it changed my life and I have never had an injury yet.. but I have an excellent coach.. I am not a beast like Jay Cutler, nor am I a Rich Froning.. I am me and I know what works for me.. Form first everything else follows.. My coach can tell if I need to change something… Yes it is a competitive sport.. but not at the expense of what everyone else is saying… I liked the read… Its an opinion just like everything else out there.. Some people wish to argue it more than others.. because they are entitled to.. Just like I am saying now… I prefer Cross fit to doing boring gym days with friends.. Cross fit is fun with friends.. and like I said.. All that matters is that you are DOING something and not sitting around on the couch or not working out.. doing something that challenges you will also change you.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! That’s great you’re doing well with it and have a great coach. That’s the key.

  • John Nicholl

    crossgay!!!!!!!!!!

  • DannyK
  • DannyK
    • Michael Matthews

      Hahah

  • Sam Gonzalez

    I have been doing traditional weight training for about 8 years and have gotten to try crossfit just lately. I agree at some points on this article that the nature of cfit being a continuous high-intensity training over fatigue is very bad esp. for muscle gains and makes you prone to more injuries; my solution here however is combine cfit with traditional weight training as a workout with 1-2min rests in between, some without. i actually do not know what to call it now lol but i never gave up on the traditional workouts / circuits which helped me build the muscle and strength i have now to do crossfit workouts.

    I also believe cfit should NEVER replace traditional workouts, esp. when your goals are aesthetics. I do weight training 2x a week, cfit once a week and running once a week, all separately.

    and yes, got injured in crossfit lol

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup, that’s the smart way to go about it. Ironically it kind of just turns into a weightlifting workout though, haha.

      I totally agree that Xfit doesn’t replace traditional lifting if you want to get big and strong.

      Arg, hope the injury wasn’t bad.

      • Ryan

        Traditional strength training with crossfit wods in the latter portion of the day = gold for me. I enjoyed the article but some sections screamed out as biased…which negates from your intentions in my opinion. I totally agree with you. Crossfit is nothing new…it is military fitness turned into a fad.

        • Michael Matthews

          Awesome Ryan, I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you.

          And yeah, I think the co-founder of CrossFit was a military guy who now hates what Glassman has done with it? Lol.

  • Rymanwho

    Good article. I have seen the crossfit ethic. Do a so called special forces workout and suddenly you are now an elite warrior. My friend was doing crossfit for a month and was clean and pressing 50kg. 2 weeks later he goes for 100kg and breaks his hand. We are Police Officers and he ended up staffing a front counter for 6 weeks. Not smart. I regularly see pics taken of crossfitters attempting lifting feats with everyone else standing around clapping and filming etc. Reminds me of the guy in the gym lifting 20kg too heavy so the ladies will see.

    • Michael Matthews

      Shit I’m sorry to hear about your buddy’s hand.

      Yeah, that’s when Crossfit becomes dangerous. Heavy Olympic lifting is risky if you don’t know what you’re doing.

  • SR

    What I find most troubling about CrossFit is its disconnection from reality, and the attempts of its zealous adherents to talk over actual reality. Jivamukti yoga, to take a parallel example, is a neat workout, that by itself would leave someone very poorly prepared for most sports — and that’s ok, I don’t see Jivamukti yoga teachers saying that it by itself is a great way to train for, say, skiing or wrestling.
    The elite in sports that CrossFit claims to best prepare people for — say, amateur wrestling, NHB and BJJ, boxing, etc. — don’t follow CrossFit workouts, because it would poorly serve them. You find Xfit and HIIT adherents, instead of saying, Hmmm, what do they know that we don’t, claiming that wrestling coaches and boxing trainers are stupid and “teaching their athletes to be slow” because of the low-intensity training that they have their athletes do as one portion of their training. You have Xfit and HIIT adherents talking about their being “5k specialists” because they run an 18 min 5k — never mind that 18 min wouldn’t rate as good for high school runners, much less for adults. Alpine ski racers spend a lot of time on a bike training aerobically? Again, rather than examining what those geeky Austrian trainers with lots of academic degrees at the end of their names might know, you get zealots saying ski racers are doing it wrong.
    On most places that allow public discussion on the web where Xfitters post, the multiple voices from these zealots can make reasoned discussion impossible. They also seem to not mention all the fallen Xfitters, particularly the shoulder injuries that many will carry around for life.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great comment!

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  • dbt3481

    I started this with a Level 1 individual trainer about 6 months ago. I was very skeptical but he keeps slowly raising the bar for me. Style, form, technique are all very important to him. If I get out of form he works it. If I remotely get injured, game over for the day or however long it takes to heal. We then focus on other exercises that isolate that injury.

    That said I went from 171 lbs of fat slob to the best shape in my 53 years. My cardio is out the roof and I did a WOD and learned the same WOD was performed on a local sports team the next day. I did the routine with heavier weight (you choose the weight you want) than the majority of team members did and they were complaining about it being to tough. I did this at at least 2X their age.

    I still have a long way to go to get my form right for power lifting. The biggest issue for me is flexibility and some shoulder arthritis.

    So my take is, yes, it has risks and it is not for everyone. There is a lot of hype. However, my experience with it has been outstanding and I am committed to continuing. I have found that the scaling is vital. Know your limits, listen to your body.

    From the “for what it is worth dept”…

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great that you’ve found a good coach. That’s really the key to being able to enjoy CrossFit.

      Keep up the good work. I’m really glad to hear you’re doing well.

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  • António Alves

    Hi Mike,

    I think my mom is going to get a gym membership, however it is highly unlikely she will be lifting any weights. Since this article clearly doesn’t recommend crossfit, what group lessons would you think would be good for her to join? I think group lessons would be more motivating, and would create that group effect that would motivate her to go to the gym. Personal trainers are too expensive, and it’s a waste of money to pay a guy to watch you run for 20 minutes; even though I’d feel more confident that she was lifting with safety, and I’d always be wondering if he/she is asking her to do 15-20 reps of an exercise i.e. no results.

    I’m also afraid she might hurt herself or feel bad . I’m concerned that Crossfit will be so demanding that it will be very off-putting. What should I do/recommend?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Michael Matthews

      She could do CrossFit IF she has a really good coach. That’s the key. CrossFit gyms are pretty expensive too though.

  • Sam

    Mike, I’m doing crossfit for 3 months now and really enjoying it. But understand all the points. I have a great coach too and they are correcting my form all the time, and I never overtrain, always use my limit in liftweighting and stuff. Can you do crossfit AND another exercise together? One for the fit and fun and another to get bigger? Like go to the gym and stuff in parallel?

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great Sam. A good coach is the key, so I’m glad you’ve found one.

      Yes you can do them together BUT you’ve got to be careful about overtraining. For instance, following my BLS program 5x per week AND doing CrossFit will be too much, but following a 3-day version of BLS that has you doing 6 sets of 4-6 reps per major muscle group per workout and doing CrossFit could work.

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  • Chase

    It sounds like you got laughed out of a CrossFit and are venting on your “fitness blog.”

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes Chase, that’s exactly what happened.

  • Guitar Man

    Tell the crossfitting nation about Navy SEAL hell week, in three days, half of the population of crossfitters will be gone, by the end of the week they’ll be extinct. And gyms everywhere will bring all their bent bars to an altar and burn them to the pagan gods of iron as a tribute for removing the plague. JK guys, crossfits great!
    You wanna see some real athletes?!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlDY-D5mCwo

    All I can say is screw kettle bells….

    • Michael Matthews

      LOL in all fairness I think Hell Week would wreck most all of us…

      • Guitar Man

        It would. CrossFit would actually be a great prep for it though… that and an Iron Man haha. I remember learning about CrossFit before it was the rage, I was told it was used by military and police forces. It has a great following now, but I don’t like to think it was ever anything really new or revolutionary. It’s just another form of training like GVT or HIIT, that just so happens to have a brand name, and Saturday afternoons on ESPN. Like GVT and HIIT I do see a purpose for “CrossFit.” You can’t re-invent the iron though, it will always be the same… Resistance to be overcome through force.
        Great article by the way!

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks! Glad you liked the article.

          Yeah, Xfit probably would be a good prep for it. And yeah, you’re totally right–it’s not new. I read that the military guy that co-founded really doesn’t like what has come of it.

  • Tryingtobefit

    I’m not sure if this thread is still monitored but I was verify interested in what you were saying about mixing cardio and weight training which I am guilty of. Do you know are there any adverse effects of doing them at separate times on the same day? Say cardio in the morning weights in the evening? Any help would be greatly appreciated

    • Michael Matthews

      Hi!

      From the research I’ve seen, you AVOID the negative effects of combining strength and cardio training by separating them.

      Personally I like to lift in the morning and then I do 20-25 min of HIIT cardio at night, 3x per week. I do this at home on a recumbent bike.

      Hope this helps!

  • sky

    Thanks for sharing. I see most of the comments are from a male point-of-view. I’m female so wanted to offer my thoughts. I think each person chooses what works for them. I played tennis for 10 years and just reached burn out and needed a change of pace. So I decided to try CrossFit. I’ve been going strong for 9 months. I’ve never lifted weights in my life and was intimidated but I went and love how it has transformed me. I am 47 so I’m not looking to enter competition but just look and feel better in my clothes and be “healthy”. A friend of mine hadn’t seen me in 4 months and said I looked incredible. I wasn’t overweight. I was what they call “skinny-fat”. Now I’m tone and stronger. Everything is shifting. I listen to my body and if I’m tired I don’t workout that day. I think it is a great workout for females. I think men would need to do more if they are looking to bulk up. I’m 5’3″ and a size 4. I don’t lift huge weights. In fact I can only thrust 30 lbs. But I started out with 10 lb. dumb bells in the beginning. Not only has it been great physically for me but I have gained confidence too. My coach is great. He knows my limits and when to bump me up and helps me stay in proper form. Cardio is included in our WODS as well. I know it’s not for everyone and it also depends on your fitness goals. But if you can find some form of exercise that works and keeps you moving then go for it. I don’t have the discipline to workout on my own so this works perfect for me. Lifting weights is not just for boys. :)

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment Sky!

      I totally agree that CrossFit has its merits and is especially workable for women looking to add some muscle definition and lose fat. Having a great coach is a HUGE part of what makes it work too.

      Keep up the good work!

  • LG

    CF is all encompassing to push your mind and body to limits you never imagined. With decent coaches there are no injuries. Injuries occur when newbies come in the box aka gym and think they know everything because they run or lift weights at a gym. CF is learned and with practice you gradually add weight to the bar and become stronger and faster. Quite honestly , it’s more mental than anything. Again , with proper training and a good coach , CF will take you to the next level physically and mentally. It’s not a fad, it’s a way of life. One should try it and not be so judgmental before even experiencing it.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you’re doing well with it!

  • stophatindude

    Crossfit can give you access to work on weightlifting technique from good instructors at very reasonable price. Agree that it totally depends on the people at each specific gym.

    I like your site and have purchased product from you — and I do crossfit because its fun and I get good instruction. Maybe my results aren’t as fast as another program — but results have been good anyway and I do get a good workout no matter what. To each his own. Quit the hating, its just a turn-off. Its still a healthy endeavor.

    • Michael Matthews

      Honestly most Xfit gyms I’ve seen were not reasonably priced ($150-200+ per month), but yes if you have a good coach, you can do well.

      Thanks a lot for your support and keep up the good work. I’m not generally against CrossFit, but there are definite issues I have with how it’s marketed and how easily one can get licensed as a coach.

      • stophatingdude

        Brings up good discussion point: how much should some good instruction cost.

        I have only been doing crossfit for a few months and there are so many small technique things which can help every time I go do power cleans or squats or whatever. My crossfit gym has also offered good nutrition advice. Your BLS book and this website have also been great in understanding nutrition better.

        I personally like having a professional instructor in a class atmosphere because having someone point a few things out is nice — but someone correcting every little thing gets annoying.
        My Crossfit gym also has some special classes like ‘Barbell Club’ and ‘Strength Focus’ — in addition to ‘Open Gym’ so you can work on technique or go for specific strength if you want to on the side. $150 – 200 is a lot more than the $30 a month you get at typical 24 Hour Fitness — but when you break it down per class, its about $15 a class — and you get ‘some’ professional instruction — which is valuable.

        I would love to only pay $50 a month to get ongoing pro instruction — but that doesn’t exist.

        • Michael Matthews

          I totally agree that paying for good instruction is worth it, but do keep in mind that many CrossFit gyms simply don’t have good instructors. In fact they have instructors that lead people to injury by pushing them for PRs and such.

          • Will WOD for Bacon

            Once again you are assuming. How many CrossFit boxes have you personally visited and critiqued? Would you share which ones you have observed have poor instruction? I agree that they do exist, but your comments lead one to believe there is nothing good about any of them. It seems you can’t help yourself when responding…

          • Michael Matthews

            80%+ of the people I know that have done Xfit for extended periods of time (3-4+ months) have gotten hurt trying to push for PRs. It’s the knees, shoulders, or back, every time…

          • stophatingdude

            100% of the people I know that do mountain biking or play pick-up basketball get hurt once in a while. Separated shoulders, achilles injuries, ankle/knee etc… Sooner or later, you get hurt when you do hard core physical activity — that is life. If you fear injury — then take it easy and cruise —- or just walk your dog. Getting injured is not the end of the world. Just be smart. One thing my crossfit is especially good at is warm-up exercises — then doing something that isn’t that strenuous as first activity — and then when you get to something like deadlifts, do especially light weight for warm-up etc. If after all that you push it and still get hurt — such is life.

          • Michael Matthews

            Risk of injury needs to be taken into account though. CrossFit performed under a bad coach is much more likely to get you hurt than pick-up basketball.

  • Will WOD for Bacon

    After reading your article and several comments, I had to comment myself. I have worked out off and on for many years, but never found anything that fit me until CrossFit. My CrossFit BOX, not gym, is a wonderful sanctuary! My husband was doing CrossFit long before it became popular while deployed to Iraq and I wish that I had gotten on board years ago when he introduced me to it. It has made me stronger than I’ve ever been and the only injury I’ve had since starting 6 months ago is a sprained ankle from jogging!!!

    It is not true that we are encouraged to lift heavy from the get go. Our coach told us from the beginning that we would use a PVC pipe until she determined we were ready to advance in weight. That included my 6’2″ Special Forces husband! Every person I’ve encountered is so encouraging regardless if you are doing the WOD as prescribed (RX) or doing everything YOU can do no matter the type of scaling needed.

    CrossFit is a community that welcomes anyone and everyone. I’m always the oldest and slowest, yet I’ve had more than one true athlete tell me that I inspired them with my dedication.

    In my opinion, the traditional gym is the best place to get injured! Once you get your orientation you are on your own!! Super easy to have crap form and/or overtrain. You should be more open minded, because I have no doubt that one could find something inherently dangerous in what you do. Also, Rhabdo is not exclusive to CrossFit!!

    Try to be more respectful because you wouldn’t want a CrossFit Box owner to bash you and what you do.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! It sounds like you have a good coach, which is crucial.

      Research has shown that weightlifting actually has a very low incidence of injury. The easiest way to get hurt is to take too much weight and try to push through your body’s natural “defenses,” and people rarely try this alone–it’s usually spurred on by someone else such as a friend/lifting buddy or coach.

      • stophatingdude

        I have noticed there are 2 distinct classes at my crossfit gym. There is a very hard-core group that do the competitions — even if just local competitions — and then there is the mainstream crowd. If a person gets injured, then they stop going to the gym and gym income goes DOWN. Injuries are BAD for business — they do not want people getting injured so they tell everyone to never sacrifice form for weight. They don’t get a bonus every time you do a Personal Record — they will help you be hard-core if that is what you want — but the gym owners aren’t going to allow some trainer to push people too hard.

        I guess then it just comes down to who owns the gym as they are the ones finding, hiring and firing trainers. Given the community aspect to CrossFit, you are not going to last very long if you aren’t doing things the right way. It is self-policing.

        I am not saying crossfit is inherently better than pure weightlifing — I am saying the primary benefit is the professional WOD programming you get and equally or more important the professional technique tips you get.

        Most crossfit instructors or participants laugh about the days when they used to go to the gym with their hood on and earphones on so they wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. You don’t have to be social at a crossfit gym — but if you are that much of an introvert that you don’t naturally become friends when you are all lying on the floor in a pool of sweat at the end, then good luck to you in life.

        • Michael Matthews

          Great points. I totally agree.

      • halevi

        Agreed! I had a personal trainer for a couple of workouts and I kept telling that my shoulder was hurting and he kept pushing me to work through it. I workout by myself b/c I don’t want anyone pushing me AND I don’t want to feel the pressure (b/c of my ego) to impress whomever I am working out with. I focus better when working out by myself.

        • Michael Matthews

          Good call!

  • Jake

    What a load of crap! That has to be the worst argument against Crossfit I’ve ever heard! Your article is titled “Does Crossfit work?” Which you firmly seem to suggest it doesn’t but as Crossfit is made up mainly of Gymnastics, weight/power lifting and metabolic training, are you seriously suggesting that none of those work?
    Like it or not and you clearly don’t! Crossfit has pretty much redefined fitness training as a whole and made an entire industry change the way it thinks and approaches athletic development. FACT!
    The only reason I can imagine anyone would write an article like this is because they’re not fit enough themselves to participate in a CrossFit workout!
    Promote your own fitness interests as you wish but don’t try and discredit something you clearly know nothing about.

    • Michael Matthews

      Sorry to offend brother, but did you actually read the article?

    • anon

      Um, If Crossfit is a mishmash of “Gymnastics, weight/power lifting, …etc” then 1) how did it redefine anything? 2) made the entire industry change its views? What? First, like you said, crossfit is nothing new it just took traditional and effective training and mashed it all up and branded it and acts like it invented it all. Also, it is taking movements that gymnasts and olympic lifters practice and perfect for YEARS and tries to make average people replicate it at dangerous levels of intensity. Wow cult is right. FACT! lol

    • Ffapfapfap

      Crossfit is so ridiculous that most box trainers don’t do it. At the end of the day Crossfit introduced nothing. It changed nothing. A person would only think this way if they were completely ignorant of all the cross training people have been doing LONG before crossfit ever started throwing buzzwords around. Your blatant stupidity makes me sad.

    • NATASHA!

      Handstand pushups and dips on rings isn’t gymnastics. You can run around saying nonsense about doing things with virtuosity but at the end of the day crossfitters have ZERO gymnastic talent. ZERO. Please stop lumping gymnastics in with crossfit, they are worlds apart.

    • Ack!

      Did crossfit get you off the couch? Did crossfit change your life? Ok. I can accept that. But what about everyone else that was already heavily involved with fitness? Are olympians doing crossfit now? No. Are strongmen doing crossfit? Phh! No. Are ironmen and triathaletes doing crossfit to dominate thier sport? No. I’m a bit confused here little buddy. Where exactly did crossfit revolutionise the industry? They seem to have stolen the zoomba clients and that’s about it.

  • Devin

    “Crossfit is designed around the ultimate in light weight Olympic lifts to infinity. Crossfit is the meatspin.com of circuit training…its like the difference between building a house and being really good at putting nail in a board…there are top Crossfit athletes, but there on ESPN and S**t, they’re the 1%, its like joining an intramural church basketball league and expecting to be drafted into the NBA”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnjYyfkcaNI&feature=share&list=UUduKuJToxWPizJ7I2E6n1kA&index=3

    Good article, I’m not against it, if someone enjoys doing it and it keeps them motivated to keep exercising, all power to em, just for some reason the Canadian military wont put their stamp of a approval on it because of that whole rhabdomyolysis problem, and they instead recommend proper nutrition combined with a traditional cardio and strength training program. My personal opinion is that Crossfit is like being a jack of all trades but master of none. Whats the point? :)

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahahah guy is hilarious.

  • Cindi

    Have wondered about Crossfit as it is EVERYWHERE! thank you for the article on it. Think I’ll stick to weights and HIIT

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Cindi! Yeah, me too. ;)

  • herman

    My chosen sport is kayak racing. I hit the gym to improve my overall stability and specific strength so that I van get a few extra millimetres out of each stroke. I’m not there to pick up, look at myself in the mirror or sculpt a fine physique. I wouldn’t go near cross fit, the whole mentality of it (competitive “training”) and the claim that this manufactured ‘sport’ creates the ‘fittest’ (fit for what? Hanging out in a gym or posing on the beach) encourages those who jump from one fad to the next. Thank god my club has its own gym and I don’t have to listen to or watch these overblown dicks everyday. That said….watching the top people on ESPN is interesting, they sure move a lot of shit around.

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow cool! That must be fun. Overall body strength will definitely help you.

      Yeah the pros are beats for sure.

  • iggy

    I found crossfit when I was 240 lbs. at 48 years old, my trainer owner is awesome. I am now 50 years old and 125 lbs. lighter thanks to 3 x’s a week in the crossfit gym and a paleo diet, also, as a result of giving up a sugar based standard american diet of breads, pasta, dairy and sugary processed foods, all of my modern day illnesses, ie. diabetes, asthma, allergies and IBS all disappeared within 3 months of following a paleo diet before the weight loss even started to happen, which goes to prove that standard american diet is what is causing all of the diseases and illnesses we suffer from. My crossfit trainer never tells us to workout if we are in pain and they teach proper lifting form, flexibility and mobility and they won’t let us overtrain

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow great job, that’s awesome. Keep up the good work!

  • Piers E

    This is just more propaganda from the threatened gym industry and personal trainer clan who are scared about loosing more clients to a training routine that actually works. Yaaaaaawn

    • Michael Matthews

      Lol

    • halevi

      Crossfit is extremely expensive compared to a conventional gym. I know of gyms in my area that converted or are converting to Crossfit and tripling the price. Some of us don’t need a coach or a group to get motivated to work out.

      • Michael Matthews

        SO expensive!

    • Tommaso

      …And this (above) is just another hyper-defensive retort from a brain-washed minion because someone dared to question his cult. “Yaaaawn”.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yawn.

  • EmmettCooke

    I was reading your book last night and got to page 108 where you discuss not doing cardio and weights in the same workout. This got me thinking about Crossfit and what your stance on it was, which led to me this article of yours.

    I did Crossfit for maybe 2-3 times a week for around 8 months. I enjoyed it at first as I like the group dynamic, the structure and the competitiveness. However, what I really didn’t like was the “cult” side of it – people talking about Crossfit like its some game changer and a special group of people. Have you ever heard the joke, “How do you know someone is in Crossfit? Because they’ll tell you…” – I got bored of all the people yapping about it on Facebook all the time. Someone I know once said “Crossfit begins in the gym and ends on Facebook” – its very true.

    While I did make small gains over the time, I didn’t enjoy pushing my body beyond its natural pain/exhaustion levels, and often couldn’t go the next day as I was too sore or tired. The trainers were all super buff, but nobody in any of the classes were anyway “built” or “ripped” – only some people who came now and again that normally did weights fulltime and crossfit for a bit of fun.

    In fairness to my Crossfit gym, they were very big on form, and if you couldn’t lift a specific weight in the right form, then you dropped down to one you could lift with the correct form. I liked that the workout changed every day as the gym can be a little boring.

    I decided to quit before Christmas as I started doing some research on it and noticed how many people make good cases against Crossfit. Personally for me, it costs too much, its too “culty” and I think if I had of spent those 6-8 months just lifting weights and occassionally running, I would have made a lot more gains.

    Really enjoying the book – looking forward to starting into the new workout routine from your book :)

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and commenting Emmett.

      Yeah there are definitely positive things about CrossFit, but if you have a bad coach, it’s dangerous, and it’s most definitely not the most effective way to build a lean, muscular physique.

      Keep me posted on how you like my program. I think you’ll be really happy with how your body responds…

  • stronger

    hi there, great article. You say not to go to maximal exertion a few times a week or it may possibly lead to overtraining. In your BLS book, you state to do exercises for 3 sets and 4-6 rep range. Is that maximal exhaustion when you do each set to max capabilities/muscle fatigue? I dont understand that part of the book, am i supposed to lift my max effort for 4-6 reps per set? or should I do 2 reps less than I can actually do per set? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Good question. You don’t have to push to absolute muscle failure each set. I push until I struggle for a rep and know I probably can’t do another without help. I will go for it sometimes, but not always.

      • stronger

        thanks sir!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW!

  • Josh Barkley

    Written by someone who doesnt crossfit and quoting PHDs that never lifted more than a pencil . Your choic8es today are to strap on some headphones and walk into a corporate rat trap. Follow their rules, rules are on the screen above..no grunting, no staring no dropping weights.

    Crossfit gets results..Crossfit has mpetitions, crossfit is a mentor for the yiuounger crowd that has none for physical fitness.

    • Michael Matthews

      Okie dokie

  • Frank

    I enjoy crossfit and love it.. For me it’s more the environment and the people I do it with.. Do I think it’s the magic pill that solves everything nope. Do I enjoy it yep. Does it work for me yep. Does it work for everyone nope… The box I attend has a great logo above the door as you enter..check your ego..

    • Michael Matthews

      Great Frank, keep it up!

  • Michael Stevens

    Interesting discussion. I want to say a couple of things before I give my .02 worth. I believe much of this discussion is about Chevy/Ford/Dodge preferences. There are modalities to become fit and CrossFit is one of them. I (age 47) started CF 5 months ago, after using running to stay fit for years. I started to have knee issues this past year and decided to do CF on recommendation from my brother, a 2x veteran of Afghanistan.
    First of all, it kicked my trash, thinking I was in decent shape. I shortly realized I hadn’t increased in muscle strength over the years, but lost. My CF gym has about 3-20 in each class, depending on the time of day. Our instructor/trainer will watch each one of us, especially the old and frail (me) to watch form and weight for scaling the WOD. I have no more problems with my knee anymore.
    At times I’ll go with my brother to do CF workouts at the non-CF gym on the corner with him, it is often others will say, ‘wow, you just did in 20 min, what I do in an hour”. I smile as I walk out the door…with sweet on my brow. Yes, it is a rigorous workout, isn’t’ that what it’s meant to be? Nothing bugs my worse than seeing a person go from weight station to weight station with their little bottle of water/towel/headphones. I shake my head and wonder if they’re fit enough to do a WOD with me.
    My strength has increased significantly. I’m more agile and feel so much better. It reminds me of 2 a days from HS fball …now that’s over training. I go three times a week for an hour. I don’t over train, but work my butt off and get results.
    Truthfully, I like the generalist approach of CF, it forces me to work on my weaknesses; feel well-rounded in my fitness. 70% of the people there are just like me, working folks wanting results, not gym rats. Please note, there is also lots of research that says it works well and develops “fitness”.
    http://www.wellandgoodnyc.com/2013/10/23/how-effective-is-crossfit-new-research-on-the-workout/
    ….lastly, please delete posters like abdul, who have nothing productive to say.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for commenting Mike!

      Great job on the progress you’ve made. That rocks.

      I think CF, when done with a good coach, is great for general fitness. It’s not great for maximizing muscle growth and strength though. So it really just depends what you’re trying to achieve with your workouts.

  • MattHINF

    I find it funny when people start arguing in comment sections about what’s “best” between CrossFit and Body Building. Both worlds have the same goals but are completely different. CrossFit is basically for overall fitness. Which is why you could technically consider it athlete training. While Body Building is for the most part about Aesthetics. Looking good and bragging about how much you bench press or squat. I actually prefer CrossFit over traditional Body Building because I CANNOT stand doing the same workout multiple times a month. CrossFit changes it up everyday I go and I rarely do the same combination for exercises. Now to the nitty gritty truth. All the big guys, in both CrossFit and Body Building, are on Supps. Plain and simple. I, myself, don’t take supps because I believe it’s just a waste of money. Money I could spend on more important things like food or even trips to go rock climbing. The fitness industry has always been about pushing X supplement to get X result. The gym I go to has a Zero tolerance policy on people not being supportive or making fun of people trying to lose weight. The trainers there are decent size guys who recommend to not take any supplements and to just eat healthier. I will admit though, I think the Paleo diet is a crock of shit. I like my bread and cheese and even one of the trainers at my gym said that he doesn’t follow it because the workouts are so intense for him, he burns a lot of calories. This gym is awesome though. I’ve made a lot of new friends and everyone is supportive. Both worlds are vastly different but aiming towards the same goal, to become fit and feel better about yourself. There’s enough bashing of people in society, why do we need to bash someones workout if were all there for the same reason. (That applies to both CrossFit and Body Building.)

    • Michael Matthews

      Great comment, thanks for sharing!

  • Miguel

    CrossFit is a great program and I’m sure there are a lot of bad crossfit gyms that include many of these things spoken in the article however most of the coaches I have encountered encourage good form and scaling weight to something that is feasible for the individual.

    You can get hurt doing crossfit but you can get hurt whenever your lifting weights it’s just the nature of the beast.

    I also agree 100% doing crossfit alone will not allow you to realize your goals it’s up to the individual to isolate areas they must improve and work on them separately, I like to go in on my own and do low reps with breaks and find one rep maxes or just work out a particular area. However it’s also important to note that all crossfit workouts do not exercise you to exhaustion, it’s up to you and your coach to understand your body and it’s limits. Every movement can be scaled and modified to meet the needs of your body. The problem with most people is their ego and the fact that they want to lift RX which is the recommended weight and is often too much for most people but you can’t really blame anyone but yourself when you decide you want to lift what the next guy’s lifting just for your ego’s sake.

    Lastly kipping pull ups are not bad if you have the foundational strength in your pull ups. If you cannot do strict pull ups with ease you definitely shouldn’t be doing kipping ones. That’s why coaches ask crossfitters to use the bands when they are not strong at kipping pull ups. Watch me do 100 kipping pull ups and look at me afterward and say I didn’t get a work out. I will be drenched my arms will be sore, and I’ll feel great because I have strength in my lats as a result. Yes they don’t work you out as hard as a strict pull up but they’re not supposed to just like a push press to a regular press.

    It’s easy to hate on CrossFit when you don’t understand it but it really does have a lot of great attributes and it has taught me to push myself hard. It has also taught me that I can always improve and lift the unimaginable. When I started about a year ago I could only dead lift 180# and now I can DL 320#. I haven’t gotten injured and my body has transformed ten fold compared to the 5+ years before of working out on my own and doing my own workouts.

    CrossFit taught me a lot about proper form in Olympic Lifting and I am very grateful for it, in fact I think CrossFit is revitalizing olympic lifting because it was dying off prior.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! I agree with a lot of what you’re saying and definitely don’t think that CrossFit has no place or valid use. Keep up the good work.

  • Amy

    I have been following a strength training book on my own and gotten a pretty solid base of strength– had to stop and start it because of injuries (gotten from outside of the gym) and just needed something new so decided to try Crossfit. I am still figuring out how much I do or don’t want to incorporate it into my workouts and how much I do or don’t want to add on extra training. I think the comment about the coach is so true– just in my gym there is a huge difference. One guy is great- always pushes for form over time, makes sure he instructs and checks for good form from EVERYONE (from people that have been going there for years to newbies), is very knowledgeable about scaling, always encourages us to push ourselves but also respect our limits, etc. Another guy does push more for the time and the “harder” exercises, even if the full range of motion isn’t there. He never shows us the proper form unless someone asks. (After doing the WOD that he instructed us on, I ended up with biceps that hurt for a week but the rest of my body was just barely sore the next day). Another trainer is also very knowledgeable and was very good about stretching out our shoulders in different ways before we worked on pull-ups. I’ve only been doing this a couple weeks so I can’t speak to its effectiveness on its own. I feel that my strength training did make me stronger but Crossfit does seem to challenge me in a new way– I want to give it a fair amount of time before I make any assessments for myself. I will say that I think a lot does seem to hinge on the coach— the right coach could bring out the best of Crossfit and a mediocre coach could just as easily bring down the house in disaster (an injury provoking ineffective training disaster).

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great Amy. Keep up the good work and stay healthy. Injuries suck!

  • James

    I would think given the state of most Americans and their lack of daily activity any form of fitness would be encouraged. Just as a daily diet everything should be in moderation including your exercise. If you choose to do Crossfit or marathons all things have repercussions for the initial action taken. So why the big fuss over Crossfit, it is not as if every box makes you workout until you puke. Everyone has a limit and should know when their body is at it and should also know when someone is pushing them to far. I think people focus on the negatives too much and should encourage everyone to do some form of physical activity even if it is Crossfit. But that is just my perspective as a Crossfit lover.

    • Michael Matthews

      I agree. Bad Crossfit coaches are the real core of the problem. A good coach makes sure you don’t get hurt.

  • Kevin A King

    I agree that crossfit is not the best way to get fit. I believe that it is designed for those that like to get in the gym and get out. It is a way to get some weight training and HIIT cardio in about 30 minutes. Is it ideal? No. But is way better than doing 30 minutes on an elliptical 3 times a week. That routine is going to get you no where.

    • Michael Matthews

      I agree.

  • Jason

    Love how everyone that thinks CrossFit is so great is using scientific evidence to state why it is so great. Mike backs everything he says with evidence. Great article! Love the books too mate!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Jason!

  • Tommaso

    It’s ironic, the majority of the comments under this article from advocates of XFit, have the precise opposite effect to what i’m sure was intended. Rather than making right-minded people stop and reconsider the negative publicity Xfit has received, they firmly cement the view that (not all, but most) Xfitters are a bunch of brain-washed zealots and cult-inducted loons.

    There’s a fine line between dedication and fanaticism. Fanaticism is anything tends to be a deleterious. Perhaps less focus on expanding your muscles and more on expanding your minds might be in order.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha it is kind of interesting how passionately people will defend Xfit. Tribal instincts kicking in. :)

  • Matt
    • Michael Matthews

      So good

    • Joel

      Funniest shit ever

  • Christie

    Thanks for this article. I’ve been wanting to read “the other side” of this. The people that I know who do crossfit, look like they are going to absolutely die when they do any other program, especially cardio. This cannot me healthy, nor is it conditioning your body. If you are truly fit, you ought to be able to jump into any program and do it. Not just the 30 minute CF workouts. :/ Just doesn’t seem right to me, something is off…mostly, heart conditioning.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha well they should have decent cardio as CF is circuit weightlifting. That’s odd.

  • Reese

    Hey man great article – you might find this blog post interesting. The guy who wrote it was one of the first people to affiliate with Cross fit and is familiar with a lot the founding members. He talks about he and many others werE initially attracted to it due to disillusionment with Globo-Gyms (idiotic “trainers”, machines that promoted useless exercises or stuff you could do outside for free), and the back-to-basics conditioning approach that was there originally. He has some hilarious and insightful critique on the state of modern Cross fit and the “Crossfit Douchebag”.

    http://greyskullarticles.blogspot.com/2009/10/recently-ive-received-lot-of-emails.html?m=1

    • Michael Matthews

      Great article! Thanks for sharing.

  • RTWMatt

    I started Iron Tribe Fitness (basically identical to cross fit) 2.5 months ago after 2 months of exercising at home on an elliptical machine. It has been a life changer for me. I was overweight, and not healthy at all. After 4 months I’ve lost about 20 pounds, but I’ve probably lost more fat because I’ve put on muscle all of my clothes are too big.
    I found that working on my own, I would not push myself to a higher intensity. Cross fit does this for me. My goals are to lose weight, be more healthy, and get more muscle,definition but I don’t want to be huge. I’m not training for any sport or event, I just want to get fit.
    For me, cross fit is something I look forward to and enjoy. I’ve never enjoyed lifting weights, now I do. It gets me off the couch, to the gym, and gets my heartrate up.
    I also love the encouraging environment. Everyone encourages each other. Everyone knows each other’s name. The people who finish the workouts first cheer on the slow people like me.
    As far as injury goes, the coaches are always giving critiques, and no one ever encourages more weight if your form sucks. I use less weight than a lot of people, and never feel inferior because it’s such an encouraging environment.
    Again, for me, iron tribe has been a life changer. I’m healthier, weigh less, stronger, etc, and now I feel addicted to it. Addicted?! To working out? I thought I’d never say that. I recommend it

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome man, keep it up!

  • Alejandra Gos

    So if u don’t agree with the article basically you have to shut up.
    Ok. Kipping pull ups and strict are different and in crossfit u do both. One requires strength coordination and cardio hence used in a high intensity workout. Strict pull ups requires strength. Two completly different exercises. Don’t get why the first are called fake. It seems to me that unless you can do both, and u say one is fake is because well… U can’t do it. I have seen many people know how to do strict pull ups but they can’t get the power movement to do a Kipping pull up.

    Stop calling something fake when they are targeting different results than the “real” version.

    • Michael Matthews

      Kipping pull-ups as cardio? No thanks. I’d rather just do cardio…

      • Alejandra Gos

        I said kipping for strength and cardio.
        you would rather do cardio -> personal preference.

        • Michael Matthews

          Kipping for strength? Nah. Real pull-ups build strength.

          • Alejandra Gos

            Ok if I only real pull-ups build strength just go ahead keep bashing crossfit if that makes u happy.
            I said strenght and cardio. Have u ever done Kipping pull ups? Maybe you should test the difference between one strength and the other. Saying “builds real strength” with no facts to prove it is kinda empty.

            Anyway have a blast go bodybuilding

  • Savanna

    I love crossfit! As far as injury and overtraining goes, I think that can happen to anyone with any program. It is all about knowing your limits and not pushing to hard in any workout you do! You also need to find the best trainer and gym! Luckily, the one right by my house is amazing. It sounds cheesy….I know…but crossfit has changed my life in all areas! I am really enjoying the crossfit open and it really has taught me that I can do hard things! Thanks for the article! :)

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job! Keep it up!

  • fffefe

    there is no such thing as overtraining…only under rested

    • Michael Matthews

      Different way to view the same problem…

  • Ibrahim Alyzander

    i want to get ripped and big, leaner and big. . . . i have chosen to be a wrestler and a martial artist and i do weight trainin and kick boxin along with circuit trainin. . . . and yea i even do cross trainin. . . is it ok and will it help to become a wrestler?

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! That sounds like a good routine.

  • Mike

    You boast that you’re stronger, faster, bigger and leaner than cross fitters… Wait, except for the top guys – but that’s because they’re on drugs. Give me a break. Just because you can’t reach their level without drugs doesn’t mean that nobody can. You have no proof and just come across as a prick for suggesting it.

    • Michael Matthews

      When someone’s FFMI is 25+ and they can squat, bench, and deadlift the same amounts of weight as (openly) chemically enhanced powerlifters……………………..

      • Kitsy

        The world record holder for powerlifting is a vegan… considering how they source steroids that would make them ethically impossible for him to take…. so anecdotal evidence suggests that Kale is a hell of a drug!

        • Michael Matthews

          Patrik Baboumian is a tank but he’s not the strongest powerlifter in the world.

          And 1) do you actually think he’s never used steroids in his entire life? and 2) he’s all about not killing animals–what does that have to do with injecting himself with 100% synthetic hormones?

  • Miranda DeMark

    CrossFit changed my body and my life in a matter of months. CrossFit makes you an all around fitter individual. We don’t just lift so we can look good. How you look is a consequence of your fitness. You make your body work better and then you look better in the mirror too. Kipping pull-ups are in no way cheating. They are a gymnastic movement and if anyone can do 100 strict pull ups instead of kipping pull-ups for time I’d like to meet them.CrossFitters also strict pull ups, not just kipping pull-ups. Those of you doing “back and bi’s or chest and tri’s” day or those of you running on the treadmill for 45 mins staring at the wall could be so much more fit with crossfit because it covers all areas of fitness. Funny how winners of the CrossFit Games are crowned “Fittest Man or Fittest Woman on Earth”. Cardio and strength training will get you fit, but nothing gets you fitter than crossfit. The whole point is to shock your system and make it so your body can’t adapt. We have rest days all the time so overtraining isn’t even part of the picture. Anyone who hates on CrossFit obviously hasn’t tried it. None of you could do what the CrossFitters in the Games are doing. But just stick to your boring weightlifting and cardio routines and plateau for the rest of your life and never get better.Or wait… you could do CrossFit.

    • Michael Matthews

      I can definitely see how CrossFit would be more fun for some, but it’s simply not the most effective way to build muscle and strength, that’s all.

      And don’t kid yourself about the CrossFit pros–the big names were dedicated weightlifters for many years before doing CrossFit.

      And lol @ the plateau comment. I must be permanently plateaued because I don’t do CrossFit? Flawless logic.

    • sheldon

      More fit, not fitter. I guess we have time to read books during our boring weight lifting and cardio, unlike CF cultists. We had CF training days in the Army and all it ever did was injure/weaken guys. Ruck march for 15 miles with 100lb pack on your back, not just gasp for breath for 30 minutes while lifting weights with poor form and talk to me about fitness or mental toughness.

  • Roman

    Hey Mike, thanks for the insights on CrossFit. What are your thoughts about workouts like Insanity and P90X? When the goal is to get BLS (or TLS for women), are these types of workouts worth any time or effort? Or is it better to exclusively focus on heavy lifting throughout the week with a few HIIT sessions?
    Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      I think they’re fine for cardio but they won’t give you the bodies BB markets them with, heh.

      If you like them as HIIT, roll with it. If you’d rather do something else for cardio, that’s okay too.

      • Roman

        I see. Most of those workouts are close to an hour, but you recommend HIIT sessions of only 20-30 minutes. Because those workouts are nearly twice as long, are they detrimental to BLS (or TLS) goals?

        • Michael Matthews

          Good question! As that’s an introductory book many people are using those are their sole workouts.

          If you want to combine with BLS/TLS, I would scale back to 30 min.

  • Some guy you don’t know

    I can’t believe people actually think of crossfit as a good training program. When I go to the gym I know what I want to TRAIN. If I turn up ready to do deadlifts and some guy tells me that today I’m going to throw medicine balls at a wall, do a bunch of thrusters and skip rope… haha are these guys kidding? I don’t need some boofhead to tell me what to do. I know what I came here for. Crossfit is less of a training program and more of a challange program. You turn up and someone throws down the gauntlet and then off you go with something to prove. You’d better be done in 20 minutes too because the next herd of cash cows will push you out the door. If your goal is to be exhausted then I might understand your love of crossfit. If you go to the gym and have no idea what you should be doing then maybe a class setting is better than you fumbling around on your own. But the holy grail of fitness? Ha! C’mon folks. They just said that crap to get you in the door and paying gym fees. Nobody thought you’d actually believe it, buy stocks in reebok and get crossfit tattooed on your forehead. Crossfit is a gimmicky fitness fad designed to take your money and people fell for it.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahah

  • Jamie Griffis

    Crossfit is a solid solution for lots of people- and really with the vast majority of this country being disgustingly over weight and not caring at all about it, lets just support everyone who gets off their ass in one form or another to improve themselves!

    • Michael Matthews

      I agree so long as the coach is good.

  • Grace

    I am writing
    to you because I do not appreciate your negative article about crossfit. I am almost 40 yrs old. I was a D1 athlete, had two kids, I work 2
    jobs, I ran marathons, did triathlons, and spent my life in a traditional
    gym. You name the workout and I most
    likely have done it. From running to yoga I have done a lot. I am also a PE teacher in a middle school.

    I started crossfit in Jan. At the time I started I wasn’t in the shape I
    wanted to be in and frankly, I was bored with the traditional gym. It is the end of May. I am in the best shape I have been in since I
    played D1 field hockey. I finally have abs, I am stronger, I am more
    toned than ever before. I even have
    people say, “Wow your jacked.”
    Something I haven’t heard ever in my life.

    Now, I
    understand crossfit is not for everyone.
    I get that kipping pull ups aren’t like the traditional pull ups. But who cares. If crossfit isn’t for you then so let it
    be. I never ever knock someone else’s
    work out. If it works for them and makes them happy who cares. I have seen people knock crossfit over and
    over and never understood why anyone would do that. Everyone has their choice of how to work out
    and what makes them feel great.

    Your claims
    that “almost everyone has gotten hurt.”
    Really?? Where is your evidenced to back that claim. People get hurt all the time in a traditional
    gym, playing sports, or going for a simple run.
    Only difference is people like you aren’t there to write an article
    about it. In fact, people have died
    doing marathons, where is your article about that. Let me remind you if you
    walk through a traditional gym you will see many many people doing the wrong
    form. Our trainers at crossfit teach and
    enforce proper form. They encourage
    light weight and perfect form. They also
    preach if your form goes decrease your weight.

    Let’s be
    real here crossfit is a competitor of yours and takes money out of your pocket.
    You have no right to tell people what is the best and right way to get
    fit. Everyone is different. I challenge you to go up against the elites
    of crossfit like Rich Froning. Be a good sport and promote what you can do
    for people don’t knock others.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! Keep up the good work.

      Some research on CrossFit and injuries:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24276294

      Summary:

      73.5 percent of CrossFitters sustain injuries.

      The injury rate is similar to Olympic weightlifting, which is the most dangerous type of weightlifting.

      Shoulder injury rates exceed those of Olympic weightlifting.

  • Caleb

    I started out as a 16 year old junior. 6’0” 140 pounds. I did almost nothing but crossfit for a year and gained 45 pounds, 100 pounds on my bench, 160 pounds on my squat, and 180 pounds on ny deadlift. My clean max went up 100 pounds. Crossfit does work.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job! Keep it up.

  • likeclocks

    Your article is pretty spot on. It’s actually pretty entertaining watching the xfit people at my local gym attempt their ridiculous WOD’s. Example: the dreaded kipping pullup (I concede that the only time you should ever kip is if you’re actually doing the salmon ladder or “flying pullups”), clean and jerks with way too much weight and very poor form, deadlifts done for high reps at the speed of light, half-ass handstand pushups, etc. Xfitter’s surround themselves with this idea of functional fitness, yet most of them don’t even do anything functional in their downtime. Besides that, as an athlete myself, I can say that certain exercises, mainly the explosive type exercises can be very beneficial for athleticism, but only when performed properly, with adequate weight and overload, and with proper rest and nutrition.
    Another ridiculous aspect of xfit is their premise of mish-mashing exercises and rep ranges for “muscle confusion.” Why not take some pointers from the research that’s out there? Proper muscle confusion happens when a particular rep range is maintained for about a week and then switched to a new rep range the following week, etc. Xfit tries to do muscle confusion as maxing out one day and then doing hundreds of reps the next. Sorry, but the body doesn’t adapt that quickly. You don’t see people getting strong from switching low to high rep ranges workout to workout because the CNS does not properly acclimate in that manner and essentially becomes overtaxed. Anyone that has built a great body worthy of turning heads or strength or athleticism of professionals did not follow these ridiculous programs of mixed exercises and rep ranges.
    In essence, Xfit makes you a jack of all trades in the exercise world (although we could more accurately say that your skills will likely be poor in these areas) and a master of none. Doing xfit won’t make you a gymnast, powerlifter, bodybuilder, or athlete. It makes you a xfitter and that’s it.
    Also the ridiculous notion of raw everything paleo diet deserves some points too. Basically what you get by eating tons of raw food like in paleo is severe GI disturbances. When you have “fit” people who “eat healthy” and have stomach cramps, indigestion, and constipation, then your diet is flawed. Besides that, nutritional science has been demonstrating for years that cooked food is often more easily digested, assimilated, and passed when compared to raw food. Also, good luck with your intense crazy xfit sessions running on handfuls of raw nuts and broccoli instead of properly fueling your body the carbohydrates it needs for the insane amounts of glycogen you are burning. Basically, the diet doesn’t fit the exercise protocol because whoever decided to pair xfit with paleo obviously lacked any knowledge about nutritional science.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great comment, thanks for sharing brother. I agree that CrossFit gets a lot wrong, but it can be worthwhile if someone likes the group element and has a good coach that will ensure they don’t get injured doing stupid shit.

  • http://anabolicmen.com/ Ali Kuoppala

    Those kipping pullups crack me everytime hahah :D There can be some postives in crossfit but man I just cant see myself ever doing a single kipping pullup. It’s just… well you know… I have no words for that really :E

    • Michael Matthews

      I know, me too.

    • Tobias P McSnerd

      Actually, the kipping pull-up probably has a place in gymnastics training, because they actually use the kipping movement in several events. The big difference is, a good gymnastics coach is not going to let an athlete even think about doing one until they are strong enough to do at least a dozen strict pull-ups. The strength and stability built by the more basic movement is a prerequisite to doing them safely, just like full squatting at least bodyweight is a prereq for doing high box and drop jumps.

      In Crossfit OTOH, the kipping pull-up is used so that people who can’t do enough real pull-ups can achieve arbitrary WOD rep totals, which is a disaster in the making for their long-term shoulder and elbow health.

      • Michael Matthews

        100% correct.

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  • JD

    Not every box is the same. And not every retard who says they are a true crossfitter actually is. The focus should be not only on doing those 100 pull ups but having the correct form. Where I go has a big focus on doing the movements correctly to avoid injury. Adjusting the workout for you personally and DO NOT CONTINUE if you are losing form. Of course there are zealots for Crossfit. I find them as annoying as anyone else. ( those overweight people – I cant even tell you the amount of hatred I have cause they can do a pull up and look at me like Im a weak little baby cause i can’t YET) You will find people like that for kind of workout/product/brand. Its all personal preference. I like how you say that these people insinuate you are physically inferior in someway and yet you act like a jerk in your comments….come on dude. Lets all just stop with the rudeness.

    • Michael Matthews

      I don’t act like a jerk in the comments. :)

  • Brian

    I appreciate this article is many ways. I think it’s important for people to express their opinions. I’d just like to point out one mistake, though. CrossFit does not program much in terms of aerobic conditioning. It’s usually programmed more towards anaerobic. Thus, he article cited doesn’t really apply to this situation. Aerobic conditioning has been shown to limit strength gains, which is likely why CrossFit limits it.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Brian. When you combine lighter weightlifting into long circuits you blur that line between anaerobic and aerobic work…

  • 75cephus

    Good article. Tried it once. Its hard to argue with results but injuries stopped my foray into the world of Crossfit. On the other hand, that gif about a 1/3 of the way down the article. Is that Christian Bale or Jeff Bridges? Frickin’ hysterical.

    • Michael Matthews

      Lol thanks. That’s Bale from American Psycho.

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  • Ali

    I have been crossfitting for about a year- and I love it and this is why:
    It has challenged me, given me a place to compete as a 40yr old mom, the atmosphere has allowed me to face my demons without judgement. I have learned so much about mobility and range of motion. My lower back no longer bothers me- BUT LET ME STRESS THIS: I have amazing coaches that scale my workouts, they listen to me and respect what I say. I have the brains to know the difference between being sore and being hurt. Our coaches asked us for our fitness goals, spent 2 weeks testing us for our baselines, and are currently programming our workouts OUR goals in mind. They will not alow ANY KIPPING if we don’t have the strict movements mastered. They are always available during open gym hours to help with form and frustrations.

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great! It sounds like you have a good box so keep it up!

  • some fat guy

    I’m an IT guy that’s been chained to a desk for the last 10 years. I started cross fit about 2 months ago just as a way to get in shape. I don’t have goals in str or cardio, I just want to be healthier, build some muscle and lose weight in the process. So far, CF has been exactly what I needed. I think that as long as you know your own limits and have good coaches a lot of the stuff mentioned in this article is a non issue.

    When I get to my CF class and I see some insane shit on the WOD I self modify reducing the intensity until I get to the point where I can do them.

    As a fat, unfit, overworked guy, I can say the CF has opened me up to doing things that I would have never attempted on my own. It has been a huge confidence booster.

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great man keep up the good work and stay safe.

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  • Tobias P McSnerd

    I’m glad to see an article explaining the problem with jumbling up strength and aerobic elements. I’d like to see a study comparing strength and muscle mass gain with a Crossfit vs standard barbell-based strength training program. Crossfit would perform dismally. Some people can gain strength and size while doing insane volumes of high intensity aerobics, but for most people, too much endurance work mixed with basic strength training means little to no progress.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Tobias and I totally agree.

      You’re very right on the exercise programming. When I see “AMRAP Deadlifts” I cringe…

  • David Gantry

    …..crossfit is an excellent way of getting people fit and the some of the comments below are v uninformed .. take doug below with his comment on “high school cliqueyness going” comment, I mean, please, the majority of people doing crossfit with me are in their 30s and 40s plus .. a long way from high school ! Also, it is not expensive in my experience .. I pay 80euro a month for 4 sessions a week where the most in a class is 10 people .. almost one to one coaching and the 2 coaches are award wining athletes … anyway, I may as well howl at the moon I suppose as this forum seems to have their own strong views but I personally have got a lot from it and far FAR more then I ever got at a regular gym where no-one spoke to each other whereas in crossfit it is encouraged and there is a real community feel to it, which is a little unsettling at first but after a while (I am doing it 11 months) it starts to grow on you .. likers gotta like etc

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great you’re doing well. I’m not rabidly against Crossfit but it’s just not a great way to build strength or size, that’s all. If done safely it’s totally fine for general fitness.

  • Dave

    Great article Mike! Its such a widely debated and controversial topic you’re tackling here. I find that these types of discussions about bodybuilding and crossfit always evoke such emotional and at times defensive responses from people. It reminds me of those taboo subjects you’re never supposed to talk about like religion and politics!
    I used to do Crossfit myself, but left it not really because I thought the workout was insufficient (it totally worked me) but it was the “culty” culture that surrounded it. Reminded me of the Bikram Yoga culture. It was a real turnoff for me personally (no offense to the Xfit community). I truly think one of the main reasons why it has become so popular to the masses is that it addresses one of the characteristics of most (not all!) people which is that we’re lazy (I exclude myself here). Even my brother who does Xfit is totally honest when he says that he would be too lazy to go to the gym on his own and push himself, but Xfit makes him accountable (especially with that large monthly price tag!!). Thats totally ok. I just think that there are plenty of people who are their own motivation and don’t need a class to reach their goals!
    Lets all just agree that we’re all different and we do what works for us! Lets all just be happier healthier people!
    Just stop posting your WODs on Facebook please ;)

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Dave! Yeah it gets pretty heated for some.

      Haha very true with the laziness point. I’ve had quite a few people tell me the same and I understand!

  • Nick

    After reading many of the comments here I can see the most effective aspect of crossfit is indeed its marketing. to have such passionate feelings about the kipping pullup is borderline brainwashing. personally I have worked in law enforcement for nearly a decade and laugh when I hear the argument for “functional strength”. What kind of strength isn’t functional? in my profession the most important time to be strong is when you’re involved in a physical struggle which can sometimes be for your life. I enjoy the power I’ve gained from traditional lifting which allows me to stop a fight quickly and explosively. if Im ever involved in a struggle that can be simulated or trained for by doing 50 overhead squats then I’ve already lost. Mike I love your stuff man. keep it coming.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great comment Nick and I totally agree about the “functional strength” point. If I can deadlift 500 pounds for 1 I’m far more “functionally strong” than the skinny fat guy than does 30+ reps with 135 supersetted with AMRAP kipping pullups.

      Lol @ the overhead squats comment.

      Thanks man. I appreciate the support.

  • lexieliades

    Thanks for this, Mike! I liked Crossfit when I tried it and at the same time, I prefer to have more say in what my workout will look like for the day. Sometimes I feel guilty that I “only lift at the gym” instead of going to my local Crossfit. Not so much after this article!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha glad you liked the article! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

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  • Doughboy

    The main issue with Crossfit is that it has the potential for forging an external, not internal, locus of control in its members. Mind and body are equally important in achieving fitness success. You must know yourself, including mental and physical strengths and weaknesses, as well as the science of weight training. Success requires considerable introspection and research as well as intense focus on every single movement and form during workouts. Crossfit’s WODs and supposed camaraderie could lead you to draw inspiration and motivation from external sources rather than from yourself.

    After all, Crossfit is a business. If it allows you to forge an internal locus of control, their business model fails. By keeping its members beholden to WODs and a sense of belonging, Crossfit thrives. Most Crossfitters think they are achieving fitness success. They may be right. Also, if their happiness derives from Crossfit, then let it be. Yet, they can never reach the same level of mastery as Olympic weightlifters so long as they rely on Crossfit’s astute business model for motivation. Fitness is as much a mental game as physical devotion. Sadly, on their way to their goals, they serve as willing propagandists of Crossfit by paying the company around $200 each month. In political terminology, they may as well be called “useful idiots.”

    Kudos to Mike for emphasizing the basics of fitness. I have been lifting for 7 years, but faced a plateau similar to Mike’s as described in his book. Not only has his book help me transform my body from 25% body fat to 10% in the last 5 months, it also helped me understand the importance of mental toughness and commitment. I now lift heavier, feel much stronger than ever, and most importantly have the sense of fulfillment in life every second. Moreover, I now have a solid internal locus of control to guide my way. The financial cost in accomplishing this over the last 5 months is only a fraction of what I would have spent by attending Crossfit.

    I believe the following popular saying sums up the lesson I learned from Mike: “Do ordinary things extraordinary well.” Thank you, Mike.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great comment and I’m really glad to hear you’re kicking ass on the program.

      I’d love to feature you on the website as a success story if you’re interested! Shoot me an email if you are and we’ll get you up. :)

  • http://batman-news.com Castanucci

    so you write an article bascially comparing a full body, well rounded programme of work against someone who just wants to get strong or improve cardio performance?

    Crossfit will never excel at any specific area of fitness, it will however improve and balance the comibination of strength, flexibilty and metabolic conditioning,

    Also, just because people get injured doing a “CrossFit style workout” does not represent what would happen during an actual CrossFit programme of work.
    How many CrossFit gyms have you been to, and spent a considerable amount of time in? You don’t have the knowledge to tar “most” of these gyms with the same brush.

    This is a very poorly put together piece, which I think does more harm than good for everyone because you are simply adding to the non-information in the fitness world.

  • Nick

    I am a
    carpenter and as with a lot of tradies we develop bad backs, due to the awkward
    shapes and differing materials we are constantly lifting. I started CF at my
    local gym about 6 months ago, I have a really fantastic team who are all about
    me reaching my individual goals. I have been going consistently 3/4 times a
    week and have never felt better or stronger, plus made some great friends along
    the way. My back has never felt stronger and I was never pushed for weight nor have
    I ever seen anyone push someone to keep lifting heavier.

    My first
    month I was not aloud to add any weight to a 20kg bar during WOD’s so
    instructors can keep an eye on form. (this is how several CF gyms operate that
    I know of)

    I think a lot of the bad
    media associated with CF comes from its rapid growth in popularity, this
    attracts people for the wrong reason and the ones there for the wrong
    reason are most likely there purely for profit with very little care for anyone’s
    well being.

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great man keep up the good work!

  • Brooke

    I felt sorry for the people in my class that had little to no experience working out and were never taught proper technique before coming to CrossFit because that certainly wasn’t going to happen there. I used it for a short time to supplement other workouts and found it ridiculous. My 6 year old daughter begged to go and after a few times I just said no more because I felt it was irresponsible as a mother to take her. Almost everyone is injured and as you stated…not really in shape.

    • Michael Matthews

      I know it sucks. I’ve emailed with a LOT of people that got hurt due to idiotic CrossFit coaches urging them to do stupid things.

  • wayneo

    I can’t stand Crossfit…and here is why: the culture. Don’t tell me you don’t have mirrors in your gym because they are for people obsessed with vanity and then post videos of you lifting weights on social media sites to “check your form”. Let’s call it what it really is….fishing for compliments. I am secure enough to admit that I lift weights primarily for vanity. If it didn’t make me look good, let’s face it, I wouldn’t do it. I am also a firefighter/paramedic, and enjoy the performance boost at work, the stress reduction, and the mental fortitude to pursue my goals among other fringe benefits of weight lifting, but in the end, if my physique didn’t change because of it, I wouldn’t even bother.

    Perhaps it is just a handful of bad apples that I have run into that represent Crossfit, and I fully acknowledge that not everyone that does Crossfit talks endlessly about WOD’s, paleo, and the advantages of kipping pull-ups, but I swear to god if one more person takes an elitist attitude with me when I am doing curls or tricep extensions at the gym I am going to find someone named “Fran” and punch them right in the face.

    If the people that did Crossfit that I have interaction with came to a simple understanding that they do not have the ability to accomplish anything that I can’t without their program I would enjoy their company a lot more. I appreciate anyone that devotes time to fitness in their life, but you do not have any type of mental or physical ability gained from Crossfit that I can’t attain without it.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahahah great comment and I completely agree.

  • andy

    Seems like the biggest issue here is most of you have not been to a good CrossFit gym lately. We separate most of our lifting and endurance, we do more strict movements than dynamic, and are pretty much contrary to every comment in this article… and that is quickly becoming the norm. CrossFit has evolved faster than the haters can write about it.

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  • nastynoose

    Why do girls who do Crossfit, wear those knee-high socks? Seems like all of them where it.

    • Michael Matthews

      It’s trendy I guess? It also protects your shins from getting all scraped up when deadlifting.

      • nastynoose

        That’s why I have no hair on my shins. LOL! Deadlifting rocks!!

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha mine are scarred. I now wear my Rehband sleeves on them when deadding. ;)

  • Danielle Martinson

    Crossfit teaches unsafe lifts and promotes arrogance to people who don’t have the discipline to do things the right way. I found a very interesting and alarming article regarding crossfit and rhabdomyolysis. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-robertson/crossfit-rhabdomyolysis_b_3977598.html

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup.

  • sebascl

    I’m from Chile and CF is slowly becoming popular here… CF seems a little dangerous, specially in our third-world countries where trainers may not be well prepared.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah I would be careful if you’re planning on getting into it.

  • Clipper44

    You make a mistake when you try to shoe-horn CF into being ideal for either “maximizing muscle gains’ or “maximizing aerobic capacity.” When has CF ever claimed to do that? Never.

    General fitness is the goal with CF, and if the lifts and movements are done correctly the risk of injury is minimized. Your argument is based on a phony premise, and I’m just wondering if it’s purposeful or not.

    • Michael Matthews

      Honestly the majority of CFers I’ve spoken with think it’s just the ultimate way to get big and strong.

      And the increased risk of injury is just inherent in the programming. Trying to hit heavy Oly lifts when you’re fatigued is a bad idea.

  • Sara

    Crossfit is a fad. You can get way better results by breaking each element into it’s own workout (strength,power, endurance, ect.) If you have enough time, you can arrange workout splits throughout the week that will give you way better gains in each element than trying to do them all at once and end up sucking at all of them. And there’s no reason to waste time lifting a moderate weight a billion times in a set- sure you get really, really sore, but you aren’t going to get much stronger or fitter unless you’re doing steroids. (natural bodies can’t keep up and potential gains are lost) People think that if they are sore then the workout was effective- this is not the case. I’m a woman and I can outlift most of the “crossfit” guys at my gym, and probably have a better 10k time than them too. (but boy, they sure are proud that they can do 1000 airsquats) I powerlift, run in the hills, do plyometrics, pull ups, box, even yoga, a wide variety of workouts- Crossfit acts like they invented the wheel or something. I think they should have a competition between Crossfitters and people like me who just do everything, but periodize and structure their programs in the correct way and see who is the fittest. I would LOVE to kick a Crossfitter’s butt any day! I think the reason I have so much disdain for them is because they walk around like they are superior and constantly brag about their stupid workouts.Then they walk around like it’s a religion and try to convert you to their beliefs. If you disagree, they get very defensive and often hostile! Sorry, but running yourself into the ground does not make you “hard core”, nor does it confer upon you some kind of special status.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha you go girl! Thanks for the comment.

  • Alyssa May

    I workout at a gym AND do crossfit..best of both worlds, but if i had to chose one or the other i would pick crossfit anyday. I find that most of the people who dont like crossfit have never tried it OR just had a bad coach.. Ive not once overtrained myself or puked after murph..those are all just exaggerated comments. You can overwork yourself at a gym just as easily as you can at crossfit!! No one forces you to WOD until you puke.. Also ive now been crossfitting for 8 months and I am in the best shape of my life. I love everything about crossfit.. from the hard wods, the competitions, the goals, and all the people you meet along the way!!! I think I’ve made my point

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great! Keep up the good work.

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