I often get athletes asking me if they should do CrossFit to get fit for their sport… So, I’m going to assess the pros and cons.
The main pro to CrossFit is the fact it’s going to get you incredibly “fit” (general term) and increase mental toughness… The workouts are inherently hard!
However, as I’m sure everyone already knows, working various exercises to high intensities can increase the risk of injuries… Working with the barbell/Olympic lifts especially ingrains muscle memory polluted with fatigue patterns, massively increasing the risk of injury.
However, working to high intensities is integral for stimulating adaptations, so I’m not going to dwell on the whole intensity side of things… It’s been covered many times before and I like a good beasting!
One problem I have seen is in the exercises selection and more specifically the combination of these exercises… For example, although burpees are a great exercise, they will stimulate intervertebral disk flexibility rather than rigidity. So, performing them in between sets of the Olympic lifts (which require disk rigidity) is completely counter-productive… You will have a higher incidence of miss lifts and increase the risk of disk bulges and herniation’s.
Yes, variety has huge benefits, but some exercises combined can be detrimental to each other… As an S&C coach, I don’t just want “hard training”, I want “optimal training”.
CrossFit, describes itself as “Constantly Varied”, which is great for the average individual. I consider myself to be a hybrid athlete and like to build as much strength, speed and power as I can, while also building a decent level of endurance.
However, when it comes to athletes, although general preparation of overall Strength & Conditioning is key (It’s generally my focus with my athletes, due to the amount of specific prep they get at their clubs) … Emphasis on the development of specific systems required for their sport (the way they compete, their position etc) is key.
Although fitness variables complement each other, for example a strength athlete benefiting from better recovery due to an increase in endurance… They also compete with one another.
You simply can’t “optimise” the development of fast twitch mechanisms for maximum strength and speed while maximally enhancing fatigue resiliency by challenging the slow twitch metabolism… Yes, we need to develop on all levels, especially when it comes to longevity as an athlete. However, there needs to be a predominating training goal and the CrossFit model does not provide this.
So yes, CrossFit is great and if you enjoy it… That counts for a lot! However, if you want “optimal”, then you need to adapt the CrossFit model of “Constantly Varied” everytime you enter the “Box” (gym) and take on some more periodized training… I don’t suggest a classical linear system (one training goal for a set phase/mesocycle – Usually 4 weeks), although I use a lot of elements from the original linear model… Such as mesocycles with a goal that predominates.
I recommend considering the conjugate system, especially if you have time to fit a good amount of training in each week… This system will have you working 2 or more variables (Maximal Effort & Dynamic Effort for example) within each week/microcycle, while using a decent variety of exercises… Incorporate “WOD’s” into this system, not everytime you work out as the foundation of your development… And yes, I also recommend this train of thought for “CrossFit Athletes”.
If you don’t have much time to train… Consider how beneficial all them hours spent trying to handstand walk and double under really are… I suggest getting into the squat rack… But then again, it all comes down to what you enjoy.