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Thread: Crossfit Koolaid

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    British Columbia, Canada
    Posts
    27

    Default Crossfit Koolaid

    I recently attended a local Crossfit box with a friend of mine who works out with me once a week or so. He likes the CF box as it is near his home and synchs with his shift pattern. Given that he works out with me, I thought it only fair to make the drive and work out with him every now and then.

    My info - I'm 43 6' 3" 270lbs and closing in on a 500lb squat and 600lb deadlift. I can do a 20 rep squat at 275lbs and have been dabbling with the Oly lifts and press for some time.

    I knew largely what to expect from a CF box so it was not an intimidating experience and they were nice people with a welcoming attitude.

    Of course there was a WOD - 21/15/9 rep patter of 135lb cleans, elevated pushups and ring rows followed by a 1500m rowing machine. I was not so impressed with the warm up - they wanted a 400m sprint...for which I didn't warm up for...

    The cleans were the hardest part - after 10 reps I went to doing doubles with a 30 sec rest to avoid lifting a fully fatigued rep. Given that the total was 45 reps it was the longest part of the workout.

    I was asked the next day by several of my colleagues who are CFers what I thought of it. They wondered if I was "crushed" by the workout and how "awesome" was it?

    I told them I was gassed and a bit sore in the shoulders from the cleans but otherwise it was physically nothing surprising. I think this shocked them a bit, they expected more of a "oh wow" feeling from me I guess, however I pointed out that any trainer can make anyone from Usain Bolt to a marathon runner gassed. It is hardly hard, especially if you hit them with exercises outside their usual routines.

    The comment I made that shocked them the most was the I was BORED during the workout. Grinding out reps esp in that number against time is not mentally stimulating. When I lift heavy in my home gym I am concentrating on the lift, I am feeling my muscles as I move the weight, I work on my weaknesses in form and muscle control. I take my time in between sets to make sure I am refreshed enough to make the form and control the priority.

    Doing multiple reps against time is simply a matter of grinding. It takes no thinking, it takes no planning or consideration, frankly a monkey can do it. Without periodisation of you lifts you are simply working on conditioning which anyone could do at home.

    So the question I have for Mark and anyone else is - What the hell is the attraction of Crossfit? Why the Koolaid mentality? Why do those into it think it "so awesome"? Why do people pay so much for it?

    There is nothing new here. Conditioning has been around since the stone age
    There is no way to grow as a lifter by doing WODs except in very basic technique and in muscular and cardiovascular endurance.
    Most of the time you often don't do the same exercise for WEEKS, how can you get better at a movement unless you do the movement?
    There is endless repetition in a fatigued state that does not promote an intellectual process of lifting

    I am perplexed.

    Where does the Koolaid come from?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    North Texas
    Posts
    25,627

    Default Exercise Scientology, L. Ron Glassman, Founder.

    Me, you, and many thousands of others have made these same observations for years and asked the same question. CF is exercise, not training, and for many people exercise is enough. It is not what we do, but if you just want to lose some weight and do some conditioning it's fine, as long as the CF Level I trainer is not particularly stupid (many of the are). It has positive aspects, including having exposed hundreds of thousands of people to barbell training for the first time, even if it was so poorly coached that its potential for transformative strength acquisition was not realized. It has also introduced those same people to the Olympic lifts, and I guess that may someday be a positive thing. But the psychological aspects of it are puzzling to many people. The genius of it is the "belonging" component, the feeling of being on the inside of a group which most other people are not capable of understanding or participating in. He has successfully marketed this on the internet, the hook being the WOD that everyone in the group all over the world does TODAY, like a worship service that all of The Enlightened can share, and the common vocabulary and speech patterns they can all share that are derived from the WODs and the way they are "coached." I'm sure that many sociology masters theses have been written about this aspect of the cult phenomenon. But the appeal for new members is that, for most of them, CF is the first exposure they have ever had to something physically hard, and as they work through the novice effect and see progress, they attribute it to CF, never knowing that any hard exercise program does the same thing, most of them more effectively. Add to that the feeling of group membership that appeals to some humans, and which makes some of them stay on in the program when they otherwise would have quit, and you have a commercially successful product.

    From the wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_of_personality

    A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized, heroic, and, at times god-like public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Sociologist Max Weber developed a tripartite classification of authority; the cult of personality holds parallels with what Weber defined as "charismatic authority". A cult of personality is similar to hero worship, except that it is established by mass media and propaganda.
    I think that there are legitimate comparisons to be made here. Although it would be certainly wrong to accuse all CrossFitters of belonging to CrossFit at this level, I have met many that do. Some of them have been very good friends, and I hate it that they cannot see the problems.


  3. #3

    Default

    Crossfit also has a lot of good looking women and they have certain athletes who inspire the people by how big/strong/lean/fit/whatever they are, although these guys don't actually train Crossfit. It's a bit like bodybuilding, where the Pros don't actually train the way it is described in the magazines or take all those supplements.
    The social factor also is a really big thing. Crossfit is really successful in the US and slowly comes to Europe. But here in germany it's not that big of a deal, because we already have a big sports-club-culture. Soccer, swimming or track and field clubs are incredibly cheap and bring a lot of people together. There is just no reason to pay a lot of money for crossfit.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Syracuse, NY
    Posts
    349

    Default

    Rip, I have always thought of it as a cult type thing. I have two buddies of mine. Both go to different CF boxes here. My other buddy and I follow a basic strength/powerlifting program. They have seen us train and do meets. They obiviously know we are strong and getting stronger. Yet it seems to them that our program "doesn't" work because it's "not Crossfit". Its like there is no logic. And in talking to them they NEED Crossfit for a sense of "belonging". You are 100% correct on this. And there I guess boxes who actually strength train along with the traditional WOD's. I have seen the difference between those boxes here at a recent CF competition here.

  5. #5

    Default

    I joined a local affiliate for a month. I pretty much hated it. And not because it was hard but because it seemed like I was surrounded by a bunch of fakes, people who proclaimed to be experts at fitness and were anything but. The instruction was sub par, the programming random and erratic. Many of the workouts were so shoulder dominant that everyone had very sore/painful shoulders after a week. The quality of each WOD was measured by how many people were laying on the floor, "gassed" out of their minds. Intellectually I really don't see the point in attempting to make inherently anaerobic activities like Power Lifts and Olympic Lifts into aerobic exercise. It's dangerous, it's clumsy and it is certainly not a program for anyone with an injury history. And all for $150 a month. Never again

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Birmingham, England.
    Posts
    237

    Default

    What does this Koolaid taste like?

  7. #7

    Default

    In part, I think it's because people perceive they are excelling at something. They feel tired, they sweat, they throw weights around with no regard. And at the end of the workout, they feel they accomplished something. People find gratification in Crossfit because they think it's hard work. But Crossfit is kind of funny. Sure you might be lean and have good cardio, but they never really get anywhere. It's easy to plateau quickly with the cardio but it takes a life time to get really strong. Well not really a life time but maybe in comparison.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    British Columbia, Canada
    Posts
    27

    Default

    Ha! You went right to the crux of it with "CF is exercise, not training". I hadn't considered the difference and the way it would affect people's demeanour and philosophy behind lifting. I suppose it also surprises me that going to a box would be the first time anyone worked hard in whatever gym or sport they were in as younger people, hence my puzzlement over the "were you crushed?" questions and the inherent assumption that is was "cool" to be so crushed by the workout.

    The positive aspects of CF are evident. The exposure to barbell work and volume training is definitely a plus compared to the regular gym rat culture where I have experienced my far share of curls in the squat rack, personal trainers warning me not to go low in the squat, puzzled looks when deadlifting etc. At least CFers are barbell focussed and motivated, I just don't see why the motivation has to come from, or be so associated to a "box" or style of workout - surely it should come from with, from the individual and their desire to measure themselves against themselves? Being told to be motive means you aren't motivated in the first place.

    Other things that bothered me:
    Apparently due to the influence of a crossfit powerlifting certification the box I went to rolled out banded good mornings in one of the WODs. The banded good morning being an excellent assistance exercise so their use of it at first impressed me but then I thought - wait, this is supposed to be done for tight form, dedicated spinal erector and mid back work. Doing it for reps against time is simply not the purpose behind the lift. That and the fact that is will most certainly be done very infrequently thus making any gains momentary.

    I think this is where CF loses ground in credibility.

    Gimmicks such as handstand pushups also strain credulity - handstand pushups for a gymnast, sure, if they like. Gymnast are how tall and weigh how much? What is the purpose behind their exercises? To get better at a bodyweight maneuvering/manipulating competitive sport. Handstand pushups for those seeking generic fitness, basic hypertrophy, for larger men or for women with their typical upper/lower body strength ratios seem pointless - there are so many movements they can do that foster better growth in muscle and power without the danger of injury or the time wasted doing an inefficient lift.

    However all of this does make sense in the context of what you said Rip. Even the extreme variety of the WOD is a clever tool when used at a world wide level to foster a brand. I wonder has anyone ever done an analysis of how many exercises they use in all their variants in the WODs? I would guess it has to be close to 50. I just can't help but think they would serve their community better by pairing away the less efficient movements (efficient being results for time in) and really focusing their WOD on say a dozen key lifts and their variants and cycling according to a program that was clearly explained and could give measurable results.

    It seems so random, in fact is reminds me of a Soviet military term - Maskirovka. Deception for military advantage. Never let your opponent know where your forces are, that way they cannot plan effectively. In CF terms if you never show a program with defined methodology how can anyone show that it doesn't work???? There are no measurables!

  9. #9

    Default

    Not sure if this really applies, but Eric Hoffer's book the True Believer is probably the best book on mass movements and the folks attracted to them I am aware of. Hoffer was talking about Nazis and I find it particularly applicable to the current round of militant knuckleheads. It is a short read, but explains a lot about the sometimes delusional behavior stemming from groups.

  10. #10

    Default

    Like so many others, it was because of CF that I found SS so that's a great thing.

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