A CrossFit Owner’s Thoughts on 8 Common Criticisms of CrossFit


Screen shot 2011-08-22 at 11.19.17 AMThis is a post addressing some of the major criticisms of CrossFit that people have. If you don’t see a question that you have here, PLEASE post it in the comments. We want to do a follow-up post!! This post was written by Max Shippee, CrossFit 1440 Owner and Coach.

For a review of what we’ve already said here about CrossFit at PaleoPlan, here’s Jason’s great post/response to safety concerns about CrossFit, and Neely’s two posts (about starting and stopping CrossFit).

Let’s start with a confession:

CrossFit isn’t right for everyone.

Maybe your life has been changed by CrossFit. So has mine. That doesn’t mean that every person you meet is going to have that same reaction. While you’re WOD-ing on the weekend, some people are out there dressing like Harry Potter (& if they CrossFit, they look like a jacked Harry Potter!). I’m not here to judge or suggest what you do with your time, I’m here simply to state what worked for me.

At the end of the day, honestly, I want you to be living a healthier life. If that involves CrossFit in some way shape or form, awesome. If it turns out it doesn’t involve CrossFit, that’s cool too. I just want you off your couch and moving more.

There is a caveat here, though…

CrossFit CAN be right for everyone.

There’s very rarely a physical or biological reason that a normal person can’t do CrossFit. Everyone from amputees to cancer survivors, from kids to grandmas, from overweight to hard gainers can utilize the CrossFit methodology to move their fitness in a positive direction. Most of those people LOVE it. However, CrossFit isn’t going to be a perfect fit for everyone. That’s ok. Yoga isn’t a fit for everyone either. Neither is boxing or running or swimming (you can make this list as long as you want). As a coach, I just want people to live a lifestyle that helps them to live longer and be more useful to society. If that means walking with your grandkids 2 days a week. I’m totally down.

What is CrossFit?

At the risk of WAY over simplifying things, CrossFit is, essentially, strength & conditioning. We can get out a longer list of words (specifically; cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, accuracy) if you want to, and we would quite readily agree that an increase in these physical capacities would be beneficial. But “strength & conditioning” is pretty much the smallest nutshell we can put it into.

Simply, CrossFit aims to make you stronger and faster.

With all that being said, we’re going to address the major issues people usually bring up with CrossFit.

1. The Coaches aren’t qualified.

The CrossFit Level 1 certification takes one weekend. You answer 50 questions at the end of the weekend. If you score well enough, you’re CrossFit certified.

When CrossFit was first created, the people getting certified were already certified trainers by other organizations. For the most part, the attendees had already been training and/or training others for quite some time. Most were simply adding another aspect to their training. Nowadays, that may not be the case.

A good coach, whether certified through an agency or not, knows how to listen with empathy, yet lead with discipline. They know how to encourage you to do better than you did yesterday, and have a goal in mind for you, and a road map to get there. Good coaches are in constant communication with their clients, and are also constantly adjusting both their expectations and workouts to suit their clientelle. And, of course, a good coach knows his/her stuff.

If you’re gonna start CrossFitting, make SURE you feel confident about your coach. It’s really the biggest factor in both keeping you coming back and keeping you safe.

2. CrossFit will injure me.

CrossFit will push your limits. It’s inherent in the CrossFit methodology the same way it is in anything from running a marathon to jiujitsu. The trouble is our egos. We see people on TV or in class pushing it hard and think that we can do the same. Maybe we can, but often we can’t.

We are a comparative species. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others. Setting people up to workout in a group can be very supportive. It can also bring out the unhealthy competitor in us.

The trick is to know yourself well enough to know when to push it, and when to ease off. We ALL have egos, and many, many of us don’t know when to ease off. Especially guys. So much so that there’s a mantra at our gym. “Don’t be stupid.”

When you’re stupid, you get injured. When you have coaching “issues” (see above) the potential for injury goes up.

3. CrossFit utilizies high skill movements in an irresponsible way.

Before trying CrossFit, most of my clients had never heard of a deadlift, a snatch, or a clean & jerk. These three lifts specifically (and many others), require a great deal of balance, coordination, strength, and practice to do effectively and safely. In order to ensure longevity with our workout program, attention must be paid, especially at the beginning, to form.

The trouble here is that most people are used to very low skill movements that promise to get them in shape in weeks (ab-doer anyone?). They take this same “easy” mentality and put it on top of CrossFit. You can’t master these movements in a few sessions. Heck, you can’t even master them in a few years.

It takes incredible patience to move from form check with a length of PVC pipe, to a light training bar, to a proper bar, to starting to load it up. Many people don’t have the patience for this, and push themselves too far too fast. Once again, this increases the risk of injury.

These movements take time, patience, and practice. They are not a quick fix. They’re hard, hard work.

4. They don’t do real pull-ups.

Many, many posts have been written about the kipping pull-up. Here’s my take.

There is a time and place where the kipping pull-up can be very, very useful. That time is NOT within the first few months of CrossFit. Strict (often assisted) pull-ups should be the norm to strengthen the shoulder before loading it with 4-6 times your bodyweight with a kip. This is another skill that needs to allow time for adaptation as you progress.

I will say this, though. There IS value to the kipping pull-up. I can do more strict pull-ups than most people I know (26 last time I tried), and I’ve also got quite a few kipping (46 last time I tried). People who say that kipping won’t build strength for the strict, in my experience, may not have all the information.

5. Fitness is individual and can’t be accomplished in a group setting.

I will admit that if I had my way, I’d be full of private clients. Not only would I make more money, but I could provide each client with a more personalized system for getting them to their goals.

The fact is, working out with your friends is fun. It’s also incredibly motivational. If you know that Dave & Betty are both coming to class tomorrow at 6pm, you’re more likely to come. You’re also more likely to push yourself a little harder, since you don’t want Betty to smoke you again like she did today.

The group can be powerful, even if it’s not for everyone. And individual goals can be accomplished in a group setting. It just takes good coaching, as well as attentive and focused clients.

6. You can get just as fit doing other things.

Yes, yes you could. There are a LOT of good systems out there. CrossFit is one among a pretty good number of them. That doesn’t take away all the success stories. CrossFit works because people do it, and do it with passion. And because you’re sharing your workout with others, I mean who doesn’t like to kvetch after a hard workout?

7. CrossFit is just clever marketing.

To my knowledge, until CrossFit got a sponsorship agreement with Reebok, they had never done any marketing. People found it, tried it, got results, got hooked, and told their friends.

These days, individual CrossFit gyms may, indeed, market themselves, as does Reebok at this point. Marketing alone doesn’t necessarily make a product “good” or “bad.” Try it, and make up your own mind.

8. CrossFit is expensive.

CrossFit HQ, and every CrossFit gym that I know of, post their workouts on their websites daily. You can just surf over there and do the workouts if you want. No charge. That doesn’t seem expensive to me.

More money spent for more results is effective, not expensive. You pay $19 a month to never go to your globo gym–or to work out in isolation without a plan. If you go, you do only the exercises you like, and that are easy or comfortable for you. CrossFit is an investment and a commitment of your time and your energy to make exceptional change in your life. Any amount of money you spend to get real, lasting results, get healthy, and get connected with a supportive fitness community, CrossFit or otherwise, is worth every penny.

The Summary

CrossFit is growing in popularity. Like in any high growth industry, there are gonna be a few bad apples. It is my hope that if you experience a bad apple, you don’t let it cloud your view of CrossFit as a whole. If you want to try it, do your research, go to a couple different gyms, and see which one fits you best. If it’s gonna be right for you, I can’t change that. If it’s wrong for you, I can’t change that either. ;)


It was this “interesting” video, forwarded to me by Jason, that got this post started a few weeks ago.

This is NOT CrossFit.

This is one extremely advanced and specialized movement that is the equivalent of Pele’s backward bicycle kick, or a triple somersault/twist high dive. It’s NOT a typical movement.

They are performing a strongman movement called the Continental lift, also known as axle cleans. I’m going to assume two things about them: 1) Their coach likes & coaches strongman movements regularly, and 2) all of these people have tried & trained this movement before their local competition. The fact that they are dropping the bar and such, actually makes the movement safer. Knowing when to stop, and knowing how to “bail out,” actually help make this movement more approachable.

In brief, it looks ugly as hell, but has been around for a long, long time, even before the clean that you’re used to seeing in the Olympics. Though it may look more like an awkward intestinal massage, it’s actually great at building raw strength.

If you saw this video and thought, “CrossFit is not for me,” you’re right. This movement is not for a beginner, and some (most) people can do CrossFit for years, and never have the need, or find the opportunity, to do this movement. This video is gym, and coach, specific.