Jillian Michaels

February 27, 2019

The Good & Bad of CrossFit

I’m guessing you’ve seen the latest headlines about how I am “slamming” CrossFit. Well, that isn’t totally true. I think any workout can be good when coached properly and programmed into your fitness regimen properly. Conversely, any workout can be dangerous if the individual isn't conditioned for it properly and if the instruction is poor. 

With CrossFit, however, the risk is that much greater because it's an extreme, high intensity workout that borrows movements from Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics and many other sports that require tremendous instruction, skill, and supervised practice to execute safely and efficiently.

That said, here are my top concerns regarding CrossFit that you should be mindful of when considering this workout regimen.

The Exercises Can Be Too Complicated for the Average Person

CrossFit can be too intense for the general public. The everyday athlete is not only asked to do complicated, complex, incredibly high intensity exercises (as mentioned above) they are asked to do them for a specific amount of time, doing as many reps as possible in a time frame. Even more worrisome? They are often performed in a fatigued state, which is not how any of those fitness modalities like gymnastics or Olympic lifts were meant to be done.

Instructor Certification Isn’t Rigorous Enough

To teach CrossFit classes, an individual only has to complete a weekend certification program. While there are absolute fitness masters like Kelly Starrett that can instruct CrossFit, most CrossFit box owners don't have anywhere near his credentials. This to me can be a recipe for disaster and we have all seen the CrossFit "fail" compilation videos on Youtube or Instagram — arguably for all the above reasons.

CrossFit Training Logic Doesn’t Make Sense

I admit, I have never understood CrossFit training logic — and have never gotten any clear answers on it.

Amongst my questions: Why are prescribed WODs (workout of the day) often uniform when it comes what weights each gender should lift — and why is this not ALWAYS prescribed on an individual basis? Why perform one exercise or two exercises doing "as many reps as possible" in seven minutes?

My list of 'why's' when it comes to popular CrossFit WODs goes on and on and I have yet to be given any reasoning for how those workouts make an athlete better.  How is the workout individualized? How is it designed to progress an athlete? How is it offering a balanced approach to fitness? How is recovery being programmed?

There Is No Prioritizing Of Recovery

Unless, I have missed something and all the people I know who do CrossFit are doing it wrong, CrossFit doesn't seem to make significant efforts to build in recovery days. Exercise is stress and high intensity exercise is obviously that much more stressful on the body. In order for fitness to not just be safe, but also more effective, proper planned recovery is key so the body can maximize its stress adaptation response.

CrossFit workouts several days in a row, let alone 5 days a week, doesn’t allow the body much time to heal from the workout. This not only slows your progress but it can cause stress fractures, strains, or even rhabdomyolysis from overtraining / under recovery.

Not Enough Variety

Because CrossFit has a limited number of key exercises, if someone is a devotee and only goes to their CrossFit box for their fitness regimen. Therefore, in addition to increasing the risk of repetitive stress injuries, the opposite can happen. Your body can adapt to those same movements and progress can actually slow over time.

Instead, I prefer to train muscles with as much variety as possible, using as many angles of push and pull as you can incorporate over your training regimen to utilizing as many modalities of fitness — balance, speed, strength, power, agility, mobility — possible to train the muscles. Studies show repeatedly that variety is a crucial factor in building a well rounded athlete that is not prone to injury and progresses at an accelerated pace.

In summation, if you are going to partake in CrossFit be smart about it. I wouldn’t do the workout more than twice a week (three times MAX) and try to program two days minimum between CrossFit training sessions.  If you are going to a CrossFit box make sure your coach has a degree in exercise science. I wouldn’t let anyone with less credentials coach me with those kinds of intense modalities. Balance out this type of workout with modalities that focus on mobility like yoga or Pilates.

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