CrossFit for General Fitness Vs. CrossFit the Sport
by Erik Castiglione
Greetings Relentless Family! Today we’re going to delve into a brief history of CrossFit so that we can look at the two different sects of it. If you want to know why without actually getting into it, go ahead and skip to the last paragraph. For those who are interested, read on!
When CrossFit was created, it was designed as a fitness program designed to help people increase their General Physical Preparedness. It could serve as off season training for athletes, fitness preparation for elite military units, or a fitness program for those just looking to get into better shape. Since the workouts were scored, CrossFit natural lent itself to competition (it still does). As the 2000’s progressed, this led to the creation of the CrossFit Games. It started as a backyard barbeque, with 3 WODs in a day, which was unheard of at the time. It has since grown into what it is now – several days with multiple events each day. As the Games have evolved, CrossFit has split. There is now Competitive CrossFit (Fitness as a Sport), and CrossFit, the fitness program (OG CrossFit). The goals of each are different, and this leads to differences in training.
The goal of OG CrossFit is to help people build their capacity in 10 general physical skills: accuracy, agility, balance, coordination, endurance (cardio/respiratory), flexibility/mobility, muscular stamina, muscular strength, power, and speed. Furthermore, there is a heavy focus on form and quality of movement. We seek to achieve virtuosity in our movements (i.e. perfect technique), and try to allow as little form breakdown as possible in our metcons (i.e. conditioning WODs). This is for safety’s sake – we want to be able to train and make long-term progress. To achieve this, we carefully monitor training intensity and volume, and scale when appropriate. We do enough to improve, without overdoing it. We build the 10 general physical skills by focusing on a couple at a time, and then we test those specific ones using different benchmark WODs and max effort lifts. This can be accomplished through a 1-hour class, 3-6 days per week.
In the Sport of Fitness, the goal is for each individual athlete to achieve the highest scores possible in their competitions. This means that each athlete’s training is specifically focused on improving their weaknesses. Competitive athletes must be proficient in the following areas: maximal strength, ability to quickly cycle sub-maximal loads, advanced gymnastics, high volume gymnastics, conditioning, and pacing/red-line management. Furthermore, competitive athletes seek to achieve the highest score by moving as quickly as possible within allowed movement standards. There is no scaling allowed. To achieve this, they frequently “game” their WODs. Additionally, their training frequently exceeds an hour a day, sometimes lasting up to 2 hours, or even including multiple sessions a day. These athletes train typically train 5 days a week.
The differences may seem subtle, but they greatly affect how an athlete will approach a daily WOD. Coach Derek recently wrote a blog article about Intensity vs. Volume, which spawned an excellent question from Brad Lawrence on the very subject: “Is it better to go out fast and fail/slow down later or pace to get a better time?” If you’re CrossFitting for general fitness, listen to your coach about the goal of the workout. Sometimes, we try for maximal intensity, and sometimes, we work on pacing. If you’re practicing for competition, the goal would be to game the workout to achieve the highest possible score. Let’s use today’s WOD as an example:
AMRAP in 12 Minutes:
5 Front Squats (155/115)
10 Kipping Pull-ups
For me, 155 lbs is less than 50% of my best front squat, and kipping pull-ups are a strength of mine. If I had approached this workout as it was intended, I would have worked continuously for 12 minutes, breaking only when I had to. Instead, since I’m currently training in weightlifting which involves short work intervals, I strategized the hell out of the workout. I approached it as an EMOM, which allowed me to work for 25-30 seconds for the first several rounds, and rest for 30-35 seconds. This played to my strengths, since my current training doesn’t involve continuous work. This is the epitome of gaming a workout. Did I achieve a higher score for it? Yes. However, I did not achieve the intended stimulus of the workout, which will not make me better for it. I treated it as a competitive athlete rather than a general fitness enthusiast.
Finally, as previously mentioned, in competition, the goal of the athlete is to move as quickly as possible within the prescribed movement standards, rather than with as good form as possible. This involves things like placing your hands on your knees when doing air squats or DB snatches, dropping deadlifts from the top, rowing with emphasis on the upper body pull instead of the leg drive, etc. These are form deviations that technically meet the standards of movement, but don’t pursue virtuosity. In essence, you sacrifice quality for quantity.
Now that we’ve gotten into the differences, why should you care? Well, as we mentioned in our July announcements, we’re going to be starting a competitive CrossFit program towards the end of this month (or early next month). While it will involve our base programming with some supplemental work, the goals will be slightly different and may involve approaching the WODs differently. For those of you who are interested, stay tuned to see if you qualify for the program. For those who aren’t, it’s important to understand why some of our members may be treating the WODs differently, and to understand that the end goal is different.
Until next week, stay relentless!