Crossfit and Functional Fitness – time to take a stance and explain why.

First off every person reading this post needs to know who the author is. I did not get any health or fitness degrees from a university.  In fact, I had been researching, practicing, and training others in Functional Fitness long before I defined it or so much as even got a certification.  Therefore, if you want to attack any of my following comments by saying I am not “an expert,” feel free. I won’t argue.

Secondly, I refuse (at this point) to engage in any name calling or participate in one-sided rants for or against Crossfit. I have many friends and even family who are Crossfit instructors and they are top notch!

Thirdly, I will do my best to keep it short and too the point – yes I’ve failed at this over and over.

The reason for this post is my attempt to generate a more reasonable discussion concerning a recent outbreak of vicious, pointed, one-sided, and closed-minded attacks from both the Crossfit and anti-Crossfit camps. I have never enjoyed debating in this way.  To be honest with you, I get more upset at the people I “agree with” when they attack the other view points because I fear I’ll get lumped in with these idiots as a “self-righteous, closed-minded, my way or the highway kind of guy.” I already have had this problem with my past debates against muscle-isolating fitness programs, where I had been preachy and less than open-minded.

Time to get on point!

A Crossfit proponent made the mistake of posting his views in….well let’s say he posted his views in an incredibly easily-attackable way. One quote was that fitness is like a coin (one side is benefits/fitness while the other side is risk).  Risk is necessary? Ooops.
The attacks were plentiful! Some were all “high and mighty,” while others more sound and logical coming from actual trained fitness professionals. However, most of them were either condescending, assaulting, or down right vicious.  Crossfit is evil? Ooops.
I feel these “spirited debates” are too loaded when they don’t have to be. Below I will simply go over what I see (as a Functional Fitness proponent) as my pros and cons with Crossfit. The reason this is important is that I have always considered Crossfit not only under the umbrella of Functional Fitness, but as one of the original creators of Functional Fitness programming. Nobody can argue against Crossfit doing a great job of bringing Functional Fitness ideas successfully to the masses, so they deserve a break to some degree.
Crossfit provides free resources on the web. Other than the awesome Kemme Fitness program, good luck finding such vast resources without paying for it. Crossfit has a wide variety of programming to a degree with things like Crossfit Endurance, scaled down workouts, etc.
The real good stuff comes when you join a Crossfit gym. Their instructors can be highly trained (although they don’t have to be), but you get a lot of benefits from the gym. If you have intelligent instructors who can monitor your form, you will have access to great Functional Fitness exercises and workouts. Not to mention, the exciting, competitive environment is highly motivational. You can call yourself “an elite athlete,” and have some pride in that. The atmosphere might be competitive, but the comradeship is extreme and that keeps folks coming back and having a good time. Don’t underestimate how important this is. Think about how many people who begin a program just to quit it shortly after because it is not fun and/or nobody keeps them accountable. Just saying.
The best quote I have heard to describe the fitness industry’s concerns with Crossfit is this (paraphrased):  Crossfit has all the right ingredients for Functional Fitness, but the recipe they use is off.
What this means, is the theories behind the formatting and the types of exercises are great. They work movements, not muscles. They focus on the core. They utilize HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). They do more than build strength or endurance – they target power, stamina, balance, coordination, flexibility, strength, endurance, agility, etc. Sound familiar? Yep, this meets my 4 dimensions of Functional Fitness! However, using Olympic lifts to achieve all of this is arguably dangerous. Doing Deadlifts and Snatches for time?  I can not agree to that and I am not alone. This point alone is the heart of the anti-Crossfit programming. This is the space where injuries occur and health professionals cringe.
There are only two other “cons” I consider, but these are minor and are just my personal issues. One is the lack of variety. Crossfit has tons of workouts, but many workouts have little variety within them, and the exercises used in the overall program is limited in comparison to what I like.
The final “con” is the use of timed workouts. I get how this creates a fun, competitive environment, but I don’t like this for three reasons. #1 – many workouts can be done in less than 30 minutes and therefore miss out on the heart health benefits. #2 – This again can be dangerous because form is sacrificed for speed.  #3 – This format can turn off the program to more “average folks.”  Crossfit junkies might reply by saying “don’t let the door hit you in the rear on the way out,” but I personally am trying to reach the masses to help as many people as I can possibly (and safely) help.
If I am honest with myself, I can not 100% support Crossfit programming without jeapordizing my committment to safety and responsible training. Crossfit still meets my definition of Functional Fitness, and Crossfit gyms can be  awesome and rewarding places to get your fitness on, but I am cautious and nervous of being associated with Crossfit. Yes, I am not taking a hard stance here, but I am at the point where I want it clear that Kemme Fitness is not “like Crossfit.”
Time for the discussions to continue.  I highly welcome any respectful and intelligent comments on this topic.  Please weigh in by leaving commets on this post or the Facebook link.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Aaron

    Good post, Pete.

    I find it kind of sad that people get into such heated debates about risks/benefit ratios and whether Crossfit is better or worse than some other program, but I understand it. When a person dives into any activity, whether it be chess, advanced particle physics, Crossfit, or your programs, they will defend their beliefs and attack others as if their lives depended on it. It really is no different than different religions attacking each other over minor differences in the details.

    What gets lost in all the debates is that each person needs to do the research and find the program that works for them and makes them feel good and not worry about what other folks are doing, unless it is obviously dangerous.

    I agree that Crossfit is great, but it obviously is not for everybody. It can’t be. Same thing with K-Fit. You have done a great job of developing workouts that are fun, challenging, and will benefit any user; however, there are always going to be those who will do better in and/or enjoy a competitive group setting like a Crossfit gym.

    It all boils down to understanding and appreciating the differences between Crossfit and K-Fit and then deciding which works best for each person given their current health, background, goals, personality, etc. Being rational about it (like you are in this post) is important. Once rationality is lost, nobody benefits.

    1. Kemme Fitness

      Aaron, I am glad you commented my post was rational. I tried to be, but sometimes I am off the mark, so that makes me feel better. And great point, Kemme Fitness programs aren’t for everybody either. In fact, I didn’t want to even compare Kemme Fitness to Crossfit (they will outdo me with expertise), but to just say as the owner of Kemme Fitness that I have concerns with Crossfit (if that makes sense).

  2. The Rational One

    Personally I like alot of Crossfit stuff. I love the competition aspect, but that’s b/c ever since I’ve been able to be in sports I’ve always competed. Not everyone does though & you know what – that’s cool w/ me.

    But at the same time, I find some of the variety of wods in Crossfit are lacking & I like variety in my workouts.

    Take what you like from Crossfit & use it. Take what you don’t like & *gasp* don’t use it.
    Take what you like from Kemme Fitness & use it. Take what you don’t like & make fun of Pete. 🙂

    No one shoe can always fit & acomplish all goals. That’s why I wear steel toe boots when I’m in the woods cutting trees down, shiny black dress shoes when I’m at work, running shoes when I workout, brefoot when I’m doing some mma training, & flippers when I’m in the water. It’s really that simple – no need for pissing matches really.

    Pete – you did forget one major pro from Crossfit that does need mentioning: I learned how to count down from 3 – 2 – 1 – GO!


    It’s really not that difficult to figure out what does & doesn’t work for you, your goals, your life.

    1. Kemme Fitness

      First off, Rational One is the perfect name for this post, so thanks for that. And yes, any game plan that involves making fun of me is probably a sure thing! 🙂

  3. ridin

    Pacing is a part of why I don’t Crossfit. I find speed highly appropriate for some workouts, but, like you, completely inappropriate for others. I’m enough of a doofus that I want to watch my weight-bearing exercises pretty carefully. Of course they’re also harder when you do ’em slower…

    I’ve watched Crossfit workouts and came close to joining a gym near me, but decided the program doesn’t offer me the training I need for the events I do. I’m also completely non-competitive, so that element of Crossfit doesn’t motivate me.

    I think Crossfit, like most other activities, is a great idea for someone to get active and achieve their goals in a healthy manner, once they decide that program is the training they want.

  4. Kemme Fitness

    Well said. Crossfit clearly has its place, especially if you go to the Crossfit gyms.

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