You can't cure stupid

Infinite Elgintensity does his usual bang-up job of mocking CrossSh*t's unforgivably cavalier attitude toward sanity and safety:

Wow. Just... wow.

If you've ever wondered why I hate on CrossFit so much, this is why. The 2015 CrossFit Games were apparently held at Snap City, USA (as, of course, is every edition of those games).

Now, to be clear, I have never done CrossFit, so I cannot comment on what it is like from a practitioner's perspective. I can, however, comment on it based on what I see CrossFitters actually doing- a CrossFit gym opened up less than a block away from my current gym sometime early last year, and I can observe these characters doing... whatever it is that they do on a regular basis.

There is a lot to be said for lifting heavy weights in either powerlifting or Olympic lifting exercises, as long as you keep the rep ranges low. There is also a lot to be said for high-intensity cardiovascular workouts- Tabata sprints and other extreme interval workouts are scientifically proven to burn fat and build endurance faster than pretty much anything else. And there is even something to be said for endurance athletics (though you'll never catch me training for a marathon or triathlon, EVER). All three are great ways to get fit and stay that way- as long as you keep them separate.

What CrossFit does, far too often, is to combine heavy weights with high reps. On top of that, they add HIIT training in the form of hard rowing and running, and then they stack on endurance athletics of various kinds.

Short of throwing yourself off a building with an anvil tied to your ankles, or setting your genitals on fire with an acetylene welding torch (fun image there), I can think of no faster way to remove yourself from the gene pool than this. We might as well just call the CrossFit Games the No-Gains Darwin Awards.

By all means, lift heavy weights for low reps. But if you insist on doing something stupid like lifting 405lbs for reps, at high speed with no rest breaks between each rep, on top of doing squats and pull-ups and burpees with minimal rest in between, you're just asking for a herniated disc or lower back injury.

And if that happens, don't expect someone like me to help you.

The CrossFit community has an unfortunate and ugly history with this sort of stupidity. This is a community that takes active delight in the sheer suffering that it inflicts upon people. The infirmity known as rhabdomyolisis is an unofficial mascot of the CrossSh*t movement called Uncle Rhabdo. He is also known as Pukey the Clown. To give you an idea of what these, uh, "mascots" look like, take a look at this:

OK, let's be clear about something: working out until you puke is not sensible. Puking is an unmistakable signal from your body that something has gone horribly wrong, and you need to stop and treat it right the frack NOW. If you throw up in the gym, seek medical help right away. I am not joking about this and I do not want anyone who goes to a gym to be under any illusions here; only the most severe and dangerous powerlifting workouts will have this effect on elite lifters, but if this happens to you as a beginner or intermediate lifter, you need help.

For his first CrossFit session, he swung a 44-pound steel ball with a handle over his head and between his legs. The aim was to do 50 quick repetitions, rest and repeat. After 30 minutes, Mr. Anderson, a 38-year-old member of the special weapons and tactics team in the sheriff's office in Tacoma, Wash., left the gym with his muscles sapped and back pain so excruciating that he had to lie in the driveway to collect himself. 
That night he went to the emergency room, where doctors told him he had rhabdomyolysis, which is caused when muscle fiber breaks down and is released into the bloodstream, poisoning the kidneys. He spent six days in intensive care. 
Yet six months later Mr. Anderson, a former Army Ranger, was back in the gym, performing the very exercises that nearly killed him. "I see pushing my body to the point where the muscles destroy themselves as a huge benefit of CrossFit," he said.
Pushing yourself until your muscles are destroyed is not a "benefit". That is why very few, if any, CrossFitters are actually considered "elite" by the standards of the natural powerlifting community. Muscle destruction does not help you make gains; muscle hypertrophy does, and CrossFit, when taken to an extreme, is not going to help you achieve that hypertrophy.

To put this into perspective, let's take how I do things as a comparative example.

I lift weights three days a week. I make no claims to being particularly strong, but I'm certainly a better lifter than about 98% of the guys who go to my gym. On top of this, I engage in intense martial arts sparring and training three times a week. By any reasonable standard, this is an unusually intensive and difficult physical fitness regimen. Most guys my age cannot keep up with something like that; colleagues at work who have asked me why I look the way I do are often shocked to hear how much time I spend working out.

And what has been the result of this regime in terms of injuries and muscle breakdown for me?

Not once in the last three years of this behaviour have I had to go to the hospital. Not once have I suffered a serious injury while weightlifting in that time. (I did jam a finger joint and hyperextend my elbow last June doing Krav Maga.) Not once have I experienced severe kidney damage, back injuries, or rotator cuff injuries (at least, not ones that I didn't already have, dating back to about 6 years ago from before I started powerlifting).

That is because, unlike CrossFitters, I take rest, recovery, and danger very seriously; I can and do rep out 20 deadlifts at 225lbs, but the workouts in which I do that take 2 hours or more to get through. I get plenty of sleep; I rest as long as I need to in between sets at the gym; I keep myself well hydrated and stuffed to the gills with high-quality food proteins. I take time off from all physical activity when I need to, in order to allow myself to heal. I deload from time to time as part of an "off-season" cycle of sorts.

In other words, I'm doing almost everything that CrossFitters don't do, while lifting significantly heavier weights than most of them (except for the most dedicated and strongest of them), with better form and for higher rep ranges.

So you tell me- which approach makes more sense to you?

In looking at what CrossFit preaches, I am reminded of a rather apt and apposite comment that Dire Badger made to my last post on physical fitness insanity:
crossfit, the food pyramid, veganism, socialism, egalitarianism, atheism, just looks like another terribly stupid idea expanding into a movement.
My martial arts teacher puts it another way, perhaps better: "you can't cure stupid".

He said that right after telling us a hilarious yet sobering story about a friend of his who was throwing a big-ass knife at a target less than 5 feet away- the kind of knife that Rambo uses.

You can guess what happened next: the knife rebounded off the target and landed in his buddy's leg on the shin-bone.

That's a whole different kind of hurt right there- and one for which I have pretty much no sympathy.

And of course, I could say the exact same thing about CrossSh*t. But don't just take my word for it- take a look at the playlist below for many more horrifying and excruciating CrossFit fails, and then decide whether you want to take up this nonsense full-time:


  1. Eduardo the Magnificent9 January 2016 at 21:21

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  2. I have to say, that in boot camp, you get worked harder than you ever have before in your life.
    We WERE fatbodies going in. we would be exercised until we fell down, carrying huge weights for miles compared to our prior lives, 'cycled' (exercised for hours as punishment) but one thing that NEVER happened.

    No one threw up.

    The reason is because we were CYCLED. no single exercise was overdone. we might do pushups for fifteen minutes straight and then made to wait 'halfway up' for fife minutes, but then we were doing 5 point bodybuilders, and then from there into situps. Each exercise was DISTINCTLY seperate, because that way we could get a continuous long workout without destroying our bodies.

    It trained our endurance while building our strength.

    From what I understand of crossfit, it attempts to build endurance AND strength 'in the same exercises'. This is wrong, it is dangerous, and it can be absolutely deadly. There is no rest down-time from one set of abused muscles to the next. You abuse the same muscles, again and again... this destroys muscles rather than building them and increasing endurance.

    Boot camp may have seemed cruel, but what they did was very, very carefully designed to turn out the healthiest youngsters it possibly could. and frankly, human bodies have not changed... the workout rules tyhat worked a century ago still work now.. Joe Weider's revised workout is just as effective for turning out mister universe contestants as they ever were. In the world of personal health, 'new' is not 'good', and in fact is almost always synonymous with 'bad'.

    Say it with me. NEW is BAD when it comes to health. The paleos know this. the mister universe contestants know this. the military knows this.

    the only thing 'new' is good for in fitness is for lining the pockets of snake oil salesmen.

  3. I have to wonder if some of the "new" fitness fads come from the relatively recent (ie. in the past 10-15 years) trend in televised documentaries about Special Forces Selections from around the world.

    Shows such as "Surviving the Cut" and "Class 234" are a good examples. The beginning of every selection always seems to be an insane and prolonged physical activity period meant to have the candidates start to question their commitment to the process and to weed out those who are truly not physically prepared.

    This is not a workout.

    This is not something to be done regularly.

    Yet many Crossfit and bootcamp type programs subject their clients to this constantly and then seem surprised that people are getting hurt.


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