Thursday, March 7, 2013

Three concepts every Crossfit box should incorporate to improve their product.

The strength and conditioning community and Crossfit have had a relationship that could be described as confrontational at best.  On the one side you have people who have been in the industry for years arguing it's negligent at best, and dangerous at wost.  On the other side, you have the box owners serving their clients, giving them that pound your ass in to the ground workout that makes people who are driven to crossfit cream in their pants.  As someone that's been in the training field for 17 years and a former high school wrestler, I see both sides.  I love that feeling after an uber intense workout, and in my past I have pounded away doing crossfit style workouts, what do you think a wrestling practice is?  It's a 2 hour crossfit workout.

While talking with my friend and rolfer to the stars Todd Fluck, I realized that my approach with Crossfit was not constructive.  I don't look at Crossfit as competition, I look at it as a sport that has nothing to do with me.  I don't think it's appropriate as a general fitness tool, but it's a free society and the vast majority of people who go there are looking for Crossfit.  As I was playing disc golf this morning, I posed a question to myself:

What are the 3 things you would do to improve Crossfit?

It took all of 5 seconds to come up with all 3, and here they are:

Adopt the joint by joint approach

The joint by joint approach is the product of a collaboration between strength coach Michael Boyle and physical theparist Gray Cook and has been since expanded by Physical Therapist Charlie Weingroff.  The joint by joint approach, quite simply, explains how we move effectively.  It tells you so much and is what the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is based on.  The basics of the joint by joint approach is that each joint of your body lends itself to either being more stable or more mobile.  Efficient, pain free movement requires that each component of the system functions as it should, or the entire system suffers.  Movement dysfunction starts when 1 joint functions in the wrong way.  When a joint that is supposed to be stable becomes mobile, the joint above or below it needs to switch and become stable, otherwise movement cannot occur.  This messes up the entire system and can lead to pain, poor movement, and injury.  When I work with any client, I inform them of the joint by joint approach and how it works. When you know what each component of a system is supposed to do, making sure that system functions properly is much easier.  It's also easier to get rid of lower back pain when you know what everything is supposed to do.

Program intelligently, not randomly

When I get any athlete, I find out when they need to be ready, how they need to be ready, and I work backwards.  If I have a tennis player that comes to me in August and needs to be at the top of their game in January, I already know what I'm going to do near the end of December, I then work back.  How can I get them to that point?  What other things do they have going on that I have to work around?  Does the results of their FMS allow them to do what I want or do I need to change my approach.  The random nature of Crossfit is the primary beef most knowledgeable strength coaches have with it.  If I had a box, I would identify the populations I am working with and have 2 tracks.   You have a group of people looking to compete, and those that are just doing it for fun.  Ok, the competitors are easy because you know when they have to be ready.  What needs to get accomplished each week, and how can I lay out WODs pragmatically so that I hit everything that needs to get hit while limiting overuse injuries and burnout?  How often am I going to hit specific tissues and how am I going to give each tissue a break?  What recovery modalities am I going to have them do?  Then you can get in to individualizing the person's program based on their life and career.

For the people doing it for fun, it's even easier.  You can lay out WODs for these people that won't lead to overuse injuries because you're not preparing them for anything.  You could lay out an entire league or season at your box easily.  Even though it's not random, that's not the point.  What makes Crossfit difficult is you don't know what you're preparing for, not that it's random.  If you lay it out how you want in an intelligent way and it's a surprise to your customers, what's the difference?

Stress-Learn it and manage it

Most of us know of the concept that is stress, but few actually understand it.  Understanding stress is critically important for anyone in the fitness industry.  Few things can have as dramatic an effect on our health as stress.  When used properly, stress can allow you to accomplish so much.  When used improperly, it can destroy your performance and make you miserable and sick.  With all of the tools we have available and everything we know about stress, there is no reason not to be measuring it in some way if you train people.  You can measure it objectively with an HRV app, or just use a subjective questionnaire.  Understanding and managing stress has allowed me to get my athletes to peak when they need to, but also allowed me to develop every day people who would probably have quit training had I not.  Looking back I know I have lost clients because I didn't understand stress in my past, I'm glad I do now.  If I were to give someone a place to start, Why Zebras don't get Ulcers by Dr. Robert Sapolsky is the book I'd begin with.  You won't get tons of information you can apply immediately, but to get to a point where you can you need to understand stress on the basic level.


So that's it, those are the 3 things I would change about Crossfit if I were to open a box.  As I look at all 3, they are not problems that are solely Crossfit problems.  Most shitty trainers are guilty of all 3.  I think the reason my stance on Crossfit comes off as negative is because I have no problem telling people my feelings on fitness related things.  If someone asks me if so and so is a good trainer and they're not, I have no problem telling that person that so and so is an asshole.  I know one day I will come across a Crossfit that has their shit together.  When I do I will have absolutely no problem directing people to them.  I actually hope I get to that point, it's not a space in the fitness industry I am interested in and I like being able to refer people to a quality product.    If you're in need of good bodywork in the South Jersey area, schedule an appointment with Todd Fluck.  :)