Written by Ryan Brown
Recently, I have been mulling around the idea of opening up my gym during the non class times for an open gym membership. It would run pretty much the same as any other gym… People come in, do whatever it is that they want to do and they leave. The negative to a situation like that are that people are going to come in and do really stupid things, which makes me a little leary… but isn’t that exactly what goes on in every other gym around the country? Going back and forth over weather or not I will be able to deal with some of the things that I will see without flipping my shit has been a major point of contention for me on this subject. On the one hand, I want to provide an affordable way for people to come in and train at a bad ass place. If I am going to make it affordable then I can’t go around teaching everyone to do everything correctly. I would just be really busy and really poor. I have been down that road and it sucks.
Anyway, these discussions have really got me thinking about CrossFit. The different aspects of training and the different mistakes that people are making in those areas, especially the ones that are training on their own teaching themselves rather than working with a coach.
Strength- I’ll start here since it seems like it would be the most popular subject on this site. When I first came into CrossFit strength work was “random” heavy stuff, and to be honest with you, most everyone skipped it in favor of another metcon. I can’t tell you how many times my Marines and I would look at the workout and see strength work and then just make up some ridiculous ball crusher of a WOD to do instead. Nowadays, that seems crazy as hell to me, but I know that it is still happening out there. Things are different now, there are great resources out there to teach you the importance of strength work, how to organize it, and how to control the volumes so that you can still do your met cons. I still fear that people don’t place enough importance on it. I didn’t tell her that I was going to do this, but Joellyn came over to train this afternoon and she told me that she didn’t feel like she needed to get any stronger, just needed to move more efficiently (that is where I come in). I am afraid this thought is echoed in many competitors who started Crossfit stronger than their competition and have primarily made all their gains through metcon workouts. In the book “Science and Practice of Strength Training”- Vladimir Zatsiorsky states that unless the required load is less than 30% of an athletes maximum then gains in maximal strength are still the best way to improve endurance. I am almost positive that nearly everyone falls into that category.
Skill Work- This one can really piss me off. Even the name of “skill work” seems like it would be self explanitory but so many damn people miss the boat. People love to throw movements into a workout because they want to practice the movement while they are tired before they ever even get good at it in the first place. People also seem to love to forget that anything is “skill work” if you are terrible at it. One of the things that I hate most in the world is when I see overhead squats in a workout and 15 people doing the most bogus jacked up shit that I have ever seen. That is what I hate most about the idea of “open gym”. I have had the bad experiences in the past where people will come to train while they are in town and they tell me that they are on a program (outlaw) and ask if they can do their workout. I don’t have a problem with those workouts, the results speak for themselves. BUT, if you are fucking terrible at something, quit trying to use it for conditioning.
Variety- More often than not, variety is a crutch for people who don’t know what it is that you should actually be doing. Unless you are highly advanced (if you are questioning it then you aren’t) then you don’t need alot of stuff. I know in the old days of CrossFit people loved to do different workouts all the time, then 6 months later you go 10 seconds faster and you think that you made some progress. One thing that most training programs of high level athletes have in common is an overwhelming lack of variety. There may be variety from training block to training block, in season and offseaon, etc.. but overall day to day and week to week training is remarkably unchanging. Loads, volume, and intensities vary but the overall organization of training is the same. Sure, there are way more movements in CrossFit than what most high level athletes are training for, but just like I said before with skill work. You shouldn’t be using it as part of your workout until you are really awesome at it.
Competing- Here is one that really gets me. People tell me that they want to compete in CrossFit, but they refuse to treat CrossFit like a sport. Untill you are at a very high level, CrossFit isn’t going to make you more competitve at CrossFit. Your program must be built around your strength work and you must ensure that you are not letting your metcons effect your recovery. Every thing else that you do should be aimed at perfecting skills, not practicing them while you are tired. In the old days of CrossFit you didn’t have to be that strong to be competitive, but that is no longer the case. The weights get heavier and heavier, and it is going to take you a hell of a lot longer to get your 550# dead and your #315 clean and jerk than it will to get your 2 and a half minute “Fran”. If you care about what is “fun” then you don’t care about competing.
NOT competing- One of the most awesome things that CrossFit has done is not produce “elite athletes” but it has been to get people off of their couches and into a gym. It created a community that people want to be a part of and make changes that improve their lifestyle. That being said, one of the greatest fallacies of Crossfit has been that everyone is an athlete. This is bogus as hell. I can walk into my gym right now and point out like 20 people who are not athletes. They are mothers, grandmothers, and 40 year old dudes trying to relive the old days when coach should have put them in and they coulda won state, debating who can throw a pigskin over them mountains. Everyone doesn’t need to know how to do a handstand, even though many CrossFitters seem to believe that walking on your hands in a much needed skill in this world. 90% of everyone in a CrossFit gym falls into this category. I hate to be the one to break it to you but you aren’t going to the CrossFit Games (well, actually I guess that there is no reason you can’t go.. you just probably won’t be competing) you are in the gym to get healthy and to have a good time while you are doing it. So, stop trying to treat it, or yourself like you are Rich Froning. There is no reason that a 40 year old lawyer who has been working out for 6 months needs to be at work unable to move his arms for 3 days. There are faster, less damaging ways to make progress and still be fun. If you just want to show how tough you are then go to an MMA gym. (I can still get you physically prepared for that too)
Mobility- Someone smart once told me that, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. However, this seems to be most everyone’s approach to mobility. Or, in most circles of people who train themselves or train in a small group with no coach is to do nothing. I have to admit that I was once one of the silly crossfitters than would come into the gym and do a short workout for a warmup and give no thought to actual movement quality. The old addage “you workout is my warmup” comes to mind…. and is also the dumbest ass thing that I have ever heard. The best thing that you can ever do to improve your “skill work” is to improve your movement quality. There is not a day that goes by in my gym that we don’t make minor tweaks to a persons breathing, stability, or mobility and create instant change in someones performance. People are so excited to find a training program that can put 30# on your squat in a couple weeks, but I have seen it happen in a matter of minutes on multiple occasions. Handle your business.
There is also alot of random Crossfit stuff going on in my gym already that I hate.
1. Kipping Handstand pushups- If you can’t fucking do them, then don’t. If you are in a competition and have to do them, kip the shit out of them.
2. Dropping 10# bumpers and breaking them everyday of my life- If you aren’t strong enough to have at least #25 bumpers on your bar then return the damn thing to the groud softly.
3. Overhead squats- There are about 5 people in my reg crossfit classes that can do overhead squats that don’t make me want to vomit. So just stop, treat them as a skill and improve your mobility
4. Muscle up progressions in a met con workout- I am not even gonna elaborate on how much I hate this. Do damn pullups.
5. Inverted burpees / virtual shoveling – virtual shoveling has never happened in my gym, but I saw some inverted burpees a couple weeks ago and it was the lamest thing I’ve ever seen
6. Doing “muscle activation” exercises with high velocity like a dynamic warmup- ACTIVATION, duh.
7. Low bar back squats – you are a crossfitter, not a powerlifter. The only reason you are doing that is to mask your shitty mobility. So, just fix it and high bar back squat like a crossfitter should.
8. The guy that can’t seem to understand that 80% means 80% and I know that it doesn’t feel that heavy – You aren’t impressing anyone by “going for it” just do what you are told.
9. Women talking to each other- It is pretty awesome having a bunch of hot girls running around with barely any clothes on, I just wish they would shut up.
10. People talking to me- I am in a bad mood, leave me alone.Ryan Brown is the head physical preparation coach and owner of Derby City CrossFit / DarkSide Strength in Louisville,Ky. Ryan’s focus is on correcting and perfecting movement/motor patterns to get the most out of his athletes. He has competed in CrossFit, Powerlifting, strongman, and currently Olympic lifting. His clients include; elite level power lifters, national level Olympic lifters, pro MMA fighters, college football players, HS athletes, CrossFitters, old broke people, and pretty much anyone else who wants to do something better. Website, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter