Thursday, April 11, 2013

Killin It

Posted January 4, 2013 at 1:26 PM
I did my first powerlifting meet in 1968, have a degree in the field, and I've seen training methods come and go. Some are good, some are fads. Regarding cross-fit, without a doubt you can get a good workout, but expecting cross-fit to take you to the next level in any sport other than crossfit may result in disappointment. Jumping on boxes and shaking ropes will make you good at jumping on boxes and shaking ropes. Flipping tires will more than likely eventually result in back trouble as you go to heavier tires because you will be out of an ideal pulling position. Some people will never be able to get the olympic lifts, and doing them improperly will be a waste of time. I had a high school football player whose forearms were too long and he couldn't power clean without putting the bar into his trachea. This kid also squatted 350 as a 148 lb.16 year old. Norm Schemansky, who last medalled bronze in the 1964 Olympics once said, "If you want to increase your snatch, do more snatches." That pretty much sums it up for sports whether you're catching footballs, hitting baseballs, pitching baseballs, kicking field goals, punting, serving tennis, deadlifting, or whatever.

This was an interesting post from the same thread on the EFTS site that stimulated my "Answering A Coach" post from January 2013.  

The best part of this post is the example it provides for observation and analysis of "how to make an argument", and for how to consider these opinions from the perspective of a CrossFit advocate and practitioner.

First, establish who you are and why you care, which is this case is:
"I did my first powerlifting meet in 1968, have a degree in the field, and I've seen training methods come and go."

Most of us would respect the experience and consider the opinion of such a person.

He then makes it clear he has no axe to grind for CrossFit.

Then, he veers off into opinion, and is – accidentally - right.  The summary:  CrossFit, and other GPP methods such as tire flipping, box jumps, and "battling ropes", are great for being good at GPP, but these methods do not translate to specific activities in which high skill is an element.  IOW - for football, throw footballs, for snatching, snatch, etc.

Here, by the way, is a nice discussion of GPP:

Killin articulates another widely held opinion:  "Some people will never be able to get the olympic lifts, and doing them improperly will be a waste of time."  He describes an athlete with unique anthropometry which made it impossible for him to put a barbell in the front rack position, and it’s true such an athlete shouldn’t spend a bunch of time trying to receive a barbell in the front rack. Clean pulls and snatches, though, should work fine.

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program designed to elicit increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.  It was developed to provide generalized, vice specialized fitness.  Greg Glassman’s experience using CrossFit, related in several CF Journal articles and videos, could be summarized in the following statements:
-       When skiers learned and did pullups, they skied faster
-       When cyclists learned deadlifts, they cycled faster
-       If you evaluate any elite athlete, you can find significant deficiencies in their GPP, and correcting these deficiencies yields more gains that spending an equivalent amount of time on sport specific activities.
This approach has been validated by Louie Simmons’ comments.  As Louie points out, per the law of accommodation, once you have “learned how to spell your name, you can only spell it wrong.”  Louie relates how he can take a fast college athlete, train them using barbells, jumps and other methods unique to Westside, and make them run faster.  His point is easy to verify for oneself – if you always do the same thing, progress slows or stops.  For example, if you ran two miles a day, every day, how long would you expect to continue getting faster at a 2 mile run?  Progress would slow and then stop – because the body would accommodate to the demands of a 2 mile run.

So, based on that background, take the case of an aspiring young athlete – should that athlete CrossFit?  Yes – because generalized fitness is important for peak athletic function.  But that athlete may also benefit from deleting some elements of CrossFit – for example, endurance runners will have to spend more time running than a non-endurance runner.  Football players might do well to never run more than 200-800m.  Baseball players and tennis players should probably run even shorter runs, and only at top speed. 

In other words, because CrossFit is designed to provide a broad general result, a specialist should not be able to gain maximum results from CrossFit alone. 

But – some do just that!

More commonly, specialists use CrossFit and other GPP programs to eliminate deficiencies inherent in their sport.  Swimmers and cyclists have significant deficiencies in their ability to maintain a stable core under load.  Baseball players and golfers repeatedly place high force, asymmetric loads on their spines and their bodies generally.  CrossFit and other GPP based programs will help these athletes address these challenges to their overall fitness.

In other words, Coaches Glassman, Killin and Simmons may all be right.  The snatch is a high skill movement.  An athlete that wants to do nothing but snatches, and an oly lifter who has a GPP base might only benefit from doing more snatches.  Another specialist – for example a football player or track athlete - with gaping holes in his/her GPP, might make far greater gains addressing their deficiencies than by simply continuing to do what they have always done for training. 

Mr. Killin has repeated what the CrossFit white paper (link) says: CrossFit is intended as a core strength and conditioning program.  It is not intended to be a specialist’s program.

So is Killin right that an athlete should not look to CrossFit to “get to the next level”?  If I was a competitive athlete looking for a breakthrough, I would not just keep on spelling my name right!  I might try and find the deficiency that is holding me back, and CrossFit would provide a good test and prescription for finding that weakness in GPP.  CrossFit is not intended to build marathoners, powerlifters, weightlifters or 100m sprinters, but it has helped a few such specialists.  

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