Did you see the CF Open 13.1 WOD? There were a lot of snatches, to say the least. Jacob Tsypkin wrote this article not to piss you off (though it might), but to start a discussion about how CrossFit is enabling American Weightlifting to experience a rejuvenation that might just help make us relevant on the international stage again.
There has always been some tension between strength sport communities and CrossFit. Though in recent years, many great strength athletes and coaches have affiliated themselves with CrossFit, it seems that there is also a large contingent of strength athletes who are at best lukewarm towards it, if not outright vitriolic. Much of the dislike seems to come with regard to the Olympic lifts, perhaps due to their technical nature, and their so called “misuse” by CrossFitters.
I am very fortunate. I have been lucky enough to train with some of the best coaches and athletes in both CrossFit and weightlifting. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of both of these sports. The elitists, the douchebags, and the great people who love their sport and want to make it better. I have competed and coached competitors in both endeavors. As such, I feel I have a unique perspective on the matter.
Of course, I have my own opinions on the arguments presented by weightlifters against CrossFit. However, I do not want to discuss opinions here. I want to present some facts. Some absolute truths, which I ask you to keep in mind when analyzing what CrossFit has done, is doing, or can do for the sport of weightlifting.
Fact 1: CrossFit is creating more interest in weightlifting than there has ever been in the U.S.
5000+ CrossFit gyms worldwide (I don’t know how many exactly are in the U.S., but it is the VAST majority) educating people about the lifts. Some of them may not do a great job of teaching the lifts themselves, but consider this: the odds of an average individual knowing that the snatch and clean & jerk exist, that they are a sport, and understanding how challenging that sport is, are MUCH higher now than they have ever been before.
Fact 2: CrossFit is bringing the idea of effective GPP programming to a larger audience than ever in the U.S.
Nations which are highly successful in weightlifting almost universally have effective GPP programs in place which start at a very young age. Most of us can probably agree that physical education in the U.S. is subpar. Kids’ programs in CrossFit gyms across the country are getting young Americans excited about exercise – this alone is a huge step. Couple that with creating interest in the olympic lifts, and a GPP program which is much more similar to what you would see in countries that win medals in weightlifting – that is to say, they are biased towards teaching movement rather than particular sports. This has the potential to lead to a massive improvement in the general athleticism of the average American, which in turn carries over to more potential in young weightlifters.
Fact 3: CrossFit is gradually generating a nationwide talent identification program.
Something else which weightlifting medal winning nations often hold in common with each other, is a method by which they identify young athletes with potential for particular sports. In the U.S. no such program exists, in large part because we tend to specify athletes at a very young age, rather than presenting them with a broad array of athletic endeavors to learn, enjoy, and potentially excel in. Here’s where CrossFit comes in. Along with “traditional” sports they participate in, kids in these programs are learning the basics of weightlifting, gymnastics, sprinting, jumping, and the like. Merely by virtue of spending time engaging in this wide variety of movements, coaches will be granted the opportunity to identify kids who have potential as weightlifters early in their athletic careers, something which very rarely occurs now.
Whether you are a CrossFitter or a weightlifter, whether you love or hate CrossFit, it’s hard to debate the truth of the above claims. Their value may be questioned, but I, personally, am willing to bet that CrossFit will end up doing far more good for the sport of weightlifting than it does bad.
Besides, CrossFit is leading to this:
Sarabeth Phillips is a CrossFit Competitor. CrossFit was her introduction to weightlifting. She now snatches 80 and clean & jerks 95 at a bodyweight of 58.
And that, I think we can all agree, is something we need more of.
Jacob Tsypkin is a CrossFit and weightlifting coach, the co-owner of CrossFit Monterey and the Monterey Bay Barbell Club in Monterey, CA. He is available for weightlifting seminars and once got busy in a Burger King bathroom.