Some Truths About CrossFit and Weightlifting

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. 

93 thoughts on “Some Truths About CrossFit and Weightlifting

  1. Hard truths? More like cherry picking.

    Fact 4. Crossfit takes exercises and performs them in a manner that they are not designed, under the banner of “added intensity” which relates to all manner of injuries and of course lack of performance. Your “Sarabeth Phillips” didnt get there from main site programming, lets call a spade a spade.

    Fact 5. Crossfit exposes people to better training and lifestyle – I didnt know powerlifting/olympic lifting really existed or was accessible until I started crossfit, nor did I know about paleo.

    Fact 6. Fact 5. does not give crossfit much of a leg to stand on. The good actually has nothing to do with CF.

    Fact 7. Crossfit leads to this. Find me an olympic weightlifting trainer/powerlifting gym in the WORLD where this would be encouraged and cheered – only in a CF “box” is this enabled.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-k0NTB2DTGs

    Fact 8. Sites like this have the integrity and smarts to stand on their own 2 legs. Maybe they dont need to defend CF to access their members and build numbers.

    From a former kool-aid drinker and 1000$ tshirt owner.

      • Your point is CF brings more to (not just american) weightlifting/strength sports, than it does to hurt it, and its participants.
        I beg to differ.

        • you couldn’t be more wrong, as it has single-handedly revitalized weightlifting in America

          I don’t know about other sports, but that is inarguable

          • presuming your right here, does this outweigh the bad?
            Is there negative publicity attached by association with what crossfit does to these sports?

        • Cool, I guess we can agree to disagree. But the numbers are not on your side. Maybe you go to as many weightlifting meets as I do and are seeing something completely different, but in our local meets, as well as at last year’s American Open and this years Arnold, a very large contingent of the competitors were CrossFitters. So is a big part of the audience. In the last few years USAW’s membership has gone way up – I’m not sure of the exact numbers but something like tripled. That’s not a coincidence, I’m going to be pretty impressed if you come up with a way to convince me that this is a bad thing for the sport.

          • If thats your measure of success then no, I dont.

            Numbers do not equal quality. Nor do they equal retainership/longevity. Nor do they mean your attracting the right people to the sport.

            Nor has any other alternative recruiting platform been produced to A/B split test this thing (which of course their isnt, strength sports lost that race to beach gun focussed methods long ago).

            My point is your joining dots crossfit = more numbers to strength sports = better for strength sports and thats not sound. You should be careful about who your brand is associated with.

            • I’ll be careful about associating with my CrossFit gym where I produce good weightlifters.

              Someone should let Glenn know that he needs to stop associating MDUSA with CrossFitters too.

              PS Beards are for literal faces not figurative necks imo

            • I don’t think you understand weightlifting is not a web application. How do you propose they A/B split test methods to recruit people to a sport with a dying talent pool that nobody (objectively) gives a fuck about? do you even read your posts?

              THERE IS NO BRAND FOR USAW. I’m not even a crossfitter and i make fun of that derpy bullshit all the time but EVEN I CAN SEE THAT PROVIDING A PIPELINE OF TALENT TO A SPORT IS ALL THAT MATTERS WHEN NO ONE GIVES A FUCK ABOUT IT

              you are struggling for some sense of optimality in nature/the current landscape/some computer simulation of the Way Things Ought To Be in your mind that simply doesn’t exist and is not possible

              go sign up for dollar shave club and shave your goddamn neckbeard

              • this guy is literally arguing, literally, not even figuratively, literally, in the literal sense, that driving more numbers to a dying sport and increasing the available pool from which to select athletes is a BAD THING if it comes at the cost of being associated with derpy retards on youtube that may or may not be snatching more than they can and pressing it into their foreheads

                do you even realize how far you have fallen down the hole of neckbeardery?

                  • this is the thickest neckbeard I have seen on the internet

                    I’ve never seen someone come on the internet and just tell people to a/b split test methods to recruit people to a sport as if you can change presentation of menu options on a dropdown and say “would you like to learn about crossfit today?

                    or do you think it sounds better if we say “you’re a pretty mobile and strong person. come learn about weightlifting today!” while shunting the youtube page far down the feed so as to not associate it with your brand

                    I honestly can’t believe I’m reading this

    • @ Psuedodan> Amen Brother! Crossfit may expose people to Oly Lifting but 90% (I am being kind with that percentage) of the Crossfitters I see performing Oly Lift,s SCARE THE SHIT OUT OF ME!!! They may be doing great things getting kids active, but taking an obese man and having him power snatch ANY weight for sets of 20 if the sign of a mental deficiant AT BEST!

      • As a personal anecdote sample size n=1…Doing crossfit while making some GPP gains eventually led me to the realization I was suffering an overall strength deficit.

        This doesn’t necessarily apply to weightlifting persay, but I’ve got to assume there are many people like me out there where Crossfit got them into an active/fitness mindset, but had the realization crossfit won’t get them to their goals and they reach out for something else…

  2. This is both an excellent summary of pseudodan’s argument AND fucking hilarious. Bravo sir. Bravo

    Jahed on March 11, 2013 at 1:47 am said:
    this guy is literally arguing, literally, not even figuratively, literally, in the literal sense, that driving more numbers to a dying sport and increasing the available pool from which to select athletes is a BAD THING if it comes at the cost of being associated with derpy retards on youtube that may or may not be snatching more than they can and pressing it into their foreheads

  3. While it’s undeniable that CrossFit has helped the sport of weightlifting, I think the real question is, is it worth it? I mean, I would love to see the U.S. be a major contender in weightlifting, but is that more important than all the people getting injured doing CrossFit?
    You don’t have to look far in the CrossFit world to find massively shitty form because it’s EVERYWHERE. The video of Annie T. on 13.1. Her form is good, but the guy behind her is pulling with a rounded back and with his ass starting out above his head. Any of the clips they show on the CF Games update show of people doing the Open workouts at home. I can look at the websites of almost every CF gym in my state and see pictures of people performing basic movements with poor mechanics. I just don’t know if all of the cases of rhabdo and torn rotator cuffs are worth a gold medal.

      • Lol, it may be hard to believe but I actually don’t troll CF videos with that type of shit or tell them they’re headed to “snap city” (although it’s tempting). It’s just so prevalent that it’s hard not to notice. And yes, it does piss me off that some coaches think it’s okay to have someone snatch or clean and jerk loads that they clearly can’t handle for multiple reps under extreme fatigue. Teaching bad technique is definitely not limited to CrossFit, but CF doesn’t do much to combat it since they let people coach others with only a weekend certification. Also, for the record, I don’t hate CrossFit, because I would still be leg pressing and failing to get strong if it hadn’t introduced me to other training ideas. I just have some major problems with a lot of affiliates and the fact that HQ doesn’t implement any form of quality control.

    • Yes, it is totally worth it, because when these people actually get into USAW style competitions, they’ll get their shit straightened out real quick, and probably be better because of it.
      And let us not only blame the ‘coaches’ for allowing trainees to get away with less than ideal form. Let us also place a lot of the blame on the trainees themselves; it’s called body awareness, get some. In my past CrossFit life I was very meticulous with my form and technique, and I worked on it for a long time before I let myself go heavier in the lifts. Two years later and people were always complimenting my form, while they were still stuck in week one sloppiness. Oh, you’ve been here two years and you can’t catch a snatch in a squat? Bummer man, I don’t know what to tell you.
      This is not an attack on your comment, newgetelqueso, it just seemed like a good place to throw this.

      • I think there is a happy medium somewhere inbetween.

        I, like Mr. echo above, have always been very critical of my own technique, always wanting to do things the correct way. But, not everyone is like this.

        Recently, my wife and I started teaching CrossFit classes out of a personal training facility. I’m curious to know how many people who criticize the form and technique they see in CrossFit videos and websites have ever tried to coach others. There are some people who are athletic and coordinated, and with a little bit of instruction and cues, are able to perform movements with great form and technique. Then there are others who seem to lack any kind of body awareness and motor control. These clients are a challenge, and I love taking someone with a terrible backsquat and turning them into someone who can squat BW for multiple reps.

        However, that transition TAKES TIME. In the videos you are seeing online, are you aware how long those people have been doing CrossFit? Are they there 4x a week? Are they there once a week? Have they been doing it for a couple months? A couple years? The other thing we struggle with is that some clients see the CrossFit workouts and think “omg that’s great!” and they just want to come in and speed through the strength/technique session and just get right to the WOD. It takes a bit of discussion (and I’m still working out how to do this) to get these people to realize that the strength and skill portions of class are equally if not MORE important than the actual workout.

        This problem isn’t unique to CrossFit. As I said, we run our classes out of a personal training facility. I see very few trainers there spending any time teaching their clients proper form and technique. I think to date I have seen only one other coach teach parallel or below-parallel squats. This isn’t a CrossFit problem, it’s a coaching problem, and it exists across ALL areas of fitness (and sports).

        You’re going to get good coaches and bad coaches. We should be encouraging and promoting the good, and doing what we can to fix the bad.

    • I’m always surprised at this argument. its as if you are saying no one in weightlifting or power lifting ever gets injured? Heck a quick google search of weightlifting fails produces hundreds of such examples. Don’t like crossfit well don’t do it, To just say crossfit in a whole produces injuries is a inaccurate statement.

    • Well at least you know that at a crossfit gym people are going to rehab with foam rollers, lacrosse balls and a legitimate mobility program whereas at a traditional gym they’ll rehab a back spasm by switching over to a treadmill for a few weeks and then going back to shitty deadlift or kettlebell form.

    • do you honestly have a rate or number of injured participants as a proportion of the total crossfitting population? I used to use this same point to make fun of crossfit but now I’m not so sure anymore.

    • On a sidenote there are people out there (Bill Starr, etc) who believe we get outlifted on the international stage because Americans care more about technique and form than just throwing heavy stuff above there heads…

      But in agreement with your thoughts there is a fine line between bad form and the horrendous form of rounded backs etc. But from Crossfits’s standpoint…I always thought they were supposed to be form nazis. How are people getting away with rounded backs and improper mechanics during a meet?

  4. While I’m not the biggest fan of Crossfit, it does do some good. My main complaints are aimed towards HQ, and not the individual boxes. Yes, there are plenty of crappy coaches out there. But, from what I’ve seen, the quality has improved a lot. Most local folks don’t even like what Glassman says half the time, either. You can’t deny that Crossfit builds a good community and network of support that keeps people coming back when they would normally bail on training. A lot coaches also add some programming to their training. Most boxes, start off with a strength component and use the WOD as the finisher. It’s right on to say that Crossfit has brought more people into weightlifting and powerlifting (to a lesser degree than weightlifting). Where else would they get exposed to weightlifting? From the non-existent coverage of the Olympics? From their L.A. Fitness trainer? 24 Hour Fitness? I think not.

  5. I went to a crossfit box in Greenville, NC this last weekend to do a seminar. I found that they had a weightlifting club well established, with quite a few lifters. Several of the lifters will be attending Collegiate Nationals next month. Two of the guys went over 300lbs in the clean and jerk for the first time while I was there. And these were 77kg and 85kg guys, not superheavies, so we are talking about some pretty decent lifts. Not only do they have a team, but they have a pretty good coach, Alex Lee. I was pretty impressed by him as a coach. His lifters lift right, he lifts pretty well himself, and he understands the lifts and sees mistakes and understands how to fix them.

    I saw the same basic thing a couple of weeks ago when I was up in Minnesota, and I am sure I will see it next month when I do a seminar down in Georgia. Towns that 5 or 10 years ago would have had about 1 chance in 1000 of having even one lifter training by himself within the town, now having not just a few lifters, but a coach, and a functioning club, and lifters going to competitions regularly, even national competitions.

    And given this, I really have a hard time seeing how CrossFit is not great for weightlifting.

  6. What’s our end goal here, brofessors?
    1) Crossfit is gonna bring a ton of folks to the weightlifting party
    2) In 10-20 years, their children will have been identified as the hopefuls for the Mumbai 2032 Olympics (the Olympics are some corrupt bullshit that I give 0 fucks about, but that’s a different argument)
    3) One of them wins a silver and Bob Costas’ cryogenically preserved head gives them 120 seconds of air time, before cutting back to the swim center, where we’ve just won our 27th medal in swimming
    4) ????
    5) Profit.

    Meanwhile in Russia… “Comradez, what we must do to combat thees new threat, thees Crossfit??”

  7. say what you want, but Tsypkin is right. Any successful Eastern European WL team has programs in place to give kids GPP at a very young age, and gradually introduce them to heavier weights over the years, grooming them into world champions (see Szymon Kolecki, (POL) setting the CJ WR at age 18). Soviet programming shows youths work endless reps at light weights in the movements for several years before getting into heavier lifting.

  8. Fact 89: MY GOLD’S GYM JUST GOT A LEGITIMATE, EXPENSIVE LIFTING PLATFORM.

    I literally NEVER thought this would happen, then last week I walked in the gym and this shining beauty was there waiting for me with open arms. http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/547/platformg.jpg/

    There is no doubt in my mind that pressure from CF force Gold’s to get with the times and get a platform. In fact, I asked the manager this question and he told me that was a big factor.

  9. Bretty good, bretty good, 5/5 post.

    Good effort by the neckbeard, solid comments. Speaking as someone who aims to run a respectable gym in the future, I’ve seesawed back and forth over the past few years about how much I like CrossFit in general and how closely I would want to associate it with my (nonexistent) gym. Like most people, I’m a little leery of some elements in the CF community, but it would be madness to deny that the balance has been overwhelmingly positive.

  10. Also Justin you’re not on Facebook much so I’m telling you here that I can have that article ready for you whenever you have a Monday opening. You dick.

  11. On another note, I have always wondered whether a Crossfit workout of the day counts if it is not filmed. How about PRs? Do PRs count if they’re not filmed and if the participants wear clothes?

  12. Some folks really enjoy throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Are there issues with CF? Sure, but our Oly gym gets visits from crossfiters looking to learn the lifts correctly on a regular basis, and we’re glad to have them.

  13. Typing this on my iPhone so cut me some slack.
    1) I work out in a Crossfit gym, mainly doing my own strength training (Bill Starr/Madcow periodized 5×5) with some Olympic lifts and the occasional CF type short metcons (when it seems smart or tempting to me). The membership at the gym is pretty high and I’ve never noticed any issues with injury rates. So that CF injury argument has always seemed to me to be perpetuated by a minority of bad CF gyms out there or idiots learning to do CF on their own and posting videos of themselves online that get circulated and mocked.
    2) Besides the increased exposure CF has brought to weightlifting in the US, which is a waste of time to argue, how about the financial benefits that have come along with it? Driving down the cost of equipment and making it more easily available. USAW memberships and entries fees to competitions. Crossfitters seeking out instruction at weightlifting gyms. Or how it helps athletes like Jon North , Shankle, Farris, etc to financially support their training by traveling around to CF gyms to host seminars, sell equipments, do online consulting, etc.

  14. I’m curious how CF gyms work for something like Jack said above. If I just want to use the gym because they actually have good equipment, do most CF gyms cater to that? Or does it depend on the gym? I’d rather not do WOD, etc.

    Do they charge the same price?

    • Most of the ones I’ve talked to people about don’t allow people to work out in a non-group setting, but that might just be a local thing. Even if they only have ~2 hour open window or something like that, that’s a pretty big restriction for a $100 monthly membership

      • I know of one in my area (Washington, DC) that has separate memberships for Crossfit vs. non-Crossfit. When I inquired with them a couple years ago I think it was ~$200 vs. ~$60/month.

        • As far as this topic goes, it’s hard to see how Crossfit would be a detriment to weightlifting or any other strength sport. Personally, the exposure to weightlifting I had as a Crossfitter is the only reason why I am involved in the sport of weightlifting now.

          I coach part time at Balance Gym/Crossfit Balance in DC and they have a similar setup to what Maslow is talking about. The main gym has decent bars and bumper plates as well as a platform. This gym has some pretty good weightlifters (one of which competed at the Arnold).

          Maslow, where do you train at?

          • Max, I was actually referring to Balance Gym! I went in there for a look once when I lived nearby on 7th Street. It looks like a fantastic facility.

            I train at Gold’s Capitol Hill and Gold’s South Arlington. Gold’s is what it is…and happens to be on the same block as my office so that’s why I go there, but now South Arlington has a lifting platform!

  15. November 2010. State powerlifting meet cancelled. I reach out to CrossFit. March 2011. Biggest meet in a decade. You can be a purest all you want. You might be a purest alone.

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  17. Guy at work has been doing Crossfit for a week and did the open this weekend at his box. Cant lift his his arms past his shoulders. I gave him 40 fish oil tablets and told him to take them by the fistful for the next two days until he pooped in his pants!

    The good thing about it is that this guy was a hack bodybuilder, M&F disciple who is now asking me about things like pressing, carries, cleans, sprinting etc. Progress.

    The best thing about this post is that I ate four pork chops while reading it.

    Good stuff all!

  18. While I agree with most of what he says, having the owner of a crossfit gym write an article on how crossfit is good comes off a little bit cheesy. The comments from the community made a lot of really good points though.

  19. Ex crossfitter, wasn’t getting my numbers up how I wanted, so I moved to strength training (no cardio bro, etc). So yes, without CF I wouldn’t be concentrating on squatting so much, and probably wouldn’t be here (and I think 70’s big may not be here either, right?).

    In terms of exposure, crossfit has inarguably hugely incresed the awareness of just how much of a workjout you can get with a barbell. That’s got to feed in to PL/WL.

    As a comedy aside, I was entertained to see that open workout 13.1 was high rep heavy snatches. Way to play into the haters hands guys, bravo.

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  22. It seems most CF gyms I’ve been in lately (I travel for work a lot) have gone the strength training then a short metcon route for most days. The gym I teach at started incorporating a lot more strength training a year and a half or so ago, and I’ve seen the clients get way more impressive results than they were before. I would like to see the strength training more structured , giving more of a program for individuals to follow, but I also understand how that can be difficult with a huge number of clients and a lot of them not that interested in the strength training.

    I’ve definitely seen a lot more interest in WL and PL from people after being introduced to CF. I’m getting my USAW cert soon, and it is all due to getting into CF first.

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