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I work as a personal trainer in Durban, South Africa. I have been very interested in Crossfit because of its functional approach to strength and cardio training. I have been testing out a few intense circuits on myself, and I love the use of Olympic lifts and gymnastic movements. I would like to find out your professional opinion on Crossfit. I can clearly see the pros behind this sport, but are there any serious underlying cons that we may be ignoring in an attempt to give people a tough workout?


A new type of training program called Crossfit is rapidly gaining popularity across the world. This program was first widely practiced by police and military academies. Although some of the exercises used in this program can be beneficial, many risks are involved with the way in which these workouts are conducted. Speed is usually emphasized without proper form being taken into account. Many dynamic and explosive types of exercises are used in these workouts including kettleball swings and barbell cleans.

One example of a Crossfit workout is named “Cindy.” This involves doing five push ups, 10 pull ups and 15 squats. All of these exercises are beneficial by themselves. The problem with the workout is that you are supposed to do as many repetitions as you can in 20 minutes.

Another Crossfit workout titled “Three Bars of Death” involves a series of three barbell exercises done in succession with weights that are up to one and a half times heavier than the person using them. One lady, who strained her back doing the workout and was out of commission for a week, admitted to knowing the weights were too heavy but did not want to take the time to change the plates.

Beginners should definitely not attempt one of these workouts. They need to start gradually with exercise and follow sound training programs to build their fitness and strength levels gradually.

"There's no way inexperienced people doing this are not going to hurt themselves," said Wayne Winnick, a sports medicine specialist in private practice in Manhattan, who also works for the New York City Marathon.

Even experienced exercisers are taking big risks by doing Crossfit routines. Brian Anderson, a formed Army Ranger, had to go to the emergency room the night after completing one of these workouts. Doctors informed him that he had developed rhabdomyolysis, which occurs when muscle fiber breaks down and is released into the bloodstream, poisoning the kidneys. He spent six days in intensive care.

Two other problems exist with the Crossfit philosophy. First, no differentiation is made in the workouts for different types of exercises. Senior citizens are supposed to do the same workouts as elite gymnasts. Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise, echoes these sentiments. "My concern is that one cookie-cutter program doesn't apply to everyone," he said.

The second contraindication to Crossfit is the rebellious nature of most Crossfit participants. Injuries are viewed as badges of honor, even ones as severe as separated shoulders and broken bones. Crossfit followers log onto to congratulate others on their “toughness.” “Pull ups with a broken hand – you rock!” is one posting that was found on the web site. If any previous injuries exist, certain exercises should be avoided. For example, a shoulder injury means some should not perform an overhead press, and a previous back injury means you should not be doing power cleans. Crossfit does not take this into account.

Some Crossfit exercises by themselves can yield positive benefits, but I would not recommend following one of their workout routines. Form is more important than speed.