With the number of gym facilities quadrupling over the last three years, the notion of CrossFit training has most certainly created a buzz within the fitness community. The high intensity exercise program combines almost anything you can think of to improve the speed, agility and cardiovascular endurance of its practitioners.
While the exercise routines are proven effective for people trained in the program, critics believe there is a dangerous catch to the rigorous methods.
“CrossFit allows for little benefit within each category of training, while allowing for broad exposure to injury. The risk-reward factor is extremely low. This exposure comes because within a WOD – or ‘workout of the day’ – random exercises are thrown together, possibly forcing someone who is very fatigued to engage in power exercises like Olympic lifts or box jumps,” Matthew Basso wrote in the Huffington Post.
Basso argues that even though pushing your limit is good, doing powerlifts when tired will not get you those explosive muscles you’re looking for. In fact, he believes that sacrificing technique for speed and intensity is causing injuries.
“When people are tired, they have trouble walking. Putting a weighted bar in their hand and asking them to rip it from the floor to overhead as quickly as possible doesn’t seem like a good idea. Logic alone could tell you that. Experienced trainers could tell you in that particular case, it’s even more ridiculous because, in regards to snatching when tired, you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns,” Basso continued.
Following an incident at a training exhibit featuring CrossFit exercises in Orange County where Kevin Ogar, a certified trainer, dropped a 240 pound barbell on his spine, criticism rose again. However, Darren McGuire, Executive Director of the exhibit, explains that, while there are correlations between exercise and injury, the CrossFit program is not more or less dangerous than anything else.
“I think people are realizing that it’s just unfortunately a sports injury. If you play football, if you get hit you can sustain injuries, or play baseball or anything else. If you go into a CrossFit gym there are very few things in there that couldn’t kill you. You can fall off a box and break your neck. You can have a kettlebell hit you in the head, there could be a barbell swinging. There’s a plethora of things in there that could just take your life. If you want to be safe, you know what they say, sit on the couch,” McGuire told ESPN.
According to the mission statement on the CrossFit webpage, the exercise routine is a “principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide”.
Some critics believe there could be a conflict of interest when new gyms open up, targeting beginners in order to grow their base of customers. The argument centers itself on the fact that the procedure to have your gym become CrossFit certified is rather easy. A $1,000 investment lets you enter the two-day “methodology and foundational movement” class, and once you are certified there is no quality-control service in place to make the gym follow any safety standards.
“We joke all the time that a CrossFit certification only certifies that you have a valid credit card,” Greg Everett, a CrossFit enthuast who previously owned his own gym, told ESPN.
Another injury that seems to be correlated with CrossFit is the disease rhabdomyolysis. The condition is proven more frequent to occur when exercising beyond your limitations. Dr. Joe DeAngelis describes the issue in an interview with WCVB Boston.
“It’s the breakdown of muscle tissue. That breakdown can cause a toxin to get into your blood and that toxin can cause you to have trouble with your kidneys,” Dr. DeAngelis said.
Although Dr. DeAngelis believes that injuries do occur, like McGuire, Dr. DeAngelis considers them rare, and does not see them solely associated with CrossFit.
“I think CrossFit has gotten a lot of attention because of its success. If you push yourself, that can set you up for injuries. There isn’t a specific exercise or philosophy at CrossFit that makes it different or more dangerous,” Dr. DeAngelis concluded.
While Gustavus does not offer a specific CrossFit class, there are opportunities to try similar exercises with on-campus yoga-sculpt instructor Hanna Engebretson on Sundays from 3-4 p.m.