Why all the nonsense? – Sun 5.15.16
Why is the fitness industry so complicated? Walk into any commercial gym, watch Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, or even walk into many CrossFit Gyms and you will inevitably run into a “circus trainer”; along with his repertoire of unique “functional” training exercises, preparing you for “real” world scenarios, i.e. the circus.
CrossFit came around in the 90’s when a myriad of fitness crazes were claiming to be “functional training”. CrossFit defined functional fitness for the first time and cut out all the b.s. to get straight to the movements that you will get the most benefit out of the quickest, safest, and most efficiently. Unfortunately, we are back to that era of crazy “creative” fitness crazes being mistaken as “functional” and, unfortunately some CrossFit gyms are perpetuating it.
My mom and a girlfriend of hers were talking about what they are doing to stay in shape. They both mentioned how they are using Bosu Balls for push ups and squats. There were going on and on about how they turn the half-ball upside down and use the flat portion for the push up or squat movement. They both regaled how it strengthens the “stabilizing muscles” and is better for you than anything. My mom then turned to me and asked if I had any Bosu Balls at The Compound. I said “No” as nicely and quickly as possible and then left the room!
Now this is not a rant against Bosu Balls or my mom and her friend. Bosu Balls certainly have their place….that place is in the Physcial Therapy rooms which they were created for. But I have seen my mom do push ups and I have seen her girlfriend do squats. They do not and should never be on an unstable surface for anything!!!! My mom can not do a regular push up even once! The answer is not for my mom to do push ups on unstable surfaces. The answer is to work the push up until she is strong enough to do one properly. Next step is she should work till she can do 20, properly!
True functional movements incorporate large muscle groups and will provide the necessary stimulus that you need to lose weight, feel alive, improve flexibility, and increase overall strength and yes, improve balance and stability. Functional movements DO NOT mean standing on a stability ball, or moving weights on uneven surfaces, isolation movements, shake weights, etc! Functional movements ARE compound movements that utilize the full body and move objects like nature intended, or movements that help transition you to a full functional movement (i.e: ring dip training to work towards a muscle up).
Our body is an incredibly adaptive device. The human body adapts specifically to imposed demands (see the ‘SAID Principle’ – Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands). If you want to become stronger, lift more weight. If you want to get leaner, lift those weights faster. If you want to build endurance, lift those weights longer. If you want to train on an unstable surface, go get a skateboard and learn some useful skills while you’re at it!
Your body will only produce maximum force when it is stable – PERIOD. All of instability training methods actually prevent the body from getting stronger. Whenever you step into an unstable environment: you instantly tense up and cannot perform certain movements because the nervous system senses the instability of the environment and fires in resistant ways to keep you balanced and prevent injuries from falling over. The body is trying to protect you by making you weaker. In this process, it also shuts down the ability to produce maximum force (your strength, power, hypertrophy and speed all go down the drain).
Greg Glassman talked about ‘An Effective Approach’ in his early article “Foundations”:
“In gyms and health clubs throughout the world the typical workout consists of isolation movements and extended aerobic sessions. The fitness community from trainers to the magazines has the exercising public believing that lateral raises, curls, leg extensions, sit-ups and the like combined with 20-40 minute stints on the stationary bike or treadmill are going to lead to some kind of great fitness.
“Well, at CrossFit we work exclusively with compound movements and shorter high-intensity cardiovascular sessions. We have replaced the lateral raise with push presses, the curl with pull-ups, and the leg extension with squats. For every long distance effort our athletes will do five or six at short distance. Why? Because functional movements and high-intensity are radically more effective at eliciting nearly any desired fitness result.
“Startlingly, this is not a matter of opinion but solid, irrefutable scientific fact, and yet the marginally effective old ways persist and are nearly universal. Our approach is consistent with what is practiced in elite training programs associated with major university athletic teams and professional sports. CrossFit endeavors to bring state-of-the-art coaching techniques to the general public and athlete.”
Don’t get caught up in all the nonsense in the fitness industry. Always ask Why. If you have a question as to why we do (or don’t do) something at The Compound, ask!
Like “battling ropes” (sorry, another soap box, this will be quick). They might not be directly causing shoulder injury and trauma, but they’re certainly predisposing the shoulders to injury from the rest of your training. The shoulder joint was never meant to endure an assault of such violent jarring. The shoulder joint is far more susceptible to injury than the knees or hips. People seem to forget this.
Is it functional? I don’t know. Could a firefighter have a kink in his fire hose and need to whip it to up and down to get it past its sticking point? Maybe. But couldn’t a strong core, a good power clean, and a strong push press take care of this issue? And all without the issue of mindless repetition, with no real way of determining how well you are doing compared to last workout time you battled some rope.
Besides, all this fitness nonsense could just be fixed by buying a “power balance band” right?
Ok, the point of the rant is, CrossFit has done a dang good job of defining functional fitness and figuring out what works. The best thing we can do for our fitness is to do the different aspects of CrossFit better!