CrossFit Vs the Fitness Industry

As a CrossFit athlete, you of course realize that the method breaks many of the conventional rules of fitness training. Any mention of CrossFit programs invariably leads to a discussion about acceptable risk. A thin line separates “extreme challenge” and “downright dangerous.” A skilled and knowledgeable CrossFit instructor can prevent you from crossing into the inevitable danger zone.

The Video that Rocked the Controversy

Unfortunately, not all CrossFit instructors are skilled and knowledgeable. In 2011, a CrossFit box in Albany New York posted a YouTube video titled “Revival Strongman.” The gym members were performing the continental clean and jerk. Some were doing fine. Others were clearly lifting way more than they can handle.

The only guidance the participants received was shouts of “Come on, you got, you got it,” and  “drop low, drop low!” Much to the misfortune of the owners of this CrossFit box, the video went viral. Online watchers, especially fitness professionals, let out a collective cringe. The instructors apparently forgot to read the section about scaling the exercises as needed, and teaching proper movement mechanics before moving on to the heavy stuff.

One thing becomes immediately evident as you watch the video. The participants are busting their asses. Some of them look like they are in reasonably good shape. Not to be catty, but the others, not so much. For the amount of effort they are exerting, you would expect spectacular bodies. There’s a serious risk vs. reward issue going on here.

The American Council on Exercise Steps In

The video inspired the American Council on Exercise – who considers themselves the “watchdogs of the fitness industry – to write a commentary about CrossFit training. Author Fabio Comana stated that “CrossFit’s general philosophy speaks volumes of truth, but at the same time raises legitimate concerns.”  In a balanced argument, he explains the pros and cons of CrossFit training.

The Good News

The results of Comana’s research indicate that women can burn up to 104–120 kcal in an eight-minute  CrossFit workout and men can burn up to 120–144 kcal in an eight-minute session. Additional calories are burned during the recovery period that follows these high intensity sessions.

In comparison, traditional machine-based weight workouts burn approximately 9 kcal/minute in women and approximately 11 kcal/minute in men. High-intensity, compound movements make up the bulk of CrossFit exercises, which means that the entire body undergoes enough stress to produce significant neuroendocrine adaptations. The competitive element, he explains, also serves as a motivator.

The Planes, The Planes

Comana complimented the CrossFit program on its use of basic movement patterns and simplified equipment. On the other hand, we expressed concerns about the lack of balance between the three planes of movement, since most of the CrossFit exercises occur in the sagittal and frontal planes. Comana world like to see more exercises in the transverse plane, which is commonly associated with movement dysfunction.


Whilst CrossFit does have some preparatory movements, he believes that the program can benefit from more prerequisite movement training, performed without external loads. Additionally, he would add more reactivity training, which would introduce unexpected challenges into the program. Increasing the number of medicine ball drills would do the trick.

Bottom Line

CrossFit has an extensive certification program for its instructors, but some instructors will still ignore safety rules in favor of teaching a harder workout. Many of our instructors here at Happy Physio are physiotherapists and certified personal trainers. Go with a pro and have a safe and effective CrossFit training session.

Call Happy Physio on (08) 9272 7359 today!