CrossFit at its Worst – Don’t Try This At Home!

I thought I had seen it all, but I guess I was wrong. I’m sorry, but this just hurts.

Update: Albany Crossfit finally took the video down, and I don’t blame them! Fortunately for you, someone else re-uploaded the footage on another Youtube account so you can still see what happened.

Now, let’s see here:

  • Dropping barbell on head – check
  • Filing down teeth from excessive gritting – check
  • Knees bowing inward/outward during jerk catch phase of the lift – check
  • Breaking spinal alignment – really check!
  • Hyper-extending neck – check
  • Nearly being crushed by barbell – check
  • Trying to do something again that you clearly couldn’t do the first time – check
  • Not paying attention while barbell falls to the floor – check
  • Bent elbows during the clean portion of the lift – check
  • Lifting weights that are clearly too heavy for you – double-check
  • Nearly killing oneself in the pursuit of better health – check

And if that wasn’t enough already, here’s a little snippet I took from the Youtube video description (bolding mine):

“Taken from an event with veteran CrossFit athletes. Hitting axle clean and jerks. Supervised by Strongman Certified Coaches. Axle weight is about 10-15lbs. This lift is not a standard Clean and Jerk.”

So, those are veteran CrossFit athletes, eh? I can see that. Although, I’ll be honest when I say I’ve seen a lot of scary things both online and offline, but I’ve never seen anything this bad. And if that’s what we can expect from veteran CrossFit athletes, then I think there’s no hope for this community. They will continue to churn out very fit-looking, albeit broken people.

Of course, they’ve made sure to inform us that “This lift is not a standard Clean and Jerk.”

REALLY? I couldn’t tell. For a second there, I almost thought I was watching the Continental Clean and Jerk, but it couldn’t be that… Actually, it doesn’t look like a standard anything, except maybe a standard operating procedure for herniating a spinal disk, dislocating a shoulder, or giving yourself a sudden brain aneurysm.

It’s good to know these good people were “supervised by Strongman Certified Coaches,” too, because that makes everything so much safer and acceptable. Give those guys a raise!

All kidding aside, I know that not all CrossFit gyms would allow this type of nonsense to happen. The quality of CrossFit training has entirely to do with the individual professionals doing the coaching, and the standards of quality control upheld at each particular gym. But suffice to say, CrossFitters are infamous for neglecting basic technique methods in exchange for higher intensity, or a new personal record.

Now, I know some CrossFitters who clearly do not match the description above, and I’ve also spoken before about the positive aspects of CrossFit here and here. So, that’s why I’m hopeful when I announce…

A Challenge to the CrossFit Community

I’m busting out the BIG #1 HEADER because I want everyone to see this.

I’d like to see one – JUST ONE – CrossFit workout video where everyone shown is using good technique in whatever exercises are being performed – preferably by a group of athletes (not just one or two). If you know of one, please post a link in the comments below.

Honestly, I’ve watched dozens of CrossFit videos over the years, and I can’t say that I’ve ever seen one where everyone was using good, or at least fair, technique. Most of the time, I’m looking for the odd guy or gal who is actually adhering to most of the common technique recommendations, and I literally have a hard time finding them. I see this as a fundamental problem with the CrossFit system. Using good technique in an exercise program is just one of the BASICS, folks, and an extremely important one at that.

So, the first person who finds a CrossFit video that passes my technique rating meter (completely based on my judgment) will win a free coaching video not available to the public.

And you’ll get Siffer-points if it’s footage taken from the CrossFit Games.

So, CrossFitters, what say ye?

Update October 2014: So, it’s been nearly 3 years since this challenge was posted, and no one – I repeat, no one – has submitted anything that would qualify to win – despite this post being seen by thousands of people and has been shared hundreds of times. So, let’s just say that the official challenge is over now, but if you happen to find a video of a group of Crossfit athletes demonstrating good technique (not just one or two, and ideally, a whole class), then please send it my way. I’d be more than happy to watch it, and maybe even share it (gasp!).

Final Words

In all seriousness, while I like to poke fun at certain aspects of CrossFit and raise awareness of the very real risks and dangers (as I’ve done here and here and…HERE!), I do want the very best for Crossfitters and the Crossfit community, in general. That said, I cannot put my name behind this system. I just can’t. And until I can, I’m going to recommend some alternatives for those who are interested.

So, if you’re looking for something with a Crossfit flavor – with many of of the advantages that Crossfit offers (e.g. high intensity exercise), without the disadvantages (e.g. high injury risk), then consider trying something else. There are many good options out there, and if you’d like my recommendation, take a look at the TACFIT system here: Interview with Scott Sonnon about TACFIT – The Premier “Tactical Fitness” System. That would be a good place to start. And believe me, if you’re an aspiring – or a recovering - Crossfitter, I think you’ll be glad you did.

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CST Coach, CST-KS
Health-First Fitness Coach

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69 comments to CrossFit at its Worst – Don’t Try This At Home!

  • David Denis

    holy crap! I couldn’t even finish it. What possible training value could this have?

    Am I correct that that’s at least 200 lbs plus bar? What could possibly be the purpose of lifting something that is clearly waaaaaay too heavy for any of those people? I’m not a professionally certified trainer of any kind, and I can see that that’s just wrong. Why not start at a manageable weight and learn proper form and then work a progressive schedule. I bet that in a remarkably short time they could all be lifting that weight properly — and safely. Sheeesh.

    And then “let’s put it on Youtube.” really.

    • John

      David,

      You’re telling me! The only training value this kind of nonsense has is a possible ego-boost from setting a new personal record – a paltry reward for the ultimate cost of this type of training. I have a friend who owns a CrossFit gym and he told me new CrossFitters have about a 2 year training career before they have to quit due to injury. I doubt the athletes at Albany CrossFit will even last that long.

      It looks like there’s over 200 lbs on the bar in some shots, but I’m not familiar with those bumper plates to know for sure.

      • Sean

        You have a FRIEND who owns a CrossFit box (gym), who told you that NEW Crossfitters have a 2 year training career before quitting due to injury???
        Really?

  • I just had to have a look, tell me this is not a serious video that I just watched? if so what an embarrisment to the CrossFit Community. There are so many quetions I ask to why? there are great coaches out there and it’s a shame that seeing this makes us all look bad.
    If it was a joke posting it then clearly it’s a joke not to laugh at.

  • I wrote this and the Mens Health article about Crossfit – http://www.thejourneytv.com/?p=885

    That is suppose to be a strongman lift right.. Continental clean..and not a crossfit wide taught Lift. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ie4DzHTPp78

    Personally i LOVE Crossfit.. it’s up to each person to find a suitable coach like ANY and ALL workouts or routines..(Runners, Triathletes, Weightlifting,Yoga,etc..)… Nothing new!

    • John

      Chris,

      I’m assuming it’s supposed to be the Continental, which was a lift of old-time strongman that has since been abandoned in weightlifting competitions except as a novelty. This is NOT something that beginners should be using – or anyone whom is not already an expert in olympic weightlifting for that matter, which equals the vast majority of all CrossFitters.

  • Wowza!

    I have been doing CrossFit for 2 years and became certified in my level 1 CrossFit 1 year ago.

    I was fortunate to have very good instructors at CrossFit Vancouver and was taught with relentless encouragement, to use good for and technique and not to add any weight whatsoever to an overhead squat or a significant amount of weight to any other lift until form was perfect!

    I agree that a lot of CrossFitters are interested in the weight of the lift and the speed in which they complete a WOD and not so much into the technique. I do, however, know a lot of CrossFit enthusiasts who pride themselves on form and take the time to learn a lift properly…like my CrossFit groups.

    I do not know what the hell these CrossFitters were doing … lol.

    If I get a video together of my group, I will post to my website and let you know. I’d love for you to see a very well rounded CrossFit group.

    • John

      So would I – please send it over. I’d like CrossFit to start moving in the direction of safer, more sustainable training. But it’s going to have to start at the individual gyms, because it doesn’t look like corporate is going to do anything about it.

  • JNW

    Hi. I appreciate your concern with technique… but how do novice athletes go about developing technique? Through making many, many attempts, many of which will be less than perfect. Imperfect technique is to be expected, especially at a Crossfit cert where novice athletes are learning these techniques for the first time.

    I see your point about the weight being too heavy… but I am assuming these people warmed up/learned the technique with lighter weights, and were in the process of using heavier weights to challenge themselves at the end of the seminar, as is the custom at CF certs.

    It seems to me that you are nitpicking a bit; finding errors with beginners is shooting fish in a barrel, don’t you think?

    • John

      JNW,

      I don’t blame the athletes. However, the naivety of the so-called professionals who were present is astounding. What these people need is quality coaching from people who understand the basics of efficiently effective movement. There weren’t any coaches in that room, at least none who spoke up and said what needed to be said.

      • Jerry

        The person filming the video and the male voice you hear is the head “trainer” and ownwer of the gym. Fact. If you don’t believe me watch the follow up “interview” video he did to try and explain the stupidity he filmed and you can confirm yourself it’s the same person. What cracks me up is the idiot hasn’t taken the video off of youtube yet. Just keeps trying to defend mediocrity.

    • Mark

      I think John was being polite and not nitpicking enough (what about the stepping sequence, gripping the bar assymetrically, the focus of the participant).

      If these are novice athletes learning the technique for the first time and they have used lighter weights then their technique would indicate a massive increase in weight between their final set and the video demonstration

      or

      they are too fatigued, which raises the question of can you develop good technique when your nervous is fatiuged?

      If practive makes perfect then all they seem to be learning is how to poorly lift a too heavy weight which possibly could have some small functional cross over (my cats being crushed by a log, can i quickly lift the log to save it?).

      I’m all for a small amount of variation in training technique to make the participant able to practice adaptation but ultimately perfect practice makes perfect.

      Good blog btw John, got it in the cross over from todd hargrove’s better movement and now a happy subscriber, keep fighting the good fight.

    • Well JNW, Novices go about learning technique BY PRACTICING GREAT TECHNIQUE TAUGHT BY QUALIFIED COACHES. It’s not ok that the number 1 reason for emergency room visits between 6-9pm is crossfit related injuries. I train college athletes and we do not progress weight until their technique is excellent. Coaches coach mistakes out of the movement pattern bottom line. Stop making excuses for terrible technique because “novices make mistakes.” Crossfit coaches need to do better.

  • I’m guessing that every crossfitter that reads this is going to try to send you a video to try to defend themselves and prove you wrong, and probably will. There are certainly those who can do a crossfit workout with sound technique, but as you talked about before there are many who cannot and will end up with injury. Just like any other recreational activity. Especially those who are de-conditioned and try to do things like overhead squats and olympic lifts. And you and I would agree this comes down to smart and effective coaching. But my question to you is what is your objective in writing this post? You claim that you are transparent and objective, but it really just seems that you are trying to pick a fight with crossfit. This video you posted is not crossfit. This is a stupid lift that strongmen do that in my opinion should never be done by anyone, and unfortunately was being done at a crossfit affiliate. If you are as objective as you say, why don’t you visit multiple affiliates and take your own video and find out if there is good training happening? Do you think that if you visited every running club in your town that there would be great running technique being displayed by all? Of course not. I think that by trying to highlight the negative things that are happening in crossfit gyms to try to elevate your teachings is not going to impress anyone. Just sayin’.

    • John

      Ryan,

      Touché. My point in publishing this was not to pick a fight or to elevate my status. I’ve already posted my thoughts about CrossFit at the two links in the article above. As I mentioned, I’ve got friends who are CrossFitters and I think the organizations greatest strength is that a lot of good, and well-meaning people are behind it. Fighting won’t solve anything, but knowledge will.

      But apart from bringing attention to the issue, my point in publishing this was to offer everyone – myself included – an opportunity to reflect on their own training practices (especially coaches), and reevaluate whether we could be doing better. I’ve been guilty of practicing poor movement and poor coaching at times, too, and in no way am I trying to position myself as the perfect, immutable example.

      And I hope you’re right. I hope all the quality CrossFitters who see this challenge will take me up on it. I want the best for CrossFit, but given its track record, I’m not going to hold my breath.

      • Ok here you go. I think this guy won the crossfit games and has been named coach of the year:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=J9TVFxPUZ6E

        • Eric

          Ryan you are an idiot. That video is in a globo gym with a typical personal trainer that doesn’t know jack about power or Olympic lifting. CrossFit coaches would never allow this to happen. Proving that crossfit is one of the safest effective methods of trainings. I’m sorry that CrossFit is revolutionizing the fitness industry and leaving brainy nerds that get no results for their clients like you and John here in the dust. Keep up those good “safe” methods of training and make sure you don’t bend your knees below 90 degrees or break a sweat and continue to be a useless human being.

          • jds

            Yeah, Eric. Before Crossfit came along, there were only brainy nerds in gyms (using complete sentences, unlike yourself) getting no results.

            You’ve changed my mind. CrossFit must be the ultimate answer since guys like YOU support it!

            I think it’s great that everyone from grannies to obese folks to fitness enthusiasts are getting into CrossFit if it makes them healthier, stronger, more fit. Does that make it revolutionary? The best thing since sliced bread? The ONLY fitness modality that works? Sorry, but no.

          • Ryan

            Hey Eric, thanks for joining the conversation (and for calling me an idiot). I’m going to make the obvious conclusion that you don’t have 2 brain cells to rub together since you must not have even read my response before I posted this video as a joke. I recommend that before you go calling people names that you actually read what they wrote first. I actually happen to be Dr., a Crossfit instructor, and a Crossfit Games competitive athlete. Trust me, I’m a crossfit advocate to the bone. I actually have dozens of my patients who train at various affiliates in my area. I am objective about fitness and am open to various opinions and like John I am always looking for the best way to train and coach. So in other words grab a hint dildo, this is a video of the worst lift I’ve ever seen and it was a joke.

  • Dustin

    I can see how many people who are regular gym rats would see this video as teaching improper technique, but remeber these were people who are not beginners when it comes to lifting. It takes a real elitist attitude on your part to openly attack CrossFit as a whole when a video is shown of people learning a new lift for the first time. That same attitude is shared with the hierarchy of CrossFit. Different people need different training for different purposes. I love how every person who has a degree and knows a bunch of knowledge thinks they know the best way to train a country.

  • CH

    200lbs + the bar? You seriously think any of the girls in that video were cleaning that much weight, but just failing on the jerk part?

    The bumpers are 10lbs each (4 on each side) with a 5lb plate—and we know the bar was 15lbs. Total = 105lbs

    For these girls, what makes this lift hard is the use of the thicker bar, not the weight.

    • John

      Understood regarding the axle bar being the true challenge. Although, whatever the actual weight being lifted in each case, it’s clearly too heavy.

  • Miykael

    Crossfit HQ’s lack of integrity and quality control is disturbing. I am sure there are plenty of good trainers out there and I feel John’s post is just a challenge to make Crossfit safer, so everyone can train better and benefit to greater health/longevity…not to pick a fight. I notice some treat crossfit like a religion and it can’t do wrong, that’s too bad..maybe you need to take a look in the mirror and improve your training methods instead of putting people in danger for the sake of some ego driven competition.

    I personally wouldn’t recommend Crossfit to anyone, until I see some trainers who actually focus on technique first. . Maybe these trainers need to ask themselves if it is really so hard to take the time to make sure everyone is doing the exercise properly or do you just instruct Crossfit for the financial gain? I notice they charge a hefty fee and yet I hear so many stories about injuries/burnouts.

    • John

      I wouldn’t recommend CrossFit to anyone either, but there are some good trainers in CrossFit, Miykael – it totally varies from gym to gym. That’s a double-edged sword, of course.

  • Hilarious post! I love the checklist.

  • CH

    Saying an activity shouldn’t be done because of a high(er) injury rate doesn’t really hold strong. You do realize there are tons of sports/activities that bring along injuries. Ever heard of running? The sport has so many injuries associated with it, especially due to poor running mechanics, which people do not ever try to correct. Do we give running a bad name? Runners almost expect to accrue an injury and even consider it “par for the course.”

    If you have a car and keep in a garage the whole time, chances are nothing will ever go wrong with it or will need any maintenance. Take that car out and drive it around and, eventually, it will need an oil change, new brakes. . .you get the idea. In CrossFit, you see a higher injury rate because it makes people move in ways they usually don’t or haven’t been for years. Also, individuals (not the organization) tend to overdo it and not rest/listen to their bodies enough. CrossFit stresses adequate rest, proper nutrition, and stretching/mobility, in addition to hitting WOD’s. People can train intelligently. Many just don’t and burnout. Having this “two year” career on doing CrossFit is just stupid. It is just exercising. Again, it is all about how you execute it.

    • John

      It’s not just a higher injury rate, but a system that directly creates imbalances, and eventually injuries, in all of its trainees – unless intervention happens (and is now starting to in the form of active recovery, prehab training, mobility wod, etc.

      And I don’t think running has to be an injury-forming activity. It’s true that runners are among the most injured athletes, and I was one of them for years (2.5 years of physical therapy for running injuries back in my cross country days). I was also told I was so injured I would never run again in my life. But today, I run as far and as often as I’d like, and I haven’t been in pain or injured for years. That’s a miracle considering my past injuries. Runners get injured for a variety of reasons, but mainly because they don’t know how to run, how to take care of their bodies, or how to self-regulate their physical activity levels (similar with those who get injured doing CrossFit or most other activities). But that wouldn’t make me think that injuries should be par for runners. That’s certainly the case when we survey runners, but it doesn’t have to be.

      There are methods of training that significantly decrease or eliminate the majority of common training injuries, and I encourage people to seek them out. In today’s day and age, it’s quite remarkable to be both a fitness trainee or athlete AND not be injured, but it is possible.

      And I agree that it’s all about how you execute it. The problem with CrossFit is that there is so much variance from gym to gym – there’s no quality control at the corporate level to make sure that each affiliate will meet some basic standards – like teaching proper and safe lifting technique.

  • Josh

    I really want this to get back to the folks who posted it, and hear SOME sort of defense for this–what in the WORLD were they thinking? Do they have ANY sort of rational justification?

    • CH

      I guess you have never ever tried anything new for the first time. Again, the weight wasn’t too much, it is the use of the axle. Ever used an axle vs an oly bar? It is much harder.

      Here you Josh (and everyone else who is shocked/amazed about someone learning a new skill):

      http://itsacontinental.tumblr.com/

      http://www.albanycrossfit.com/my-weblog/2011/12/sunday-chat-with-jess.html

    • John

      Josh, as noted in the title, this is CrossFit at its worst.

      • Josh

        I’m fully aware that it’s Crossfit at its worst. It just looks so unbelievably dangerous and like too damn much weight. I understand that learning a new skill begets awkwardness. This isn’t awkwardness, it’s irresponsibility.

    • CH

      Has no one has bothered to watch the video where this woman and the owner of Albany CrossFit discuss the video and what people did and didn’t see? Of course not—then you would have to apologize for speaking about something you really don’t understand. She clearly knows her knees come in and has been trying to correct it. Also, at about the 9:30 mark, there is video of her less than two weeks later doing the same movement with 110lbs and then 120lbs (in the first video she was attempting about 105).

      http://www.albanycrossfit.com/my-weblog/2011/12/sunday-chat-with-jess.html

      Wonder how/why she was able to complete the lift at an even higher weight than her previous failed attempts? Certainly, she was plenty strong to be trying it out at 105 (they had done lighter sets leading up to that amount too). She just lacked the proper technique because she was learning something literally for the first time (using an axle). How is that bad coaching? How is that CrossFit at its worst?

      I encourage you all to try to gather the facts about a situation rather than watching a clip of a video and thinking “oh, my god” and blasting other people. None of you were there. None you knew exactly how much weight was on the bar. None you you knew that this was a fun new skill people were learning for the first time.

      “Blasting away” on these message boards shows ignorance. I can’t even imagine having the limited “logical” conclusions most of you all display here: see people attempting to lift a heavy bar, MUST be bad coaching.

  • Claus Jensen

    I thought I’d respond to this.

    First thought: “was that a crossfit tag at the beginning of the video?? couldn’t have been”

    Second thought: “ohdeargodsweetlordhavemercywtfbbq???”

    As a general comment I’d like to add that I do crossfit. I’ve never gotten any sort of professional trainer to help me, which I would love to, but can neither afford, nor find in my neighourhood. My complex lifts, I get help from the owner of the loacl gym, who is an old weightlifter. The rest I get from self-study. My rule of thumb is this: To exercise your body, first exercise your mind, and learn how and what to do, before doing it.

    I don’t know why, but apparently the following is how most people think:
    – Running? Everyone can do that, no need to learn how
    – Lifting? Everyone can do that, no need to learn how
    – Crossfit? Everyone can do that, no need to learn how
    – Swimming? Better take lessons or you’ll drown

    Here’s a thought: Approach all physical training as if it were swimming. It can get you killed.

  • John

    CROSSFIT CHALLENGE ANNOUNCEMENT

    Well, it’s been nearly three days since I posted the challenge, and we still haven’t seen ANY entries at all. Either my prize isn’t enticing enough, or everyone is having a very hard time finding a CrossFit video that exemplifies excellent technique. Any takers? Anyone?

  • JDS

    If this was a training session, people learning something new, why wasn’t anyone there helping them, correcting their form, explaining the proper way to do the lift.

    When I learn a new lift or move, I do it with light weight, slowly, carefully. I have a training partner watch me and check my form, or I work in front of a mirror. If I can’t lift the weight cleanly, I chose a lighter weight and try again.

    These weren’t people learning something new, they were hell bent on moving a set weight. They were endangering themselves and those around them. What good trainer would allow even ONE of those lifts to happen right in front of them?

  • Miykael

    I don’t how anyone can seriously rationalize this video even if they do Crossfit. The lack of integrity/standards of that organization is baffling.

  • WilE

    Wait, I’ve definitely seen this form before. Rob Orlando is THE expert in strongman competitions, and he uses the continental clean… its actually an event on the North American Strongman circuit. No doubt that it is far from the Oly style most of us are used to, but it is a widely accepted movement in NAS (it hasn’t been “abandoned”).

    Check out some of Rob Orlando’s videos on youtube!

    Also, I used that same kind of bumper-plate (maybe its a Northeast thing…) and thats only about 90# or so, depending on the weight of the axle.

    You guys really should pause before you go bashing movements just because they’re different than what you’re used to! Fitness, strength, and functionlity come in many forms…

    • John

      Thanks for your comment, WilE, but nobody is bashing the movement, or even the trainees in the video. I’m calling attention to the lack of quality control at the coaching level in this CrossFit promotional video. I agree that health and fitness can be developed through an almost limitless number of physical pursuits.

  • Bri

    Hey John,

    Here is a classic Crossfit Wod “GRACE” …
    Done with pretty awesome form for 30 REPS!

    http://youtu.be/-ylFCnFIlPY

    Still love your article by the way.
    We (Crossfit fans, would too like to see more WODs done with great form)..

    However I personally still believe this is a HUGE MOVEMENT in the industry.
    Truly changing what our industry has to offer the general population and weekend warriors alike.

    Its undeniable…the masses are getting off their butts working out.
    Powerlifters are learning how to run, triathletes are learning how to lift, professionals are crossing paths at certs that would have never met before. That is one of the things i love about what this is doing…

    I managed to watch the whole video you posted. Watching with one eye to the first time, lol…
    then as a watched again i managed to see there was a technique happening there. Not that i would be trying to max those girls out on day one… :P

    Cheers ALL!
    Keep fighting the good fight.

    Bri

    • John

      Bri,

      THANK YOU for seeing through this post and understanding the real message behind it. You and I both want the best for CrossFit.

      And congratulations on being the first person to submit a WOD that demonstrates reasonably good technique in a fairly technical lift. To be fair, though, Casey’s technique did start to slip towards the end of the session. Natalie’s technique was clean to the last rep, though. With my eye for coaching, I could nitpick a few things, but that was a stellar performance overall, and something to be proud of.

      Now, I must say what some people are thinking. These are only two CrossFit athletes, performing just one exercise. On top of that, they’re also Burgener’s, presumably under the direct tutelage of Mike Burgener, who is a well-respected olympic weightlifting coach under the USA Weightlifting Club. If that wasn’t enough already, Natalie had already competed in the 2008 Olympics prior to filming this video. Casey is also a professional weightlifter who is eying the 2012 Olympics. So, while this great duo is leading from the front, they may not entirely represent the CrossFit community as a whole (not that any two people could anyways since it’s quite diverse).

      But honestly, that doesn’t matter to me. I didn’t expect to find what I really hoped for: a video of a large and varied group of CrossFit trainee’s using impeccable form in a typical gym setting, or ideally even at the CrossFit Games. Whether or not such a thing exists, I don’t know. But if someone else finds some footage for me to peruse, I’ll happily take a look and consider giving out some more prizes.

      All that said, Bri, you’ve won the free video prize on spirit alone. Check your email for a download link.

      • Sean

        Hi John

        You mention here you want the best for CrossFit, that’s great, thank you I appreciate it as a CrossFit enthusiast.

        You are certainly discussing Crossfit quite extensively given that you don’t currently participate in it. However, what was interesting for me to see on one of your Q&A’s http://physicalliving.com/what-about-crossfit-tuesday-qa-with-john-sifferman/ was your P.S. which was attempting to sell a program called TacFit Commando Program.

        It seems to me this is a video program that if followed, encourages some exercises that are an injury waiting to happen for anyone less than the most flexible of athletes. And, this is encouraged without an instructor (please correct me if I’m wrong).

        Anyway, again, the volume of CrossFit interest is welcome even if it is just a draw to your site so you can sell your own video program.

        Be well.

    • John

      Thomas,

      Thanks for the link. However, I’m looking specifically for a workout video featuring a group of athletes – not an instructional video. She does have decent movement/technique. Although, it looks like she holds her breath (face getting very red), which isn’t a good thing to exhibit in a how-to.

    • Dave D

      now THAT is the kind of instruction I would pay for. I’m not a professional but he sounds like he knows what he is doing (any pros have feedback? Is he right?) and his student sure looks like she does. You can SEE the difference. Add a sensible progressing plan and any student using this technique will be seeing PRs on a regular basis.

  • Hey guys,

    So I train at Albany Crossfit, where that video was made. I admit, some of the stuff in that video isn’t pretty, but its because a lot of those people were learning that lift for the first time. No one was hurt, and the weights really weren’t all that heavy (maybe we use different plates than you all are used to). Every one of those girls in the video is capable of executing an efficient squat clean with a standard oly bar.

    I was in a Strongman competition (sanctioned by NAS) this past weekend, and this was my continental clean and jerk (PR at 130#). The movement is not a crossfit one, but a strongman one. I am putting this video up just as a demonstration of an (eventually) successful lift, so please don’t bash me. Its just important to realize that the video you all saw was part of a learning curve (we all need to start somewhere, right?) and that the continental clean is not “outdated” or “abandoned” but still a prevalent movement in the strongman world.

    Happy holidays, get strong!!

    • Crossfitter

      There is no reason that those people should be “learning” those lifts with any weight on the bars. I belong to a great Crossfit gym and my first month or so I never had any weight on any bars. A lifelong weight lifter before, I learned things about form that I never knew from Crossfit. These beginners should have been using a pvc pipe to learn these lifts then graduate to an empty bar then start loading weight on there. If any of our members were to look like this it would be back to the pvc pipe before they injured themselves. Their backs were in great danger of being severely injured here and those “coaches” should not be employed by any Crossfit affiliate.

      • Nik Szajner

        what makes your gym so “great”? that is an opiniated statement, and unless your gym churns out Games competitors like ice cream, I’d have to debate you on that.

        There’s nothing wrong with trying to get some weight up, as long as it is safe. Who’s to say that they didn’t work on form for 30 mins before trying to do weight and then start filming? we don’t know what happened off camera.

        Maybe they’ve all been Oly lifting with cleans and snatched for a few months and now are adding a variation.

        Don’t cease thinking about variables here.

    • Elizabeth Costello

      You know, I would agree with you about it being hard to learn something for the first time except for the constant appraisal from the trainers. You’re a -train-er. If someone is executing a lift incorrectly, even the first time, you correct them instead of saying “Good job, well done.” You say things like, “Watch your knees. Back straight. Careful.” etc.

      It’s the blatant, “You’re doing this wrong, GOOD JOB” that strikes me as incredibly unsafe and unhealthy. When I did weight training [not crossfit] I was able to do quite heavy weights – but if my form was off, no way would I not have been corrected before ever being allowed to go to higher weights. Even without a trainer – I wouldn’t do that to MYSELF.

      While training healthily, you use each small weight successively building using proper method until you get to the heavier weights. Sure, this is a new lift and not much weight in the end – but it’s still clearly done in a manner that can cause serious injury and could have been prevented by correction and repetitions [done correctly] at a smaller weight.

      You get the move RIGHT, then you get the move WEIGHT.

  • Staci

    Who’s going to make the call to that gym? That is isane! I couldn’t watch the whole thing, either. At first I thought it was a joke, but oh my gosh, someone is really going to get hurt and that hurts the whole CrossFit community.

  • DM

    Injured at Albany Crossfit day one of on ramp. Poor coaching and ratio of instructors to students made it impossible for them to correct form. Good concept bad instruction.

    • Erika

      Sorry you were injured on Day 1 at on-ramp DM. I am surprised however…. isn’t day 1 air squats and push-ups, or work with a 3# PVC pipe instead of a bar? You certainly aren’t working with any weight at all that early in On-Ramp. Perhaps you need to get your mobility to a functional level before you start an exercise program. I’m honestly not trying to be rude, but I can’t possibly imagine how that would have happened if you were physically healthy enough to exercise.

  • DM

    Actually I am in pretty good shape and was prior to starting Crossfit Albany. I still think crossfit is an awesome program despite being injured. We did use weights (kb swings) however the level of instruction was not adequate for the class size. I have witnessed superior instruction in other boxes where instructors warm up before class, do madatory stretches and cool downs. Something which was absent from this location. I would not discourage anyone from trying this program but would highly recommend finding a location that focuses on technique and proper form over intensity. Intensity can come after you learn form and technique. Be wary of places that suggest pain is good and blood and puking are the norm. Excercisng should feel good make you stronger and healthier. Besides what good is a program if you are constantly injured and cannont have a steady regimine. There are plenty of great boxes out there find one that fits you and keeps you safe! :-)

  • Nik Szajner

    Jon,

    you claim that this is crossfit at its worst.

    Do all of your clients exhibit impeccable form when not only learning a new lift, but also trying to test their personal record on it?

    I doubt you can say that every single one of your clients shows perfect form EVEN AS MUCH AS THEY STRIVE FOR IT when they max on their lifts. Backs may round a little, knees may collapse on a 1 rep max squat, among other things.

    The same thing here. You lose credibility as a personal trainer in my eyes for even expecting them to maintain perfect form. Like any competition where athletes are trying to put up max numbers, there will be misses, and there will be some slop. Nobody got hurt here, and this is something that one could see at any gym class, not just a crossfit gym. This is not crossfit. This is a strongman (strongperson) lifting contest in a crossfit gym.

    These people are not just goofing around for fun. They are trying out an unconventional lift, and as you can see in the video, not many of them have experience in it, especially the middle aged women. How many clients that fit that demographic could you see having the guts to even attempt this lift, or how many middle aged women do you think have ever olympic lifted before? Denying the achievements that these people have attained in this video is not only close minded, but also ignorant.

    As for your challenge, my gym could easily fit that bill. We don’t care to prove a point though, so we don’t bother filming out workout sessions. We’re too busy sweating and getting stronger, faster, and better.

    I’m all for personal trainers being critical of lifting techniques, but seriously, give these people some credit Jon.

    • Elizabeth Costello

      Why in heavens would you attempt to do the max weight you can do on a lift you’ve NEVER done before??

      That’s like coming out with a new line of cars and having never even designed it to begin with.

  • Erik Boyd

    good post! as someone who has been CrossFitting for several months myself i think this needed to be put out there. i’ve been interested in CrossFit for about 6-8 years and i am a football player who will NEVER see CrossFit as a be-all end-all fitness system that is perfect for everything and everyone. it does have many serious flaws. i do it mainly because i get better conditioning out of it than anything else i’ve done before including playing football at the college level and i have a quality instructor who is willing to learn. i love CrossFit not only because of the unique conditioning aspect of it, but because, as someone who was already strong from years of athletic training at a fairly elite level (i had a football scholarship to Delta State University in Mississippi, one of the top 3 division II football programs in the nation at the time and still a very strong program, which at least at my time had a very knowledgeable strength and conditioning coach), i actually was surprised that my lifting form on all the core Oly and power lifts improved drastically, as well as on many of the other lifts. and my shoulder strength has actually improved immensely as well as at the college and high school level we NEVER did press or any variants of it, which i feel was important for me as, at the very least, it will help me prevent injury (i tore my AC joint in 2008 and i don’t think this would have happened had i been doing press regularly). CrossFit has also introduced me to more progressive weight training methods, as before my weight training consisted of benching 275 every once in a while for an indeterminate amount of sets and reps and doing the same at 405, many times less on a partial squat. CrossFit has also been my gateway to Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell conjugate method which i recently began implementing so we’ll see how it effects my strength gains in the coming months.

    the biggest gripes i have with CrossFit are as follows:

    1. its complete neglect of the Central Nervous System. for a program that emphasizes strength and power training among other things, i would think guidelines such as Prilepin’s Chart would be of utmost importance when designing a workout. instead many of the workouts include sets of far too many reps of a hard determined weight that may be WAAAAAAY to heavy for many. for example, Prilepin’s Chart, if i recall correctly, says that in the 90% range, 1-3 reps per set, for a total of 4 reps is optimal, and the rep range is 4-10. if i have someone doing Grace (135lb. C&J for time), i could argue that it is necessary to rest between reps a certain length for anyone, or a plethora of other gripes with this workout, but for simplicity’s sake i will say that there isn’t a huge problem with this for someone who has a 250lb C&J as this is below 65% of their 1RM and the recommendation for that is 24 reps optimal and 20-30 is the range. however, what if the person doing this workout has a 155lb max C&J? 135 is roughly 85% of their max and their rep range for that weight is significantly lower (around 12 total reps maximum if i recall correctly). if this person does Grace to standard he is going to fry his CNS which will actually have a detrimental effect on his strength development. of course this person doesn’t have to do it to standard, but the competitive nature of CrossFit, and many times the ego of that person, will push him to try it anyways and the coach in most cases will push him to do it to standard as well.

    2. the near exclusive focus on Oly lifts (and maybe box jumps) for power development perturbs me. the reason being that most people will never learn how to perform them with proper form, and even those that do will take years to develop them correctly (i have been doing them for about 10 years now and still have a lot of flaws), when they could easily be supplemented with less complex, more explosive exercises such as the dynamic exercises prescribed by WSB for their DE days as well as plyometric exercises. of course i’m not suggesting a soccer mom who wants to gain a little bit of functional strength should be doing depth jumps off of a 24 inch box, but even some rudimentary plyometric hops on the floor is pretty common sense to me for anyone without severe physical impediments trying to improve their leg strength as it helps build the explosive power that will allow the bar to travel faster during a lift.

    3. as many have mentioned here, there is little to no rhyme or reason as to how CrossFitters try to develop weaker muscles. CrossFit takes a one-size-fits-all approach. as a recovering ex-AFAA certified trainer at a Globo-gym i can say that one thing i do feel Globo-gym trainers/settings do much better than the CrossFit setting is that they personalize (even if it is as much as a trainer helping a client pick a goal that they will never be able to train under his program because he is an incompetent numbskull that doesn’t know what he is doing — like i was back then). by personalizing, a smart coach can help a client find muscle imbalances. though CrossFit is all about group training it is still on the coach to be a counselor to each individual in their program and i feel that includes finding a method to help their clients realize more personalized exercises every now and then to address a particular issue or strengthen a particular muscle group. in my box we often perform a strength piece followed by a WOD (though as i said above i am following my own strength program based on WSB). rather than having a one size fits all program i feel we should tailor the strength piece to the needs of the individual and facilitate that the individual educate themselves to be keen on what their individualized needs are. that way, we could have each person on a squat day performing a squat or similar workout tailored to address a particular weak point: if you have weak abs, do Zerchers. weak low back, do goodmornings, knees cave in/navicular drop, lighten the load and put a 2.5 lb weight under the inside portion of your feet. also, i find that most individuals have under developed hammys and therefore all of these squat variations should be performed as box squats. if someone slams their butt to the box, add a foam pad to it. etc. also inform these people of Prilepin’s chart and make sure they do not exceed its recommendations.

    there are other things i have a problem with, but all in all, i feel that if anything CF has helped, not hindered my lifting form, it has made me both stronger and better conditioned, and most of all it has created an environment where fitness is fun again — one where i have become fascinated with the science behind training and have learned to apply it to my own workouts. i may now be largely working out outside the scope of CF, but none of this would have been possible without me initially coming upon this knowledge through the CF community.

  • Marshall

    i do crossfit.. ive read alot of the hate on youtube and stuff about crossfit. but never have i seen technique this bad before ive been doing it for almost a year and ive never seen anyone lift as bad as this bunch of jokers. They make me look like an olympic athlete

  • sarah

    im a critic of crossfit myself, but I am also sick of seeing people freaking out over this video. These girls are performing a strongman version of the clean & jerk. This is NOT a traditional olympic style clean and jerk. They are using a thick barbell, that does not rotate. This is common in strongman competitions, and while these girls are obviously beginners they are using correct technique for the type of lift they are attempting.

  • Keith

    I was a high performance athlete for many years. I trained in many different gyms with sport groups of countless different sports and training styles.
    Let me tell you this: The ONE constant that I noticed in every gym, every sport, from every trainer is that NEVER ONCE did I witness perfect form from everybody.
    CrossFit gets this horrible reputation that people doing it often have bad form – to the point that its feels almost singled out like the the only type of training out there where form is an issue.
    Yes people training for CrossFit have bad form sometimes. You know what though? I have seen National/Varsity/Community/Public level basketball, football, hockey, volleyball, ski, luge, bobsleigh, MMA, swimming, water polo, golf, cycling, wresting, bootcamp and countless other individuals/teams all practicing bad form in countless different gyms.

    CrossFit is big, powerful, expanding fast, and putting pressure on a lot of small businesses and this can feel very threatening and invoke reaction.

    When you have 500,000+ people practicing CrossFit worldwide – of course there are going to be videos posted on the internet of bad practice. What does the internet LOVE to do though? It loves to sensationalize the extreme. Therefore the millions of videos that CrossFit athletes take that show great form, technique and performance get burried under the carpet while the extreme rarities (like the Albany video) get put on a public scrutiny pedestal. Now some may say “well there are dozens of videos out there that show poor CrossFit training”. Again, true. BUT again – considering the amount of people training CrossFit and the amount of times it is recorded by individuals – the ones that show catastrophe are, in my best estimation, less than 1%.

    Its remarkable that society is so willing to support sports like boxing and MMA, where the very intent of the sport is to injure the oponenet – or a sport like American rules football – where the injury rate is probably higher than any other sport around, yet when a video of CrossFit is posted showing poor technique but often never and injury – fire alarms go off like the sport is cruel and unusual punishment.

    Anyway – just my thought. John I know you have written articles supporting CrossFit so please don’t take this as a personal attack in anyway against you.

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