Are you running before you walk?
Gather your pitchforks folks, this is sure to ruffle some feathers!
Before we receive some colourful death threats from all the die-hard crossfit enthusiasts out there, we would like to preface this by saying that we are not ‘anti’-any exercise/fitness movement. We definitely do like some aspects of that style of training and provided it is coached well, it can be great to get people active and enjoying exercise. Happy days!
We do, however, take issue with regards to appropriate exercise selection, or perhaps, a lack thereof. Again, we will reiterate that we are not anti-crossfit, these could just be exceptions and we are well aware that there are poor practices/programming in all aspects among the fitness industry.
Before going into specifics, we need to understand that certain exercises/movements are not suitable for some people (although that is not concrete and may be changed) and there may be unnecessary risk involved in rushing people into things they aren’t ready for yet. We are of the belief that there is no such thing as a bad exercise, just one that your body is not ready for.
So to get an idea of where this is heading consider this:
Would you teach algebra to someone who doesn’t know their timetables yet?
Probably not... In other words, you need to master the basics first in order to earn the right to progress to more complex exercises. The problem seen within some gyms and other areas of the industry is as follows:
You get a large group of people with entirely different movement capacities, injury histories, skill levels and training experience. You teach them all the same exercises (some of which are very complex - eg olympic lifts) with minimal coaching or progression, load them up and then add a metabolic component by putting them in a circuit or have them rush to do as many reps as possible for a time limit. By doing this, you ensure that technical breakdown will almost certainly occur at a rapid rate, thus increasing the risk of hurting yourself at the same rate.
Olympic lifts are highly technical power exercises which are designed for high speed and load, not designed to be done under immense fatigue. Sloppy technique on these lifts coupled with high volume and inexperience is just lunacy.
Let’s say you have poor overhead mobility, you may be kyphotic (rounded back - think 21st century office hermit or your serial-texting friend who hasn’t looked up in 3 weeks) and you may lack the ability to get your arms right above your head (limited shoulder flexion). Is a snatch really the most appropriate exercise for you right this instant? Are you an aspiring olympic weightlifter? If so, then work to get in better positions - work on your mobility, work on overhead squat progressions and nail them before you even think about throwing a loaded bar above your head with speed and catching it.
Furthermore, if you cannot do a decent looking front squat or can’t even get into the front rack position (bar resting on the front of the shoulders with your elbows up), then are cleans really the most appropriate exercise to do right this instant? Have you earned the right to progress? Again, we would suggest not. You have some work to do (ask us if you need help).
Lastly, if you can’t do ten goblet squats (holding a dumbbell in front of your chest) with 1/3rd of your bodyweight, then olympic lifts shouldn’t even be on your radar. Build a base level of strength before attempting complexity. Earn the right to progress.
In saying all of this, this issue has definitely gotten better as of late and will continue to do so, with coaching continually improving and access to information more available than ever. However, like a lot of areas, more education is still required.