Why I Quit Crossfit

November 21, 2014

Health

Let me first start by saying that this is not a post aimed at bashing Crossfit. I will not be debating whether or not a kipping pull up is better than a dead hang pull up. I will not be discussing whether or not you should be doing power/olympic lifts for high reps. Those discussions are better left for trainers much more knowledgeable than I am. For many years, I was a devoted adherent to Crossfit. In the following discussion, I will be talking about both its pros and cons from my perspective and why I ultimately decided to abandon Crossfit for a method that is more effective for my personal goals.

Background

I first discovered Crossfit in 2008 while stationed in Hawaii. Through the military, I had heard of a popular new program that was going to kick your ass and get you into combat shape. It sounded intriguing and before I knew it, I was in a warehouse full of barbells, bumper plates, kettlebells, and ropes. After an introductory class on how to perform some basic movements like the squat, deadlift, overhead press, and various bodyweight exercises, I did a modified WOD (Workout of the Day) which combined some of the movements I learned into an intense workout that left me gasping for air by the  end. I was instantly hooked. As a Marine, I am always looking for ways to physically challenge myself and this was it. I signed up and would religiously go to Crossfit Oahu to haze myself three days a week.

Pros

Community

Some call Crossfit “elitist” or “cult-like.” There is definitely truth to that. You end up looking down on people who go to regular gyms to use the elliptical machine or who focus solely on isolation exercises like bicep curls or calf raises. Crossfit is all about functional, compound movements. There aren’t any machines to speak of except Concept II rowers. Other than that, you are in a warehouse throwing a bunch of heavy shit around. It doesn’t get much more masculine than that. These are those who consider Crossfit’s mentality negative, but I kind of liked it. Sometimes I enjoy an “us vs. them” type of world view. Marines have it when we compare ourselves to other services. It builds camaraderie and it’s fun being in the company of like-minded people.

Cardiovascular Fitness

I have never been much of a runner. I run because I need to get a decent 3-mile run time on my semi-annual Physical Fitness Test. What I found out was that I didn’t actually need to run in order to get a good run time. During Officer Candidates School, the closest I came to maxing out the 3-mile run was a time of 18:25 (18:00 is a perfect score). Without the benefit of drill instructors yelling at you every day, my run time in the fleet stabilized around 20-21 mins. However, doing high intensity workouts 3x per week really improved my cardiovascular abilities. By the time I was leaving Hawaii two years later, my 3-mile run time had improved to 18:50.

Cons

Price

Your average Crossfit membership will run you between $100-$150 per month. In the beginning, this can be justified because you’re getting instruction on how to perform movements correctly. However, once you have internalized these concepts, you’re essentially paying for someone to design a WOD for you and provide you additional motivation in a group environment. While this may be worth it for some people, it became harder and harder for me to justify paying this amount for someone to simply tell me to do 21-15-9 thrusters and pull-ups for time.

Not ideal for building strength

I came to Crossfit, in part, for the same reason why any guy works out. I want to be strong and I want a good physique while I’m at it. There’s no doubt that I gained some strength during the years I trained. However, my strength plateaued because I was sore and burned out all the time. Years after doing Crossfit regularly, I still was unable to do the recommended weight for males on most lifts.

Skinny physique

I have always been a natural skinny guy, otherwise known as a hard-gainer. Although it is an issue that more people probably wish they had, I need to eat significantly more calories than the average person if I want to gain weight. Doing frequent high intensity interval training compounded my frustration of gaining weight because I was burning so many calories on a regular basis. The result was that I was about 135 lbs. during the years that I trained Crossfit.

IMG_0258
Do you even lift, bro?

Enter Afghanistan

During a deployment to Afghanistan, I decided to try out a program that, ironically, I was introduced to by Crossfit. It was a powerlifting-based program known as Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. I decided to do this program for 6 months a record my results. The programming is fairly minimalistic:

Workout A

Squat
Bench
Deadlift

Workout B

Squat
Overhead Press
Power Clean (I substitute pull-ups for this movement)

You alternate between Workout A and Workout B every other day and perform each movement for 3 sets of 5 repetitions with the exception of deadlifts, which are performed for 1 set of 5 repetitions. A Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule is ideal. This workout is nothing new and has been around for quite a long time. Proponents of a minimalist powerlifting training regimen include: StrongLifts 5 x 5, LeanGains, and Arnold’s mentor, Reg Park. This was my result after six months of only doing the Starting Strength program.

Starting Strength

I have to say that I was pretty shocked. In 6 months, by focusing on only five movements and doing less, I gained close to 10 lbs. of muscle, increased my strength, and improved my physique. I was forced to admit something that I couldn’t for many years….A program like Crossfit spells disaster for hard gainers.

Martial Arts

In the Marines, it’s not good enough to just lift. As I mentioned before, you need to a high level of cardiovascular fitness, so just doing the Starting Strength program wasn’t going to help me achieve that. How do you get around that? I believe the best answer is to take up some form of martial art. Anyone who has ever done any sparring or grappling knows how easily you can get winded in a short amount of time. Fighters are some of the fittest guys out there, in my opinion. A membership to a martial arts studio will run you about the same amount that you would pay in a Crossfit gym, but you have the added benefit of learning a valuable skill life skill in the process. Muay thai happens to be my martial art of choice at the moment.

So that’s it, folks. My new equation for optimum health…Powerlifting + A Martial Art.

2 Comments on “Why I Quit Crossfit”

  1. Cary Says:

    Great blog, and excellent results! Glad to have read this article, because I’ve always wondered if I was missing out on something by not doing Crossfit.

    After doing the 5X5 program for about a year, I’m the only woman on the ‘scary’ side of they gym, and am turning into a lifting beast. I can’t help but see the smug looks of the other women working out as I finish up my workout quickly, becuase they’ve been taught that their 28 set routine of curls and side crunches with 8 lb dumbbells, supplemented with 200 crunches on the balance ball, is the *only* way to get results, and I am doing an obviously inferior workout.

    Cheers to being confident in knowing that less is more!

    Reply

    • raymondtung Says:

      Cary,

      Always glad to hear about another person on the program. I think too many women are scared of “getting too big.” If they just realized that it only makes them look better.

      Reply

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