CrossFit Great for Adults, Not Power Athletes

October 13, 2009

I had 2 athletes from different high schools come into Sparta last week, complaining of hip tightness and knee pain from their teams’ CrossFit workouts. Its stated goal is to create “the quintessential athlete, equal parts gymnast, Olympic weightlifter, sprinter, rower and 800 meter runner.” This concept is great for those adults seeking a physical challenge that can be measured and compared against themselves and their peers. It is a very healthy alternative to replace the whole Triathlon rage of the previous decade (see Sparta Point 12/31/08). The problem becomes when these workouts and exercises are prescribed to any power athletes (i.e. those not involved in cross country), as such a broad approach is counterproductive.

Most high school athletes are already overtrained by competing in their sport year round, transitioning between club and high school programs. They don’t need endurance, as their practice and game schedule gives the best conditioning available, Sport Specific Fitness. However, they do need absolute speed and strength, the pure focus of moving oneself as quickly as possible (i.e. jumping, sprinting) or lifting as heavy a barbell as possible for a few repetitions. Such feats are acquired by significant rest between sets or repetitions.

Training needs to be sports specific. Sprinting 1 lap around the track, 400 meters, for time, a commonly prescribed CrossFit movement, has never had any place in a baseball player’s preparation, regardless of position, due to the very short duration of throwing and hitting a ball. Such rationale could be applied to volleyball as well, though extended further by realizing these players never run on the court, unless it is a really bad pass and they have to sprint 10 feet!

Perhaps the coach or parent does or did CrossFit and encourages them to get their kids involved due to the difficulty. Or perhaps, word spreads of how someone got sick outside from the nauseating workout. Just because the workout is hard, doesn’t mean it is good. Reread the last statement, as it should be one of the main foundations of every training program.

Don’t get me wrong, we love turning up the music and grinding out a difficult workout, but the challenges should seek to stimulate the nervous system (see Sparta Point 10/8/09) or to improve the focus needed for short bursts of high proficiency. At Sparta, we don’t play music with words during the workout and our athletes can usually be found sitting down and staring straight ahead while sitting at one of several benches scattered throughout the room. They’re not breathing hard, they’re thinking hard.

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