Training Articles

Bashing Functional & CrossFit: You’re Making Yourself Look Foolish

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“The idea is called the acute interference hypothesis: if you train for everything at once, you make crappy gains across the board. Research strongly supports the hypothesis…As a matter of fact, you achieve the absolute worst results when you attempt to train all modalities in a single workout.”

Here’s the thing.  I run a gym where real life happens.  I don’t go off literature or what someone says boasting an intimidating arms-crossed pose.  I go off the numbers.  Off the proof.  So, suffice it to say I disagree with the above.

Vehemently.

Buckle up, we’ve got an aggressive one today…

You ever have one of those friends growing up that was your boy yet you knew wasn’t perfect?  You knew the critiques of him probably had some truth to them, but you absolutely hated it when your parents pointed it out, or those outside your circle?  Sure, he might have had a few bad traits but had a good heart and the not-so-good stuff caused people to overlook his good intentions?  If the critique came from your other friends, you would agree but when mom and dad would jump on him as a bad seed you defended him like a rabid dog?

It’s natural.  You protect those that are closest to you but also are more cognizant of their shortcomings.

That’s how I feel about CrossFit when they come under public attacks from outsiders (even though I am an outsider).  My gym’s training is close enough that I feel I can have informed, intelligent critique of it yet also feel like people are insulting Performance360 when they blindly attack CrossFit as the “functional fruits” or “HIIT weaklings”.

“I give those functional gyms credit.  They really create great camaradarie.”

Are we supposed to say thank you to that?  Because you know what?

No thank you.  Kindly.

I am not trying to create a bible study over here, so spare me the backhanded compliment that we’re all just trying so gosh darn hard over here.  Camaradarie is great but what I am after is far more than people high fiving one another.

I’m not after the silver medal, decency or any sportsmanship award.

Now, for those of you finding it odd I am defending my competition (CrossFit), a little explanation.

My relationship with the CrossFit establishment is completely unique and filled with irony so deep you could nose dive for twenty seconds and still not hit bottom.

- P360 lives in symbiosis with CrossFit.  We compete heavily yet their existence helps our business.

- I have no ill will towards the CrossFit establishment yet they seem to hate our existence on a local level.

- Our training is similar, yet also vastly different.

- I am writing a blog post defending my competition.

Ahh, the ironical ironicness!

Since we opened Performance360, I’ve actively elected against publicly sharing my opinion on CrossFit because I believe it to be in poor taste.  What good can come of it, one way or the other?  I may be a smart ass from time to time but ultimately I always remain positive and that just wouldn’t be my style.  If I say it’s awesome then I promote my competition.  If I say it sucks, then I am just another hater in a long line.

Just because we chose not to affiliate Performance360 with CrossFit does not mean we hate CrossFit or think it to be bad training.  People are too absolute in their assessment of things in the fitness world in general.  It either has to be the greatest thing in the world or it has to completely suck, right?  Nothing could be further from the truth.   I respect them, we simply chose a different route at P360 based on areas we thought we could improve it.  And guess what?  We’re not trying to sell you on it.  Either you want to come kick ass or you don’t.  Cool.

That’s it.  Nothing more, nothing less and I am sure flaws of our gym could be pointed out, as well.

But, I’ve recently hit my tipping point as ignorant and unproven hatred towards CrossFit and all those who do High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been flooding internet blogs.  Performance360, though not CrossFit, falls into that HIIT group and when results, safety and strength are generically called into question is when I say,

“Back up, holmes.”

It’s become far too easy and too popular to hop on that anti HIIT/CrossFit bandwagon that many industry professionals have jump aboard.  I wonder how many of these folks have even tried HIIT, the same folks who say ‘you have to give a program’ months before judging it are the same people who write it off simply by looking at workouts and theoretically passing judgment, like this from a very prominent and respected strength author.

He and a few of his like-minded teammates trained together in a small, dingy weight room, out of sight from the coaches. They kept their secret away from the Machine Tools and Functional Fruits that plagued the Strength Nation, and still do today!

Well call me Toucan fucking Sam because I am as fruity as it gets.

I laughed out loud when I read that, because I honestly thought it was funny.  It takes balls to just call a large group of hard working people “fruits” like that and to be honest, I understood where he was coming from although he expressed it terribly and was just another strongman to sort a diverse group of people into a single bucket.

It’s discouraging because some folks I really respect in the industry have made themselves look foolish and closed minded with their aggressive criticism of HIIT, and I honestly believe they have never used it on a consistent basis.

In other words, I don’t believe the know what they are talking about.

Just because something isn’t perfect or doesn’t fit in with your style doesn’t mean it’s terrible.

Absolutism, people.  Don’t get sucked in by it.

Close to Home

Now, I have my issues with CrossFit HQ programming and maybe one day I will share them without sounding like a total jackass, but that’s not the point of this opinion piece.  I’m here to stand alongside my HIIT brethren when “experts” began spouting off the “dangers” of high-intensity interval training and how it “creates weaklings” and has people “chronically overtraining.”

Bullshit.

When I read this, I know for fact that this person is going purely off second hand literature.

When people trash HIIT under those charges, they also trash Performance360.  CrossFit and Performance360 may be different and compete with one another, but we both fight the good fight against bogus claims and unfounded science.

Here’s a P360 member video showing him pull 300 pounds.

Oh that’s right.  He is actually a she.  That’s a 135 pound girl with 300 pound strength. Through HIIT.

Or how about a 180 pound man overhead pressing 285 pounds?

Sorry for the arrogant tone…actually, no I’m not.  Sometimes you have to be arrogant to fight arrogant and it just blows my mind that people still think HIIT training is still a bunch of mindless movements with five pound dumbbells and tricep kickbacks.

I write every single workout that happens in the four walls of Performance360 and do so with enormous pride, attention to safety and focus on periodization and linear strength progression.  Too many professionals think you can’t periodize your training if it’s in circuit format and I’m not sure why.  What barrier do you have that disallows you to keep strength reps from 2-8 and mix in variants like speed deadlifts, resisted squats, heavy farmer’s walks and exercises named after Eastern European countries just because it’s part of a circuit?

Now, back to that intro quote:

The idea is called the acute interference hypothesis: if you train for everything at once, you make crappy gains across the board. Research strongly supports the hypothesis…As a matter of fact, you achieve the absolute worst results when you attempt to train all modalities in a single workout.

(Editor’s note: these numbers are as of the date this entry was published.)

We have 17 men at P360 that can deadlift over 400 pounds, at body weight of 199 and lower.

We have six men who can pull over 400 pounds at a weight of 169 or lower.

We have five men pulling 450 pounds.

Three at 475 pounds.

Three at 500 pounds.

We have 11 more on the heels of 400 pounds.  Once they hit, 41% of men in the gym will be able to pull 400 pounds.  Only one of the men from the entire group above weighs over 204 pounds.

We have three 300# women deadlifters.

We have eight women pulling over 250 pounds at body weights under 135.

38 women that can deadlift over 200 pounds.

We have six athletes who trained with us and then ran sub 2 hour half-marathons.  Three of those are women who can also deadlift 215 pounds.  One of them can pull almost 275 pounds at a body weight of 128 pounds.

We have 17 people who can jump over 50 inches.

Five at 57 inches.

One at 62 inches (60 shown here).

Sixteen women at 36 inches or higher.

We have 37 people on record out of membership of ~150 that have lost lost over 15 pounds.

Five over 30 pounds.

Two over 40 pounds.

One at 50 pounds.

We have a grandmother than can deadlift over 200 pounds.

But hey, you can’t get “all modalities” through circuit training.  Science says so.

I’m not ever going to be the guy who can rattle off scientific studies, how the Krebs Cycle effects x, y and z or some other stuff to make me sound like the smartest guy in the room.  I just know that these accomplishments happen in real life through functional training.

And further, you do not get to these results without periodization in the workouts.  I can’t speak for other gyms but I know our periodization at Performance360 is priority number one.

So please, enough with the weakling and “average results in many categories” stuff.  It just plain ain’t true.

One final point.  The argument that I dislike the most is the “possible negative long term side effects we don’t yet know of” point of view that can barely hold itself up on one leg, let along make a valid point.

This is easily remedied by toning down the chronic heavy stuff and focusing different fuel systems in a periodized, safe format.

Unless you also never use mircowaves, drink alcohol, eat fast food, talk on a cell phone, or walk through metal detectors then don’t come at me with the whole “unknown risk”.  I’ll happily take phenomenal results in the present.

Conclusion

Listen, I am not that smart.  I know that.  I mean, I know some stuff but there are others that know more than me.

But the point is that HIIT training has grown up and works, and that this rant opinion is based on tangible things that exist in real life, realized by my experience training and coaching in the trenches, not a textbook, not theories and certainly not dogma.

Additionally, is someone who does pure strength going to be stronger?  Probably.  Is someone that only runs sprints going to be faster?  Probably.

I just wish that people in our industry had a little more respect for other methods as a whole  and focused less on being “right”.  Training and diet are not absolute.  There are many means to an end so appreciate everyone out there doing work and don’t blindly believe everything you read.

Try stuff.  Move things.  Pick stuff up quickly, heavy things, jump, sprint and throw things and you’ll be shocked at what many strength experts say you can’t achieve.

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10 thoughts on “Bashing Functional & CrossFit: You’re Making Yourself Look Foolish

  1. The point was that no one gives a shit about the mediocre gains made by Crossfitters when compared to people who specialize.

    A 135lb woman deadlifting 300lbs, WHOA, NO ONE’S DONE THAT BEFORE!

    Oh wait, Nia Shanks deadlifts 330 at 120lbs.

    If your argument is, “you can make PRETTY GOOD gains across the board on Crossfit”, then sure, have that.

    But you cannot argue that Crossfit produces elite athletes. There’s no such thing as an “elite generalist”. Why? Because training for everything disallows, just by the very nature of time and the limits of human energy, the ability to be the best at anything.

    You almost figured it out at the end:

    “Are we ever going to pick up 600 pounds through HIIT? Probably not”

    *applause* See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

    “But we’ll be more athletic and hold our own in any judgment of strength.”

    *sigh* no, you won’t. You will NEVER have an athlete who can compete with, say, Ed Coan.

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the big fish in a small pond. You could just own up to it, and say, “hey, the point of hard HIIT training is to turn out hotties who can lift heavier than anybody in a 10-block radius.”

    But you cannot say your athleticism is “just as good” or use the word “elite”, as Crossfit tries to. I mean, come on.

    • As a pre-empt, I respond here to defend HIIT. CrossFit is a brand, not a workout. I don’t run a CrossFit gym and want that clear so I don’t speak for the entire CF community. I speak for high-intensity interval training and specifically my take on it.

      I feel bad for picking on you but Naomi, this is just wrong. All wrong. And the arrogance of your tone was the deciding factor in my response.

      First, what is your definition of athlete? Far too arbitrary of a term to flatly say HIIT can’t produce elite athletes. Under what measurement or energy system? Specified single capacity athletes? All around athletes? Webster’s definition of the word?

      1) Can you personally deadlift 300#? Or if not, I’ll settle for at least twice your body weight? If yes, proceed.
      2) Can you also jump onto a platform 36 to 40 inches above ground, from a stand still? If yes, proceed.
      3) Can you also do five to thirteen strict pull-ups? If yes, proceed.
      4) Can you also run 13 miles in under two hours?

      I played sports at a high level and my partner professional sports, so we consider ourselves real athletes, the kind who played against human beings, not mirrors. So, please be specific.

      Second, if you consider a 500# deadlift for men, 300# deadlift for women and the consistency of 225 – 250% body weight deadlift “mediocre” then you are either misguided enough to think elite power lifters are the mean, or just plain don’t know what you are talking about. To produce women who can deadlift 300#, 275# and 250# consistently while also maintaing high athleticism at 130# or lower is not mediocre, not by any definition or amateur grading curve.

      Third, Ed Coan is a hall of famer and Nia Shanks is a) a professional and b) one of the strongest women in the business. If those are your tangible progression benchmarks for every day people then I’ll raise you a a Michael Phelps who used cross training fuel systems to help win 8 Olympic Gold Medals, and a Lance Armstrong who did the same for the TDF.

      I’ve sent that 300# video to the Girls Gone Strong crew and they seemed impressed. But you’re probably qualified to higher standards than those ladies, I’m sure.

      “A 135lb woman deadlifting 300lbs, WHOA, NO ONE’S DONE THAT BEFORE!
      Oh wait, Nia Shanks deadlifts 330 at 120lbs.”

      This argument would seem to infer a 10 second 100m is slow because Usain Bolt can do it in 9…that make sense. I read GGS all the time and consider guys like Donny Shankle an idol, but there is high level of strength to be had that does not have to be the best of all time.

      Fourth, is 500# (man)/300# (woman) overly impressive as a stand alone feat? Well, fuck yes it is. But let’s say for a second we’re in the internet world where everyone’s a badass and it’s not that sweet. Take those lifts and combine it with the fast twitch athleticism that comes along with it in proportion to body weight, the ability to jump 40″/60″, maintain 8%/15% body fat, run a 6m mile and look great in the process that are all regular occurrences with this style of training?

      If this is mediocre then the following must be true.

      A) You must train in an environment of world-class caliber athletes, to which I would love to join for a weekend and learn.
      B) Like most fitness bloggers or commenters you most likely read a lot of blogs and research, can spout off studies and people you don’t physically know, but don’t really get in the trenches that much and certainly don’t get your hands dirty physically training people.

      My guess is ‘B’.

      If you made it through all four questions up top, congrats. You’re on par with the women we train, which apparently just qualifies you as “mediocre across the board”, though.

      To summarize, I consider this comment another example of “internet tough” and not my first lay.

      Thank you for the reading.

  2. Well done on a great article. I’ve just come across your blog and look forward to reading more good training articles.

  3. Pingback: The Dirty Thirty Club….Of Awesomeness! Lesson, Thoughts, and Randomness | Kristi Lyn Miller Blog

  4. Quit being so arrogant Naomi. Nobody gives a s**** that you can throw a medicine ball 200 times. Someone said it correctly when they said do you want to be the best exerciser or the best athlete. The “sport” of Crossfit is exercising. It’s GPP, no sport specific. Are you saying that Lebron James, or Floyd Mayweather are not elite athletes because they can’t throw a med ball 200 times. Let’s see, Mayweather will knock someone out, and Lebron will dunk all over somebody. Are you fit, yes absolutely, but don’t call yourself an elite athlete and say that the rest of the people who don’t do crossfit inferior to you. I got two words look up “Gym Jones”, then ask someone at Crossfit about it. I guarantee nobody will complement Mark Twight even though he was an early Glassman disciple. Gee, I wonder why nobody wants to talk about Gym Jones? Good luck in the Olympics, not CF games, winning a medal in something, you’ll come in 8th in every sport, which is good, but not “Elite”.

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