The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of CrossFit Pt. 2

Jake Thorp
Jake is a competitive crossfit athlete and 85 kg weightlifter based out of Albany, NY. He is the in-house weightlifting coach at Crossfit Beyond as well as a crossfit L1 trainer there. He has recently graduated from the College of Saint Rose and has a bachelor's of Science in Molecular biology. He has been involved with the fitness industry for over five years, between personal training, corporate fitness, crossfit, and weightlifting. During his free time he trains and competes throughout the northeast region, and enjoys experiencing the great outdoors as often as possible. Find him on Instagram @hammerofthorp for movement demos and training tips.

The Bad 

The paleo craze, deadlifts for reps, and the technique-intensity threshold

After my CrossFit praising in Pt. 1, it’s only fair that I dish on the not so good parts. First, let me say this – before I start talking shit, the paleo diet works… to an extent. For those who are unfamiliar, the paleo diet prescription is no processed foods, grains, dairy, legumes or sugar. It also includes lots of meat, vegetables, some fruits and nuts, little starch and tons of water.

If you walk into any CrossFit gym, I can guarantee that at least 1 out of 3 (if not more) athletes follow this regimen. If you are a middle aged woman trying to keep cravings down, shave off some pounds, get rid of those daily migraines and get your hormones back on track, paleo is probably for you. It has done tremendous things for people who have serious weight and hormonal issues, but let me explain where the problem arises:

Not every CrossFitter starts out as a couch potato that has no regard for what they’re ingesting on a daily basis. In fact, many of my athletes are young, fit, active people who come from an athletic background already. One of my athletes and close friends confronted me not too long ago because she was feeling slow in her workouts. My first question to her was, “how’s your nutrition?”

I could tell she was excited to tell me she eats “great.” All vegetables and chicken, maybe a sweet potato with some grass-fed butter for dinner. My heart dropped, this girl is a serious athlete – lean and strong as hell, but she is literally starving her body of what she needs. Whether you like it or not, human beings run on glucose as their primary source for energy. Whether we are talking about fueling your muscles or your brain, glucose is what the body craves.

The paleo diet is very low in glucose and your primary energy sources are fats, but this is not where the problem is. The problem arises from these fit, workhorse athletes showing up every day for the WOD, then sticking around doing extra work and starving his or herself of glucose. Eventually you will burn out, it has happened to me and it sucks. So what should you do?

Well, the paleo diet is a good way to learn what’s actually healthy to eat, i.e. vegetables, meat, wholesome foods, but for the sake of your performance, don’t get brainwashed into thinking you will get fat over night or get cancer from eating carbs. Eat a fucking bowl of rice. Your muscles and your workouts will thank you for it.


Deadlifts and Technique

While I love the competitive nature of CrossFit and I truly believe that it brings the best out of many individuals. There are some parts of the competitive environment in a CrossFit gym that trouble could arise from. You may walk in one day and see a WOD like this: 21-15-9 of deadlifts and handstand pushups (one of my favorites). However, 45 deadlifts as fast as possible while being tired from other things may be a recipe for disaster. Let me say this, I don’t think that deadlifts for time or reps are bad, but you better believe that bad deadlifts for time or reps are bad. That seems pretty obvious, right?

There is a threshold in CrossFit between technique and intensity. Perfect technique and mechanics cannot be sustained at maximum output, and maximum output cannot be achieved without good technique and mechanics. What does this mean? If you want to hammer out deadlifts fast, you need to practice PERFECT deadlifts at heavy loads. On the other hand, if you are racing the clock and going for a fastest time, you will be sacrificing perfect form for a better time.

It might be one shitty rep, or 12 not so pretty reps in the WOD, but needless to say, sooner or later your reps will turn to less than perfect. Elite athletes understand this. They train hard and heavy so when they see 45 deadlifts for time, they are strong enough to shake off a few sketchy reps, hence the term “elite athletes.”

What about the regular guy coming in for his one workout a day? He is stressed about making a good time to put on the white board, but not quite strong or experienced enough to handle that many deadlifts in a short period of time with less than perfect form. This is where disaster may strike. Through the stress of competitive nature, he feels pressured to go as fast as possible, completely disregarding his form. He throws out his back or slips a disk after 20 ugly deadlifts. Game over.

CrossFitters need to understand their abilities, be aware of this threshold and know where their limits are. Don’t be so concerned about how you stack up to others on the board or how fast you are going. Everyone is at a different level, so just worry about yourself and swallow your ego. Don’t focus on time, instead focus on better reps and your lifting career will benefit in the long run.