To begin, I will say that any good coach is working to improve all parts of an athlete’s life on a daily basis: posture, diet, sleep, stress, play, mental and emotional development, and a host of other important pieces. Today, however, we are just focused on what is going on inside the gym, the movement.
The current “CrossFit” methodology is a conglomerate of movements and ideas from various disciplines: gymnastics, weightlifting, competitive sports, and general fitness. In addition, many of the “CrossFit” movements are also found in strength and conditioning (S&C) programs, most of which are developed for athletes with sport-specific movements that are, by their very nature, asymmetric, dynamic, and varied (Imagine a football player and their sport-specific movements). Therefore, S&C movements for these athletes are often simple to perform and are meant to build strength, size, and good patterning. However, the issue arises when “CrossFit” programming becomes dependent on these basic S&C movements which results in a lack of athlete development through the inherent movement bias.
To illustrate this bias, below is a list of “CrossFit’s” 9 fundamental movements:
- Air Squat
- Front Squat
- Overhead Squat
- Shoulder Press
- Push Press
- Push Jerk
- Sumo Deadlift High Pull
- Medicine Ball Clean
In addition, the usual additions in a regular “CrossFit” gym are:
- Basic Bodyweight: Pull-Ups, Push-Ups, Dips, Muscle-Ups, Toes-to-Bar, L-Sits, Handstands, Burpees
- Olympic Lifting: Back Squats, Clean & Jerks, Snatch
- Various: Wall Balls, Kettlebells, Box Jumps, Double Unders
- Monostructural: Running, Rowing (and occasionally biking)
When examining every single one of these “CrossFit” movements, almost all are stationary (with the exception of running, box jumps and some of the basic bodyweight movements), as they involve the movement of an external object and/or your body up and down with very little to no other movement. In addition, notice that almost all of the movements listed above are in the frontal plane (see image above: facing straight-ahead, moving up and down, with no rotation), use both legs and/or arms bilaterally, and have almost no forward or backward movement. Thus, by sticking to the current “CrossFit” methodology religiously, you might start to develop imbalances, as the movements listed above are lacking in the variety to adequate address the proper development of an athlete.
To counteract this, we need to be working varying patterns, and thereby creating balance through our entirety. Without this varied focus, we become biased, leading to injuries and decreased results. To help counteract these negative results, we should be moving laterally-diagonally-assymetrically, using one leg or arm at a time, relying on more bodyweight control, being more dynamic, etc. To get an idea of this, see the video below:
When “CrossFit” first started, athletes were encouraged to play around with anything that seemed fun or challenging, thus leading to extra time being spent on gymnastics, body control, rock climbing, team sports, and many other avenues that helped physically challenge an athlete. This varied activity in conjunction with their formal “CrossFit” workouts based on basic S&C movements usually addressed the needs of athletic development (and contributed to a balanced development of the 10 general physical skills). However, as “CrossFit” has grown and become the primary, if not only, training methodology for many (along with becoming its own competitive sport), it has become important to continue to evolve the daily programming to maintain variety in the training system in order to develop well-rounded athletes.
To that end, I view this evolution as a further development in the fitness paradigm shift and a return to the basics of human movement (and the origins of “CrossFit”). To help further this development, listed below are what I believe to be some extremely important elements to implement as part of a training system:
- Developing Symmetry in Single Arm and Single Leg Movements
- Turkish Get-Ups
- One-Arm Movements: Press, Pull-Ups, Straight Arm Control
- One-Leg Movements: Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges
- Bracing While Moving (ie: loaded movement)
- Carries: Yokes, One-Arm, Farmer, Lateral, Asymmetric, Overhead
- Throwing: Side, Forward, One-Handed, Two-Handed, Odd Objects
- Visual Development
- Hand Eye Coordination: Catching, Blocking
- Reactions: Awareness, Noticing Movement, Preventing Falls
- Hands and Feet: Handstands, Various Holds, One-Arm, One-Leg
- Surfaces: Narrow, Unstable, Angled
- Increasingly Dynamic Movements
- One-Leg Movements: Agility Drills, Change of Direction, Bounding
- Using movement in different planes
- Forward, Backward, Sideways
- Diagonal, Asymmetric, Rotational
In conclusion, to develop a well-rounded athlete, a program will need to contain a great deal more than simple, bilateral movements that function primarily in the frontal plane, namely, the inclusion of the elements listed above. In addition, without these elements, there are some big gains being left on the table through a movement bias and the resulting injury risk.
So, how does your program stack up?