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CrossFit's Dirty Little Secret (medium.com)
356 points by gms on Sept 21, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 209 comments

To be honest, Crossfit has quite a few dark secrets. This one, though, can kill you.

What are crossfit's dark secrets?

First and foremost, well, it's terrible. The programming coming from HQ is just plain awful. There are many programs out there now (Outlaw, Competitors WOD, CF Football etc) that fill the gap and actually give decent programming, but the programming from crossfit.com is really, really bad.

Did you know that ALL the athletes that competed at the Crossfit games do not use crossfit.com WODs as the base of their programming? It's true. Go and check it out. What does this tell you? That crossfit, the programming, is all bullshit. The elite athletes use strength training as the basis of their programming and complement that with met cons as they get closer to the games.

There is also a culture that promotes things like rips (ripping your hands, say during a deadlift), or rope burns or other types of stupid things as badges of honor. You can't go a few days on /r/crossfit without seeing someone mention their ripped hands with pride. This is dumb and promotes the wrong things.

And beyond that, frankly, high-rep olympic lifts, high-rep box jumps (DON'T JUMP DOWN! Seriously, trust me on this), and general bad form is ok in the name of better times. These are begging for injuries.

TL;DR - Crossfit is dumb.

Whoever came up with the idea of high-rep olympic lifts needs to be shot.

Seriously, it's incredibly dangerous. Olympic lifts are very complex mechanical movements and it takes real Olympic athletes months if not years to master the form. There's a reason for that: if the form is not correct, you open yourself to significant risk of potentially-permanent injury.

The problem with doing them with high repetition (and usually as quickly as possible) is that your form starts to break down after a few reps, but the competitive culture pressures you into continuing.


Mark Rippetoe (he's a popular personality in the powerlifting world) was affiliated with Crossfit in the beginning, mainly doing workshops on demonstrating basic barbell lifts. He liked how Crossfit was, at the time, a welcome antidote to the "Globo-Gym" death grip on fitness.

But he has distanced himself from Cross-fit for years now, and has a huge amount of criticism due to the emphasis on high-rep Olympic lifts. The high reps result in poor execution and injury at worst, and in uselessly light loads at best.

The first time I ever saw rhabdo was when I was sent to Outward Bound for a month as a teenager. A guy in my group wasn't very fit, and he got it from several days in a row of intense distance while backpacking. We were told how insanely rare it was when he got back, and the doctor at the time told him it was only seen in guys in boot camp.

Suddenly, a few years back, my rock climbing gym had a crossfit area. Then I start hearing about rhabdo all the time. I noticed that extremely fit rock climbers would do some of the team workouts, and then refuse to go back for the rest of the class they paid for. Their conclusion was the same as mine: any fitness regimen that makes it difficult to function in your day to day activities for days on end due to extreme soreness is not something that should ever be viewed as fitness. Fitness is something that can be integrated into a normal life.

I think CrossFit fell victim to its monetizations scheme. The original folks made their money by awarding certifications to trainers, who would then go start their own classes/gyms.

Like everything else: it started as a movement, turned into a business, and then devolved into a racket.

JPKab, I liked the first part of your response. It was accurate and based on fact. Good stuff. Mark's break from the crossfit community is well documented. And also with good reason. You and others have captured it well - olympic lifts executed at high volume carry significant risks.

But the rest of your post is garbage. "Monetizations schemes" and "racket"(s)? Two things here:

1/ Any intelligent person that starts a crossfit "box" could start a big gym that appeals more widely and make significantly more money. True, they would need more initial capital for the equipment. True, they would have to operate on far lower margins. But at the end of the day they would make more money signing up 1,000 people for $25 a month than signing up 100 people for $200 a month. Gym memberships are nothing more than a subscription service which is subject to the decaying population problem. It is about scale here.

2/ The majority of the crossfit community really, really buy into the entire thing. And nothing associated with that "thing" is about money. It is about fitness and community.

The vast majority of people that start crossfit boxes are doing so because they love crossfit. Not money. Please don't respond here with the handful of boxes that are about money because at any scale you will find outliers and these outliers don't represent the norm.

Crossfit people are fanatical about fitness and community. Not money. They prescribe to a very specific workout methodology. If you don't like crossfit then attack it for the faults that are at its core. Like functional movements (including Olympic movements) executed at high intensity. Somewhat insane, yes.

Don't create additional issues that could be potential found in a minority.

Here is a request for you. Feel free to ignore but if you are serious in terms of your views then try it out. (And if you aren't then just announce your troll status and be done with it.) Visit 12 crossfit gyms. You don't have to do the workouts there, don't pay a dime, just visit them and watch the class. Then ask yourself the following question, "If I wanted to make more money (that is if I were really an industry that devolved from a 'movement and then into a business and then finally a racket' - paraphrased from you) what would I do differently?"

If you can come up half a dozen answers to this question then I submit to you that your statement "it started as a movement, turned into a business, and then devolved into a racket" is wrong.

I generally agree with your statement, though I would say that this is more about Crossfit HQ and not individual crossfit affiliates.

Crossfit HQ is most definitely about the money. And, IMO, HQ is also the heart of the issue when it comes to programming, injury prevention (certification and standards) and the perpetuation of the things like rhadbo.

Further, IMO, crossfit the sport (meaning the games) has outgrown the leadership available at HQ. Glassman and Castro are notoriously bad leaders and exhibit this at nearly every turn. Crossfit the sport would be best served by being bought out by Reebok and moving away from HQ.

"1/ Any intelligent person that starts a crossfit "box" could start a big gym that appeals more widely and make significantly more money. True, they would need more initial capital for the equipment. True, they would have to operate on far lower margins. But at the end of the day they would make more money signing up 1,000 people for $25 a month than signing up 100 people for $200 a month. Gym memberships are nothing more than a subscription service which is subject to the decaying population problem. It is about scale here."

I completely disagree with the notion that these folks would make more money with a standard gym, and are therefore doing CrossFit purely out of passion. I'm sure they are passionate, but the standard gym market is saturated and overrun by large companies.

But at the end of the day they would make more money signing up 1,000 people for $25 a month than signing up 100 people for $200 a month.

I get the feeling here that you just made up numbers that prove your point. And even then, the numbers are so close (25% higher revenue, which of course ignores the margins you believe to be irrelevant) that I'd be skeptical that one or the other would be clearly more profitable.

Perhaps the reason CrossFit gyms have to charge so much is because there are comparatively few people in the world foolish enough to join a gym that advocates a "fitness" program that is statistically so dangerous.

Rippetoe wrote a fairly scathing article about the inappropriate use of high rep Olympic lifts in T-Mag recently.


I don't think there's much evidence to demonstrate that high-rep olympic lifts done by a trained person are any more dangerous then low-rep lifts at high weight. Yes, if you don't have good technique you're asking for trouble, but that's not what we're talking about here.

I don't think form breaks down after a few reps nearly as much as you say. There's probably a point at which it will, but there's a lot of room for breakdown that doesn't meaningfully increase your risk of injury.

> but the competitive culture pressures you into continuing

Hogwash. Each person is responsible for their own actions. Yes, competition might help people push themselves, but that shouldn't turn you into a mindless machine that will self destruct just to get the win. If it does, then you have no one to blame but yourself.

> Hogwash. Each person is responsible for their own actions.

I have observed that hazing exists, including among adults. People die in hazing events, or are subjected to physical harm, coerced sexual activity, and emotionally abusive behaviors.

As you say, "Each person is responsible for their own actions." Using only that logic as a guide, then everyone who dies in a hazing event - in those cases where it's voluntary to join the organization which practices hazing - is solely responsible for their own death.

I do not take so narrow a view of that. We also have a responsibility for others as well. It isn't only the hazee who is responsible but also those who were involved or knew about the hazing but did nothing to stop it.

Similarly, while I agree that people are responsible for their own well-being in training, I use my same reasoning to say that they are also partially responsible for the well-being of others.

If you see someone else using equipment in a dangerous and fool-hardy way, with a high-likelihood that they will be seriously hurt, will you do nothing?

If you notice that week after week people doing a specific exercise end up with twisted backs, will you do nothing?

Or will you encourage people to work at it and try harder? Does culpability ever exist?

When did we jump from encouraging someone to improve themselves to hazing? This had got to be one of the biggest straw men I've ever seen.

Really? After nearly 6 years on Hacker News? I should get an award! (Though I suspect you are exaggerating, so there will be no prize for me tonight.)

Since you don't like it, take out all references to it. I said "I agree that people are responsible for their own well-being in training [but] they are also partially responsible for the well-being of others." Surely that's a stand-alone statement.

The rest of my post gave examples in an exercise context where I think it would be unconscionable to say "Each person is responsible for their own actions. ... you have no one to blame but yourself."

The entire point of the essay is, of course, that at some point "encouraging someone to improve themselves" may become "encouraging someone to hurt themselves". At some point there can be a justifiable claim of culpability, and coaches have been sued for bad advice.

To deny that culpability doesn't exist, and that it's only the person's recklessness which caused the problem is to be blind to both ethics and the law.

I don't deny that culpability exists. I think that normal CrossFit gyms won't come close to meeting the criteria for culpability. I've been to several gyms and I've never seen anything even close.

The statement you objected to was "the competitive culture pressures you into continuing." You vociferously denied the concept - "Hogwash!" - and denied any sense of culpability ("you have no one to blame but yourself").

Now you say that there may be culpability, but that "it won't come close in normal gyms".

Thank you for changing your mind!

In any case, the evidence presented is that involuntary urination, throwing up, and rhabdomyolysis are three example of things which occur at a higher rate at CrossFit gyms than others.

These are not healthy things for the body, and are to be avoided, yes? If the competitive culture pressure is not an influence for the increased rate, then what is? Poor training practices?

Or is the presented data incorrect?

> the competitive culture pressures you into continuing

This was referring to CrossFit competitive pressure specifically, not general competitive pressure. I've been involved with CrossFit since 2007 and I've never seen anything close to that level of pressure. You invoked the legal definition of culpability, and if you can't establish that, then my statement "you have no one to blame but yourself" is exactly what you have to come back to. Even TFA doesn't invoke that argument, because that would change the focus to individual trainers rather than CrossFit as an organization. Are there trainers that would lose a culpability lawsuit? Mayyyyyybe. But those are going to be very rare and extreme cases that are impossible for CrossFit HQ to prevent. Also, that's why gyms have you sign waivers. The waiver informs you in no uncertain terms that this stuff is dangerous.

So, we agree that culpability is not the subject here. That brings us to your new point: that it's somehow a problem that CrossFit has a higher rate of rhabdo. That's like saying that surfers are more likely to be the victims of shark attacks. No duh. IOTTMCO. Shark attacks are not healthy things for the body and are to be avoided, yes? Of course. Looking life with that view effectively paralyzes you. Everything is risky, so it's not about avoiding risky things. It's about making a tradeoff.

> Or is the presented data incorrect?

There is no presented data. TFA was nothing but anecdotes. Scary, sensationalist anecdotes. And for every one of those, I've got thousands of overwhelmingly positive anecdotes. In my case I got stronger and more fit. My body fat, cholesterol, and blood pressure decreased and I have actual data to prove it. I also noticed increased quickness, agility, and reaction time in everyday life.

So we agree there is a risk. But I (and many others) believe that the rewards are more than worth the risk. If you are one of the rare people who has gotten rhabdo while doing CrossFit, then you probably will be less comfortable with that tradeoff. And that's ok too.

> You invoked the legal definition of culpability

I invoked culpability. There a legal definition, yes, but there's also a moral meaning. I meant to include both, and not limit it to legal.

> TFA doesn't invoke that argument, because that would change the focus to individual trainers rather than CrossFit as an organization

Why would it?

You need only look at the history of consumer protection laws to see counter-examples. Consider the classic "Unsafe at Any Speed". It covers many examples where automotive manufacturers know that certain practices were unsafe, but did not change them, for various reasons. Some were considered unimportant and ignored, others were "too expensive", or bad user interface design, or putting design over engineering.

One chapter was even about how drivers were considered to be the only ones to blame for accidents and injuries. But the manufacturer, more than the car dealer, must share culpability.

I do not believe that what the car companies were doing was illegal, so they were not legally culpable. They certainly were morally culpable, and we passed laws to make those practices be illegal. Now we have much, much safer cars than in the 1950s.

You see this pattern in other consumer protection laws, like in the pharmaceutical industry. If a drug has known serious side-effects, but the company decides to hide it, or doesn't have the systems set up to handle reports about side-effects, then it's the company which is most culpable, and not the doctor who prescribed the drug.

Sound familiar?

Culpability can be shared. I have no problems saying that the person exercising, the trainer, and the organization who licenses the name and training style, may have shared culpability. Even if it isn't illegal.

> that's why gyms have you sign waivers. The waiver informs you in no uncertain terms that this stuff is dangerous.

Ahh, so the car companies should have required people to sign a paper saying "driving is dangerous. I accept all responsibility", and not been forced to change a thing. Great solution!

Three states don't allow liability waivers. Does this mean that CrossFit or any other sports can't exist in those three states? (Since Montana, Louisiana, and Vermont have sports clubs, I conclude the answer is "no.")

I don't think you understand how the law regards liability. Shark attacks are an inherent risk in surfing. Getting hit by a baseball is an inherent risk in playing baseball.

But some things are not inherent risks. If a coach forces the surf team to hit the waves when there's been a shark report, and someone gets attacked by a shark, then that's not an inherent risk. (Eg, once while at the beach the life guards called us out of the water because a helicopter flying by saw a shark in the water.)

Let's look at concussion. More people have had concussions than rhabdomyolysis, so it's easier to find information about it.

See for example, "new research suggests that the medical staffs responsible for protecting college athletes often don't have the authority to do so." ( http://chronicle.com/article/Trainers-Butt-Heads-With/141333... ), which will likely affect an NCAA class-action concussion lawsuit http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/writer/jeremy-fowle...

Or there's the tentative NFL settlement, where "The NFL has agreed to spend close to $800 million to diagnose and compensate potentially thousands of retired players who develop dementia and other brain disorders they blame on the violent, bone-crunching collisions that pro football has long celebrated in its highlight reels."

Or the new lawsuit by four ex-NFL players suing "the league and its helmet maker, claiming they hid information about the dangers of brain injury." http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000237961/article/four-...

You want to bet that they signed liability waivers?

Thus, we see that people who are engaged in sports, where there's of course an inherent risk of danger, and where they have signed liability waivers, can still reasonably sue because of other reasons.

And the reason - I am not a lawyer - is likely because at some point it's not an inherent risk, like you think it is, but caused by negligence or even gross and criminal negligence.

Here's what's supposed to happen in a case like this. (In my optimistic world.) CrossFit-the-organization has now heard that there might be a problem. They gather information about the rates of rhabdomyolysis and other severe training problems, while also working to ensure that this purported issue is either not real, or to realize that it is an issue and work to reduce it.

Failure to do so is, in my non-lawyer, pro-consumer viewpoint, gross negligence and therefore not subject to liability waivers, because that information should be available in order for people to make an informed decision.

> TFA was nothing but anecdotes

More correctly, it's epidemological evidence that may or may not indicate a deeper persistent risk. Others have written about the same topic. It appears widely understood that some members view vomiting during a workout as a 'badge of honor', as http://health.yahoo.net/articles/fitness/inside-cult-crossfi... says. This doesn't sound like simple friend-of-a-friend hearsay.

Given persistent "anecdotes" as you call it, coming from what appears to be non-correlated sources, means it's worth investigating. Just like early reports of Pinto rear-end accidents, or of the fatal side-effects of fenfluramine/phentermine, lead to changes. And lawsuits.

That's not to say that early reports are necessarily correct, or even presumptively correct. My point is that if it's correct, then 1) culpability doesn't have to lie only in the person exercising, but also in the trainer and/or the organization, and 2) failure to investigate and possibly rectify this possibility is (or at least should be) negligence in its own right.

Your argument point seem to be that 1) it isn't correct and 2) there are plenty of benefits and must be included. Those are both good points, but only related to the point I was making.

> In my case I got stronger and more fit.

Congratulations. For me it was dancing. About 25 hours per week at my peak, and over the years including salsa, swing, Scottish country dance, Swedish folk dance, Argentinian tango, modern dance, and flamenco.

> I (and many others) believe that the rewards are more than worth the risk

Your logic cannot be used as the basis for a good sense of morality. For one, you haven't established that these are on the same balance scale.

If there is a systemic problem with the current CrossFit training method then it might be that a small change leads to a 50x reduction in rhabdomyolysis rates while not affecting the benefits for people like you. Double-plus-good!

For another, if known risks have been deliberately concealed from you, then you cannot make a proper risk/reward judgement.

And as you pointed out, your observations are subject to survivor bias.

The original subject of this sub-thread was the role of competitive pressure. Your long and informative post has gone off into different territory where it sounds like we are in agreement.

> some members view vomiting during a workout as a 'badge of honor'

This is a different issue from the question of rhabdo. It's obviously a much less serious condition. And for the record, I don't hold that view.

> For me it was dancing.

Awesome, me too. Mostly Argentine Tango. If you've danced in NYC recently, we might have seen each other. :)

You're heavily underestimating group pressure. Have you never been in a 'chug, chug, chug, chug!' type of situation?

Peer pressure makes people do LOTS of things they wouldn't otherwise do.

In a certain sense, they're responsible for their actions. But it's silly to ignore the role that group persuasion has. If Crossfit creates pressure for harmful actions, then they share responsibility.

People pushing you to go harder in a workout and "friends" pushing you in a chug-chug situation are not at all the same things. I choose to steer clear of those "friends", but that's beside the point. People cheering for you can never know your state, and there's really very little external pressure. If a coach is screaming at me and I don't feel it's safe to do more, I stop. And I'm sure that's what CrossFit will say too. You can't blame CrossFit for random people with a broken internal governor doing their workouts unsafely. CrossFit workouts are a powerful tool. When someone shoots themselves in the foot with it, they are the ones responsible assuming they have been educated properly. Hence Uncle Rhabdo.

The point is that it matters at the margins.

You'll stop. And some people will foolishly keep going without the coach.

But are you seriously arguing that the screaming coach has no marginal impact?

There are people that would encourage others to do street racing, take dangerous drugs and light their farts for youtube video. And there always will be idiots who do it. That can happen in a gym setting too. So what? There are dumb people. Try not to be one of them. I think this message is universal and doesn't have anything to do with CF. What is the message that has something to do with it?

>>There are dumb people. Try not to be one of them.

Peer pressure can make smart people do dumb things. And since Crossfit has peer pressure and competition built into its very core, the rates of injuries and potentially-fatal medical conditions like rhabdo are a lot higher.

Well, I think it depends on how you approach to it. It doesn't have to be a competition with anyone but yourself. I agree that tracking results is at the core of CF, and when there's something measurable in a group setting, there is ample space for the competition. But it doesn't have to be - the choice is for the person to make. If you can let your mind and not your ego drive you, then you don't have to harm yourself for no reason.

As for peer pressure - I think when a person above 22 or so of age is not able to withstand peer pressure to do something he thinks is harmful for him/her, there's something wrong happened on the way. Adults are supposed to be able to say no. Of course, you may make a choice to push yourself and take a risk, but that's what being responsible adult is all about - seeing where are the bounds of acceptable risk (and those can be different from person to person) are for you. Of course, again, good teacher is important - so you could always can consult what would be good for you on this exercise. Good coach can see how you do the exercise and tell if this weight or this form is good for you or you have to scale it down. That's where you have to, again, master your ego and be responsible too.

And of course it is a given that you shouldn't go to a group which has different views on how competitive it should be and pressures you into something you're not ready for. There's a lot of difference between supporting and cheering somebody when one chooses to push oneself and pressuring somebody into doing something one is not ready for. If you find yourself in a group that does the latter and not the former - just leave. There are a lot of better settings.

I wholly agree with you that dumb people exist in every sport/field/hobby/interest, but I think the comparison is unfair.

Obtaining fitness is generally a universal goal, whereas obtaining skill/popularity/fame in street racing fringe to begin with.

To me, the issue that many people seem to have with CF is that it's "unsafe" for most people despite it being marketed as such. And this being due to the irregular quality of the coaches (which is apparently related to the way HQ runs itself).

Personally, I think if you're lifting some multiple of your BW in any capacity you're not part of the norm, you're several deviations away from that, even if most people have the capacity to become that strong if given the time/training/discipline.

It is no more unsafe than any other strenuous exercise program or any other activity that involves exerting oneself seriously. As for quality, of course quality varies - no HQ can ever ensure every coach is good and of course following one specific methodology by itself does not make the coach good. In fact, I was always told (not in CF but in other training context) many times that choosing good teacher is more important than choosing style/methodology - styles have their merits and demerits, but you can only appreciate them if your teacher is good.

So if the point is that you need to approach CF carefully with an eye for a good teacher - this is absolutely true.

>>> Personally, I think if you're lifting some multiple of your BW in any capacity

Hopefully, one day :) So far I don't think I have reached 2x of my BW in any exercise. But I'm working on it, let's see what comes of it in a couple of years :)

While obtaining fitness is generally a more popular goal than obtaining fame in street racing, I wouldn't call it generally universal; at least not in the US.

Studies have shown that the majority of people in the US get far less exercise, and even move far less than their grandparents did. While there is a sizable minority in the US who engage in regular exercise; I would probably describe Crossfit as a fringe activity here - albeit a currently faddish and loudly marketed one.

>I don't think form breaks down after a few reps nearly as much as you say.

Then you don't know much about training the Olympic lifts or power movements in general. Take a look at this graph -- http://i.imgur.com/vFP0D58.png -- from Practical Programming for Strength Training (Rippetoe, Kilgore, & Pendlay, pg. 131). "Figure 5-3. Electromyogram (EMG) and force production tracings from a high-rep set. Note that the muscle fatigues as more repetitions are completed and that motor control erodes with fatigue, as evidenced by the amplitude scatter of the EMG tracing. This effect can result from a single set, as presented here, or can be the cumulative result of repeated sets." Even by the seventh rep of a single set there's a noticable breakdown shown in the graph. Multiple high rep sets are going to show more and more issues of coordination from even the first rep, especially mixed into circuit training with other high intensity exercises like you'll find in Crossfit WODs.

I actually own that book and have read the whole thing...most of it more than once. I'm not saying that motor control doesn't go down. I'm saying that it doesn't go down enough to make it dangerous at the lighter weights. I have been doing high and low rep Olympic lifts since 2007. The only injury I ever got was on a 1RM clean and jerk. That might have been technique related, but it's probably more related to me having a history of previous injury which happened before I ever heard about CrossFit.

For the love of God please stop with the anecdotal evidence.

I don't see you busting out any peer-reviewed studies to support your claim. If you don't have that, then it's your word against mine. The fact that most of the people who have done these movements do them in low reps and really high weight doesn't prove your point either. I have actually done the movements under question in both rep schemes, and it doesn't sound like you have.

>>Hogwash. Each person is responsible for their own actions. Yes, competition might help people push themselves, but that shouldn't turn you into a mindless machine that will self destruct just to get the win. If it does, then you have no one to blame but yourself.

Bullshit. A Crossfit trainer telling you to do high-rep barbell deadlifts is the equivalent of a doctor prescribing you ten times the dose of a drug you need. What happens when you are hospitalized? Is it your fault because "each person is responsible for their actions"?

No, they're not at all equivalent. As I wrote elsewhere in this thread, in the six years I've been doing them high-rep olympic lifts have never injured me, but a 1RM clean and jerk has. So until you can come to me with a large scale study supporting your point, you are just making baseless assertions that are contradicted by my personal (albeit anecdotal) experience.

The quality of discussion on HN has fallen so far that we are now using anecdotal evidence to argue that doing a complex multi-joint mechanical movement with heavy weights in a high-rep, high-tempo fashion is not dangerous, and the burden of proof is on dem non-Crossfitters to use large scale studies to prove that it is.

I, too, have written elsewhere in this thread. Specifically, I wrote that these lifts are so complex that Olympic athletes spend years learning and mastering proper form, and go through very strict regimens to ensure their form does not break under heavier loads. There's a reason for that: the human body operates within certain parameters and going outside those parameters in the name of "pushing your limits" can permanently cripple you.

So there is your "large scale study:" look at how Olympic athletes do it, because that's the way to do it safely and without destroying your muscles, joints and internal organs.

That's not your large scale study because they are focused on something completely different--namely max weight. A 135 lb clean and jerk is quite light in the grand scheme of things, but it can do a whole lot for your fitness when viewed in a holistic program that includes other exercises. Anecdotal evidence may not have the weight of a large-scale study, but it's not meaningless. In the absence of any other evidence, it is an indication that the mean probably tilts towards one side. And I have yet to see any real evidence that high rep olympic lifts are dangerous other than the non sequitur that they're complex motor movements.

Regarding the reps and high weight.

Westside Barbell changes program structure from 3 sets of 5 repetitions into 5 sets of 3 repetitions (or even 8 sets of 2 repetitions) precisely because it allows athlete to control form of exercise. The volume is the same, the breakdown is different. As Westside Barbell is trying to keep traumas low, it is a good example why you should not perform complex lifts in long series.

Can you expand on that? I've been doing 3 * 5. I prefer injury minimization to strength gains.

What kind of rest period do these use between sets? And do you have data on rep form decomposition at 5 vs. 3?

Okay, here's the link: http://www.westside-barbell.com/index.php/the-westside-barbe...

The relevant part:

In the squat, what is too heavy to train with and too light to train with? In Russia , much research revealed that 65-82.5% of a 1 rep max is best to build strength in the squat. They suggest 2-6 reps per set.

At Westside Barbell we do sets of 2 for 2 important reasons. One, more than 2 reps tends Cause bicipital tendonitis and shoulder discomfort. This pain is commonly felt while benching but, in fact, comes from squatting. The bar shifts to some degree, causing damage. Having your hands spaced too close on the bar may also be the culprit. Two, in a power meet, we don't do reps so if we do 12 sets of 2 reps we are getting 12 first reps per workout. If you do 4 sets of six reps, then you get only 4 first reps.

This is closest thing I was able to find. The site was reorganized after I visited it last time and many PDF articles are in HTML format.

I highly recommend Westside Barbell, because it operates using principles, not the hardwired percentages and prescribed exercises. You can build your own conjugate system, for your goals or abilities. I did.

I also recommend another system, also seen here in HN, Hypertrophy-Specific Training: http://www.hypertrophy-specific.com/hst_index.html

HST also incorporates strategic deconditioning and high-rep phase to lower trauma rate.

I thought the whole magic behind olympic lifts was 1RM.

What is this stupidity?

I think there is some value in multiple-rep olympic lifts, but technique still has to be the most important thing. Rippetoe's starting strength program is 3x5 for all the lifts except power cleans, which are 5x3. Going much over a set of 3 or 5 with heavy weight is not a particularly good idea.

This is actually the reason I stopped CrossFit.

I was never injured or anything, but I wanted to treat oly lifting with more respect than a WOD provides.

Every lift should be your best lift with a maximum focus on technique.

I would probably do CrossFit again if I found a box that did not include oly in WODs.

I was injured on my first workout (after I finished the indoctrination phase). I recovered then injured myself again shortly thereafter. I'm ex-US Army Airborne Infantry, meaning I didn't get up off the sofa after a lifetime of little activity and start "ripping". I'm no stranger to physical activities that can seriously hurt you.

I eventually found a strength training program and learned just how poor my form was for many exercises. Thankfully I'm doing great now and growing stronger.

EDIT: Words

I've been CrossFitting for over 6 years, owned an affiliate for 4 years, and founded the largest independent CrossFit-style competition series in the country (as far as I know).

This author hasn't been to a well-managed gym or worked with more experienced coaches. The same is likely true of those who get rhabdo. They have exposed themselves to more than their body can handle physically, as a result of poor coaching, and/or poor decision making.

I've seen high rep pullups and high rep weighted squats cause Rhabdo in people (not at my gym). I've also seen thousands of people do those same movements (in a safe way) and not get injured. Any good coach shouldn't be exposing clients to those things that expose clients to injury or death.

A responsibility of any gym owner/trainer is to protect clients from injury. If you go to a gym (CrossFit or not) that programs things that expose you to to any kind of injury, then you should absolutely leave. Coaches should be aware of the risks.

If you attempt to lift too much weight, do too many reps, do things with bad form, of course you exposure yourself to injury. I hope rational people would consider that CrossFit is a very effective fitness program, and, despite its criticism, is something that produces amazing results in people if done properly.

Interestingly, my biggest injury was from a heavy single clean and jerk. I've never had Rhabdo and done tons of high rep stuff, but stay away from high rep box jumps, deads, pullups and other silly things. I do enjoy high rep oly lifting in CrossFit and I total 180kg as a 69kg oly lifter. They are completely different movements; to think otherwise is just dumb.

TL;DR - people who are irrational are dumb.

> I've been CrossFitting for over 6 years, owned an affiliate for 4 years, and founded the largest independent CrossFit-style competition series in the country (as far as I know).

Ah, the No True Crossfit Gym argument.

Everyone always seems to come from the one good Crossfit gym where correct form is emphasised. Where the coaches are wonderful. And so on.

The point is: trainees very rarely have the knowledge, qualification or experience to know if they are being taught properly.

It's like martial arts schools, everyone's Sensei or Sifu is an international badass.

The central problem is that CFHQ don't do quality control. Ostensibly because of a libertarian outlook, but I can't help but notice that it allows them to 1. milk the fad while it's booming and 2. better insulate themselves from lawsuits.

Our gym is not perfect, but we set standards and have a mission to serve clients in the most effective way possible.

What if HQ has good goals and it's not about "milking," but exposing people to a more effective fitness methodology?

Personally, I believe that quality is going to drive the success or failure of CrossFit, and that's why we (and many other successful gyms) have been very devoted to making sure quality is a driver in our service.

> What if HQ has good goals and it's not about "milking," but exposing people to a more effective fitness methodology?

Their behaviour can too easily be constructed into a very negative picture.

I can see Crossfit going one of two ways:

Either it will reach a high water mark and settle down to a steady-state condition. More people are coming into Crossfit, but in many markets there's a saturation of affiliates. Gyms with overheads like full-time, well-trained coaches will be partly driven out by cheaper operations with a CF1 certificate.

Alternatively, someone will construct a successful legal argument that Crossfit is a franchise operation. A subsequent class action lawsuit will turn them into a smoking hole in the ground.

On the upside, millions of people will have learnt that exercising is fun. That is definitely a positive outcome.

"and it's not about "milking," but exposing people to a more effective fitness methodology?"

Oh my, this is so funny. Yes, Crossfit is in some ways better, but I personally have a corollary:

No mainstream exercise/diet technique is effective.

Do you know someone that got fit by reading "Men's Health" BS? Well, surprising isn't it? Not at all!

And they need it to make it less boring for the average Joe, also allowing a good amount of people to go, they're decreasing individual effectiveness.

The fact that the champions use a specialized approach corroborates this.

Not to mention a lot of exercises are tiring and "looks good on paper" but their effectiveness is debatable.

crossfit is a scam. People go to crossfit to become more fit. Since they are presumably novices, how exactly are they supposed to evaluate the instruction they receive? Crossfit, as implicitly admitted in your post, is perfectly willing to allow poor and dangerous instruction to be sold with their name, as long as the cash keeps on coming.

and this:

   If you go to a gym (CrossFit or not) that programs things that expose you to 
   to any kind of injury, then you should absolutely leave.
when you later call those people dumb is really amazing. Yes, they are dumb for trusting people like you who sell dangerous coaching with the crossfit brand. You're willing to associate with crossfit and turn a blind eye to how other crossfit coaches hurt people who trust them.

I wish standards were higher; I've had that wish since starting a gym. Most gyms are good, most trainers mean well, but there are a few bad apples and people who are unaware.

I'm not turning a blind eye. There is a different between being a realist and trying to garner attention by bashing a trend that you don't understand.

If Crossfit is a franchise then the brand identity is based on the quality of those franchises. If there are significant injuries happening under the supervision of Crossfit certified coaches then that says the training and testing HQ uses is insufficient. Since the Crossfit brand ultimately is composed of (a) potentially dangerous (if unsupervised/coached) WODs and (b) trainer certification then if people are being injured at licensed Crossfit affiliates, under the supervision of Crossfit trained and certified coaches, then it means that the Crossfit brand has poor enough standards to produce substandard coaches and training.

So maybe you personally have improved on Crossfit in your box and are offering quality training but that's different than the baseline Crossfit-approved product that a walk-in can expect.

Do most good CrossFit gyms get concerned about poor standards and rapid expansion of the brand? Yes. Do most coaches mean well and concern themselves with preventing injury? Yes.

I do wonder about significant injuries. Why is Hackernews, which is a community that prides itself on scientific method and the like, upvoting sensational articles that don't have substance? Where are the studies that say injuries are significant? Relative to what? To not working out? To regular sports? To people at Gold's Gym?

CrossFit is far from perfect, and it's not for everyone, but the vast majority of the coaches, owners, etc mean well and want to help their clients achieve goals in ways that are different, and effective, compared to the status quo.

I feel there are several rather nuanced views on this. You are likely looking at from the affiliate owner perspective. Others might be looking at from an outsiders perspective. I'm looking at as from a programming standpoint. And I'm sure there are other viewpoints as well, many overlapping to some degree.

All that said, you don't need data to show that kipping pullups are a bad idea. We could get data on the number of tears or injuries, but from a programming perspective, they do not belong anywhere near an athlete. Anywhere (I really hope you don't kip in your affiliate. Please tell me you don't). Particularly a novice. And if I was a games athlete, I'd never want to see them. One wrong kip and there goes your year. Which, of course, could be said for most any lift, but the kip is particularly egregious in this regard.

And when I walk into a Crossfit gym in Phoenix and they have their intro class kipping on their first day, that negatively effects you. Like it or not, you and all other crossfit gyms are linked. Just as bad service in one Subway likely taints my view of Subway generally. Just the way it works.

And you have to remember, you as an affiliate have your name associated with HQ. And HQ is just plain bad. A couple of days ago they promoted this on their FB page. https://www.facebook.com/crossfit/posts/10151589356812676

Now, I don't care what you think about anything else, HQ should not be promoting this type of thing. There was no caveat, no disclaimer. Just some hashtags of #sketchy #nailedit (from the original poster). I know Glassman has a staunch libertarian view on the world, but fucking hell, HQ is supposed to be the role model. And this effects you, negatively, frankly, b/c you are an affiliate. Just as when some fraternity out there gets caught up in a huge rape scandal, all fraternities get slammed.

And then there is the sexist posts from HQ.

And the bad programming.

And Castro.

And Glassman.

And the Robb Wolf dust up.

And the Rippetoe dust up.

IMO, as an affiliate, you should be DEMANDING higher standards. The affiliates should be getting together and creating these standards, forcing them on HQ and making damn sure they are adhered to. HQ is obviously incapable of leading. Someone has to...might as well be you.

First, TL;DRs go at the top. That is the whole point. :)

Second, most crossfit gyms at not well-managed. They may mean well but the quality of the instruction can be awful.

Finally, you should post the name of your gym and the competition here. I travel a lot and like to visit quality crossfit locations!

Is that your experience? I travel a lot and find that most gyms do a good job.

I've trained at 3 CrossFit gums and one was bad. The coach would always try to get you to go too heavy and prescribe rediculous weights for the workouts. The other two are fantastic but totally different from each other. All in all I'm kind if surprised that hacker news isn't mire interested in glassman's business model that allowed him to scale a gym.

I've been crossfitting for years at kylered's gym. I've also judged at the competition series he mentioned, and traveled and worked out at crossfit gyms all around the country.

I've seen some bad coaches, but I've seen a lot more people who are uncoachable and are going to injure themselves in any gym with any workout and any coach. I've never seen anyone vomit, injure themselves, get Rhabdo, pass out, or any of the other things people think are so common in Crossfit. Predictably, Crossfit haters sensationalize, and people who push themselves too hard and regret it tend to angrily blame Crossfit in public instead of themselves.

CrossFit changed my body, my self-image, and a lot of my attitude, but any other gym that's based on fun, positive encouragement from other members doing the same workout at the same time, variety, intensity, and a community of friends would do the same thing.

For the record I rarely "Rx" a workout and I almost always come away from workouts thinking I sandbagged it a little. And yet I'm very happy with my results. Why would I want to push harder and risk injury? I wouldn't. I insist on doing every movement perfectly, pausing or lowering weights or reps if I'm getting tired or winded to the point that my form might be at risk, taking it easy if I've had too little sleep or I'm dehydrated or whatever. I know a lot of people who have a similar philosophy and I admire their sense, not their hard-core-ness.

I don't buy the OP's claim that he got sick from a not-overly-strenuous workout. A Crossfit workout is no different than any other, except that if you overdo it in another style of fitness and get critically ill you don't get attention on Hacker News.

TL;DR - you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. You can show a guy good form and coach him to be safe but you can't make him be safe if he wants to get hurt.

TL;DR - people who are irrational are dumb.

You say that like being "dumb" is a moral failure.

There was some irony in there...

Timely article, I just walked past a Crossfit place that opened today and saw it was full of people doing ridiculous interval exhaustion excersizes.

If you want the ultra lean, chiseled pro fighter look it's all about what you eat not overtraining yourself to death. Building muscle and strength training means you should be doing slow, careful and correct weight lifting not jerking motions especially to exhaustion where you make mistakes.

Plenty of videos out there on how professional athletes train to minimize injuries. Go on youtube and look up NHL training or even MLB training you will never see them jumping off things or doing high reps, or anything that isn't completely controlled at all times considering if they get injured the team is out millions.

So, you're saying people all over the world aren't bound to a single programming but individual coaches and athletes are actually allowed to exercise judgement - and this is a BAD thing? I see.

>>> There is also a culture that promotes things like rips

I've been doing CF for 2 years and reading forums, etc. and I have never encountered an example of this. Sure, if someone rips a hand there might be some amount of bravado, esp. from the males, in the vein of "oh, it's nothing, just a flesh wound" (insert Monty Python clip here) - but nobody ever that I met in his sane mind would actually strive for that.

>>> /r/crossfit

I'd say /r/almost anything is probably not the best example of maturity, but one over-macho in a several day is not that big a deal, from what I know about Reddit. Unless specifically /r/crossfit is an island of maturity in /r/* world, it's only to be expected.

>>> and general bad form is ok in the name of better times.

Which is exactly the opposite of what I see in real CF. Up to the point that the coach would stop me mid-timed workout and correct my form and insist I do it right. Sometimes I hate it in the heat of the moment, but once I've cooled off I am grateful because it's exactly what they are supposed to do. Where I do CF, a lot of time is spent on practicing form, and I've been told numerous times something like "tame our ego, don't go for higher weights until you get the form right". Form importance and doing exercises safely and properly is constantly emphasized.

Of course, I am not in competitive CF (and probably won't ever be) and when it gets to big sports things might be different, as they always are, but I am telling what I am seeing in day-to-day life in my CF box, and it's nothing like you're describing.

>So, you're saying people all over the world aren't bound to a single programming but individual coaches and athletes are actually allowed to exercise judgement - and this is a BAD thing? I see.

No, I'm saying that crossfit the program is bullshit. Crossfit started out as a workout, everyday, on crossfit.com. It's no secret that crossfit.com WODs are atrocious and most serious people give them little to now thought. Now, if you aren't doing crossfit.com workouts, are you doing crossfit? What is crossfit?

If you are "doing crossfit" that your coach, or you, or someone else programmed, are you doing crossfit?

I do my own programming. I'm a competitive athlete. I do olympic lifts, have a base strength program, combine cardio, HIIT and bodyweight exercises. Am I crossfitting?

Crossfit can't lay claim to cross training. The concept has existed for literally ever.

All that being said, you'll never find me fucking kipping my pullups. I like my shoulders way to much for that.

> Which is exactly the opposite of what I see in real CF

No true scotsman. And beyond that, what is "real CF"?

>>> No, I'm saying that crossfit the program is bullshit.

You just said there's no "crossfit the program" - crossfit.com publishes stuff, but no one has obligation to follow it. So what exactly you're calling bullshit?

>>> What is crossfit?

This is a semantic discussion which for me comes dangerously close to trolling. If you're saying crossfit is bullshit, shouldn't you be the one who defines it? I know what CF is for me - it's what I am doing when I come to my CF box. If that doesn't fit your definition - I don't see why I should care.

>>> Am I crossfitting?

Why are you asking me? I have no idea. You can call it whatever you like.

>>> Crossfit can't lay claim to cross training. The concept has existed for literally ever.

OK. So what? Running existed since forever too, so now I can't be a member of running club because of that and running is bullshit? I'm not sure what you're trying to prove here - is CF nothing new, or is CF new and dangerous, or CF doesn't exist, or CF is a dangerous brainwashing cult? Which one is it?

>>> No true scotsman

I'm sorry, I am telling you whatever I see and experience. I call it CF, everybody doing it with me calls it CF, it looks like CF. I don't make any general claims about whole world and whole CF, I just give you evidence that is in direct contradiction of your generalizing claims. If you say it's not real CF for you, and you have some other one and it's bad - well, I'm sorry yours was bad. Mine is fine though, so I want people reading this know that that's what my experience is :)

It's not trolling. You're not actually putting up an argument. you're just kind of handwaving around what you want to be true.

You have been completely unwilling to say what CF actually is. Since you refuse to pick a solid position, I'll go ahead and claim it's eating doughnuts. CF is literally just eating doughnuts. Depending on your goals, you might want to adjust the doughnut eating program somewhat. Some days you might want to skip the doughnut eating altogether. But at it's core all you have to do to satisfy CF is eat doughnuts.

So, you see, all of your statements are compatible with the doughnut eating core of CF. You've managed to escape making any actual statement about reality. Enjoy your career in middle management.

>>> CF is literally just eating doughnuts.

It is not. CF is an exercise regimen, which is described in numerous sources. If you're too lazy to find any of them and read, I won't replace it. If you want to ask me for a theoretical definition in order to deconstruct my definition in a hostile manner in order to find some tiny thing that doesn't match some definition given something else and claim on that base that I'm don't know what CF is and what I'm doing is not CF and thus CF is bullshit - you're welcome to do it in advance, as I don't see any point in arguing semantics over something that I have concrete experience with.

>>> But at it's core all you have to do to satisfy CF is eat doughnuts.

If you want to remain as uneducated as you are now, you're welcome to think so. The truth is one google search away, but nobody can force you to educate yourself.

>>> You've managed to escape making any actual statement about reality.

You're serious? I've just made tons of statement about what I really experience going to a real CF box. Instead, you demand of me some abstract definition and refuse to listen to actual experience without being given abstract definition.

>>> Enjoy your career in middle management.

Shows how much you know :) Enjoy your high school.

> You're serious? I've just made tons of statement about what I really experience going to a real CF box.

Your statements about what you "really experience" have all avoided saying anything that lets anybody find out anything about how you actually exercise or what Cross Fit actually is.

If you're interested in which exercises are in CF, you're welcome to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CrossFit#Programming_and_usage and there are of course many other sources. I can attest to the fact that these exercises indeed are performed in CF.

If you're interested how typical day in CF gym looks like, it's usually:

1. Warmup, including usually a 400 m run, stretch & mobility exercises and some light work like jumps, pushups, bear crawls, squats, etc. It varies significantly, the coach defines it.

2. If lifting exercise is in the program, stage by stage walk through the exercise form, first with PVC or without any weight, then with empty bar or light weight, depending on type of the exercise.

3. Strength exercises, if programmed, like 1x, 3x, 5x sets etc. or sometimes something like 10 mins every minute on a minute mark or such regularly timed sets.

4. Timed or max effort exercise, usually with many reps but smaller weights, this one can take from 3 mins to 2 mins.

5. Final exercise - maybe 400 m or 800 m run, post-workout stretches and mobility work.

Of course, there are also other things happening. E.g. this is from couple of days ago, pretty elaborate one (numbers are prescribed for men/women):

In teams of 4: 200 Wall-Ball squats (20/14 lbs) 150 Overhead Squats (95/65 lbs) 100 Burpee Box Jumps (24/20 in) 150 Wall-Ball squats (20/14 lbs) 100 Overhead Squats (95/65 lbs) 50 Burpee Box Jumps (24/20 in)

One person working out at a time (i.e. each person does about 1/4 of it, and while others work, you can rest), on each set one group of two does a 400m run with 45lb plate, then joins the workout.

The whole thing takes about 30-40 mins (so in that day no other strength exercises) and I did it scaled - with 14 lb wallball and 75 lb overhead squat, but other people did it as prescribed. Hope it is helpful.

If you want some abstract answer to "what CrossFit actually is", I'm afraid I don't know how to answer this question because I can only describe my specific impressions, which were already discounted as "that's not real CF". Well, it's real for me. If you have specific questions, I'm in no way an expert, but I could answer what I have experienced.

>>> You just said there's no "crossfit the program" - crossfit.com publishes stuff, but no one has obligation to follow it. So what exactly you're calling bullshit?

I absolutely never said "there's no crossfit the program". I said the crossfit programming is, to use my word, bullshit. I never said there was no crossfit the program. I'm very adamant that there actually IS a crossfit program, crossfit.com, and it just plain terrible, not well thought out, and leaves people open to injury.

And I won't quote the rest of your replies, but to suffice it to say, no you likely aren't crossfitting. Perhaps you do a WOD (Grace or such) now and then. You might be working out at crossfit affiliate, but you are likely using custom programming. My point with my personal example is most people conflate crossfit and cross training. I'm surely not crossfitting. I've been working out this way years before crossfit ever existed. Now, though, if someone saw me working out they ask me if I "crossfit". I'm not and likely neither are 90% of the people working out at crossfit affiliates.

>>> I'm very adamant that there actually IS a crossfit program, crossfit.com, and it just plain terrible,

I wouldn't know. I'm just letting you know it's probably not what most of the world understands as CF. It may be part of CF world, but it's definitely not all of it.

>>> no you likely aren't crossfitting

Whatever you say, dude. I welcome you telling me what I'm actually doing, and I'm sure you're the ultimate authority on what CF is and is not, and people that are doing it for years, including certified coaches and so on, are just idiots before you. I'm sorry the CF that is in your head sucks and you have so big problem with it. The CF that I and many other people are doing does not.

Man, you're batting 1000 on missing the point.

I thought your point was "Crossfit is dumb." and you arguments were that CF is hyper-macho injury cult which routinely sacrifices safety and correct form of exercise for times and numbers. When I pointed out that is not what I see in my CF box, you said it's no true CF and I am engaging in "no true Scotsman". Maybe I missed something here, if that wasn't the point, what was?

I do have to hand it to you, you are an expert troll. Congrats.

Please stop.

Ok, let's verify:

Go to: http://games.crossfit.com/leaderboard Click on #1 person: http://games.crossfit.com/athlete/11435

HOW I TRAIN I workout mostly at a CrossFit Affiliate I workout mostly at home, work, or a traditional gym I incorporate CrossFit.com workouts I write my own programming

Stop looking as counter-example was found.

Thanks for proving my point.

This athlete writes their own programming and incorporates crossfit.com workouts as an augmentation, not the base of their programming.

And since you picked Froning. It is very, very well known that he does whatever the hell he feels like everyday. He uses some crossfit.com WODs as the games approach to up his conditioning, but they are not the base of his programming and he has stated he doesn't use them year round.

This is disingenuous. You think the #1 xfit guy doesn't make money by associating himself with official xfit workouts? Incorporates is cop out language so he can avoid outright lying.

Just saying that the programming is bad doesn't make it so. You probably just don't have the same goals that crossfit.com is designing its workouts for.

Also, the fact that elite CrossFit athletes don't do exclusively crossfit.com workouts doesn't support your point either. Those guys are genetic freaks. The crossfit.com workouts are designed for broad applicability, and that will never work as well at the margins.

CrossFit has actually stated a very precise definition for what they are trying to optimize. And the mainsite workouts are actually quite good at doing that.

> CrossFit has actually stated a very precise definition for what they are trying to optimize. And the mainsite workouts are actually quite good at doing that.

Their stated goal is mostly around general fitness (GPP), in broad strokes. The issue most, including myself, take with this is they promote workouts that, yes, if a person is untrained, will get them fitter, but they do it in a suboptimal manner, and what's worse, a manner that is far more dangerous than other approaches.

For instance, most general crossfitters would be much better served with a simple barbell strength program, simple bodyweight movements (pullups as an example), combined with some steady state cardio and some HIT sessions (that don't involve complex technical lifts). This approach is far safer and would get a person a broader general fitness level than mainsite WODs. There is no thought to mainsite WODs, no progression and no built in injury prevention.

Crossfit.com is, at best, bad programming and at worst, a recipe for some major injury.

another dark secret: form is not the #1 priority. youtube is full of videos of people doing crossfit with horrific form and the instructors seem more focused on getting folks to "do" the exercise rather than "do it right".

it seems like crossfit doesn't quite appreciate how easy it is to destroy a knee, or your back, from improper deadlift or squat form. done properly, they are fantastic exercises. improperly, they are dangerous.


>> another dark secret: form is not the #1 priority.

Depends on your gym, at my gym if you have bad form during a workout, you will be stopped, corrected and if necessary scaled down until you can get it right. Of course my gym doesn't routinely post videos to youtube.

on box jumps: athletic coaches know not to have their athletes do drop jumps until they can squat at least 1.5x body weight, to make sure the tendons and ligaments of the leg (especially knee) can take it. Even then it is used in moderation. Jumping down from a box and immediately jumping again is REALLY REALLY stressful on your joints.

And here I thought the secret was that the amateur followers are just a bunch of jackasses who like to brag on Facebook.

Rehash from five years ago? Doesn't this guy know that the new scandal is high-rep box jumps?

The "dirty secret" of Crossfit is that they don't do much to actively ensure the quality of local affiliates, and therefore the brand doesn't always mean much. My personal experiences have all been great, and my coaches have always been extremely safety-conscious, but in light of the nasty things I read on the internet, I wouldn't encourage anyone to blindly trust whatever local Crossfit affiliate happens to pop up down the block. Rather than thinking of Crossfit as a guarantee of a certain standard of quality, think of it as an approach to fitness that is interpreted in various ways by coaches of varying competence.

Also keep in mind that the coach can't always see when you need to ease up or stop. Sometimes they can, but they can only see what is apparent on the outside; they can't feel what you feel.

Not ensuring affiliate quality isn't really a dirty secret. They're pretty open about it.

From conversations I've had with higher-ups at Crossfit Headquarters, they're _terrified_ of a court finding them to have a franchise model, because that would open them up to all sorts of liability each time one of their affiliates does something dumb.

Per their legal interpretation, they become a franchisor if they do things like ensure quality or consistency.

I'm not a lawyer, so I can't comment on the soundness of their legal reasoning, but the negative effects for the clients are pretty obvious.

Wait, they're not a franchise model? What is required for someone to open up a gym using the Crossfit name?

They're under an affiliate rather than franchise model. I don't know enough about the differences to describe the differences other than to say that it seems to make Headquarters think they're unable to enforce standards once someone opens a gym.

I haven't done it myself, but to open an affiliate you need to:

(1) Write an essay.

(2) Pass their Level 1 certification class

(3) Have a website with a link to the Crossfit Journal

(4) Pay them $3000 (annually)

From: http://www.crossfit.com/how-to-affiliate

You need to pay HQ a sum ($3000, iirc) to license the name "CrossFit". They will only agree to that if you've completed their Level 1 certification. Once you've done that and paid up, you're on your own...

Re: Quality assurance, this was on reddit couple days ago


Interestingly enough this video was posted to the FB group of the CrossFit gym I go to... a gym I chose because of the quality of programming and emphasis on technique and mobility. There's no bravado there.

Here was one coach's response:

"Haha, this video is infamous! It's the "proof" that critics of CrossFit use to try and show that the entire sport is dangerous and that we don't know what we're doing. There are definitely examples in the video of athletes losing their midline, and going heavier than they safely should, but the point that is completely overlooked is that these athletes are trying classic strongman lifts for probably the very first time. The lift they're practicing is called the continental clean and, believe it or not, they're doing it more right than wrong. It's an awkward lift that's used for cleaning axle bars that are too fat to grip and clean conventionally. Anyone trying that for the first time will look similarly awkward. It's part of learning something new. Whoever originally shot and posted this video never meant for it to be taken as a typical crossfit class full of elite athletes. It's just a video of a group of people who aren't afraid to try something new, regardless of where are on the learning curve they had to start."

The coach's response is not reassuring. Anyone trying it for the first time should start with a weight light enough that they can hold the correct form and not lose control.

Absolutely. I'm grateful that our coaches always tell us (and other new people) to do bar sets, and even do the workout lifts with either PVC or the light bar only when we are still mastering form. Safety > all.

Yeah, having a healthy back is so overrated anyway.

If your back is healthy, you're not confusing the muscles hard enough.

Yep, that's a pretty nasty example. I guess I got lucky; I originally joined Crossfit for the sole reason of learning the Olympic lifts, because they were the only local gym that had bumper plates. Not only did I get good instruction on the Olympic lifts, but I improved my deadlift and squat PRs considerably in the very first month because of corrections my coach made in my form.

The coaches I've had have often been gung ho, yelling "GO GO GO" and "DON'T STOP WORKING" at us, but they also made me take plates off the bar when my form slipped. I can see how the first thing without the second could be dangerous.

This isn't actually a Crossfit move per se, it's a strongman move called a "Continental Clean" or "Axle Clean/Jerk". The form still isn't great, but I just wanted to point out this isn't a power clean and jerk.

Edit: I missed that someone else posted this below, but thought it deserved it's own easily seen distinction.

> Doesn't this guy know that the new scandal is high-rep box jumps?

Are gymnastic ring muscle ups coming soon?

I've always though push-ups would be the next thing. People can do them without a solid fitness base, the low effort means they usually have a high rep count attached to them, and a lot of people don't know how easy it is to do them wrong. The thing about muscle-ups is that most people can't do them without a little bit of coaching, so by the time they're doing them for reps, they know how to do them right.

Gymnastic rings are inherently unstable: If the rings go too far back you can tear your shoulder. Being tired increases the risk. Even, strong, experienced people have sustained shoulder injuries doing muscle ups.

I hate reading articles like this because it's trying to tell you that CrossFit culture is all about pushing yourself until you've practically killed yourself doing all sorts of crazy and whacky weight lifting. 99% of the time, the problem isn't CrossFit, it's the coaches. If you're at a good gym (or box as it's called), the coaches know how to scale workouts for the athletes so they won't get hurt, and they're programming workouts so that people aren't killing themselves constantly.

Where CrossFit is to blame is its low barrier to entry to becoming a coach/affiliate owner. All you need is a weekend of your time, $1000, a passing score on a super simple test, and you get to call yourself an "L1 CrossFit Trainer." They don't advise you to immediately go start training people, but there are plenty of boxes that will let you jump in and start coaching classes. It's gotten so popular now that there are bad affiliates popping up out there that have horrible programming that hurt people, and then articles like this get written, and then everyone thinks that's all CrossFit is.

When you take the L1 CrossFit Trainer course, they have a whole section about "Uncle Rhabdo." It's a very rare thing that occurs when you do a whole lot of isometric exercises (like strict pull ups where you come down real slow) when you're not used to them. It's not a rabid thing that is 100% going to happen if you do CrossFit.

Well put. Evaluating "CrossFit" is difficult by design---HQ wants boxes to be almost completely autonomous. The best statement of CrossFit's philosophy is Greg Glassman's "World-Class Fitness in 100 Words"[1]. There's nothing there about doing lots of poor quality reps as quickly as possible.

I began my CrossFit career at San Francisco CrossFit and thought it was the best thing ever. Part of each session focused on mobility. Bad reps were not tolerated. It was like a daily seminar on how to maintain, tune, and fix the human machine. The skills I learned will benefit me greatly as I age.

Then I had to move, and I saw the dark side of CrossFit. Inept trainers with poor attitudes, encouraging speed and weight with no concern for proper body mechanics. I work out on my own now, practicing skills I learned at SFCF.

Bottom line: it's the box that matters.

[1] "Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports. " -- http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/start-how.html

> Part of each session focused on mobility.

I'd hope so at SFCF. You ever get to work with KStar? Jealous.

Every Tuesday morning! It was awesome.

Kelly's sessions in particular always had a theme. For example: we might practice Turkish Getups for 10 minutes, focusing on shoulder stability. Then the "WOD" might be alternating dumbbell push press and 400m sprints. The idea was to pay attention to shoulder position and stability even as the sprints exhausted us.

All of the coaches were (are) great teachers. It was about so much more than simply getting a workout in. It felt like we did everything for a reason. Combine that with awesome, supportive people (everyone shakes hands with anyone they don't already know before every session) and a killer location (a parking lot under the Golden Gate Bridge)---it was magical.

This is why it's silly to make judgements about "CrossFit". CrossFit is a fine system/philosophy/whatever. Find a box with a good atmosphere where you can learn things from people who know more than you do. It's like anything else.

Ignoring the fact that there is no true definition of what crossfit is (which is a problem in and of itself), this isn't even the biggest issue with crossfit.

The biggest issue is that the training philosophy is not ground in any kind of science whatsoever (ie: that mixing conditioning and strength training in one workout somehow combines for an increased effect on both).

CrossfitHQ also promotes a concept of "all around fitness" which is, quite frankly, bullshit. A marathon runner and a powerlifter are both very fit, but for different things. Having a training program that does not start with explicit goals and work towards those goals is idiotic. And for most people, who want to be somewhat cardiovascularly conditioned and aesthetically toned, crossfit is far from the quickest or safest way to get to those goals. Even the "good gyms" that emphasize form still seem to have completely nonsensical programming.

Finally, you can be sure that crossfitHQ in particular is bullshit because they have a motto of "forging elite athletes" and yet not a single elite athlete from a single sport follows crossfitHQ's WODs. The only acceptable reason to do it is because it can be fun, and if that's what you're into more power to you. But it's not an effective or safe form of training no matter how you cut it.

> Finally, you can be sure that crossfitHQ in particular is bullshit because they have a motto of "forging elite athletes" and yet not a single elite athlete from a single sport follows crossfitHQ's WODs.

I've said this repeatedly, find me an athlete at the Crossfit games that has used Crossfit WODs as the core of their training program. You can't do it. There is literally no athlete at the games that does this. I find this amazing.

So, in the end, the Crossfit athletes at the Crossfit games do not follow Crossfit[1].

[1] - Remember, folks, crossfit.com is the official crossfit workouts. Anything else is somebody else's training program be it Outlaw, Competitors WOD, CF Football or whatever just as Starting Strength is Rippetoe's and Westside is Louie's

I don't see that as a big problem. Just getting folks to actually workout is 99% of the battle. CrossFit seems very good at that.

You're getting downvoted but I think that's a fair point. I think I addressed it though: that fits into the fun aspect.

Unfortunately if you get folks to workout and then they injure themselves, as frequently happens in crossfit, you have other problems too.

When I first started doing weights, my father and his brother both drilled one piece of advice into my head: training too much is worse than not training at all. After reading this article, I'm grateful for it!

Overtraining is a phenomenon that is universally recognized from from football to marathon running to bodybuilding to gymnastics. Crossfit's stated philosophy is about developing fitness to support one's enjoyment of life, but like competitive sports, they fetishize results. Everything is measured and counted, and they encourage people to record and track their progress. Some people miss the point and end up fetishizing pain and effort instead, but to do that they have to overlook both the stated philosophy and the day-to-day focus on improvement.

Yes any overtraining can be dangerous, there was an article about how one guy running startup got rhabdo while doing p90x: http://collegespun.com/features/how-the-stress-of-running-a-...

My uncles gave the same advice, if you overtrain you're not helping your development but increasing your recovery time.

So very true.

Wow, I thought they were kidding about the clown cartoon, but no: (pdf) http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/38_05_cf_rhabdo.pdf

Not to mention the highly casual way the talk about the condition and how they caused it!

Someone needs to sue them. For a lot of money. Maybe they'll get it through their thick skulls that it's not cool, or funny.

The title of this article is one of the most misleading I've ever seen. It implies that rhabdomyolysis is little known and covered up. But later the author admits that it's not little known. "How, I wondered, is it possible that the layperson exercise instructor is on a first-name basis with a serious, yet rare medical condition?" Why does he do this? Because being sensationalist draws clicks.

This article is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with mainstream media. It takes something quite rare and spins a narrative designed to incite fear, making you think that these horrible things are happening much more frequently than they actually are.

I'm no stranger to intense exercise. As a competitive swimmer at a young age, I knew what it meant to push myself to the limit. It wasn't until 2007 when I started CrossFit that I was ever educated about rhabdomyolysis. But I'd much rather be educated than ignorant. Everything in life has risk. And strangely enough, things that are more worthwhile seem to typically involve more risk. Is exercise risky? Of course. But not exercising carries its own set of risks.

As for me, I'll stick with exercise. And for that, CrossFit makes more sense than anything else I've ever seen.

I think you might have missed the point. To the general public and other sports/activities it's little known. Yet here is a Johnny guy lay person Xfit instructor who knows what is ailing the person before she even tells him. Why would a guy guess right on something so rare?

Because "Johnny guy lay person" was educated. If it was a secret that CrossFit was trying to cover up, then he wouldn't have known.

The "Dirty Little Secret" is they know their users are vulnerable to this otherwise very rare condition.

This reminds me a little of the "Ban PitBulls" argument. If we got rid of all PitBulls then wanna be gangsta's would go to Rottweilers then Dobermans then German Shepards etc.

CrossFit is tapping into and flourishing with a certain mindset of folks for whom this extreme form of punishment is desirable. Probably better to understand that and help folks dial it back a little vs thinking getting rid of CrossFit would solve the problem.

Problem for whom? If people enjoy it, and don't agree with your assessment of the program as punishment, then what's the issue?

The vast majority of Crossfitters are not at a level of physical fitness and mental toughness that would put them at risk of rhabdo after a WOD. They'd throw in the towel long before "meeting Uncle Rhabdo" under most normal circumstances.

However, certain external factors can affect the risk - high humidity, heat, improper hydration, and poor nutrition can significantly increase the chance of catching rhabdo from a workout. It sounds like the subject of this post got caught up in the competitiveness of the workout, turned a deaf ear to what her body was telling her that day, and paid the price for it. It's a mistake that many inexperienced athletes make when thrust into a competitive setting, and most of the time only ends with "meeting Pukey" or some really bad DOMS the next morning, but the specifics of this circumstance (pushup-overhead couplet sounds like a stupidly dangerous WOD, plus a "warm Texas evening") lead to a significantly worse outcome.

Don't underestimate the power of peer pressure when it comes to physical activities. It's one of the main draws of Crossfit, and probably the strongest force for these people when they push themselves too far.

When you're working out with someone who you barely know, or may have just met, who doesn't know what to expect and doesn't know their own limits, and is trying to keep up with everyone around them, you have a recipe for someone pushing themselves too far to a dangerous extent, whether the outcome is rhabdo, a tear, or some other injury. Most desk jockies (myself included sometimes) don't take the proper care that you need when you try and start moving a body that sits idle for 8-10 hours a day.

TL;DR: I got rhabdo from crossfit last year. My CPK was 100,000 and I spent 5 days in the hospital. I wasn't overweight but I wasn't fit when I got it, and I got it during the first day of a beginner course.

Ask me anything.


I did crossfit for a couple of months in 2010 and loved it, but I had to stop since I moved to a new apartment and the gym times wouldn't work with the longer commute. I always wanted to go back, so in June 2012 I started up again, taking the two-week beginner course (I wasn't in the best shape and I wanted to ease into it).

During the first day back, we went through a lot of basic movements and listened to the instructor talk about what crossfit was like. In the hour-long class, we spent the last ten minutes talking about rhabdomyolysis; what it is, the symptoms, the danger, common ways to get it, etc.

The workout of the day was tabata squats (20 seconds of as many BW reps, then 10 seconds of rest, repeat 8 times for a total of 4 minutes and 2:40 of exercising), tabata pushups, and tabata situps.

The squats were the one that got me.

The next morning, I couldn't walk, but that was expected since it was my first day back. I pushed myself quite hard (knowing what crossfit was like), but I wasn't competing with the people in my class, I was competing with myself. I took it easy and rested.

The day after that, I couldn't really bend my legs because of the extreme soreness, and walking down the stairs was neigh impossible. It took a while, but I took the subway to the office where there's a gym with a stationary bike, as slow biking was the only thing that would ease the soreness in my quads.

After 6 hours at work, periodically biking and reading online, I noticed my urine was coca-cola colored, and that it was the telltale sign of rhabdo. I knew that because the crossfit instructor drilled it into my head two days earlier.

I looked online for a hospital that my insurance covered, took a cab, checked myself in saying I had rhabdo, and I began a 5-day stay where I received lots of saline solution (1000ml 6x a day, IIRC) to help flush the myoglobin out of my body. Luckily for me, the hospital saw a lot of cases of rhabdo from not crossfit members, but prisoners. They have little else to do than workout extremely hard, and the hospital saw dozens of prisoners a year.

My creatine kinase was almost 100,000 (excess myoglobin is the problem, but high creatine kinase is a proxy for high myoglobin, and CPK levels are commonly checked). TFA is right in that the normal is < 100. IIRC, the doctors estimated I dissolved 5 lbs of muscle tissue into my bloodstream to get a CPK that high. I was bored in the hospital so I charted my CPK to determine when they'd release me: http://imgur.com/18HYKNr


Many tests afterwards showed my kidneys are fine, and I haven't noticed (or read about) what the TFA describes as "flabbiness" or some sort of water retention in my legs. I also haven't noticed that my legs are weak; on the contrary, after lots of biking over bridges my legs are stronger than my squat days (at least when it comes to endurance, not power).

TFA is being a bit sensationalist and anecdotal about rhabdo being crossfit's "dirty little secret." To add another anecdote into the fire, everyone I know that does crossfit knows what rhabdo is, and rhabdo is mentioned in beginner classes multiple times; not only what it is, but the symptoms, what to do when you get it, and how, if left untreated, myoglobinuria can lead to acute renal failure and death.

I haven't been to crossfit in over a year, but TBH I'm itching to go back. I'm the kind of personality that will really push myself hard – probably harder than most – but now I know a little better and will hold back a tiny bit, especially when doing high reps of low weight.


Update: My first crossfit experience was at Crossfit Virtuosity in Brooklyn, NY and I got rhabdo at The Black Box in NYC.

Also, my memory isn't so great as I thought. I took the class on a Friday and, that same night, moved into a new apartment. The combination of crossfit and carrying lots of boxes/furniture on the same day was probably the cause.

That's scary. Thanks for sharing.

I'm an amateur bodybuilder and I workout alone. Over the years I have contemplated joining Crossfit (mostly for the comradery aspect), but the insane level of cult mentality has made me shy away from it every time. Articles like this just drive home the point.

My friend Jane, who is a physical therapist, specializes in exercise injuries. She once confided in me that local Crossfitters form by far the largest percentage of her repeat customer-base. She said she finds the level of irrationality unbelievable, in that the same people will come to her in a lot of pain and brag about their injury on the one hand, and beg her to fix them up quickly so they can go back to Crossfit ASAP. Then they will come back in a few months with a different injury but the exact same mindset.

Yeah I know a few people who have tried Crossfit and the had to quit because they got hurt within the first month.

SLAP tears from excessive kipping pull-ups is another common crossfitter injury.

I think they do a lot of exercises that are very dangerous to the shoulder / rotator cuff in general. Back injuries are pretty common too, since proper spinal posture is one of the first things to go out the window when you get fatigued.

I hear horror stories of injuries too. In the end it's self defeating if you are injured all the time or so exhausted that the overtraining hurts the rest of your life.

Yeah. Actual sports teams never have their athletes do Crossfit because the number one commandment for strength & conditioning coaches is: Don't injure the players!

I don't do Crossfit, but I think it's a good system in general. I do powerlifting style strength training and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The attitude you're talking about - patch me up so I can get back to training, until my next injury - is common to all sports and physical activities.

Now, it's possible injuries are more common in Crossfit than in other sports, but that's a question for the data.

Wanting to be fixed correctly so you can be healthy and return to your activity is just a sign that you love what you're doing and have goals. Being proud of being hurt is totally unhealthy.

Ever seen Jaws? This is a famous scene: http://youtu.be/dLjNzwEULG8 Every sport culture I've been exposed to has an element of this.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu also has a combat aspect. Injuries are expected. Strange to expect so many injuries from a pure fitness activity.

Over the years I have contemplated joining Crossfit (mostly for the comradery aspect), but the insane level of cult mentality has made me shy away from it every time.

That's a good reason to shun a particular location or instructor, but I and a lot of other people have had completely opposite experiences. If the workouts interest you, I encourage you to give it a try and see what the instructors are like. Maybe ask Jane where her patients work out and go someplace else.

but I and a lot of other people have had completely opposite experiences

I think calling crossfit a cult is a bit extreme, but isn't this what people in a cult would say anyway? Normal people who join cults don't think they are crazy or it's a bad environment or that they are being unfairly pressured into doing things (generally).

I'm sure you could post a critique of Scientology and have a member come along and say "we'll I've had a very different experience with Scientology" and they'd be 100% correct (they would have indeed had a different experience). I have no doubt people have positive experiences from crossfit, else it wouldn't be so popular, but that doesn't change the issue of whether that environment promotes risky or harmful behavior.

>>That's a good reason to shun a particular location or instructor, but I and a lot of other people have had completely opposite experiences.

Before I posted that, I knew that a Crossfitter would respond and defend Crossfit. That is the level of cult-like irrationality I am talking about: looking at statistics (such as the ones about much higher incidence of Rhambo in Crossfitters) and responding with anecdotal evidence like, "well, my experiences are very different!"

After you went out of your way to thank someone for an anecdote that confirmed your bias, you'll have to forgive me for believing that you're reacting to my point of view, not the nature of my evidence. All I said is that you should see for yourself and trust your own judgment. To quote myself, "they don't do much to actively ensure the quality of local affiliates.... I wouldn't encourage anyone to blindly trust whatever local Crossfit affiliate happens to pop up down the block."

>>After you went out of your way to thank someone for an anecdote that confirmed your bias...

You sound hopelessly confused. We are not discussing anecdotes. We are discussing actual statistics provided in the original article that clearly showed Crossfit to have much higher rates of injuries and potentially-fatal medical conditions.

When you put the burden on new people to figure out whether their affiliates are high quality, you are blaming the victim. Most beginners are not capable of accurately assessing whether the types of workouts done in Crossfit and the manner in which they are done are healthy or not. What they do is read reviews of the gym on the Internet and see all the five-star raves, then visit the gym and see everyone cheering each other on and having a good time, and think, "hey this is cool, I want to be a part of it too!" Are they supposed to know about normally ultra-rare conditions like rhabdo? Or should Crossfit do its fucking job and keep its affiliates in check?

I know the article's title calls rhabdo a secret but if you read the article - and the comment at the top of this thread - you'll notice that Glassman and every CrossFit coach I've ever met talks about it all the time. In fact, I bet you can't find one person who does CrossFit who doesn't know what it is.

>>you'll notice that Glassman and every CrossFit coach I've ever met talks about it all the time.

Look dude, the problem is not that they don't talk about it. The problem is that they make people do complex exercises in a manner that significantly increases risk of rhabdo and a ton of other injuries despite knowing about those risks. This is irresponsible at best and grossly negligent at worst.

There is a way to lift weights in a safe and responsible manner. Crossfit not only refuses to teach its clients that, but also builds and encourages a culture where injuries become badges of honor. That is what makes it a cult.

FWIW,it can absolutely be that way, and I have visited at a few gyms that I would never go back to. I also know that at my gym, if a coach notices you breaking proper form at all they immediately work with you on it, or have you back down an bit be it in speed or weight.

I am in no way saying that the bad behaviors described above, and you can absolutely get a cult like mindset focused around entirely the wrong thing. I would also say that I think some of the nature of the workout strategies in general may attract these kind of behaviors.

Sounds like a great startup to me. People who get it, love it. Everyone else is agressively defending the status quo. You sure do make a lot of enemies when you disrupt an industry.

One data point, but I did Crossfit for two years and don't recall this ever coming up. Fortunately I never got seriously injured, but I stopped because I came to dread the workouts. Now I do a less-intense-but-still intense cardio sculpt class and I actually look forward to every class.

> We are discussing actual statistics provided in the original article that clearly showed Crossfit to have much higher rates of injuries

This is equivalent to saying that surfers are more likely to get be the victims of shark attacks. No duh. It's a trivially obvious conclusion, but still really unlikely. CrossFit has done its job in educating people about the seriousness of rhabdo. There's absolutely no way they can ensure that none of their affiliates go off the deep end with craziness. That's a fundamental fact of scaling a business.

You're only looking at the negative side of this issue. But the reality is that from the high level of systems analysis, it's a tradeoff. For every person that has gotten rhabdo from CrossFit there are thousands of others that have had their lives significantly improved. In my case I got stronger and more fit. My body fat, cholesterol, and blood pressure decreased and I have actual data to prove it. I also noticed increased quickness, agility, and reaction time in everyday life.

> Most beginners are not capable of accurately assessing whether the types of workouts done in CrossFit and the manner in which they are done are healthy or not.

This is the case with a number of disciplines from fitness to martial arts to dance, so there's no substitute for educating yourself and making an informed assessment of the risks and rewards.

There is a very obvious cult-like mindset among a huge number of Crossfit members. You're being really dishonest by pretending it's not there, and it makes you seem like one of them.

I know several people who started doing Crossfit and they became fucking lunatics about it. It's got that bad smell of crazy on it, like Scientology and pyramid-scheme scam companies.

I think that you should go back and read the prior response and then think a little bit about whether or not it represents a "cult-like irrationality".

If you showed someone how fucked up Scientology is, and they came back with, "well, my experiences with it have been totally different - your local church must be bad. You should have done better research before joining it!" then yeah, that would be complete cult-like mentality.

Given that there are high degrees of variation in quality across CrossFit affiliates, it's possible that customers of one box have better and safer experiences than customers at another.

If this is true -- and it is -- then "well, my experiences with it have been totally different" is also true, and has nothing to do with being cult-like.

So anyone who disagrees with you is inherently proving your argument?

That's not a very pleasant way to discuss things online. You should read http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Repeated injuries like that are a MASSIVE risk factor in developing osteoarthritis as one ages. OA can force you to be sedentary due to pain, and being sedentary as you age is a death sentence.

I've been training at Crossfit Virtuousity for 5 months, 4 days a week. I think that they have an amazing program that reduces risk of injury as compared to many other non crossfit workouts I have done in the past.

First off they stress mobility, which many workout regimens don't do. I never really realized how important this was until I started crossfit. Most workouts consist of 15-20 minutes solely concentrating on mobility.

Second, no one has mentioned the concept of scaling, which is core to crossfit. Every workout has a scaling option so that you don't push yourself too hard. If you can't do a pullup you do it with a band, can't do that, do a box jump pullup, etc. Yet another way crossfit keeps one from getting injured.

> Second, no one has mentioned the concept of scaling, which is core to crossfit.

Good point. I too remember the shock and amazement that washed over the entire training universe when Crossfit invented progressive resistance and skill progressions.

The only thing I can remember that was more impressive was that time Greg Glassman invented gravity. That was incredible.

That's an impressive level of sarcasm, but I don't think he's saying that scaling is exclusive to crossfit, just that it's actively encouraged.

I completed the beginners course at two different "boxes" in the last month and this is the first time I hear or read about this condition, so thanks for the write down.

No problem; I'm glad that people can get something out of my experience.

I originally wanted to write everything down and be a primary source of information on exertional rhabdo (there isn't a lot of useful information out there regarding hospital stay, CPK levels, etc.) but it got written down on a long-lost TODO somewhere and forgotten.

Wow this is a bit scary!

I started an high intensity program 2 weeks ago (p90x) and I had some pain after the first day for at least two days but I didn't pay attention to my urine. Should I go to my doctor? If I had rhabdomyolysis would I get any other symptoms after a week?

> I looked online for a hospital that my insurance covered, took a cab, checked myself in

Reading this feels so bizarre to me, as a European... I really don't get the American attitude towards health-care.

This is a normal practice in several European countries as well, so it really depends on in which "Europe" you live.

That's horrifying. There's absolutely no excuse for pushing a recreational exerciser to the point of contracting rhabdo. Gross negligence on the instructor's part IMO.

Where did you read that the instructor pushed me? I pushed myself that hard, plain and simple. And then afterwards I did even more lifting (moving apartments).

I overexerted myself, plain and simple.

My brother is an MD in internal medicine, got rhabdo on his first P90X workout and was in hospital 4 days. Off to read the article now...

Crossfit charges 1000 bucks to certify that you understand the movements and general philosophy and 3000 bucks a year to use the "Crossfit" name. That's it. Each gym is only as bad as the trainers and/or person writing the programming. People got rhabdo before Crossfit and they'll get it when the fad dies down. The only thing I hate more than fanatical crossfiters is (are?) fanatical crossfit haters.

As an Olympic-style Weightlifter and coach, I hold the usual reservations about Crossfit. The insensible use of the competition lifts for high repetitions, the bonkers programming, the creepy culture, the pack of drongoes at HQ, the deliberate absence of quality control.

However, it has two positive features, in my eyes:

1. It gets lots of people up off their backsides and working hard. A lot of folk don't realise how much they can really do if they want to do it. The flipside of Crossfit's sometimes overblown culture is that it forms a strong social environment for most trainees to motivate them to keep it up.

2. It has introduced millions of people to Weightlifting and a lot of those people defect to the sport proper.

In the English-speaking world Crossfit has been a massive shot in the arm for Weightlifting and Powerlifting. They've gone from being struggling niche sports 10 years ago to seeing an unparalleled period of growth.

The current generation of Crossfitters won't make much of an impact on the elite levels of Weightlifting. But their children might.

In the long run, and despite the butchering of the lifts that goes on in many gyms, Crossfit might be the best thing that ever happened to my sport.

Reading about CrossFit makes me a little queasy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CrossFit#Body_weight_exercises. A lot of these things don't seem very good for you. I feel like this stuff is going to come back to bite you in the ass in 20-30 years...

I personally would stick to basic weightlifting. You can get an intense 30-45 minute workout, don't put tons of pressure on your knees, and most importantly the long-term effects are very well-studied.

I had rhabdomyolysis in high school after an intense afternoon of running around in the cold. Let me describe the pain:

* everytime I breathe in or down I felt like screaming

* moving almost any part of my body even an inch made me scream

* my urine was dark red

All my life I've had above normal pain tolerance from another chronic illness but it took rhabdomyolysis to really break me--quite literally. Ultimately it resulted in being put in a stretcher as I screamed my ass off.

It took a lot of morphine to find any relief and dialysis to fully recover.

My experience with rhabdo involved no pain (outside of really sore muscles).

I am not a doctor, but I think what you experienced was what rhabdo leads to if untreated: myoglobinuria (kidneys poisoned due to excess myoglobin) which then leads to acute renal failure (kidneys fail).

The normal treatment for rhabdo is intravenous saline (I had 5 days of saline), whereas myoglobinuria or acute renal failure require dialysis, since your kidneys have shut down.

In any case, that sounds absolutely frightening in the worst way imaginable. Any long-lasting side effects?

That sounds about right. Mine had gotten much worse by the time we took action, mostly because we confused it for my other illness during the early stages.

And thank you for crediting saline. I became a saline "addict" myself. We were told to get home health to give IV at any sign of red urine.

This was almost exactly 10 years ago. I've been well since.

This article seems a little sensationalist. Just because a journal had an article about it with a cartoon attached doesn't mean they've adopted as a "mascot" or make light of the condition.

My wife has been doing crossfit full-force for almost a year (including some competitions [1]). Along with previous standard workouts and diet changes, she's lost 60+ lbs over the past 2 years. And she's getting pretty buff.

She's never heard of rhabdomyolysis.

Every exercise/activity has some risks. If anything, I'd say crossfit puts you at risk for other injuries (back, joints, heat exhaustion at competitions, etc.).

[1] My wife at a recent competition. A male competitor here fainted and had to go to the ER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnQ8ZDSmg70

Just because a journal had an article about it with a cartoon attached doesn't mean they've adopted as a "mascot" or make light of the condition.

Unfortunately, that part is real. There were two unofficial mascots, Pukey the Clown and Rhabdo the Clown. If you puked during class, you "met one of the clowns." The clowns were celebrated on t-shirts, murals, etc. That was dumb, but it was eventually recognized as dumb, and it was stopped. Of course it provided grist for the first round of "Crossfit exposé" coverage, which has consistently attempted to portray Crossfit as a cult in which people uncritically worship ideas that are obviously problematic to anyone who hasn't been brainwashed.

There's a little bit of truth to that, in that many of the coaches are enthusiastic, rah-rah cheerleader types who don't take a critical approach to much of anything. However -- and this is a BIG however -- that is true of every approach to physical fitness I've ever been exposed to. Like other types of training, Crossfit has its share of smart and critical people as well, and they do their best to improve the practice of Crossfit and identify and fix problems.

> Like other types of training, Crossfit has its share of smart and critical people as well, and they do their best to improve the practice of Crossfit and identify and fix problems.

The problem is that none of these people work at Crossfit HQ and CFHQ goes out its way to excommunicate them.

That's one reason it's actually a good thing that the affiliates are so loosely regulated. Everyone respects Mark Rippetoe, no matter if they entirely agree with his assessment of Crossfit or not, and everyone knows that Greg Glassman is a second-rate jackass (even if they give him credit for popularizing the idea of Crossfit in the first place.)

This. 1000x this. The history is amazing once you dig in just a little.

There are people who smoked their white lives and never got cancer. I hope you see my point.

Competing is one thing - in that kind of game, winning is often more important than health. But if you just want to get fit, an unfaltering belief in no pain no gain seems to be less than beneficial.

> Every exercise/activity has some risks. If anything, I'd say crossfit puts you at risk for other injuries (back, joints, heat exhaustion at competitions, etc.).

One of the benefits of team sports (the few that I like to play, anyway) to me is that they are fun. One of the downsides is that, since you're engaging in a dynamic environment with other people, injury is more likely. What's great about lifting weights is that, with proper precautions, the chance of injury is very small. It's just you and the weights. Just your own form. The most advanced and ballistic move might be an olympic lift, but you don't need to get involved with those. Personally, I'm not willing to take up a solo exercise routine where the culture is so hardcore/idiotic that I am at risk of permanently damaging myself through sheer force of will, without even having any playing objects or tackling opponents involved.

I lift regularly, with a focus on powerlifting. I would not say that the risk of injury is "very small."

You should plan your training to prevent trauma.

It is possible and actually is easy. One such example is in Hypertrophy-Specific Training, which utilize week long rest and highly metabolic exercises after rest.

Another example is Westside Barbell Conjugate System, which utilizes rotation of exercises, metabolic exercises and actually forbids athletes going over 85% of 1RPM.

Of course you should. But every person I know who does it seriously, and every well-known competitive powerlifter I have ever read about, acknowledges injury as something everyone has to deal with. It is not rare.

The biggest problem with Crossfit is that it promotes excessive amount of exercises under time pressure, which really is a dangerous combination. People die in competetive sports all the time. Its very rare but still, there are people dieing doing marathons, thriathlons, crossfit, biking and even less taxing endurance sports like football(soccer). Its rarer than rhabdo but excessive stress on your cardiovascular system can kill you (cardiac arrest, heart attack etc) especially if your heart isnt 100% healthy (and most young people have never made a check on their heart).

No reason to panic though, its very very rare, but it happens and thus it should be noted that excessive excersise (in whatever shape or form) just isnt risk free.

Not a crossfitter but if they actively warn about the risk of rhabdo and have a cartoon (however poor taste some people may find it) then how is that a 'dirty little secret'?

It isn't, but it makes for great link-bait.

I have a lot of coworkers that injured themselves doing CrossFit. I don't understand why CrossFit is such a trend in the tech industry.

It seems like an easy way to hurt yourself.

Simply go to the gym and do your own workout...

The popularity in tech could certainly explain the large number of people embarrassing themselves here with their boneheaded defense of what is just another for profit company.

Implying for profit things are all bad?

Crossfit excels at providing an inviting on-ramp for people who were never into sports. Crossfit gyms tend to have a supportive social environment. There is, or was, a sense of being in on a Big Secret -- secrets are like catnip to brains.

It has also, and this deserves credit, been much better at achieving a healthy gender ratio than most other sports.

I don't get it either, it's impossible to not lookup real workouts and find stuff like starting strength and good basic lifting routines. Maybe it's less intimidating or something since there are classes for it.

Veterans to CrossFit are not immune, nor are good movers/fit athletes in general.

I've been doing CrossFit for six years, this past December during a 'holiday' WOD I got nailed by acute rhabdo in my right arm.

It took many months of rehab and different body work techniques to get things back to normal. Very, very, painful process.

Honestly, the workout wasn't out of whack with a tougher than normal day. It was for me, however something that put me out of commission for five months.

Lesson learned.

Oh really? Overexertion is bad? Tell me more!

There are a ton of things wrong with crossfit like their insistence of doing skill lifts for time. But training too much? That's actually your choice.

"Any" exercise done in excess can trigger this. I suppose Crossfit's characteristics make it easier for it to happen

"You’re supposed to push yourself to the limit, but when you hit the limit and pay the price, you’re the idiot who went too far." Isn't it? There are several "coaches" that only know how to push people but have no regards for personal limits

Diet can also cause rhabdomyolysis http://www.ergo-log.com/vegerhabdo.html (in this case, because of lack of protein - not necessarily because of vegetarianism)

This apparently happens in p90x as well. The culture of mostly unathletic people trying to do extremely athletic things without any training beforehand is foolish and stupid.

The one thing p90x gets more right than apparently Crossfit does is the videos tell you to take breaks and go at your own pace. If you cant do 50 pushups in 90 seconds, do what you can. "do your best, forget the rest." is the refrain Tony uses, which is a lot smarter than telling people to push beyond their limits no matter what their body tells them.

I am thankful for crossfit because it introduced me to powerlifting. But I quickly realized I liked the strength portions a lot more than the AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) and other timed workouts.

The official line is "you're only competing with yourself," but in practice that's not the case. Especially when there's a whiteboard and everyone knows what the various times/number of reps are. Trying to force anything with a strong technique component (like olympic lifts) into a time based or number of reps based competition just seems like a bad idea.

Also, with the wide variety of WODs, it's hard to track progress. Yeah, the workouts repeat, but if you only do something a couple times a year it's hard to keep track of progress.

I ended up doing Starting Strength instead. I got my squat from about 80lbs to 245, and then 295 with some intermediate programming. I almost never got sore - only a little sore after the first couple workouts, or if I missed a week or two. I'm currently trying to figure out how to integrate cardio and lifting, which is one thing that crossfit has going for it, but I liked powerlifting workouts a lot more than crossfit.

Pretty impressive that most diets fail and it is so easy to go the gym and not do much, this is pretty much one of the few stand out exceptions that can motivate people to the point of hurting themselves. Seems like a success if a little more precautions were added to avoid this one issue.

Every single article I read on medium is near worthless.

What's different about CrossFit from regular exercise? It doesn't give a summary of what it is or how it's different. That makes me scared that all exercise has this risk, especially lifting weights, which I enjoy. Is that true?

My crossfit experiences mix the challenges of lifting with the constant encouragement of peers, or perhaps a dojo? I find that having a guided workout and others doing the same thing with me helps me to actually __do__ it. On my own, I have never been able to work out with the focus OR intensity needed to do it properly.

My coaches are always careful to talk about how safety is important, and help weaker people modify in ways that are safe but still excercise similar muscle groups. They've told me to stop a workout when they felt I was pushing too hard. They (and the other athletes at my box) have been extremely supportive of my personal focus on doing the form correctly, even if that means I am slow, or rest between reps.

Sure, our box has athletes who can whip out dozens of pullups in a row. (I'll be thrilled when I can do one.) But we also have people who have sat there after their workout is done and helped me count my last reps, or even actually done burpees with me.

The encouragement is a huge high. It's what hooked me. I can very much understand how, if one is not careful, one might push oneself Too Far. I don't think I am physically capable of doing that yet, so I'm grateful for reading this reminder to be careful.

Also, box jumps. Screw those things, and I'm glad that stepping down from them rather than jumping is the way to go. ;)

The main difference I see is that CrossFit is presented as a sport in and of itself, rather than a way to train for other sports.

Your second point is not true if you follow the most basic guidelines for making sure you have good form and don't overtrain. It's the culture of competing against others to finish a set workout quickly that distinguishes crossfit, that both motivates people to train harder, makes people who like competition enjoy tough and normally dull workouts and also leads to bad form and overtraining.

Olympic lifting, running, rowing, swimming, and more are all sports in which the main for of training is doing the sport.

Good lord, what is with all the Crossfit hate? I've been an avid crossfiter for over 3 years and I've never once had an injury. As with all workouts, you need to listen to your body. It doesn't matter who prescribes them - whether it be Crossfit, Men's Health or GQ Magazine, your general practitioner, Tony Robbins, or your best friend BodyBuilder Bob. Listen to your body. If something hurts, stop. If you're too sore to move, rest. If you're hungry, eat.

All this talk about Crossfit being the problem is b.s. You have a choice.

Same thing here. Got it in 2007 on my 2nd day w/ a physical trainer after being a lazy slob for several years. Physical trainer said his method was "push to failure" and it was the proper way to learn my limits and establish a routine. My CK was over 110,000 and I spent a week in the hospital. It was painful and no fun at all. Doctors were surprised I left the hospital with both kidneys. Long term effect, for me, was nothing. Got a rough education though and now approach my physical fitness with a lot of caution.

From the article: "It’s so rare that one study reported the overall annual incidence of rhabdomyolysis to be 0.06%"

Crossfit reports only 5 cases up till May 2005: http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/38_05_cf_rhabdo.pdf

I wonder how the numbers stack up after taking into account only the population that does some form of exercise.

Lots of smart people here and no one is looking for real data, including the author of this article.

My bet is that rhabo:crossfit is similar to crashes:airplanes - you don't hear about all the people that do crossfit and simply get into shape without serious injury (most everyone who does crossfit).

Do more people get rhabdo doing crossfit than concussions playing football or torn ACLs playing basketball? Doubt it.

I don't get why this is on the top of hacker news. I'm getting this impression that most hackers are ripped crossfit dudes/gals.

When in doubt, just do regular time-tested strength training and you'll be fine. Works 100% of the time, 0 bull.

I wonder if I could get office workers to shift rubble for me in the evenings and get them to pay for the privilege as a fitness craze. I have never really understood paying to lift things, you might as well do an evening shift doing order picking at a warehouse.

Most people don't come nearly close enough to working so hard they damage themselves. Since the overwhelming majority of people don't work hard enough, the fact that CrossFit pushes people is a good thing.

Unrelated to the actual post, I have seen that with pages on medium the images load first and then after about 4seconds the text loads. Its a rather long wait for the text to load. Did any one else see that?

That's the typical behavior of pages that use Web Fonts. The text doesn't show until the font has downloaded.

Thanks! Did not know that.

10 pages to say: if you over train, it's dangerous for your health. Crossfit mentality pushes for over training, over exhaustion.


It should be mentioned that it normally only occurs when well trained people stop working out for a couple of weeks and then get into it again at full speed.

If you are used to working out hard, you won't get rhabdomyolysis.

So if you're pretty fit but stopped working out for a while, get into it with moderation!

To everyone else: don't be scared of rhabdomyolysis and work out!

Well, there you have it folks - the story in the article is obviously the fault of the very fit physical therapist having no idea and just carelessly blowing up her own arms. Can't possibly happen to you!

To everyone else: Work out, but listen to your body rather than some guy on the internet.

Since the article is not about working out in general but CrossFit specifically, and not about restarting exercise after a break, and particularly since the takeaway of the article is that it is hard to recognise this syndrome, I'll take that with a pinch of salt - best not to be complacent.

I agree re. working out in general - but this is about something more specific.

Well, that's nice and all. But how fit people and everyone else are supposed to remember that?

hi there i'm a journalist in the Uk and looking for someone who'd be willing to be interviewed about this? If anyone is up for it please email me rachael.woolston@gmail.com

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