I stated in the comments section of a recent barbell squat post that went viral, that
I’ve been thinking a lot lately that crossfit™ might actually have a 100% chance of injury when practiced over a lifetime.
Which of course, is crazy, and should make everyone run from it.
People don’t like this idea. Probably because it’s true, and it conflicts with something they “like”.
If (true), it’s also an absolute statement, which people dislike in general, for reasons outside the scope of this post.
Now, as for CrossFit™ and it’s chance of injury, am I convinced it’s chance of producing an injury when performed over an adult lifetime is 100%?
Now, (assuming CrossFit™ fans are anything like barbell squat fanatics) before you run to the comments section and emotionally vomit to me what a horrible human being I am, allow me to *suggest* you finish reading this post, before you make an ass of yourself; because I am going to discuss why this is true, as well as respond in advance to the most common refutations I have seen thus far, none of which refute anything.
I am going to begin with a quote from Drew Baye from his Philosophy of Exercise article (source):
It ought to go without saying that exercise should performed in the safest manner possible, but considering the sloppy and haphazard form commonly displayed in gyms and the outright dangerous antics of Crossfit, plyometrics, “core stability training” and similar activities touted as exercise it is apparent most either aren’t aware of or underestimate the potential for injury and long term damage of improper training.
While all physical activity poses some risk of injury exercise can and should be performed in a manner and with a level of control which makes it safer than almost any other activity. It would be counterproductive and downright stupid to perform an activity for the purpose of physical improvement which simultaneously poses a significant risk of causing physical injury or undermining your long term functional ability and health.
This does not mean exercise should be easy. On the contrary, to be effective exercisemust involve a high level of effort. There is no conflict between safety and intensity of effort during exercise, however; the manner of performance required to minimize risk of injury is the exact same required to maximize the quality of muscular loading and effectiveness.
Bolding was added by me, with the exception of the first word safety (section title from his post).
Now, there are a number of interesting points in this quote, not all of which have been bolded for the aim of keeping this post on point.
Of the bolded parts, the most relevant and urgent point that should be understood, is that it is in fact downright stupid to perform an activity for the purpose of physical improvement (better health) that simultaneously poses a significant (meaningful) risk of causing physical injury (worse health), acutely, or by contributing to/generating chronic if not permanent injuries, joint problems, and so forth.
In fact I would take it one step further. It’s not just stupid, it’s a fair bit of dumbfuckery to *knowingly* do this.
Or as I like to call it: this action is aggressively stupid.
Now, we need to boil this down further to it’s basic parts to fully understand what’s going on.
The Link : Exercise & Health
There seems to be no controversy surrounding exercise as it relates to health; a core purpose of exercise, is better health.
While *some* people might have additional purposes for performing a physical activity they believe to be exercise, I have never seen anyone argue that exercise should not produce better health. This appears to be a widely accepted, uncontested notion.
Which is precisely where the fate of CrossFit™ is sealed, along with most other popular fitness or psuedo exercise programs, such as P90X™.
Because any program or protocol that claims to be for the purpose of exercise, cannot contain a meaningful risk of physical injury, because such injury directly and brutally negates a core purpose of any and every exercise program I have ever even heard a whisper of : better physical health.
Physical injury is literally, and by definition, worse health.
Why is “meaningful risk” important?
I use the term “meaningful” intentionally. I use it intentionally because CrossFit™ followers, so far as I have seen, have every proud and righteous intention to practice CrossFit™ over a lifetime.
Here is one example that is by no means, an uncommon attitude in the CrossFit™ community. (source)
Note, this woman has apparently practiced CrossFit™ since September 2009.
Think about the implications of these statements.
X, that is supposed to improve physical health (positive), has now instead, caused physical injury (negative).
She now wants X to fix (positive) what X caused (negative).
She also “lives” for X, demonstrating a common devotion to CrossFit™.
Allow me to be clear: these implications are the pinnacle of irrationality, and so far as I am aware, are by no means uncommon in the CrossFit™ universe.
They also tie in nicely to the ultimate point of this section: any “exercise” program with a meaningful risk of injury, practiced over an adult lifetime, will absolutely surface and manifest those injuries.
To even further hammer this into your head : it is inconceivable that an adult human being could practice CrossFit™ over an adult lifetime (say, 40 years), and not physically injure themselves.
Never mind old age.
What this means is that the activity of CrossFit™ is a ticking time bomb. A physical activity, supposedly practiced for the purpose of better health, that inevitably damages physical health (violently negating one of it’s core purposes), in a Russian roulette fashion.
I.e. CrossFitters have absolutely no idea what that injury will be, how severe it will be, and to what degree of permanence it will consist of, when it inevitably arrives.
This makes CrossFit™ not only have a 100% chance of injury over an adult lifetime, it also makes it irrational to perform; if CrossFit™ is performed for the purpose of exercise, it is performed under an active dismissal of reality.
It is an action against your best, rational judgement on all available knowledge.
I.e. it’s irrational.
It is an activity designed to help you, that hurts you (indicating fundamental flaws).
But, but … LIFE has a 100% chance of DEATH. Haha!
This is not actually that clever, nor is it by any means an intelligent attempt at a refutation. Yes, I am aware that unless I figure out how to become immortal, I will someday die.
That is absolutely certain so far as anyone can prove.
The difference between exercise — which CrossFit™ claims to be a program of to at least some degree — and life, is that the purpose of life is not better health, where as the purpose of exercise is better health.
Since the purpose of life is not better health, we can conclude that any chance of injury or death faced in life — 0% or 100%, — does not negate it’s purpose.
However, since a purpose of exercise is better health, we can conclude that any exercise program or protocol, must absolutely not have a 100% chance of worsening physical health.
This is absolutely counter productive, conflicting, and contradicting to the purpose of better health.
Once again, indicating fundamental flaws in CrossFit™ protocol, however vague, wide, narrow, or precise they wish to describe and design their program, prior to, or in response to, this article.
But, but … ALL physical activity has a chance of injury!
Yes, even Drew Baye who I quoted in this article, clearly stated that all physical activity has a risk of injury.
Can we therefore conclude all “exercise” is a waste of time because it has a chance of injuring us? (i.e. all exercise contradicts itself).
No, we cannot, and exercise does exist that does not injure us.
The tests in the realm of safety for any exercise program that Drew hinted at would likely be the following two questions:
- Are you more likely to injure yourself walking into an exercise facility than you are performing the activities?
- Can you conceivably practice this exercise program over a lifetime, without a single incidence of injury?
I can tell you definitively that, last I spoke with Drew, he has personally supervised training sessions into the tens of thousands in over a decade of personal training practice.
And he has not injured a single trainee; and I would bet he can name half a dozen other trainers, off the top of his head, that have similar track records, with equally fantastic results with their clients.
The idea is not to make the risk of injury 0%, it’s to make it so low that you have a better chance of being struck by lighting than performing exercise, or of tripping and injuring yourself while walking into a gym, than of actually hurting yourself performing the exercise program of your choice.
Hogwash, it’s all about proper form!
Any properly designed exercise movement, program, or protocol must primarily rest on a binary safety system, not a continuum.
This means that if your supposed exercise program, like CrossFit™, requires “good” form for ideal safety, rather then pass/fail form, the exercise program is flawed.
It is flawed because when “pretty good” form is not enough for effectively maximum safety, you can bet your ass that the day is coming when and where the most elite CrossFitters have that “freak accident” when they get just a little lazy, a little over confident in their high level of experience, a little “extra” motivated to perform CrossFit™ faster, with heavier resistances, and so on.
If the form and safety protocol is not on a pass/fail binary system, the day will come for everyone, like in CrossFit™, when you fuck up. You are not a special snowflake exception.
You are not exempt from this. In fact, you are the rule.
Like in barbell squats, “proper form” to protect the user’s safety is meaningless, because one day, that form will falter.
If it can falter it will falter.
A properly designed exercise program must only become dangerous in form when the user or trainer acts out what is commonly called “gross negligence”.
I.e. you act like a complete dumb ass and get the results you asked for.
It must be more difficult to eliminate safety than it is to retain it.
CrossFit™ is about 100 miles outside of this paradigm.
Here’s an example of someone performing a barbell squat (that at best, depends on proper form for immediate safety), and then combines it with gross negligence, a rare combo.
Here’s another fun one, putting an infant between a loaded barbell and the ground.
But I LIKE CrossFit™ and want to keep doing it, what do I do?
Well first you need to fully grasp that it is fundamentally unsafe, and if practiced as an exercise program, will result in an unknown injury, perhaps multiple times over, perhaps permanent, and perhaps 10 years after you quit CrossFit™.
This would be the guy who “throws his back out” tying his shoes, after jumping around doing CrossFit™ for the previous 5 years. It’s not a mystery, it’s a predictable consequence of performing blatantly unsafe physical activities and “pushing through” traumatic pain and injury.
Not the “burn”, but the snaps, crackles, pops, tears, pulls, and “pain” your peers will urge you to push through. As if persistence fixed connective tissue injuries.
Secondly, you need to realize that fundamentally, CrossFit™ is not (actually) exercise in the first place. It’s a hybrid between a recreational and competitive activity with a random array of exercise side effects. Furthermore, many of these (random if not arbitrary) physical movements, fit quite well into the public conception of the concept of exercise.
So it appears to the untrained eye like exercise, and has exercise effects, but is not exercise.
It’s confusing, hence people do it, and will continue to do it, even after reading this post.
Bottom line: if you truly enjoy CrossFit™ and want to perform it as a recreational activity, or even a competitive activity, by all means do. Just do so with the full knowledge that it’s not exercise, and carries a high risk of injury.
That’s perfectly fine for recreational and competitive activities. In fact that’s the name of the game in most sports. But the purpose of “having fun” or kicking someone’s ass in an athletic event is not better health, it’s something else entirely.
Exercise produces better health. You must draw the lines and decide what’s best for your own life. If you want to do dangerous stuff that you are convinced is fun, or whatever, do it.
Just do it knowingly.
Not like an ignorant baboon swinging weights around like a maniac.
But … you have no PROOF. Show me PROOF (otherwise I’ll just keep doing CrossFit™)
The CrossFit.com official message board (link) has entire sections dedicated to reported injuries.
I don’t know what further proof you could possibly need when you have that staring you in the face.
There are over 31,000 posts in the injury section alone, which only refer to injuries that are being reported there, and not reported exclusively elsewhere, never mind an unknown number of unreported injuries occurring every year.
These people have dug their own grave.
You want studies?
Newsflash : studies are measurements of data already occurring.
A 50 year study of CrossFit™ protocol that starts tomorrow, and agrees with what I’m saying in this post, means that for the next 50 years, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people will be performing a supposed exercise program with a 100% chance of injury.
It does not suddenly gain this aspect when the lab rats come to a conclusion. It was true the entire fucking time, and before they even started.
If not CrossFit™, then what do I do?
The purpose of this post is not to provide alternatives to CrossFit™. In the scope of this post, I could care less what you do.
Your body and your health is your concern, not mine. Do a search here on The Dream Lounge, it should turn up some results.
You made errors in word choice.
I am not a statistician, and have not claimed to be a statistician, amateur, professional, or otherwise.
The purpose of this post does not even necessitate an understanding of statistics.
The purpose of this post was to examine the fundamental flaws of CrossFit™ as an applied exercise program or protocol. It has absolutely flunked that examination and receives an F for safety.
The title is just there to catch attention.
CrossFit™ is flawed, independent of how I titled this post.
Please direct hate mail to me in the comments section, not Drew Baye.
(It should go without saying that I only represent myself in this article and do not represent the opinions of any other person or organization, including those in which I play a leadership role).