Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Starting Strength Takes a Big Crap on CrossFit, P90X, Insanity

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore is one of my favorite go-to guides for information on proper Olympic lifting technique. I've learned a ton from watching Rippetoe's online videos and reading his old CrossFit Journal articles. Sadly, he's one of many well-respected ex-CrossFit affiliate owners who appear to have had a falling out with the folks at CrossFit HQ, and he's no longer conducting CrossFit barbell certification trainings.

Still, I was a little surprised to read this recent article on the Starting Strength website, which takes great pains to slam the fuck out of CrossFit. The author, Damon Wells, musters some strong arguments against "muscle confusion" and "broad time and modal domains" as concepts that are "useless," the "opposite of progress" and "gimmicks promoted by greedy entrepreneurs." P90X, Insanity and CrossFit are called out as "glorified and well marketed versions of circuit training."
The bottom line in training is the realization of improvements that are quantifiable. A runner should get faster. A powerlifter should get stronger. An athlete should improve on sport-specific skills. By incorrectly training a carelessly tossed together hodgepodge of techniques, you are essentially training to be good at nothing. Some proponents of these methods preach the opposite: variety leads to improvement in everything. An example of this is CrossFit’s claim that they train for the unknown and the unknowable. Unfortunately, this is not how human physiological systems work. You become better at that which you practice, both metabolically and mechanically. Practicing everything makes you better at nothing.
The conclusion: "[S]trength training is more useful for humans over the long haul. The goal of training in general should be to develop a robust, injury resistant body that is harder to break. Strength training accomplishes this goal. As useful as it may be, cardiorespiratory training does not."

I'm a devoted CrossFitter, but I don't disagree with everything Wells has to say. One of my main complaints about CrossFit's main site WODs is the randomness of the daily workouts and the lack of consistent strength development or periodization. If my affiliate didn't operate on a Max Effort Black Box model (which emphasizes strength training over long, draining, random WODs), I don't know that CrossFit would hold my interest. Building strength is important to me.

But who says that enhanced metabolic conditioning can't also be a useful goal?

What say you?