But recently I came across the Crossfit training system. It's based around short, hyper intense workouts using basic bodyweight gymnastic moves (pushups, pullups, burpees, rope climbing), olympic and power lifts (cleans, jerks, presses, squats) and track sprints and rowing. The goal is to engage the large muscle groups and push them to both anaerobic and aerobic failure at the same time. For experienced athletes, the idea of using olympic lifts for cardiovascular stress training seems over the top, but anyone who can survive this is going to get very, very fit.
The founder of Crossfit, former gymnast Greg Glassman, is the guru behind this movement. He rails against bodybuilders who lack functional strength, and runners, cyclists and triathletes who are so specialized that they lack overall athleticism. (He doesn't have any bad words for ultimate fighters, though, some of whom use his system :-) The point I think Glassman overlooks is that the traditional training methods are meant to minimize injury and allow regular performance by an average person. It's telling that Glassman, 49, doesn't Crossfit train anymore. (See this NYTimes profile from a few years ago; the followup reader discussion is very good.)
If you have any athletic background at all (endurance training doesn't count -- it's gotta be something with a little explosiveness and testosterone ;-), watch the videos and tell me you are not freaked out.
Uneven Grace mov wmv
(check out the women doing 30 clean and jerks with 85lbs in 5-7 minutes!)
GI Jane mov wmv
(pushup, burpee, pullup -- basic, but so brutal. Greg Amundson is a badass!)
Interview: Coach Greg Glassman
CFJ: What’s wrong with fitness training today?
Coach Glassman: The popular media, commercial gyms, and general public hold great interest in endurance performance. Triathletes and winners of the Tour de France are held as paradigms of fitness. Well, triathletes and their long distance ilk are specialists in the word of fitness and the forces of combat and nature do not favor the performance model they embrace. The sport of competitive cycling is full of amazing people doing amazing things, but they cannot do what we do. They are not prepared for the challenges that our athletes are. The bodybuilding model of isolation movements combined with insignificant metabolic conditioning similarly needs to be replaced with a strength and conditioning model that contains more complex functional movements with a potent systemic stimulus. Sound familiar? Seniors citizens and U.S. Marine Combatant Divers will most benefit from a program built entirely from functional movement.
CFJ: What about aerobic conditioning?
Coach Glassman: I know you’re messing with me – trying to get me going. Look, why is it that a 20 minute bout on the stationery bike at 165 bpm is held by the public to be good cardio vascular work, whereas a mixed mode workout keeping athletes between 165-195 bpm for twenty minutes inspires the question, ”what about aerobic Conditioning?” For the record, the aerobic conditioning developed by CrossFit is not only high-level, but more importantly, it is more useful than the aerobic conditioning that comes from regimens comprised entirely of monostructural elements like cycling, running, or rowing. Now that should start some fires! Put one of our guys in a gravel shoveling competition with a pro cyclist and our guy smokes the cyclist. Neither guy trains by shoveling gravel, why does the CrossFit guy dominate? Because CrossFit’s workouts better model high demand functional activities. Think about it – a circuit of wall ball, lunges and deadlift/highpull at max heart rate better matches more activities than does cycling at any heart rate.