I’ve been training with weights for over twenty years and have passed through various phases of bodybuilding, powerlifting, “strongman”-type odd lifts, crosstraining and other forms of conditioning. I’ve seen a wide variety of training techniques, been employed as a personal trainer and met a number of professional athletes, coaches and world class amateurs in my time. I’d pretty much thought that I’d seen everything there was to see in a weight room.
My gym is quite large and it keeps a sizable number of personal trainers on a staff, including a couple of advanced specialists. Recently, I’d noticed that among them were a handful of trainers who had their clients regularly performing a rather odd combination of exercises in very short succession – they were hoisting kettlebells, then running over to a bench press followed by a set of power cleans to exhaustion. I’ve seen them pull out gymnastic rings, squat while holding an olympic bar in overhead press position and try to chin themselves into a back spasm. Today, one of the few female trainers who doesn’t look like she emigrated from the old German Democratic Republic, had a middle-aged dude trying to do some kind of deadlifting circuit, then bench then clean and jerk with a deep squat position. He was sort of fading on that exercise.
Generally, I mind my own business when I’m working out but I finally had to ask what in the sam hill they thought they were doing.
Evidently, there’s a kind of weightlifting cult out there revolving around a website called Crossfit.com that publishes a workout of the day that is religiously followed by devotees in gyms across America. Despite some of the kookiness I’ve witnessed firsthand, the training philosophy Crossfit offers has some merit, particularly if your real passion is another sport for which you need improved conditioning. They have trainees moving weights as athletically as possible using compound movements with very little rest, which replicates how your body might apply strength with speed while in motion. The program is not going to build overwhelming strength or size but from my observations the serious Crossfit trainees get the kind of rugged, muscular endurance and short bursts of power you see in good collegiate wrestlers. They also tend to lean out a bit, an added bonus, though this is negated by the glassy-eyed look trainees get when they discuss the work-out of the day. Too reminiscent of Amway salesmen and Hari Krishna guys at airports.
I’m not going to join the cult. I like specializing in lifting very heavy weights (ok – relatively heavy weights these days) but I might sneak in their more practical routines to round out my fitness profile.