You do this job long enough and you will find a number of fallacies are pretty common among CrossFit athletes – which can probably be extended to athletes of any kind over all. Here are some of my top fallacies that impede the progress of even the most intelligent person. Please note the following caveat: these are generalizations and should not be taken as doctrine for any person that considers themselves in any particular group. Anyone can transcend the boundaries of their particular group and be the outlier! The important thing to consider is whether or not you are committing the fallacy at all – and then fucking stop doing it.
The Strongman Fallacy
Time and time again big strong guys frustrate the most persistent and patient of coaches for their reliance on strength to accomplish all tasks. For some reason, grace, fluidity and finesse are often lost and the method to success is 1) power 2) more power and 3) when all else fails, power to the max.
This is particularly prevalent in movements such as muscleups, double unders, Olympic movements and rowing. There is significant technique that accompanies these movements and one cannot just grunt and heave through them for results. I have seen many a strong man tickled to death at their ability to power clean (often times nearly muscle clean) 250 pounds with ease only to poop out at 255, because they are slow with the elbows, terrified to drop under the bar and have a poorly supported front rack. No, we are not upset with you because you muscle clean our max with ease – we are upset because you are satisfied with a clean of 250 when you could easily clean 315 with a bit of technique. Strong guys – release your inner dancer and be fast, light and agile. Trust me, you will feel infinitely more accomplished when you hit that 3-wheel clean.
The Shortcut Fallacy
In observance of someone with more experience, a CrossFit athlete may erroneously come to the conclusion that those skills are an endowment from the heavens and not a product of sustained hard work. As a result, they wish to “do as they do” and employ more advanced technique such as kipping, open grip muscle ups, touch-and-go cleans, rebounding box jumps and all around, heavier, faster and more complex movements. WHHOOOOOAAAAA-HOOO, sloooowww down there son! These are movements that can FUCK. YOU. UP. If done improperly. Let’s be clear about that – and the people who do these movements routinely and well, have likely put in the time to graduate past false grip muscle ups, high volume strict pullups, lighter, slower less complex movements in order to build that baseline strength and competency to warrant higher risk maneuvers. Here is an analogy – you insist on throwing a weak and spotty curve-ball because you have a greater than zero chance of confusing the batter with novelty instead of perfecting your fastball by hitting spots, adding movement and varying speeds. Without an effective fastball, you’re weak curve-ball’s impact is severely undermined.
Those with an eye for advancement, the question should steer away from is, “how do you do movement X?” in favor of “what do I have to do to get to this point?” The devil is in the details – knowing how to get to point A is different than wanting to be at point A immediately, right now.
The Kipping Fallacy
If strict is good, kipping is better! Right?! “But I can kip like 10 pullups!”
Ok, let’s be real here – kipping (in the sense used in CrossFit) is an invention of CrossFit to add an additional dynamic to the routine. It is not bad or good, but it is something that merits discussion. If you cannot do at least 5 of the strict version of the movement, you have no business doing the kipping version of the movement. Why is this? Well, one is a component of strength (strict) and the other of metabolic conditioning (kipping). If we were to include 30 pullups in a workout, performed strict you would poop out quite quickly. Unless you spend an inordinate amount of time doing pullups, you will likely never cross 20 strict pullups – it is just a threshold that is very difficult to cross. But that is ok, there is nothing wrong with having 10 or 15 – BUT, having ZERO is not particularly indicative of one being able to control their body movement effectively. Adding velocity to the movement puts your shoulders at significant risk as, by default, we have established that you lack that control to begin with. This is the chief complaint of CrossFit detractors in regard to the kipping pullup.
However, on the flip side, if you have 10 strict pullups, 30 kipping pullups should be very obtainable. For every strict pullup you add, your kipping volume should go up as a result. That is to say, there is no particular reason to “train” kipping pullups aside from improving the technique. Contrarily, 50 kipping pullups does not imply that you strict pullups have improved – in fact the opposite may be true.
This applies to all things – hand stand pushups, pullups, feet to bar and any other thing you can conceivably “kip into.” Kip enthusiasts out there – sack it up and improve your baseline strength. Two steps “back” now in volume will lead to three steps forward down the line when your strength has improved.
The Weak Girl Fallacy
The weak girl fallacy basically comes in the form of “I cannot right now, therefore I never will.” I blame society, culture, television – all the usual bullshit – that shapes girls minds from an early age that they are weak, in need of protection and incapable of physical tasks. I routinely am asked to lift things in the office that probably weigh no more than 20 pounds. 20 POUNDS! That, had they been a guy, would been practically forced from a gender role perspective to try, even if they had never lifted something so heavy in their life.
In the gym, this translates very often to fear that they might in fact be crushed under the weight of a 33 pound bar and exertion of any kind might sprout a penis and chest hair. Closely accompanying this is the idea that women, for some strange reason, have the magical capability to put on large amounts of muscle volume by simply touching weights in excess of 8 pounds. Also known as the “I don’t want to get bulky” line of reasoning.
Fortunately, I feel that these concepts are being slowly eroded by an opposing force of honoring women in athletics, departing from the skinny-is-everything body image campaigns and showing that women can, in fact, be strong AND sexy without looking like men and having Adam’s Apples that sword fight with their boyfriends when they get close.
Women are also finding that it is INCREDIBLY difficult to add mass. Also that being strong is empowering and nothing to be afraid of. However, the advertising and cultural messages are pervasive and persistent. No matter how deconditioned a person is, there bubbles occasionally to the top some random non-sensical fear or doubt that prohibits them from just attacking a movement, weight and or set with determination. You are woman – I hear you roar! Now hit that set!
The WOD is GOD Fallacy
“Can I just come in and get a WOD in to make up?” Is something of a generalization of the mindset that the WOD is what gets you stronger. This is not particularly true. In our gym, we employ basic precepts of strength and power – pulling, pushing, squatting, jumping and other related baseline movements. Those movements trained with efficacy build your strength, agility, coordination and power. Applied to the WOD, they provide a unique cocktail of conditioning that allows for a super charged dose of “cardio” that is difficult to replicate. That being said, doing 10 deads at X weight for Y rounds is not really what gets you stronger. It is the other way around – you do the standard strength (5×5, 5-3-1, starting strength – some combo of volume and mass with recovery) IN ORDER TO better perform the deadlift more effectively in the WOD. The WOD is an ends, not a means. I fell for this fallacy tremendously in the beginning – all I wanted to do was attack that WOD! But, my strength eventually became my weakness as I could power through just about anything that wasn’t heavy. I got “good” at CrossFit but was limited significantly by my inability to walk up to any weight and rep it out. The high you get from the WOD should not be confused with the gains you get from basic old boring strength. Any program that does NOT have strength incorporated is wasting your time (unless you want a glorified bootcamp).
By comparison, you will certainly get better at basketball by playing lots of basketball. However, if you take the time to drill, drill, drill, dribble, dribble, dribble, shoot, shoot, shoot endlessly for hours at a time, you will find that is where the skills are refined and honed. You take your skills to the court to learn the dynamics, cooperation and tempo of the game, but there is no substitute for sound hands refined by hours of dribbling and shooting.
There you have it folks! Ideas that, if completely abandoned, would lead to an all around better CrossFit Athlete!