Across the internet, CrossFit has plenty of haters. Haters gonna hate, right? However, every once in a while, I can actually see where they’re coming from. And although they’re ranting and railing against CrossFit, I don’t think they’re really ranting and railing against CrossFit. Confused yet? Allow me to explain.
Every year, the CrossFit Games Open is hugely anticipated across the CrossFit community. This week, the aptly named CrossFit Games Open 15.4, consisted of handstand push-ups and cleans. If you’re unfamiliar with these movements, don’t fret, that’s not really the point of this article. The winners of this event, female competitor Kristin King and male competitor Jacob Anderson, had their videos reviewed online by thousands of internet users, with mixed reviews. Below is Kristin King’s performance. She did a stellar job, there’s no doubt about it; but this is hater fuel for sure. And this is where the difference between CrossFit and CrossFit comes in.
And here we get to the crux of the issue: CrossFit as a sport, and CrossFit as a methodology are two extremely different things. In fact, I would go so far as to say they are polar opposites when it comes to how they are executed.
As an example, in the video above, you can easily see the arch in Kristin’s lumbar spine, otherwise known as “banana back.” This puts your neck and spine in a very compromising position when lowering yourself into the tripod position.
Does this performance conform to CrossFit Games movement standards? Absolutely. That’s why she won. As you can see, she is obviously very efficient at performing handstand push-ups this way. The movement standards were simple: head touches the pad at the bottom, and her arms and knees reach full extension at the top, and heels pass the taped line on the wall.
Does this conform CrossFit methodology standards? Not in the slightest. Would I teach someone to perform a handstand push-up this way? Not in a million years.
The CrossFit Games (the sport) releases their movement standards with every workout, and said standards are prioritized over proper form/technique. Even in the judges certification program, they state simply that it is not the judge’s job to ensure correct form, merely to ensure that the movement standards are being met. Knees cave in on a squat? No problem, as long as their hip crease is below the knee. Rounded back on a deadlift? Sure, why not, as long as their knees and hips are fully extended at the top.
I understand why it is implemented this way; after all, where does their responsibility end and our responsibility for body-awareness begin? This is why they introduced the scaled division because, ultimately, it is our responsibility to ensure we move with good form and make use of proprioception. But this is also why I would discourage the average CrossFit gym-goer from participating in the CrossFit Games. When it comes to a competition, especially at this scale, it is human nature to do what we can to win, our bodies be damned.
On the other hand, for you haters out there, CrossFit as a methodology is quite the opposite. In the certification and training programs, and at any CrossFit gym worth it’s salt (or any other gym for that matter), form and safety are always prioritized over intensity. If I saw an athlete performing handstand push-ups this way at our gym, I would intervene in the same way I intervene when I see a deadlift with a rounded back.
Ultimately, this is where I think the CrossFit Games Open falls short for most people. While nearly all CrossFit gyms tout the Open as a chance to see how you’ve improved since last year, or to compete against others at a similar fitness level to see how you stack up, I personally see it as an unnecessary risk for injury simply due to the nature of the competition and the implementation of the movement standards. Again, this is for most people. For those of you legitimately competing in the sport, my hat goes off to you.