Is Crossfit really random?

As the crossfit website will tell you , “all CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more.”
People are so impressed with how fun and effective Crossfit workouts (WODs) are, that they often forget to see the whole prescription. This often expresses itself in conversations about programming, where some insist that to be “crossfit”  A crossfit programme should be totally varied and random. This is an understandable misinterpretation as in the crossfit journal ( October 2004 page 6) Greg Glassman wrote:

“ the WOD is responsible for quite a bit of confusion about the crossfit method. Crossfit is a strength and conditioning system built on constantly varied, if not, randomized functional movements executed at high intensity . The WOD is but one example of Crossfit programming.”

Like most crossfitters I quickly jumped to the conclusion that Crossfit, as a strength and conditioning regime was all about variety. After all, that’s what the website did. It varied.

All the time.

Surely I thought, you deadlift 11111, on one day, then Fran the next, then a 5k run, then rest day, then onto infinite variation. I clearly remembered this paragraph “Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy”

Voila. End of debate!

However, I worried me, that I found among all the “constantly varied“ statements Greg’s description of a regular class at the original crossfit facility. Indeed the days before my certification in 2005 Id witnessed this format

“One of our favourite workout patterns is to warm up, and then perform three to five sets of 3 to 5 reps of a fundamental lift at a moderately comfortable pace, followed by a 10 minute circuit of gymnastics elements at a blistering pace, and finally finish with 2 to 10 minutes of high intensity metabolic conditioning. There is nothing sacred here” ( CFJ October 2002 page 9)

So, I thought, they are regularly practicing and training gymnastics and the major lifts, then doing wods.

This backed up my subsequent clinical experience. Those who did regular muscle up work, got muscle ups, bigger squatters squatted well, the x gymnasts popped up into handstands.

People who limited their Crossfit to a wod, or a series of Wod’s struggled.

Then I re-read the “100 words. The statement that summarises the crossfit prescription To be honest. I actually read the 100 words properly for the 1st time . To help you understand my revelation, Ive added some “Ands” and some numbers ( my views are in the brackets)

Here is the prescription:

1) Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.

(Ok! Not everyone does, but yep TICK)

And

2) Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch.

(Er, ok, not randomise, but training and practise like you’d find in an oly club. Ok, I can do that. Tick)

And

3) Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds.

( wow, er regular practise and training too. Like any sport, regular practice and training. OK)

And

4) Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast.

(ok.that too wow)

And

5) Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense.

(Oh I get it!!! Once you have done your regular training, do workouts that combine what you know! That makes sense)

And

6) Regularly learn and play new sports.

( if I had time, but yes, I get it)

Many think that crossfit is about total variety in every aspect of training. It is never the less clear that “creativity” occurs in the workouts, not in the regular practice and training .

This model is totally familiar to any team or combat sports person. As a fighter, I trained and worked for perfection in moves and combinations. I had medicine balls dropped on my abs with tedious regularity. I worked the heavy bag. A LOT. But every session had a WOD . In that sport it was a sparring sessions: here the unknown and unknowable “punched me in the face!’. A LOT.

So, structured practice, plus a random WOD.

But the question frequently comes up . In these wods, are there targets or is it just random?

“If you are doing the workout of the day, you are training for these ( the benchmark) wods” . (CFJ Sept 2003 page 4) Back then, the benchmarks were the 6 sisters Angie, Barbara Chelsea, Diane Elizabeth and Fran. In short Crossfit quickly decided that, in preparing for the unknown, It was as well to target success in benchmark workouts. After all, “Success with high rep calisthenic movements wont come to be without regular practice. Not all of that practice need be max rep, but it needs to be regular.” (CFJ April 2003 page 3) Incidentally the warm up is the perfect place for that practice”. (CFJ April 2003 page 3)

But, its too often asserted that “its gotta be random.Its crossfit innit”

Not according to the crossfire level 1 trainer guide. At page 51 it clearly says that “What your programme needs is not to become routine”. Bear in mind that at the time Crossfit began, all that was available at most “leisure centres” was basic body building and jogging routines . Equally when discussing variation, Crossfit says that no two, 3 day cycles are the same: so if you spot that back squats and the lunge comes up a few times in a week. Its not lack of variance, You need to assess what comes before and after the move .

So whats the take home messages

1) Everything you have read and heard about crossfits variation, randomness, excitement, brilliance, is true, but probably written with mainly the WODS in mind. If you simply did Crossfit Wods, it would give you excellent fitness. But thats only part of the 100 word prescription

2) Better Crossfiters looks to the 100 word prescription: it makes you regularly train and practise weightlifting, gymnastics and cardio, then also, mixes those elements up for a workout.

3) Don’t let anyone kid you that regular practise in Olympic lifting, squats or gymnastics, somehow isn’t Crossfit.

It’s right there. Read the 100 words