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About four years ago, I went through a CrossFit phase. I tried a bunch of the benchmark WODs, got a kick out of them, then even got my brother into the act, and started following the Workout of the Day on crossfit.com. We had a great time with it. For one thing, it was nice not having to program for myself. For another, the workouts were challenging me in a way that my old-school, body-part split hadn’t before, with every session getting me to chase rep PRs in exercises I hadn’t trained very much in the past. A funny thing happened along the way, though. The more I did these workouts, the more I started interacting with CrossFitters, and the more I started to hear things like, “Welcome to real training.” I’m sure they meant well and were just trying to welcome me to the club, but the more I heard stuff like this, the more it bothered me.
What, exactly, was wrong with the way I was doing things in the past? What did these people know about my goals? To take one look at my “Diane” time and say that it clearly indicates my programming was lacking totally ignores what I was after in my previous training cycle. It would be akin to making a football player play full-court basketball, watch him start to founder after the first quarter, then tell him he’s out of shape. It would ignore the fact that a football player has to train for repeated bursts of activity that are typically five seconds in duration with about 40 seconds’ rest in between each one. Of course he’s going to suck at basketball. Yes, I know: Nature abhors a specialist (or so CrossFitters will tell you). But sports—or other specific training goals like max-effort benching or squatting (or even building huge biceps)—don’t. These activities demand specialization.
Of course, the superiority complex isn’t new. As Dave Tate points out on page 71 of the M&F July/August issue, the bodybuilders, powerlifters, and trainers of his day all seemed to think they were better than one another. CrossFitters insulting bodybuilders, and vice versa, is a mere continuation of an ugly trend that’s always been around. What’s different today is that the Internet makes anyone brave enough to make bold declarations about who sucks, and anyone who engages in it gives every gym rat a bad name.
So what’s a guy to do? Make like Tate, who says that despite all the squabbling he was able to learn something from everyone.
No matter what your training style of choice might be, it wouldn’t hurt you to get out there and see how the other half lives from time to time. I’ve been following Mike O’Hearn’s power bodybuilding for the better part of the past year, but I always make time once a week or so to throw in a total wild-card workout. Sometimes it’s hill sprints, sometimes a kettlebell circuit, and, yes, sometimes it’s a CrossFit WOD, with Fight Gone Bad being one of my all-time favorites.
Of course, most CrossFitters would probably look at my best FGB score and laugh. That’s cool. Just don’t tell me I’m training the wrong way. The best training protocol is the one you love.