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Russell Greene 01-21-2014 06:23 PM

Did Rippetoe get CrossFit right?
Is CrossFit training or exercise?

In a recent Huffington Post article, CrossFit’s former basic barbell course trainer Mark Rippetoe defined training as “physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to produce that goal.”

Rippetoe contrasts training with exercise, which is “physical activity for its own sake, a workout done for the effect it produces today, during the workout or right after you're through.”

Let’s permit these definitions, for the purpose of argument. Rippetoe then goes on to claim that,

“CrossFit is a random exposure to a variety of different movements at different intensities, most of which are done for time, i.e., as many reps as possible in a stipulated time period or a stipulated number of reps done as fast as possible. As such, it is Exercise, not Training, since it is random, and Training requires that we plan what we are going to do to get ready for a specific task.

Different physical tasks require different physical adaptations; running 26.2 miles is obviously a different task than squatting 700 pounds, and the two efforts require completely different physical adaptations. If a program of physical activity is not designed to get you stronger or faster or better conditioned by producing a specific stress to which a specific desirable adaptation can occur, you don't get to call it training. It is just exercise.”

Rippetoe misrepresents CrossFit in several ways, but his main point is that CrossFit is not training.

CrossFit is a fitness program; it is designed to improve fitness. Is fitness not a “long-term goal” or a “specific desirable adaptation?”

It depends on how you define fitness. Rippetoe, along with Dr. Lon Kilgore, has defined fitness as,

"Possession of adequate levels of strength, endurance, and mobility to provide for successful participation in occupational effort, recreational pursuits, familial obligation, and that is consistent with a functional phenotypic expression of the human genotype."

CrossFit, in contrast, defines fitness as “work capacity measured across broad time and modal domains.” CrossFit’s definition enables comparison, measurement, and tracking. It does not depend on a person’s occupation or “familial obligation”, both of which vary over time and among individuals.

We’ll employ the principle of charity and assume that Mark Rippetoe is aware of CrossFit’s definition of fitness, though he doesn’t mention it. Let’s also assume that Rippetoe evaluates CrossFit according to CrossFit’s definition of fitness, and not his own, for to do otherwise would make little sense.

Is “work capacity measured across broad time and modal domains” not specific enough of a goal for Rippetoe?

Rippetoe must consider “strength” a specific enough goal. Otherwise, he would refer to “strength exercise,” not “strength training.”

In the latest edition of Starting Strength, Rippetoe defines strength as it, “the physical ability to generate force against an external resistance.” For Rippetoe, strength training is distinct from training to maximize pounds lifted on specific competitive lifts. He emphasizes “Remember: lifting more weight is not always the same thing as getting stronger.”

Throughout the book Rippetoe contrasts lifting for competition with lifting to build “general strength.” He uses the term “general strength” five times throughout his book to because his advice is targetted for people training to become generally strong, not to win powerlifting or weightlifting meets.

For example, he advises against the wider grip bench press, which often allows a lifter to move more weight:

“A wider grip shortens the range of motion excessively and takes out too much tricep, as well as producing a longer moment arm between the hand and the shoulder joint. Heavier weights can be benched with a wide grip since the bar doesn’t have to move as far.”

So, the goal of strength training is to improve the “physical ability to generate force against an external resistance,” not to lift the most weight in specific exercises. In other words, the goal of strength training is to generally improve the capacity to generate force against external resistance.

The goal of CrossFit is to generally improve the capacity to do work. The workouts are specifically designed to target the broad range of time domains and involve a wide variety of functional movements, without favoring or excluding any. They are not “random.”

So, why would Rippetoe, with his experience in the CrossFit community, overlook these facts?

It’s hard to get mainstream attention telling people that CrossFit is effective fitness training. They already know.

(links are work and family safe)

Pearse Shields 01-21-2014 06:31 PM

Re: Did Rippetoe get CrossFit right?
"With CrossFit, you aren't exercising for a goal; exercising is the goal".

Blair Robert Lowe 01-21-2014 06:37 PM

Re: Did Rippetoe get CrossFit right?
Rip was never particulary impressed by CF, Russ. Old news and most of his articles that get posted on Tnation tend to support this diatribe.

Matt Thomas 01-21-2014 06:40 PM

Re: Did Rippetoe get CrossFit right?
Does any of this matter? It's well known Mark Rippetoe has differences with CF and this is kind of preaching to the choir.

I have my own thoughts on whether or not CF is considered training, but I don't know if I'm prepared to type that much right now. HA.

Russell Greene 01-21-2014 06:57 PM

Re: Did Rippetoe get CrossFit right?
I should mention that the Rippetoe and Kilgore fitness definition I cited was from 2006, before CrossFit taught that fitness is defined as "work capacity measured across broad time and modal domains."

Rippetoe still uses it, but I am not sure what Dr. Kilgore's current position is.

Robert Fabsik 01-21-2014 07:30 PM

Re: Did Rippetoe get CrossFit right?
If programming is random then I would have some agreement with Rip.

If programming is constantly varied but still planned in a way to generate adaptation, then I would disagree in regards to labeling CrossFit that way.

Hence some boxes randomly program (metcon mills) and others have a plan--some very structured and others highly variable but structured in a way that you can't see it in a weeks' programming.

Many would argue CF Main Page is Random, not constantly varied with a plan in mind. Of course, planning a general fitness program for the masses with multiple needs and goals causes some difficulties in firmly structuring the plan.

Pearse Shields 01-21-2014 07:47 PM

Re: Did Rippetoe get CrossFit right?
I really don't see the point to this thread. If you're hoping to get people to look at CrossFit as training instead of exercise, perhaps the CrossFit forum is not the best place to start. There may be some people with slightly biased opinions.

Russell Greene 01-21-2014 07:48 PM

Re: Did Rippetoe get CrossFit right?

Where is a better place to discuss the purpose of CrossFit, than the CrossFit discussion board?

What could be more relevant?

Douglas Chapman 01-21-2014 08:43 PM

Re: Did Rippetoe get CrossFit right?
Is this the rebirth of the message board?

Good call Russ.

Planned variance to stimulate broad adaptation which is tested and verified every July. Maximizing GPP as a method of developing good health over a lifetime. Sounds like a plan.

Prove your programming. See everyone in July.


Pearse Shields 01-21-2014 09:49 PM

Re: Did Rippetoe get CrossFit right?

Originally Posted by Russell Greene (Post 1215603)

Where is a better place to discuss the purpose of CrossFit, than the CrossFit discussion board?

What could be more relevant?

Your piece seems like a persuasive article written to try influence the opinions of those who don't actually think that much of CrossFit as it stands, and are more inclined to take opinions of those such as Rippetoe and other T-Nation writers at face value.

As such, the value of it may be somewhat lost here.

"Preaching to the choir", if you will.

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