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Old 02-23-2003, 09:52 AM   #12
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Join Date: Aug 2003
 
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Thanks Tyler,

The outpouring of support for our program after Siff’s critique has been amazing. If this is the kind of response CrossFit will receive taking on hallowed “exercise scientists” than rather than you being sorry, Tyler, I should pay you to gunsling for our cause.

Which brings me to, what is for me, the most important part of the interview and Siff’s response (or lack thereof). In the interview I said: “We’ve repeatedly and publicly challenged the exercise science community to name a single major contribution to sport coming from their ranks – steroids don’t count!” To which he offered not one peep, and I know why!

On “conjugate training”: our experience strongly suggests that training for one quality while putting others “on the back burner” then shuffling foci and expecting a superior total, final, result doesn’t work as well as keeping every parameter active and challenged.

Mel’s criticisms of CrossFit seem to be to me, and to many of you who emailed me, largely that CrossFit is neither Russian nor “Supertraining.” I will not and cannot take it on faith that because the Russians did it that it has value, worked, really happened, or anything else.

As for Supertraining, the number of athletes and coaches who read Supertraining (I tried) and came away with nothing, is huge. The supremacy of Russian methods, sports science, and athletic supremacy has all the legitimacy of the high carb/low fat diet. Dan John is an expert on this exact subject of Russian methodology and his tales are very illuminating. I hope he’ll chime in here and share some of what he shared with me about the Russian approach and successes – he’s dead on.

I watched up close and personally a bunch of kids and a few coaches largely centered in L.A. and with moderate resources, compared to the Soviets, snatch Gymnastics dominancy from the Soviets in one ten year push. The Soviets were crushed. The American response was, amazingly, to formally and systematically eradicate high school and collegiate gymnastics programs nationwide and now the Russian method is once again demonstrating its superiority. Yeah, right. Where we focus, we try, we care, we dominate and that, still, to this very moment, trumps, Siff, Verkhoshansky, “Conjugate Training”, and exercise science.

Here is the essence of the Russian system: enslave several hundred million people deny them any avenue of escape other than being participants to the enslavement or athletic performance. Build sports training centers in every little town and village and stand back. It had nothing to do with science. If you think I’m wrong, again, get Dan John going on this subject.

On speed: I was told that the toes of a gymnast on the Horizontal Bar during the last few giant swings prior to a dismount were moving during “the tap” at some ungodly speed that made a baseball pitchers fast ball look like it was standing still. I’m going to tell you that gymnasts are slow. I was referring to useful speed, and yes, Tyler, hip speed in particular and it’s transference to useful, i.e., athletic movements.

We’ve had professional basketball players, an Olympic Javelin thrower, two current Major League Baseball players, BJJ champions, NHB and MMA champions and countless others comeback amazed at their improved speed (and power) and put the credit smack dab on the O’lifts. Siff mentions baseball, here is what the pro baseball pitcher said, “Dude I’m throwing BB’s I can’t believe it – I love you.” When asked if it was the C&J and Snatch, his laugh and face made it clear there was nothing to talk about. I don’t think it was the wall-ball, or the muscle-up, I think it’s the quick lifts. The reversal of hip direction, explode in – explode out, trains for spooky speed.

Tyler, I thought Siff’s observation that “the movements in weightlifting are by no means as fast as those in table tennis, badminton, baseball pitching or any throwing or striking action and in many cases the most competent performers in these activities have not all trained with the Olympic lifts” had to be a deliberate bit of disingenuousness offered only to be contentious, that is solely intended to offer disapproval of CrossFit because the observation is so wide of the mark logically (my contention is that the quick lifts improved speed dramatically not that they were the fastest thing on earth – why didn’t he include snapping your fingers, that’s even faster), so incredibly missed the essence of what largely generates speed in the examples he sites (hip power), is amazingly blind to the easy, yet painful, observation and undeniable fact that many elite athletes in many sports have yet to be introduced to effective S&C (tennis, golf, badminton, baseball,…), and suggests he’s spent too much time in the classroom and not enough on the field for suggesting that throwers don’t O’lift, that if he isn’t just being an ******* (look at his insistence on “Glassman”, not “Mr. Glassman”, “Coach Glassman”, or even “Greg”, picking on my spelling – count the “sics”, and he apparently doesn’t know the word “contrarian” and the difference between “regime” and “regimen”, and the general tone with me and everyone else he encounters, oh…and the bald faced lying about his diet) he is some combination of stupid and completely out of touch with athletic training.

Which brings me back to “name one contribution exercise science has made to sport performance.” Just one! This is what infuriates Siff, not CrossFit, but his irrelevance to those of us who either perform or have dedicated our lives to helping those who perform – the athletes and coaches.

On stretching: I am not a stretching expert. I can’t keep up with the stretching theories. I’m even having trouble grasping and accepting the differentiations being commonly offered between competing manners of flexibility. I’ve read – O.K., skimmed thoroughly - several of the stretching books touted in training circles and still don’t know what to make of it all. This could all be my shortcoming. I am by choice, by design, by professional standard and philosophical temperament (skeptical), the last to accept new techniques not the first.

But, let me give you some background on stretching and yours truly. I came up in the company of super-elite gymnasts. Not once did I in over a decade of sitting in the company of the world’s best gymnasts and coaches for six hours a day six days a week ever here anyone discuss how it was that you became flexible or how you stretched. Maybe we did it wrong but to this day I’ve not seen any athlete or yogi approximate the flexibility that even ten year old little female gymnasts developed on their own, uncoached, and yes without benefit of modern theory. I recently was invited to attend a local performance of a traveling yoga troupe. My intention was to hire as stretching coach the troupes lead for a contract we’d won with a yachting syndicate. Yoga is so popular in Santa Cruz and among the members of this particular yachting syndicate that I thought it would be cool to hire a yogi for this crew. What I was most impressed with was the lack of strength and balance, coordination and control of the entire troupe and, yes, believe it or not the lack of flexibility in the participants. I’ll give here one example, but saw dozens. Several times, too many times, I watched as the yogis transitioned from sitting upright, legs in front and together, by swinging the legs laterally toward the split and, “ooops”, lifted the hips to allow the legs to swing back together leaving the performer now face down legs together lying straight. There’s but one reason for the intermediate transition move of lifted hips, inadequate hip flexibility.

Hold on, now, I think yoga’s fine. It is a formalized somewhat systematic approach to improve flexibility and has captured the imagination and attention of hundreds of thousands. This is good, very good. But yoga, and other stretching protocols don’t muster up to the flexibility that gymnasts develop without ever giving it a thought. Try a back flip into splits to give but one example and to convince yourself, which is by the way a low difficulty/value floor exercise movement.

Bob Anderson? Cheap, effective, honest, self-published, simple. Good enough. Again, Siff’s *****, is, I suspect, that Bob doesn’t give his stretching a really cool sounding scientific name like, how about, “proaxonal myofacilitated stretching” (PMS!), doesn’t have a PhD, and isn’t Soviet. (What’s with the South Africans and the Soviets anyway?)

It’s important to realize that I’m not necessarily advocating a gymnasts degree of flexibility. The point was that they are peerless in this capacity and don’t know about all the cool scientific theories. I strongly suspect that super-flexibility may confer an increased likelihood of ligamental injury in sport performance. I actually witnessed an experiment to bring gymnast like flexibility to a D1 football program and we witnessed exactly that, increased ligament injury, but man, were these guys flexible. There is it seems a balance or tradeoff between tendon and ligament risk with increased flexibility.

Finally, the “mental, physical and spiritual qualities”: did I see this right or did he chide me for including medical considerations, and mentioned the inappropriateness of “evolutionary” considerations (a clear slap at De Vany – his sin is being an economist and having the audacity to contribute substantially - for which I beamed in that he saw the connection, I’ve made no mention of it!) in defining fitness and then by harangues end chides me for not including transcendental meditation, astral projection or some other spiritual bull-**** in my program? All I can do is shake my head.

Let me offer this: I’ve published on my profound belief that the greatest benefit derived from athletic training is not the physical but the psychological, that the greatest aspect of fitness is learning from the physical domain that you can become, can do, anything you want through dedication and commitment. The physical domain is actually, in my belief, the easiest place to begin a journey of self-mastery and from that example we can develop greater more important realms of self-control, accomplishment, and mastery. I’ve called this phenomenon the “transference effect” I’m known to regale, some say endlessly, coaches and athletes with examples personal and public of this most wonderful aspect of fitness.

Oh, by the way, Dr. Mel Siff is one of my favorite exercise physiologists and I recommend that everyone read his Facts and Fallacies of Fitness. It is a breath of fresh air in a world dominated largely by fitness superstition.
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