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Old 08-25-2011, 11:56 AM   #1
Jennifer Sumner
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Scientific Studies of CrossFit

Sending this out to the community to get some ideas for an opportunity that was sent our way. A local professor of Physical Education and Exercise Science was sent to our affiliate by a supporter of CrossFit at another local college. This professor recently published a review article on CrossFit for WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercis...rossfit-review (wfs).

His background and affiliations are traditional university lab based testing environment and ACSM and NSCA member and presenter. He is particularly interested in cardiovascular and metabolic response to acute and chronic exercise. He has approached us with an opportunity to be involved in new studies regarding CrossFit, led by him, with access to the testing equipment in his university lab. We meet with him today to discuss his ideas.

The opportunity to publish "scientific" studies highlighting the effectiveness of CrossFit's approach to fitness would be amazing. I know it works, my members know that it works, and the community knows it works. But knowing it works and proving that it works to the scientific world are two different things. My concern is to make sure the studies are meaningful and provide an accurate representation of CrossFit. Once these studies are published they will become a part of the volumes of scientific studies on WebMD and other peer reviewed publications. I am concerned that a misguided study or biased investigation would further poison the scientific literature and provide further obstacles to CrossFit's acceptance by the established fitness community and organizations.

What kinds of studies and tests do you guys think would highlight CrossFit's effectiveness versus other exercise and fitness routines? I would be interested in testing and documenting the neuro-endocrine response toughted by Glassman. Elevated levels of testoterone, IGFs, etc. and their impact on human fitness. Group A does CrossFit, Group B does "cardio" , Group C does a body-building weight lifting. Which group improves resting heart rate, body-fat composition, insulin sensitivity, lean muscle mass, increased strength, agility, coordination, etc. Anyone that does CrossFit knows the answer to this, but like I said proving it in a manner accepted by the establishment needs to be done.

Let me know what ideas you guys have.

Thanks community!
David Sumner
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Old 08-25-2011, 05:10 PM   #2
Lewis Dunn
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Re: Scientific Studies of CrossFit

Well, first of all, you should look up and understand the concept of "confirmation bias." The fact that you "know" that it works but just want to prove it pretty much prevents you from being part of any "scientific" study in this area.

Reread your post and ask yourself if you would trust the findings of a study designed by the author.
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Old 08-25-2011, 06:42 PM   #3
Katherine Derbyshire
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Re: Scientific Studies of CrossFit

What Lewis said. Better questions to ask:

* What does a representative Crossfit program look like? That's the program for your A group.

* What does a typical cardio program look like? That's your B group.

* And then a typical body-building-style program for the C group.

* You might also need a D group, which follows no organized program at all.

* How are you going to monitor diet? Ideally, you'd have sub-groups for a variety of diets, but that would make for a pretty large and expensive study. So how do you de-convolute the effects of diet from the effects of the exercise program?

* How about coaching? Do you provide on-ramp style coaching for Group A, or just turn them loose? Same for the other groups.

* What objective measures of fitness correlate with health? With athletic performance?

* How long would you expect it to take for people to see results?

* What population are you studying? Athletes? Overweight people? A group of sedentary, but otherwise healthy people? As with diet, it would be great to sample all of those groups, but that makes for a very expensive study.

* What are the risks? You can't experiment on humans without fully disclosing the risk of short-term or long-term harm. This ties back into program design for the Crossfit group, too.

Katherine
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Old 08-25-2011, 08:04 PM   #4
Mauricio Leal
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Re: Scientific Studies of CrossFit

Do it.

There will be a lot of naysaying about the rigor of the study. A lot of it is well placed, and you should take it into consideration, particularly with respect to what questions you hope the study can answer (and potentially confuse). But at the end of the day, any study that even begins to take a closer look at what CrossFit is and can do for everyday people will be at the very least a launching point for more, better studies. You have biases, the professor has biases (and, apparently, a strong appeal to authority, which CrossFit pretty much spits in the face of in the relevant fields). There are already plenty of health and medical professionals who have written disparaging things about CrossFit, so it's not like any of that will matter all that much.

You have perhaps the unique opportunity to dispel a lot of the myths by demonstrating how good affiliates deal with a lot of the common risks/concerns centered around out of shape folks taking up an intense exercise program. It isn't rocket science, but good coaching in all disciplines is so sparse that to watch a good coach/affiliate function is an amazing sight to behold. That alone makes it worth it in my opinion, as long as you emphasize scaling and not the badassery of Hero/Games WODs.

Amongst the metrics I would stick to fitness-based ones, and maybe BF% and physical dimensions. If you start looking at internal metrics diet and lifestyle become huge factors and severely complicate matters (not to mention the ongoing Diet Wars that will cloud the interpretations). And if you're going to do a measure of strength and/or fitness in the study, please fergawdsakes make sure it is comprised of actual functional movements, preferably simple, easily measurable ones, like a box squat, or a 400-800m run.
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Last edited by Mauricio Leal : 08-25-2011 at 08:14 PM.
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Old 08-25-2011, 08:09 PM   #5
Jennifer Sumner
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Re: Scientific Studies of CrossFit

The first study we will undertake is a standard profile performed at their lab. They are going to do a complete profile of the participants. Body fat percentage (caliper and body scan), resting heart rate and blood pressure, cholesterol and then do a 15 minute Vo2Max test on a treadmill. The second part will be performing a CrossFit workout wearing a mobile testing unit that will measure heart rate, oxygen consumption, and other vitals while performing Fight Gone Bad. Fight Gone Bad is on our list of workouts because it has a fixed time domain close to the fifteen minute treadmill test. It includes body weight, weightlifting, and monostructural movements and is also a typical CrossFit workout.

I will be the first rat through the maze. Then we will pick a group of 10 experienced CrossFitters from our gym to undergo the same testing. This will be a very basic experiment with one variable, the type of workout. Running on the treadmill compared to a CrossFit workout to profile the demands of each type of exercise.

A longer running experiment would likely last two to three months beginning with a general population completing a three week foundations program followed by CrossFit training for the remainder of the test period. Not sure if we will be able to prescribe diet for the participants. In Alabama that requires a registered dietician and most of those follow the USDA and ADA guidelines for nutrition and have not heard of Zone or Paleo. Personal trainers are not legally allowed to provide nutritional consultation. Perhaps we can find an enlightened dietician to assist us with this part of the study. It would be nice to test diet in combination with a CrossFit routine given a large enough group of participants. We may have access to a large group of college age students.

Katherine, those are all valid questions we will have to answer or address.

-David
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Old 08-25-2011, 08:29 PM   #6
Tom McFarlane
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Re: Scientific Studies of CrossFit

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jennifer Sumner View Post
Group A does CrossFit, Group B does "cardio" , Group C does a body-building weight lifting. Which group improves resting heart rate, body-fat composition, insulin sensitivity, lean muscle mass, increased strength, agility, coordination, etc.
Would you please clarify one thing.

It sound like the cardio group would not be doing any kind of resistance training, and the weight lifting group would not be doing any kind of cardio.

If this is true, then I don't think you are really testing what you want to test (is crossfitting better than other training), instead you are just testing whether combining cardio and resistance training is better than doing just one or the other alone.
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Old 08-25-2011, 08:31 PM   #7
Tom McFarlane
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Re: Scientific Studies of CrossFit

Quote:
Originally Posted by Katherine Derbyshire View Post
* What does a representative Crossfit program look like? That's the program for your A group.
Why not use mainsite? I know that there is sometimes an issue about what "is" crossfit, and are affiliates actually crossfitting, but there is no denying that mainsite definitely is.
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Old 08-25-2011, 08:59 PM   #8
Katherine Derbyshire
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Re: Scientific Studies of CrossFit

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Originally Posted by Tom McFarlane View Post
Why not use mainsite? I know that there is sometimes an issue about what "is" crossfit, and are affiliates actually crossfitting, but there is no denying that mainsite definitely is.
I would expect that most people in a random population would be unable to do mainsite workouts as RXed. Scaled mainsite is certainly a legitimate option, although that raises the question of coaching to set the scaling.

I don't want to get into the "what is Crossfit?" debate again here, just pointing out that the study needs to have a clear program for participants.

Katherine
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Old 08-27-2011, 09:57 AM   #9
Foster Karcha
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Re: Scientific Studies of CrossFit

Thanks for that initial post Katherine, you definitely espoused some of my concerns regarding scientific study of CrossFit specifically, and exercise generally.

Jennifer, you mention some concerns with the advice that an RD might provide, which may be valid. However, if you keep diet constant, regardless of type, should still give your clearer results, than avoiding diet control because you can't have the type you want. In fact, following USDA guidelines would probably make your research more applicable to the general population.
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Old 08-27-2011, 01:09 PM   #10
Jennifer Sumner
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Re: Scientific Studies of CrossFit

Foster,
That is true. It would be nice to have one group follow USDA guidelines, another group follow Zone, another group Paleo. The debate within CrossFit about which nutrition program is better, Zone or Paleo, both or neither all have their camp of faithful followers.

Tom,
Most of the studies focus on exercise that increases aerobic fitness (or "cardio") and studies that focus on anaerobic/strength. If an individual had a physical assessment including their aerobic and anaerobic fitness tested by means of Vo2Max testing and muscle endurance/strength testing respectively and then again after a few months of following one of three programs:
1) cardio (30+ minutes of running, elliptical, etc.)
2) bodybuilding strength training
3) CrossFit

It might produce a scientific study with evidence that CrossFit improves both simultaneously, while option 1 and 2 increase one while doing nothing or possibly decreasing the other. That is what most CrossFitters would expect, but a scientific study of this or a similar scenario would provide evidence to those that require it before they will accept it. As a result maybe more doctors and therapists will prescribe CrossFit to their patients, instead of cardio and/or resistance training in a less effective combination.

-David Sumner
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