Friday, December 5, 2014

Crossfit < Functional Multi-Purpose Exercises

   Everyone who does Crossfit, loves crossfit. It's all they talk about. Almost any exercise science professional, strength coach, personal trainer, or biomechanist will also have a strong opinion about it; it's dangerous. So you're torn and don't know what to do? I'm here to help.
   The basics of Crossfit are to lift as heavy as you can, as fast as you can. I personally don't see a need to complete a ton of 200 lb. deadlifts in a matter of moments. Your spine doesn't see a need for this either. While it does increase strength and overall fitness, it's also breaking down a lot too and the risk for injury is extremely high. Don't believe me? Look at your Crossfitting friends; covered in bruises or bloodied hands. Watch the Crossfit Games; everyone is wrapped in Kinesiotape. Kinesiotape is not a fashion statement. Look at their form; it's usually terrible. And my last argument against Crossfit; is anyone actually getting any better looking?! Let's be honest, most people exercise not only to be healthy, but because they like the way it makes them look and feel. I've seen many friends join the Crossfit craze, and if they're lucky enough to not become injured, I'm not noticing any weight loss. So you can lift 150 pounds over your head, awesome. But I still see that spare tire under your shirt. There's a lot to losing weight, more than just exercising, but if you're hitting the Crossfit gym every day, you should be seeing some weight loss. In my personal experience, coupled with what I've learned over the years being an exercise science major at Towson University, Crossfit is an injury waiting to happen. You also have to watch out for Rhabdomyolsis; which is where you break down your muscles to the point they start to poison you. I'm definitely not joking when I say Rhabdo can kill you.
   Now to be fair, not all Crossfit people are the devils. Most Crossfit gyms don't teach proper form first, and there lies the biggest problem. If you are an experienced exerciser, try it out, see if you like it. My guess is you might like the structure and the high calorie burn, but not much else.
The picture that inspired the blog. Exercise shouldn't cause this much damage.

   So what should you do? Functional or multi purpose or neuromuscular training. They're all the same thing, just with multiple names. Functional exercises is working out for real life situations. So while your Crossfit friend can deadlift 200 pounds, do they even really need to be able to do that on a day to day basis? Think of it this way... have you ever tried to get a 25 pound toddler out of carseat from a two door car? It's a damn challenge. Functional training makes tasks like that, easier. Functional training teaches your muscles to work together rather than isolated, as you might train them in the gym. You can curl all day, but can you pick a box up and put it onto a high shelf without any trouble?
   In functional fitness, you're not using a machine to do any of the work for you. It's not bracing your back or core while you sit in a seat or creating a perfect lever-system world. It uses your own body weight a lot, and your balance. You'd be surprised how sometimes just your body weight is too much. For example, can you do a one-legged squat? If you're thinking you'll never be in that situation in real life, think again. While I hope none of you experience a lower extremity injury, I recently had ACL surgery (that I tore not doing anything exercise related! It was a complete freak accident involving a piggy back ride) and I can't tell you how many times I've had to do a one-legged squat motion because my left leg is all but dragging around uselessly.
   Another perk to functional exercises; they challenge the brain a lot more. The harder you work your brain, the healthier it stays. It's been medically proven. Form is of course important in functional exercises too, and while you don't do much high intensity and you don't train to fail, you still get a great workout. I started doing functional training last summer and not only did I burn 800+ calories in under an hour, but I got a full body workout. Everything was a little sore, but few times was I so sore that I couldn't function (pun intended!) or use that body part. Functional training has now been added into ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) as a recommendation to do at least twice a week. Does ACSM endorse Crossfit? Nope. I could go on for hours debating the two but none of us have time to exercise, let alone read that never-ending article.
   Before you start any exercise program, you should do your research, and talk to your doctor. Everyone has their own opinions so get as many as you can. Find what works best for you, and start down the lifestyle path to health in the best way possible.

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