We were all told it wouldn’t work.  CrossFit programming is too random to produce results.  Exercise scientists and critics of CrossFit have said this from the start.  And yet, it does work.  You can’t argue with results.  Now they’re left baffled as to why.

First off, it’s not random.  CrossFit programming is constantly varied but never random.  There is a difference.  Up close, the casual observer can be forgiven for not seeing the patterns in the programming but those of us doing it every day are well aware of the macro and micro cycles head quarters is imposing upon us and the adaptations that they are producing.  We’re training for cardio vascular respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, speed, power, agility, accuracy, balance and coordination.  This is a tall order and workouts will vary so that nothing is missed.  The way we switch from a strength day to an endurance day to a gymnastics day in a given week may read like a lot of unrelated noise but when you step back and look at weeks of programming you can see all three domains being systematically programmed.

But how can I get better at x if I don’t train it regularly?

To begin, let’s all agree that the most efficient way to develop strength is to work only on strength and the best way to become a better runner is to train running exclusively.  If those are your specific goals then CrossFit will not get you there faster.  Training those things in isolation will produce the best results but you will sacrifice capacity in all the other domains and increase your incidence of over use injury.  In CrossFit we are training for broad general adaptations across all domains and this very variety keeps us healthy and balanced.  But how will you improve?

Before CrossFit I did bench press twice a week in the gym.  For years my bench press was stuck at 225lbs.  Then I started CrossFitting and rarely saw the bench press more than a few times per year.  I expected to see a steep decline but instead hit a new all time high of 265lbs!  How is this possible?

In CrossFit we do not train isolation movements, we utilize universal motor recruitment patterns.  These are biomechanical movement patterns everyone uses every day.  They are common to us all and required by everyone who wishes to live independently.  We don’t practice bicep curls because you don’t use your biceps in isolation in the real world.  In the real world your biceps are part of a kinetic chain that includes the muscles in your shoulders, yours lats and more.  So will your biceps atrophy doing CrossFit?  No.  Your biceps will be involved in every pull up or rope climb or any other pulling movement you perform.

When Olympian Will Dean comes in to coach rowing, he teaches us the same foot position and leg and hip activation that Olympic Weightlifting Gold Medalist Christine Girard teaches us for the first pull in the clean.  The sports of Rowing and Weightlifting may seem unrelated but they both utilize universal motor recruitment patterns.  The skills you learn are transferable to all human movement.

Push ups, handstand push ups, ring dips, shoulder presses, push presses, push jerks, all of these movements contributed to strengthening the same muscles I would need to recruit in the bench press.  The variety of movements strengthened weaker muscles that, previously ignored, had held back my bench press.

It is one of the exciting and magical CrossFit experiences that we all relish, the fact that a skill we haven’t trained recently quite suddenly improves.  The science of human movement is fascinating and it is endlessly surprising how it all connects!  CrossFit has turned the sports sciences on their head.  Despite expectations to the contrary, it really works, and better than anything that has come before.  The magic is in the movements:)