Is CrossFit a Fad?

This Post is republished from John Filippini is our Barbell Club coach here at TTCF, and his insight into the sport of Weightlifting, and its complex relationship with CrossFit is highly valuable.

Weightlifting in the United States is currently going through a massive growth phase, largely thanks to the popularity of CrossFit – a phenomenon that (love it or hate it) has completely revolutionized the fitness and sport industries in its 15 year history.

But will it last? Is this simply another short golden age before weightlifting fades into the background again in American culture? Will CrossFit’s hotly debated injury rate cause it to implode?

It’s a complex question to ask and clearly no one has the answers, but I feel like a proper understanding of this requires awareness of the differences between sport athletes and weekend warrior fitness enthusiasts. Keeping the sport from fading away again has more to do with successfully nurturing the SPORT, rather than the trends in how weekend warriors choose to train.

(Before going too much further, special thanks to John Flagg with East Coast Gold Weightlifting for sparking the idea for this article in my head!)

CrossFit has come under a lot of scrutiny regarding potential injury rates. This article is NOT about debating whether or not there’s grounds to that. Just like any other category of training you can think of however, there are coaches that successfully avoid injury for their clients, there are coaches that are coaches that are too foolish or inexperienced to avoid it, and there are good coaches that occasionally get stuck with clients that will push beyond recommendations no matter what. If you push hard enough for a training methodology that always avoids all injury, I bet you’ll also find a methodology that isn’t that effective.

CrossFit comes under fire for this partially because they took a stand on a major value of theirs – libertarianism. There is no doubt that they have seriously stuck to their guns there over the long haul. CrossFit training is an open source model – at the local level anything goes. There have been injuries along the way, gyms that have failed, and unqualified coaches (depending on your point of view). But it’s also left room for a VAST amount of innovation in the fitness industry.

Ah, but this is the training, the average Joes/Janes and the weekend warriors. What about the sport – The CrossFit Games?

Here you see a lot more regulation from the top. Sponsorship, promotion, advancement opportunities, quality control of officials. And by the time an athlete gets to the finals of the Games (likely even the Regionals) – they are without a doubt ready to be there.

Interestingly however, there’s still an element of open source at the grassroots level with the CF Open. This is first and foremost a recruiting tool, quality control and retention come second. They make it excessively easy to convert new people from average gym goers to first time competitors.

Keeping a sport from fading away has more to do with grassroots efforts to convert talent at the local level from weekend warriors to competitors. CrossFit definitely has its injuries just as all sports do, but the sport itself has fantastic recruiting tools, fantastic retention incentives, and fantastic showcasing of the best talent to restart the cycle. That sport isn’t dying out anytime soon, though the training program’s place in general population fitness will no doubt evolve (as it is already beginning to).

My prediction is that the CrossFit brand (as we historically know it) is shifting from training methodology to sport – boosted by their smart decision to make the grassroots level completely open source. I would predict that “CrossFit” for average people will continue to evolve and look different to avoid the ebb and flow, while the sport becomes more and more of what it already is.

The CF gyms of today train people differently than the CF gyms of 8 years ago, and the CF gyms of 3 years from now will change even more. But the CrossFit Games? Those are here to stay, with just enough change to keep things interesting.

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