Who’s Got The Ball?
People blame CrossFit for everything: injury, loss of gains, excessive selfie-taking, annoying conversations, and chronic Kool-Aid drinking.
But there are just as many bodybuilders, bikini competitors, yogis, foodies, and joggers taking selfies, being cliquish, and acting douchey.
As for injuries? CrossFit simply got more people involved in exercise. Injuries mainly went up because participation went up.
Open up 15,000 new powerlifting gyms, make the general public actually want to do it, and you’d see about the same thing.
If you’re a critic of CrossFit, then you’re a sign of its success. People will only try to tackle the guy carrying the ball.
Well, CrossFit has the ball. And you suck at tackling.
The Limits of Hypertrophy
I started lifting in high school. We learned the power clean, squat, row, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press. I quit the marching band to take extra weight training classes.
Then I did extracurricular bodybuilding, where I learned about body part splits, high-rep training, isolation work, drop sets, super sets, forced reps, slow eccentrics, partials, the mind-muscle connection, and time under tension — methods of hypertrophy that bodybuilders use.
Bodybuilding transformed my pudgy teenage figure. So it’s been the style of training I’ve kept coming back to ever since. And I scored a few first place trophies as a teen bodybuilder and a couple more in figure recently.
But it’s been incomplete. Something was just… missing. And I’m finally facing it.
A Change of Pace
CrossFit piqued my curiosity a few years ago, but I never got started because I didn’t want to invest the time learning new techniques when all I was after was a challenge and a particular look.
But I finally got fed up — fed up with chasing one objective, with body part splits, and with not knowing how to do more technical stuff.
So I visited a CrossFit facility and enjoyed it. No, I didn’t “drink the Kool-Aid” and neither had the people there. It was filled with other lifters — some of them bodybuilding refugees — looking for a different scene.
They weren’t the walking stereotypes everyone loves to bitch about. In fact, there was a lot less narcissism than I’d ever seen in any commercial gym.
There were no selfie-takers, there weren’t even mirrors, and nobody was talking about their cellulite, gluteal fold, or biceps peak. It was kind of refreshing.
There was no advocacy of poor form, either. My coach, Loree Thornton, is an Olympian who competes in the NPGL. Her teammate? Dmitry Klokov. Not exactly softcore.
The weird part is, when I attend a CrossFit workout, it looks like I ought to be able to lift a lot of weight. But I can’t.
It looks like I ought to be competent with technique. But I’m not.
And when a coach says, “Add more plates to that bar! It’s too easy for you!” I have to explain how I’m literally not strong or skilled enough to get my shit together the way they think I should.
It’s like being a beginner again. And I’m okay it. Why? Because CrossFitters are pretty nice people and I’m making pretty fast progress.
Bodybuilding made me look athletic, but it didn’t quite turn me into an athlete.
I’ve always said, pretty muscles aren’t weak muscles and building them isn’t for the weak minded. That’s still true. There’s a lot of pain and discipline required to hypertrophy your muscles and make them aesthetically pleasing.
But chasing that goal and continuously using slow and controlled movements may be exactly what’s making it difficult for me to powerfully snap a bar off the ground and get it over my head.
Moving explosively is like learning a foreign language. And it’s sobering to see girls smaller than me using 50 pounds more on their bars.
Face Weakness, Kill Weakness
What are your weaknesses? If you’re all about one style of training, then your weakness is the opposite of whatever you’ve been doing. It’s what you’ve been avoiding all these years.
Dave Tate once said, “If you’re not pushing the envelope and trying new things, you really aren’t trying that hard.”
Maybe it seems like a waste of time to try something new. Maybe changing goals isn’t something you even care about. Or maybe you’re secretly afraid to be the suckiest person in the room.
But it’s worth it. Sacrifice your ego to make more progress.
That doesn’t mean you should flit from one form of exercise to the next, never mastering anything. That means you should get good at some new stuff. Then get good at some more new stuff. Go beyond beginner status.
I’m not done training like a bodybuilder. Why would I be? Why would anyone be? Having conspicuous muscle mass is pretty damn cool. I can’t relate to those who don’t want it.
But now I’ve got more tools in the toolbox. More things to play with. More challenges. More mettle. More teachers. More peers. More things to learn. More ways to suck.
My body has been a lie. I don’t just want to look athletic. I want to be athletic and feel athletic and rip a bar off the ground with a lot of weight and a lot of confidence. As a side effect, I’ll build better delts and traps than I ever did with bodybuilding.
Face your greatest weaknesses. You might gather some critics, but who cares? At least you’ll have the ball.