CrossFit and Baseball: The Two Don’t Mix

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Some things are just made to complement one another.

Will & Grace

He-Man and BattleCat

Boston & Red Sox

Peanut butter & jelly, peanut butter & chocolate, peanut butter & well, pretty much anything.

Hint: I really like peanut butter.

It goes without saying we could fill an infinite abyss of “synergistic” pairings that play off one another, of which one component helps to enhance or harmonize the effectiveness of the other.

One pairing that doesn’t belong on that list is CrossFit and baseball.

We work with a crap ton (just a shade under a boat load) of baseball players and one of the more common themes or questions we receive on a weekly (if not daily) basis is our opinion on CrossFit.

It seems you can’t walk more than 20 yards nowadays without crossing paths with a CrossFit gym – or someone bragging about their Paleo lifestyle.  And, for better or worse (mostly better, it’s hard to dismiss anything which gets people excited to grab a barbell), it’s abundantly clear it’s been tattooed into our popular culture.

As such, many people – athletes in particular – are curious about its merits.

CrossFit is a great fit for a small percentage of people, an okay fit for a slightly larger percentage, and an absolute ball of walking fail for an even larger percentage.

Baseball players fall into the latter category and in my latest article for Stack.com I explain why.

Is CrossFit a Good ‘Fit” for Baseball Players? (<—- Spoiler Alert:  No.)

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  • Sportsmomia

    I’m raising 3 elite athletes, baseball and swimmers, and their training has to be completely different. Training, even for baseball players, has to be different depending on their position. The functionality of a football player, sprinter, or distance swimmer isn’t the same as those in baseball. What a catcher or third baseman needs to excel in doing, how they move, what strength they need, also is very different than a pitcher. A pitcher need whip-like flexibility in their strength, not bulk. In fact, bulk will kill a pitcher’s motion and speed. Position players need agility and speed on the bottom, strength and flexibility up top. It’s more about tearing apart an athletes functional need and building strength and conditioning around those needs. While Crossfit appears to build general strength…it’s not specific and functional for baseball players. Functional movement is much smarter.

    • TonyGentilcore

      We’ve had athletes put on 25 lbs of “bulk” in the off-season and still managed to maintain their flexibility and ROM. I don’t see adding muscle as a deterrent in (baseball) performance.

  • John J Brooks

    what I come back to with crossfit is: it’s become it’s own sport. Competing in a second sport is not going to be nearly as beneficial for a specialist as a specific, targeted, progressive, S&C program.

  • http://www.powerathlete.net Paul Manfre

    Tony are you saying his speed, crappy form “ground to overhead anyway you want to” movements, or kipping pull ups and complete lack of periodization don’t work for baseball or any other sport for that matter – shocking! :)

  • http://misfitathletics.com Drew Crandall

    Very excited to write a rebuttal. These generalizations could be used in a game of mad libs for most topics in the S&C community.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Generalizations? Where did I “generalize” anything? You take a sport which sacrifices stability for more mobility and then toss in a bunch of exercises which elicit a ton of joint distraction forces for high reps…..something is bound to “give” or break down at some point.

      I wasn’t dissing CrossFit as a whole. I’ve actually written several articles on why I LIKE CrossFit. I just don’t feel it’s a wise choice to the bulk of baseball players out there. Especially ones who have several million dollars on the line.

      • http://misfitathletics.com Drew Crandall

        The generalizations I’m referring to were reiterated in your response. Why is CrossFit reduced to “performing high-rep snatches and kipping pull-ups”?

        Response: http://t.co/Fv02702RyF

        • TonyGentilcore

          Okay, fair enough on all your assertions. And clearly the article I wrote wasn’t written with YOU in mind. I applaud – wholeheartedly – that you actually take the time to assess your athletes and provide some semblance of structure with them.

          You’re the exception to the rule and weren’t the target audience of the piece.

          I actually DO have experience with CrossFit. I train at one twice a week – albeit in an open gym format. I have several friends who own and run CrossFit affiliates, and they do very well.

          So I feel I do have some perspective.

          I understand that not all CF affiliates have their athletes perform high-rep snatched and kipping pull-ups, and I assume you’re not one of them. Again, I applaud you.

          But don’t you feel there is “some” merit to “some” of the backlash towards CrossFit? For those affiliates who DON’T assess their athletes. Who DON’T progress clients. Who DON’T use the “ramp up” approach? Who DON’T take into consideration lack of shoulder flexion and how that affects upward rotation, and how that should be a red-flag for regress anything done overhead?

          How do you explain the countless affiliates who post training videos of their athletes doing god-awful technique? Are they not to be questioned or raised an eyebrow against?

          If you’re going to plaster CrossFit on the front of your building, you’re going to have to be willing – to some degree – to take the bad with the good.

          Again, I applaud the fact that you give a shit and I apologize if some of my remarks were off-putting. It certainly wasn’t my intention to offend YOU. If anything, the fact that NONE of what I referred to in the article applies to you and how you run YOUR affiliate should be a compliment. Actually, thank you!

          Keep up the great work.

          • OBoile

            I frequently find when discussing Crossfit there appears to be somewhat of a double standard. If something is bad, then you’ll hear “well, only some boxes do that (ours doesn’t) so that doesn’t really count”. If something is good you hear “this gets done at some boxes, so it totally counts!”.
            I’m sure much of that is typical human bias, but it can be quite frustrating in the case of Crossfit which doesn’t have a clear definition of what it actually is. On their message boards, one guy tried to suggest that if a Crossfitter hurt themselves doing squats, that shouldn’t count as a Crossfit injury but rather a PL injury.

          • TonyGentilcore

            Great point, and “kinda” what I was alluding to in my response.

          • Josh

            Crossfit is good and bad. What is good about crossfit? Everything that has nothing to do specifically with crossfit. What is bad? Everything that IS specifically crossfit. The good coaches who asses, use non-retarded programming and insist on reasonable form are simply using traditional strength and conditioning. I get that for many “crossfit” is primarily a marketing tool, but it’s high time that these good coaches admit to themselves and the world that they aren’t doing crossfit and stop feeding the corporate coffers of a company that knows nothing about strength and conditioning.

  • Darren Ellis

    Tony don’t you think it’s fair to say that this so called ‘backlash’ against CrossFit for the reasons you outline can be applied to the entire fitness industry? CrossFit is a victim of it’s own popularity – now people don’t tell their doctor/physio/chiro that they hurt their shoulder/back/knee at the gym, but at CrossFit. Health practitioner hears a new word and assumes all problems stem from there.

    Also, the issue with the lack of education? I have a masters degree in exercise physiology and I wrote a program for my first client in my first month of undergrad. I could have killed them!! :) I’m willing to bet you had a similar experience. Easy entry to fitness coaching is a ‘potential’ problem for the entire industry, not just CrossFit. And I say potential, because to use the old joke, What do you call a med student who scores 51% on their final exam? A doctor, ba dum ching! there are poor performers in every industry. Ok, maybe not astronauts, I bet they have to get at least 70%…….

    • TonyGentilcore

      No, no, it’s a fair point and I admit that I made some gross generalizations with “some” of my comments. Particularly the “low barrier to entry.

      That comment can EASILY be applied to the industry as a whole for sure. But that still doesn’t dismiss it as being an issue. One of CrossFits main “gigs” is OLY lifting – something which is HIGHLY technical and takes many people, many years to even call themselves mediocre.

      To say that all someone has to do is take a weekend course and then they’re teaching Molly the 5th grade teacher cleans by Monday is a bit daunting.

      But again, it IS a generalization and certainly doesn’t apply to all CrossFit affiliates or CrossFit coaches.