Why CrossFit Doesn’t Make an Elite Athlete

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Note From TG: I apologize in advance for the “click-bait” nature of this article.1 I have to assume that, based off the title, many of you have travelled a long distance across the internet to read what follows.


I hope you stick around. This is a guest post from strength coach, Travis Hansen. Do I agree with every word? No. Do I feel he brings up many valid points? Absolutely.

And on that note, happy reading. 

Without a shadow of a doubt, the question that I get asked more than any other as a coach, goes something like this: “Is your training style like CrossFit?”

Rather than get upset or start verbally bashing CrossFit like many do, I just simply inform the person that our training system is different in that it’s “athletic based” and CrossFit simply is not. But wait, Crossfitters are tremendous athletes right?

Unfortunately, they aren’t and by the end of this article you will know exactly why.

20110925 - crossfit fitness woman push ups pushup exercise and man weight lifting

Copyright: tonobalaguer / 123RF Stock Photo

Now if you have an extreme bias and preconceived notion regarding the CrossFit training philosophy, please try to stay objective and hear me out. I promise to stay completely objective even though it may come off harsh, and I will provide you with the facts for why we can’t and shouldn’t refer to Crossfitters as great athletes.

Athletic = CrossFit?

Lets begin with the actual definition of being athletic. What does it mean, who has it, and who doesn’t? Automatically, it is safe to say that we would associate this term with people like Calvin Johnson, Lebron James, Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook, Serena Williams, and many more.

And we definitely should since these individuals undoubtedly epitomize athleticism. The definition of being athletic is the capacity to perform a specific skill set or series of skills at a high level to help improve sport performance. Below is a list of the predominant athletic based skills.  





Agility and Quickness


Now if a person can perform each of these at an ultra-high level they are going to be insane on the field, court, or wherever more times than not. Why? Because he or she will be able to express any specific sport skill, and research has shown that sport skill attainment is enhanced with increased athletic ability.

Next, I would like to also include some areas of training that serve as secondary and will help regulate performance in the athletic skill set. I will just call these secondary factors.

Secondary Factors:



Program Design

Muscle Building

Fat Loss

So taking into account just shear athletic skill, how should we rank CrossFit? I scored the system a 1 out of 5 or 20%. In other words it fails miserably for an actual athlete looking to perform better in a specific sport setting.

14158006 - young woman stretching her back after a heavy kettlebell workout in a gym

Copyright: ammentorp / 123RF Stock Photo

Words and opinion are very cheap, so I will show from a scientific and evidence based standpoint why they receive such a low score. Afterwards, I will elaborate on how crossfit fares with the support areas known as secondary factors, and finish by addressing any other areas of athletic development in which you didn’t see listed and how they fall into the puzzle.

Are You Still Reading?

The first skill on the list that we need to tackle is power. What is power? Power by definition is Force x Velocity. I like Strength x Speed which essentially means the same thing and is a bit easier to understand for most.

So it’s the ability to express as much force as possible as fast as humanly possible. Common displays or formal assessments for power that we use as athletic development or strength and conditioning coaches that you commonly witness in the sport realm is the Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, Running Vertical Jump, Throwing Velocity, Hang Clean/Snatch, etc.

Now how many people in CrossFit do you see perform a standing 40” Vertical Jump? How many do you see perform a 45-50” Running Vertical Jump? How about a 10’+ Broad Jump? Or a PROPERLY performed Hang Clean executed with a load that is 1-1.5 times that person’s bodyweight?

Before I continue, please don’t go out and scour the web desperately in an attempt to locate one individual who attained some of these values and had to have been practicing CrossFit at the time.

There are exceptions to every rule.

What’s important to note is that the system as a whole doesn’t come close to implementing the methods necessary to elicit these types of performances on a regular basis like so many athletic training systems across the country do. Keep in mind that these figures have become commonplace in team sport settings and scale MUCH MUCH higher in the elite population of athletes.

The next skill on the list is Strength. The ability of a muscle or muscle group to produce maximum voluntary force without time being a factor. A population that demonstrates this better than any other on the planet should immediately come to mind, and this is Powerlifters!

[Also, any athlete looking to become more athletic should adopt and perform a modified version of a powerlifting system such as Westside Barbell to maximize their athleticism.]

Lets stay on the topic at hand though. How does CrossFit as a whole score in the strength training department? Unfortunately, not very well at all. Without providing personal observations of this, I would way rather provide you with some valid “Strength Standard Charts” to reference as sound evidence HERE:

Now taking into account this solid reference which has factored in a legion of lifters across various federations at different body-weights, how would CrossFit score?

Not very good.

How many of these individuals do you know that can Bench Press 1.5-2x their bodyweight, or Squat and Deadlift 2.5-3x their bodyweight following a CrossFit training system? Not very many if you are being honest.

Ok this next one should not take too long. Speed! How many people in CrossFit do you know who can record an electronic 2.5-2.6 second 20 yard dash, or a 4-2-4.4 second 40 yard dash, or a sub 6.7 second 60 yard dash? Few and far between.

Agility and Quickness are next on the athleticism list. Also known as “Change of Direction Training” in many sectors, Agility and Quickness is the ability to accelerate and begin rapid motion in one direction, decelerate in that same direction, plant properly and then re-accelerate or “cut” in a new direction fast!

Exercises such as the 5-10-5, Cone Drill, 1-2 Stick Series, etc. are great variations that serve as Agility and Quickness Training Tests.

Note From TG: it kinda-sorta looks like this…..;o)

Working on some change of direction this AM courtesy of #lightningandthunder. Speed and Agility training. Who says you can’t be “athletic” at close to 40?

A video posted by Tony Gentilcore (@tonygentilcore) on

Moreover, guys like Barry Sanders and Darren Sproles are brilliant examples of this athletic skill at work. If you really watch it’s not very hard to identify that just the shear nature of CrossFit fails to deliver here.

Team sports such as football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, etc. are so athletic and require that a male or female constantly move and react in all 3 planes of motion as fast as possible through the entire muscle contraction spectrum (concentric, eccentric, and isometric). CrossFit on the other hand lives on a tightrope as events are practiced in an exclusive linear fashion, omitting an essential athletic quality.

As I’ve visited different “boxes” just mainly out of curiosity, or heard Crossfitters brag to me about how athletic they were, I’ve never actually seen drills practiced that encourage the development of this athletic function. Have you? Therefore it’s only fair to discount this system as an option for enhancing Agility and Quickness.

Conditioning is obviously going to be the one area of performance where I would have to credit CrossFit absolutely.

Several Crossfitters possess tremendous work capacities and development of the 3 metabolic energy systems (Alactic, Lactic, and Aerobic) much like boxers and MMA fighters. This can be seen at any of the CrossFit Games on ESPN. In regards to strictly conditioning, the feats exhibited by these competitors is quite impressive.

What Next?

So as of right now I believe I’ve proven to you why CrossFit fails in terms of effectively enhancing athleticism. Next I think it’s important to briefly analyze all secondary measures which could impact the primary skills to show what else may or may not be missing for athletes looking to get more athletic and better in a particular sport, who regularly practice CrossFit.

The first element that I would like to discuss is Nutrition. Obviously, “The Paleo Diet” is the foundation for all of the CrossFit population. I must admit that I think there were quite a few positives I took away from both books. The intent of the content is very health-based, the food selection is very nutrient dense, and Dr. Loren Cordain disclosed some interesting scientific points surrounding the topic for sure.

In his book “The Paleo Diet for Athletes,” Dr. Cordain does a great job of adjusting the modern Paleo diet recommendations and states the need that athletes following the Paleo Diet could derive half of their total caloric intake for the day from healthy carbohydrate sources:

“For example, an athlete training once a day for 90 minutes may burn 600 calories from carbohydrates during exercise and needs to take in at least that much during stages 1, 2, 3, and 4 of recovery. This athlete may be eating around 3,000 total calories daily. If he gets 50 percent of his daily calories from carbohydrate, he would take in an additional 900 calories in carbs that day in stage 4, above and beyond the carbohydrate consumed in the earlier stages of the day.”1

And if you would like to know exactly why athletes need more carbohydrates than check out this series of articles I recently wrote:

5 Scientific Reasons to Eat Carbs

5 More Scientific Reasons Athletes Should Eat Carbs

Even More Reasons Why Athletes Should Eat Carbs

Prehab and Rehab Techniques are critical for competitive athletes who want to excel indefinitely, and it should be categorized as its own type of training if it officially is not already.

Techniques such as immersion baths, contrast, EMS, massage, tempo work, mobility/bodyweight circuits, meditation-relaxation, cat naps, static stretching, corrective exercises, and much more have been scientifically proven to hasten recovery from all the high intensity work and provide several benefits (Blood flow, nutrient and hormonal delivery, etc. etc.) to ultimately assist in athletic enhancement.

A majority of this should be implemented into a competitive athlete’s program from the get go, however, I’ve never really seen much discussion or emphasis of this type of training from Crossfitters, so I can only assume it’s not very important to this culture even though it’s undoubtedly essential to athletic performance.

Without a properly structured training program it would be very difficult to ensure that athlete’s are staying healthy and improving in all facets of performance over the long-term. Periodization is key and serves as the foundation for everything in the program.

However, I’ve never officially heard of any type of scientifically valid program design model being implemented for athletes who follow CrossFit. Do you guys elect a Linear, Alternating, Undulating, Concurrent, or Conjugate based System?

What I do know is that the works of famous programming researchers such as Tudor Bompa, Charlie Francis, and several others have shown us that having a pre-planned annual training model is a must for an athlete looking to reach his full potential. 2

A simple “WOD” which is arbitrarily designed to satisfy that particular day’s workout in the name of a male or female, will not suffice and the results will show.

Note From TG: here’s where I’ll chime in. The idea that all CrossFit boxes don’t adopt some semblance of programming structure is a bit harsh (not that I think that’s what Travis is implying). I’ve trained at and observed numerous CrossFit gyms and have been very impressed with numerous staff’s and their attention to detail on this topic. 

To say that Ben Bergeron – who coached both winners (male and female) at this year’s CrossFit Games – doesn’t implement a “plan” or pay special attention to detail with regards to how to best set up/periodize his athletes for success is unrealistic.

Just wanted to give some props when props is due.

The last two remaining secondary factors are fat loss and muscle building qualities. 

I must give kudos to CrossFit for creating a lot of fat loss testimony all over the world. I’m sure that thousands of people have lost weight/fat utilizing the CrossFit system. 3

However, what really bugs me is that you rarely if ever hear credit being distributed by CrossFit authorities on where specific training strategies were adopted. Did they just magically guess and innovate methods proven to work better than anything on the training market?

Hell no.

Furthermore, I see many specialized fat loss techniques being regularly implemented by CrossFit such as: HIIT, Metabolic Resistance Training, Timed Sets, Complexes, etc. but where the hell did that come from?

Not Crossfit unfortunately.

Ten years ago a guy by the name of Alwyn Cosgrove was busting out fat loss manuals left and right and disclosing drills and methods I nor anyone had ever seen before. The training concepts were brilliant and revolutionary at the time, but still hadn’t hit the mainstream yet.  He was also sending out newsletters at the time which validated these now popular methods through sound research and tremendous data he was collecting at his training facility in South California with his wife Rachel, who was also a proven expert. I still have them. But how many of you actually know Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove? I guarantee not as many as there should be.

Muscle Building is the final remaining topic that needs to be discussed. It’s no secret now that the CrossFit system involves primarily a moderate intensity/high training volume approach for general fitness, conditioning, and fat loss purposes.

With that being said this form of training environment will lend well to acquiring quality muscle mass pretty fast and it’s also why so many of the guys that practice CrossFit are pretty jacked. If you want to know more in depth info on this topic then definitely checkout the research and works of guys like Jason Ferruggia, Brad Schoenfeld, Bret Contreras, and Lyle McDonald.

Specific muscle mass or cross sectional area is also going to be a very strong indicator of athletic success in many cases, so this is one area where CrossFit has a decent foundation laid out if they can implement all of the training concerns mentioned previously.

Inter and Intramuscular Coordination, balance and stability training, and core training are I’m sure other areas that coaches or anyone reading this would think needs to be a primary concern. Fortunately, the methods employed for the primary skill set I provided you will do a tremendous job of enhancing these qualities indirectly. Here is a piece I wrote for the ISSA awhile back which illustrates my point as it pertains to balance-stabilization training:

Does Balance Training Improve Speed?

Well That’s it Everyone.

I hope you enjoyed this piece and learned the distinction between CrossFit and real athletic training.

They are presently very dissimilar, although they get tied in together many times based on my experience for whatever reason. Too re-iterate I’m really not trying to demean or be destructive towards the CrossFit philosophy at all. Peer review should be overly critical and brutally honest. I’ve written many articles and a couple of books and I can tell you firsthand that this is the case from the experts that analyzed my work, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If CrossFit is really serious about crossing over into the athletic training realm, then they need to start taking science more seriously, credit the founders, and utilize methods that are actually intended for athletes that truly work.

Lastly, I really think we currently underrate just how great so many high level team sport athletes really are. Genes aside, contemporary team sport athletes are amazing. On a final note, understand that athletic development is a big puzzle, and there is a lot that has to come together for any one athlete to be successful.


#1-Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet for Athletes. Rodale. Emmaus, PA. 2005.



About the Author

Travis Hansen has been involved in the field of Human Performance Enhancement for nearly a decade. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fitness and Wellness, and holds 3 different training certifications from the ISSA, NASM, and NCSF. He was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Reno Bighorns of the NBADL for their 2010 season, and he is currently the Director of The Reno Speed School inside the South Reno Athletic Club. He has worked with hundreds of athletes from almost all sports, ranging from the youth to professional ranks. He is the author of the hot selling “Speed Encyclopedia,” and he is also the leading authority on speed development for the International Sports Sciences Association.


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Comments for This Entry

  • Felix Schmieder

    I think the definition of athlete is "someone that wins at their sport." It's rather arbitrary to choose speed, power, strength, agility and conditioning and try to quantify those as the definition of an athlete. How many tennis players are deadlifting 1.5x-2x their bodyweight? Is a world cup soccer player more/less athletic than a superbowl football player? A sub 10 second sprinter is incredibly fast and explosive, but what about their conditioning levels? The average volleyball player would laugh at how bad Phelps is on their court. Would we fault the 2 hour marathoner for not having a high vertical? Are they even athletes since they just run in a straight line? Likewise, crossfit competitors are exactly as strong, explosive, agile, powerful and conditioned as they need to be for their sport. Going back to the soccer and football discussion, football requires their athletes to be strong, fast, agile, explosive and powerful and being able to repeatedly display those qualities. Soccer requires athletes to be fast, agile, explosive all while running around for 45 minutes at a time. Who determines what is more athletic? Or even football vs a marathoner; most would probably call a football player more athletic but is not the elite marathoner an athlete all the same?

    August 8, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Travis Hansen

      Hey Felix, Thanks for chiming in. If you analyze "most" elite athletes they will possess a majority of the skills listed. Tennis players carry many of the qualities listed. Same holds true for soccer players and most definitely the football realm! Bottomline is a majority of sports, especially team based ones require high levels of athleticism in order to be successful. Period. Why are strength and conditioning coaches and athletic coaches all over the country regularly implementing methods to enhance the physical attributes which were discussed? Because "most" sports require it. My whole point is that crossfit specifically, will not prepare athletes outside of crossfit for competition, nor build an elite level of athleticism.

      August 8, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Lauren L

      My thoughts exactly Felix ??

      August 9, 2016 at 4:34 am | Reply to this comment

  • John J Brooks

    Travis misses one point that always sticks out to me at crossfit boxes: confirmation bias. If you sh!t kick enough people long enough those who respond well to sh!t kicking will stick around and look awesome. Everyone else will wash out. So when you go to their box all you see is beginners and those who can take the beating. A gym (of any sort) is poorly measured by the beginners, or the exceptional. They are best measured by folks with a lower potential, with limitations, injuries, movement dysfunction etc.

    August 8, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Dustin Kreidler

      And this differs from ANY other endeavor in life exactly how? The budding powerlifter who gets injured at 75% bodyweight... the football player who gets too many concussions... the tennis player who's not fast enough (and can't be trained up enough to make a difference). Shit, the computer programmer who can't stay focused for long enough. EVERY activity/endeavor/sport has its washouts. Most of them seem to end up at CrossFit. From my experience (5 years and counting) its not injuries that makes people give up. We all rolled in with injuries from sports or life (effing desk job...). LIFE makes people quit. Schedules change. Life changes. PRIORITIES change. Injuries? Work around them. Rehab them. Prehab them after they're better. We've lost more athletes to people wanting to become triathletes and really focus on those three skills (and the huge time commitment) than we have to injuries.

      August 18, 2016 at 11:10 am | Reply to this comment

      • Dustin Kreidler

        AND, the obvious caveat, both to your response AND my response to you: It depends on the box. We have good coaches, and good programming. The coaches are former athletes, with all the nicks and scars to show for it, one with multiple knee reconstructions. Injuries and tweaks aren't game-ending events. They're cause to re-evaluate how we're coaching, how we're performing, and how we can all improve. Now, go to a newer box with greener coaches, who just program beat-downs day after day... yeah, your point is probably completely valid. I don't want to take away from that possibility, because we all know they are out there. Which sucks. :-/

        August 18, 2016 at 11:13 am | Reply to this comment

        • John J Brooks

          The problem is Xfit marketing wants to have it both ways. If it is a competitive sport it is absolutely ok for people to break. To have injuries. In competition those things happen (vis a vis your first comment). If it is a training modality there is never a good reason to injure someone. You're there to get people moving better, get them stronger, and keep them safe. Those two things are diametrically opposed to one another. I take folks to task for using powerlifting training methodology for athletes and regular joes for the same reasons. We should be prepping folks have a stable platform of strength and movement to mitigate their stressors (sport or life) not create another pathway for self destruction.. UNLESS, philosophically we're engaging in a competitive sport in the gym (I would submit that this should be left to formal competition or at least only done periodically.. but I'm just some guy on the internet).. in which case all bets are off, caviat emptor. The problem is when people expect training and get competition, or are taught that competition is the best way to train. It shifts the blame for ineffective training from the coaches (who should have modulated the training stress, and created an environment where they grow) on to the clients/athletes who "couldn't hack it." In this type of philosophy you see a gradient of people. A spectrum of both capacity for growth and capacity for work. I haven't seen that at the Xfit boxes I have visited. I have seen a lot of beginners, and exemplary athletes in great shape, but never any middle ground, granted the 4-5 gyms I've visited don't speak for the hundreds out there. There is a spectrum for sure, but what the mothership says Xfit is, and what most of the 'good guy' Xfit coaches say they do just doesn't jive. So I take them at their word/marketing materials. (also sorry it too so long to respond. Not ignoring you. I went fishing)

          August 25, 2016 at 8:00 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Krishna Bhogaonker

    This is a really interesting article. I follow strength and conditioning program with my own non-Crossfit coach, but I also do crossfit workouts on the side. I agree that the crossfit workouts can mess up some of my strength programming, just because of the high volume of compound lifts, etc. The one thing that keeps me sticking with crossfit stuff is the social aspect. I like the other people in by box and I like going to my box. I have not found alternative or more traditional gyms in LA that have a similar social culture--though of course I don't know all gyms in my area. I wish I could find a better place where I could train according to a good program and also have the socialization of crossfit. Just my 2 cents.

    August 8, 2016 at 4:12 pm | Reply to this comment

  • George Demetriou

    This article is well written, but the premise is silly. Travis is upset that he was asked if his training is similar to the most popular and effective method of becoming fit. There's a reason that the "CrossFit" name is more recognizable than the Reno Speed School and I'm not taking anything away from Travis and all that he has accomplished. When there are 14,000 Reno Speed Schools worldwide I'm sure people will be asking other trainers if their training is like Travis Hansen's. The motto of CrossFit is "Forging Elite Fitness", not forging elite athletes. I'm not sure where the confusion comes in. Regardless, most folks who dedicate themselves to CrossFtting get in great shape for life. For some of those people that means playing sports at some level for others it means gaining the strength to get up out of their wheelchair and ambulate over to the pull-up bar to do a few sets of pull-ups or get to the rope to climb. For others it means just getting through their day better. The best athletes in CrossFit are often athletes from other sports. Their athletic skill was honed over many years before coming to CrossFit. I'm willing to bet the best athletes that Travis trains are good athletes from their respective sports. Travis may enhance what they do, but they have some skill and athleticism already. I sincerely doubt that he's taking in trainees with zero athletic ability and turning them into Division 1 or professional athletes. I'm also willing to bet he can take anyone who has a bit of motivation and a good attitude and get them into better shape "for life". Most CrossFitters have different goals, I would imagine, than Hansen's clients. I don't criticize Hansen's not producing a CrossFit Games competitor because what would the point be? We have different goals. Our clients have different goals. One of the great things about CrossFit is how it has always sought some of the best in the very attributes that Travis mentions. For strength training CrossFit has had Mark Rippetoe as it's powerlifting subject matter expert and now has coaches from Westside Barbell. Not all the boxes take advantage, but many use Starting Strength or Westside's methods. Other boxes use Wendler's 5/3/1. Some use the StrongLifts 5X5 method. Travis either didn't know this or conveniently omitted it. There are plenty of very strong people in the CrossFit community. They all don't have a need or desire to play minor league basketball. Prehab and rehab? We have Kelly Starrett as our Mobility subject matter expert and there are a plethora of physical therapists that don't have the exposure that Starrett has, but they are doing just as much work as Starrett, if not more, in terms of movement screenings, movement therapy, prehab and rehab for the CrossFit community. The Paleo Diet as the "foundation diet" of the CrossFit community is inaccurate. If there is a "foundation diet" for the CrossFit community it would be the Zone Diet. The Paleo Diet is popular, but there are so many versions of what is accepted and what is not that most CrossFitters understand how to personalize their diet for their specific needs. Besides "Paleo" and Zone, crossfitters follow Primal, Eat to Perform, IIFYMs, Precision Nutrition, and others I'm sure I either don't know about or am forgetting to mention. Suffice to say that crossfitters with auto-immune issues tend to follow Paleo strictly while the more competitive crossfitters adjust by measuring and consuming more carbs than their "strict" brethren. The lack of a properly structured training program is clearly misunderstood by most of the critics who froth at the mouth while exclaiming this. The CrossFit community has access to the very best at Westside, members of the USA Weightlifting Team, the very best coaches producing CrossFit Games competitors, an IronMan Triathlete medalist who is now the Aerobic Capacity subject matter expert, a former NFL player is the CrossFit Football founder, top level gymnastic coaches and members of the special operations community of the military. The programming is not uniform in every facility, but every box I've been to has demonstrated excellent programming. Muscle Hypertrophy isn't the main goal for most crossfitters, but the community as a whole seems to be doing alright with looking good in a t-shirt. Check out video of the CrossFit Games. No, not the competitors. That would be too easy. Look at the spectators. You'll notice the fittest fans in any arena anywhere we'll be at the CrossFit Games. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning methodology dedicated to General Physical Preparedness. We don't specialize. We improve upon who we are working with. Most become stronger and fitter, both physically and mentally. Some go on to compete at the highest level of the sport of fitness. Some compete at the highest levels of other sports. Most are content with competing against the person they were the day, the month or the year before. Travis Hansen is doing good work and I wish him the best. Especially since some of the people he is training will not compete in their sport someday. At that time those athletes will yearn for competition, the desire to stay in good shape and the need to socialize with like-minded people. They will find a new home in CrossFit. And we'll welcome them.

    August 9, 2016 at 2:19 am | Reply to this comment

  • Lauren L

    Are we really still talking about this? Why compare Crossfitters to elite athletes? The boxes are made up of regular folks of a range of ages, skills and goals. Of course they're not going to jump as high as a basketball player or sprint as fast as a football player. Are you going to start crapping on professional dancers for not deadlifting enough also? People train for the sport that they're playing at the level that they play it, be it professional or just your average joe. You know what's the perfect training system? The one that someone enjoys and finds intrinsic motivation to participate in for their lifetime. And that's not going to look the same in everyone. (This is coming from a non-crossfitter)

    August 9, 2016 at 4:46 am | Reply to this comment

  • jibsy

    1 out of 5 is not 25% it is 20%. the devil is in the details and i am just saying.

    August 9, 2016 at 5:19 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kyle J

    I can watch Netflix for 8 hours straight...athlete?

    August 10, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Stuff To Read While You're Pretending To Work: 8/12/16 - Tony Gentilcore

    […] response to a guest post by Travis Hansen that was posted on my site earlier this week titled Why CrossFit Doesn’t Make an Elite Athlete, the Fitness Pollinator himself, Travis Pollen, wrote this excellent […]

    August 12, 2016 at 8:26 am | Reply to this comment

  • Paul

    I'm pretty sure you could make most of these points for powerlifters as well. Sure they've got strength, but powerlifters that possess a high level of the other athletic qualities are rare. Mostly myself though lolol

    August 12, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Amber Gregorio

    I am definitely not a fan of crossfit, but to say that it doesn't make an athlete out of you because you aren't elite at a specific sport is just off-point. Because crossfit itself has become a competetive sport, the Rich Froning's of the world are absolutely elite crossfit athletes. They are the best in the world at the sport of Crossfit. Crossfit is, after all, the demonsration of the COMBINATION of the athletic skills Travis describes (speed, strength, agility, as well as what you describe as secondary factors). Of course an elite crossfitter is not stronger than Brandon Lilly, or faster than Usain Bolt, or more agile than Michael Jordan. But the elite crossfiter is faster and more agile than Lilly, stronger and more agile than Bolt, and stronger and faster than Jordan. The elite crossfiter is better than all of them at the COMBINATION of these athletic skills. And since this combination is now a professional sport in and of itself, these crossfiters are absolutely elite athletes. I'll absolutely grant you that some (and maybe even most?) boxes across the country are not hammering on technique, not using proper progressions, and may not be periodizing. And this is why I typically hate crossfit. But ELITE level crossfitters ARE doing these things (and paying attention to the secondary athletic factors you describe).

    August 14, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Some great points here. Looking forward to Travis's PART II where he elaborates further on his viewpoint and also addresses some very VALID points many readers brought up. I think he's changed his mind on a few things. Which says a lot of his character: not many coaches are able or willing to do that.

      August 15, 2016 at 8:54 am | Reply to this comment

  • brock (45)

    What Mr. Hansen seems to miss is right there in the mission statement of CrossFit methodology. Paraphrasing: CrossFit is a generalist's not a specialists program. It aims for a constant state of readiness to address unknown demands. The goal is to be "A-minus" at EVERYTHING recognizing that to achieve such will leave you "A-Plus" (ELITE) at nothing. So, Hansen is not wrong, but CrossFit as originally intended does not claim to provoke or aspire to "Elite Athleticism" in one fitness domain. Take a games level CrossFit Athlete and have them compete against a specialist IN THAT SPECIALTY, they'll lose by significant margins. Take the same two athletes and have them compete in ANY OTHER SPECIALTY or fitness domain, and watch the specialist lose.

    September 18, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Reply to this comment

    • makingfunofyou

      Not true. Crossfit sells itself as great for specialization in sports. A superior training method and even created marketing videos around Knowshon Moreno, only to have him lose 20 lbs and have a dismal season plagued with injuries. Crossfit isn't making you A- at everything which is the point Travis was making. Crossfit makes one good at Crossfit, but even then that's a stretch as the Elite Crossfitters in the Crossfit games don't just do WODs. They'd never be competitive just doing WODs. So in reality Crossfit doesn't even prepare someone for their own games in totality.

      October 17, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Reply to this comment

  • patskinner

    Travis, man I think you are greatly missing the point at what it is CrossFit is trying to do. First, I and most with knowledge of CrossFit would readily admit, CrossFit does not make an elite athlete. An elite team sport athlete should not utilize a CrossFit competition program for their sport. CrossFit is its own sport. As for the rest of the population doing CrossFit, they do it because it is enjoyable way to stay physically fit. But then again, neither does your speed school, power lifting, body building or any other system in the world. An elite athlete is born that way and can be HELPED by the training program but let's not pretend that any style of training is taking someone decidedly unathletic to elite athlete. As for the power measurements that crossfitters fail to attain. How many in the world possess a 40" vertical? Very few. And it wasn't the training system that got them there. No one is taking a guy with 28" vertical to 40." And many many many crossfitters can perform a hang clean with 1 to 1.5 their bwt. As for the strength, same point. How many in world squat 3x bwt? Not many. Plenty of top end crossfitters can and they aren't even specializing in squatting or powerlifting. Speed- 4.2 to 4.4? How many in world? They didn't get there from a 4.8 40 time. 99% of crossfitters are not training for any sport and the 1% are training for CrossFit as sport. They don't need 4.4 speed. You like the work capacity and muscle building characteristics so that's good The paleo diet is not the de facto fiet of crossfitters. This is just factually wrong. Many have adopted it. Many more have not. Most elite crossfitters eat several hundreds of grams of carbs a day. Prehab/rehab? Please tell me you are kidding. Many crossfitters spend an inordinate amount of time of prehab rehab and mobility. As for the cosgroves not getting their due. I'm sorry they didn't market it as well as CrossFit did. Not sure CrossFit needs to apologize for that. I agree that team sport athletes are amazing. If your point is that aspiring team sport athletes shouldn't compete or train for the sport of CrossFit I agree completely. However you let argument was constructed poorly in my opinion. CrossFit does not make elite athletes, except for the sport of CrossFit. It does get a great number of persons involved in movement and barbell training in particular. Every single gym owner and fitness practitioner owes a great deal of gratitude to CrossFit as nothing has done more to popularize barbell and strength training for average persons than CrossFit. Even if people don't practice CrossFit itself, they now know barbell strength training and conditioning is reasonable undertaking for average individuals.

    September 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Reply to this comment

  • crsft6

    I really thought this guy knows what he's talking about, until I read: (About massage, mobility/bodyweight circuits, meditation-relaxation, static stretching etc): "A majority of this should be implemented into a competitive athlete’s program from the get go, however, I’ve never really seen much discussion or emphasis of this type of training from Crossfitters," You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. Mobility and bodyweight circuits are the most important building blocks in Crossfit. Static stretching / Yoga/ Pilates are a part of the Crossfit program in my box. I should've realized you're just blowing air when I read "As I’ve visited different “boxes” just mainly out of curiosity, or heard Crossfitters brag to me about how athletic they were"..... So...... You haven't really tried Crossfit.... or even took the time to study it properly before writing a misleading article.... nice. (Amateur Crossfiter here... 6 month in... read A LOT on the pros and cons of Crossfit. Do your own research, there are enough articles that shows the downsides of Crossfit, that were written by people who actually knows what they're talking about).

    October 27, 2016 at 7:48 am | Reply to this comment

  • Christopher A Holliday

    Crossfit alone will not make you a great athlete but combine with weight training and sport spacific training I feel a person would advance on any sport. Crosfit when used to it's full potential properly will make youa better athlete period. As for the vertical jump. Box jumps which are a key component in crossfit increase your vertical more than any other funtional sport.

    July 27, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Reply to this comment

  • rockky

    I'm a strengths and conditioning professional and work with Crossfitters. Article really misses the point of CrossFit being fit across the board without necessarily excelling maximally at any one component. So it's short sided holding up world class standards to evaluate a Crossfitter's athletic capacity. Many. many Crossfit boxes utilize the power Training movements (verticle leaps, broad jumps etc....) mentioned here ... if any Crossfit's athletes would do a month or two focusing on the athletic capacities you say they're so deficient at and excel...in short time at them....but again it's not part of the core program. Athletes you'd identifying a "5" could enter the games and would get they're ass kicked....as those demands aren't part of THEIR program. Could go on but suffice to say the article is just wrong headed from the getgo.

    January 16, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Reply to this comment

    • C Mag

      IMHO that is not his point, He just says, with exception to the rule (because pre-crossfit training and genetics play an important role in speed/power related athletic activities..think Dan Baily here), elite CrossFitters are by no means elite athletes. Not at all. Not even close. More ambitious weekend warrior material. I can outrun the fittes girl of the world in a 400m and in 5k run by a huge margin(according to her official times). But I sure as hell can't outrun a good female hepathlete( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessica_Ennis-Hill For example, Football players, even though they prepare for the specific events in the combine, try to excell at playing football, and are by no means 40yard dash specialists or broad jump experts. These athletes have to prepare for different modallities and different skills demanden in their sport (actually playing the game). With exception to rule, these athletes kill every elite cross fitter (regionals and games level) in power related athletic movements. Nate Shraeder won the 2012 broad jump event with 112 inches. So that is the "fittest" result amongst the 50 fittest men. And that would not be in the top 100 of normal combine year!!!!! That is devastating. But not suprising!!! The majority of CF workouts last several miniutes. Apart from some heavy olympic lifts, work with adequate rest/work ratio for explosive/speed development is the exception. Hence the vast majority of CF practioners suck at speed and explosive movements. Would that change if they change their training? Of course. They are human, they adapt. But thee general CF stuff is not good for youtr athletic ability. 60 Box Jumps are 2 jumps + 58 submaximal hops while tucking your knees,

      April 6, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Travis Hansen

    Well guys I'm only four years late..I want to start off by saying a lot of you had some solid counterpoints and insight that I appreciate. The fact is we could debate all the details of the article, and I really wish the 2nd part would have been published to help do more justice, but I couldn't get it in anywhere, but it would have elaborated on more that is missing in the Crossfit model as far as "athletic skill" focus is concerned. With the exceptions set aside, which people love to immediately refer too (Rich Froning, etc.) you simply won't see the same level of "overall" athletic display at Crossfit that you do at the NFL combine, and other sports are slowly starting to follow suit it seems. Not only is the combine an amazing feat of true athletic skill, but aside from conditioning tests and aspects of power it checks more boxes. It's another step in the right direction athletically when you assess and look at the majority of needs across all sports. The whole premise of the original article is why the Crossfit model won't make athletes elite as a majority. Genetic freaks can't serve as a basis of any developmental model for any training system. It's also worth pointing out and I had awesome references in the second piece, that a majority of the Crossfit elite were either standout high school or collegiate athletes. So past competition exposures and I would bet true athletic training programs were responsible for their athletic development which was expressed in the Crossfit games, or up until that point. Research has also shown that increased athletic ability allows for faster acquisition of sport specific skill. In other words the more athletic you are coming into crossfit the better your chances of advancing if some smart programming, heart, and desire are in order. In a similar vein, Crossfit adopted the wisdom of lead strength experts and models like Rippetoe and Westside Barbell. Very smart and any one in the iron game is probably using a definitive of these at this point since they are two of the best. Check off max strength development, but a lack of eccentric strength focus which is one major thing that can be attributed to the high injury rates seen in Crossfit I would bet, along with a lack of hip training categories, and single leg work are also essential for athletes that need to run faster, move quicker, and jump higher. So I would stand by the 1 out of 5 and add an extra half in the strength department with the legion of crossfittess who possess very high strength to bodyweight ratios in major lifts and staple exercises. Agility, acceleration, top speed, and power development could be better in a number of areas!

    August 28, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sean Tierney

    Apologize if this was previously mentioned. You stated that we should not scour the web to desperately locate an individual. I think this is a little biased as you mention professional football players in the same article. I think it’s safe to say most professional athletes have 10+ years of experience in their sport. Someone who trains and competes in CrossFit seriously for 10+ years should be used as the guideline for below. “Now how many people in CrossFit do you see perform a standing 40” Vertical Jump? How many do you see perform a 45-50” Running Vertical Jump? How about a 10’+ Broad Jump? Or a PROPERLY performed Hang Clean executed with a load that is 1-1.5 times that person’s bodyweight? Before I continue, please don’t go out and scour the web desperately in an attempt to locate one individual who attained some of these values and had to have been practicing CrossFit at the time.” “Moreover, guys like Barry Sanders and Darren Sproles are brilliant examples of this athletic skill at work.” “My whole point is that crossfit specifically, will not prepare athletes outside of crossfit for competition, nor build an elite level of athleticism.”- what percentage of professional athletes are able to compete professionally in more than 1 sport? My point being, different professional athletes have different training regiments. Football, basketball, baseball, soccer specifically, will not prepare athletes outside of that sport for competition in another sport. Are CrossFit “people” not athletes because they would not be able to compete at a professional level in another sport? -Most professional athletes cannot Or are they not athletes yet because CrossFit is not a sport?

    December 23, 2020 at 1:43 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Travis Hansen

    I made mention of not scouring an individual in Crossfit that was super athletic according standardized athletic testing, because it would be an exception not the rule for why Crossfit methods don't address the entire athletic training spectrum, at the moment. Will this change? I imagine Crossfit could and perhaps already has potentially evolved and dedicated more emphasis on athletic skills and the absent areas of physical development I mentioned. It's also worth noting that after careful analysis of past Leaderboards and athletic backgrounds, those in Crossfit that are super athletic were very successful athletes who honed their athleticism in the sports you mentioned at the high school and collegiate level, supported by common athletic training means in the process. You're absolutely right that very few individuals compete in multiple professional sports because of the specific sport skill set barrier, not because of athlericism requirements necessarily. Or they are super athletic but can't elevate certain athletic qualities the way they need too in order to compete, survive, and thrive. Combine tests reveal this fact and should be more commonplace. You could find hundreds examples of guys and gals who possess adequate athletic ability to crossover in a sport at any level , but lack specific sport skill levels and experience. Also, please consider previous research which indicates the more athletic the person the easier they can "generally" crossover and learn specific sport skill practices. Athleticism just dominates in a "majority" of instances across all sport domains. Too simplify, the sports you mentioned and more require high levels of athleticism and the athletic qualities listed in the article specifically , and this style of training is reflected all across the industry outside of Crossfit. This can be supported by the fact that you see so many highly successful tri-sport athletes in high school. There are more similarities than differences in the sports you mentioned and more outside of support specific techniques and movement patterns. For some reason there is still a massive disconnect and misunderstanding of what being athletic means but there are patterns everywhere.. Rich Froning-Crossfit: stupid strong, explosive, and background indicates fast and quick since he played college bal. Venus Williams-Tennis: Strong, very powerful, agile, with great speed and acceleration all over the court Bo Jackson-Football: Enough said! Haha And you could take countless more examples across all sports, genders, etc. genetically blessed and not, who have insane athleticism but the truth is they didn't get it through Crossfit. It came with previous athletic training practices in junior high, high school and collegiate sport settings, athletic based performance facilities all over the world, and strength and conditioning cultures at each level.

    March 3, 2021 at 9:59 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Travis Hansen

    I forgot to mention one more thing. I never once said Crossfittess weren't athletes. They are. I said and the article title clearly states that Crossfit won't make an athlete elite, because the model doesn't cover several areas of athletic development. It's really that simple.

    March 3, 2021 at 10:04 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Interesting topic

    Interesting article, though I would have to disagree with the premise focusing on athletic ability such as strength, power etc rather than skill is where this goes wrong for me. If the author focused on the skills of how to play sports I would have agreed some validity as skill takes years to learn but to focus on the athletic ability is incorrect. For the specialist sports say 100m sprint and weightlifting etc for example, I have found that these athletes in their domains would excel but taken outside of this would be found to be limited and overtaken by athletes of a similar level from team sports whos training is often more closely aligned to Crossfit methodology. To elaborate my chosen sport was rugby league and union known for producing strong, fast, powerful and agile athletes with great endurance. Our training was often a combination of running with circuits and weights very similar to Crossfit training and if we had certain weaknesses we would target these similar to Crossfit athletes. Now from years of training with players from various levels from international to juniors, the one thing that stood out to me was the best players were often those that were well versed across a variety of abilities rather than just one or two specialist abilities. The best players were very rarely the fastest or the strongest on the team but often in the top 10 for most of the athletic abilities listed in the article within their teams. Now the argument could be made that these athletes were genetically gifted with these abilities which would have been true for some. But the majority of athletes who excel in team sports have the ability to switch effectively between these athletic abilities without overall quality declining vs their peers. I would often see that the strong athlete begins to tire and loses their strength/power as would the light nimble one doesn’t have the strength needed to make the same dents. For example who is the better athlete let’s pick three abilities strength, speed and endurance to compare and I have seen all three of these athletes in action: Option one: can squat 200KG but when asked to run 100m straight afterwards takes nearly 20 seconds to complete and struggles to breath after completing the run and will need a good few minutes to recover. Option two: can run the 100m in 10 seconds flat but would struggle to get under a weighted barbell after the sprint and would need a few minutes to recover to do this. Option three: can run the 100m in 11-15 seconds but can still get under the weighted barbell straight afterwards for reps and could do it the other way around comfortably. For me it’s option three all day, they will outperform the other two outside of their speciality domains. Whilst they are the fastest or the strongest they are the best average of the three. Which is the aim of Crossfit training, yes it won’t produce a specialist in weightlifting, marathon running or sprinting but would it would do is place them in respectable positions in all of those sports. Note how many Crossfit athletes have scored invitations to Olympic weightlifting teams for their countries, as well as bobsledding and been in the top finishers for Spartan races to name a few. And the other argument made that these athletes developed these abilities in other sports before becoming elite Crossfit athletes is just not true. Many of them said it gave them a good grounding say in whatever they specialised in before running, weightlifting, gymnastics etc but that they made a lot of their progress after picking up Crossfit as a sport and made them more rounded and better athletes. The next generation are just starting to come through who have done the sport since teenagers and they are setting times and lifting weights way above their peers in other sports so will be interested to watch. You might start finding some of these move into other sports and pick up the skills quickly because as the author said if you have good athletic ability this will make you more likely up pick up skills more efficiently so they should be well prepared if they chose to specialise with a great grounding and rounded athletic ability. Just my two cents 🙂👍

    March 17, 2021 at 9:03 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jenny

    I apologize in advance I didn't finish reading everything in the article. However, a joke amongst triathletes is that we do triathlon because we suck in all 3 sports. The reason I'm leading with this is because your examples above are specialty specific. You don't see a triathlete competing with the world's fastest swimmers, cyclists and runners either. However, put a specific athlete in a triathlon and past exceptions, watch them fail. Crossfit. The name says it itself. It's meant to cross train you. Sure there's exceptions, but you're not going to see a body builder fly through a WOD like you would see a crossfitter. It just won't happen. You won't see an ice skater perform in a vertical jump either. What do these examples prove? Not much. What I can say, is I've done triathlon for about 8 years. After covid started, I stopped triathlon. A year ago I decided to start crossfit. 6 months into it, I decided to do a triathlon.... without really training. I literally hadn't done laps in 2 years. My entire swim training was 4 times around the lake to make sure I wouldn't drown. I got on my bike maybe 6 times. I ran 1-1.5 miles maybe 4 times. I PRd my bike speed and my run in that triathlon. With this amount of training that's basically a joke, I placed 13th overall on the bike..... Because crossfit.

    November 20, 2021 at 3:38 pm | Reply to this comment

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