What is your opinion on novice exercisers wanting to train at a Crossfit only facility?
A half dozen Crossfit facilities have popped up in my city since 2007 and have attracted coaches (people needing jobs) with limited or no experience and one certification (eg. Crossfit Level I). This trend concerns me and I'm not comfortable recommending this type of training to most people.
I have seen some Crossfit videos that were disturbing but I have also talked with a Crossfit instructor who was knowledgeable and sincere.
People can hurt themselves in any style class, even including Pilates and yoga. When asked about other programs, I usually try to educate the person asking about the pros and cons of any given program and let them take it from there. I would venture to say that no client of mine would be tempted to join Crossfit. To them I could give specific recommendations because I know their abilities well enough.
I agree with you. I have two things to say about this issue:
1. Check the experience, credentials and reviews of the trainers who teach at these places. This will give anyone who wants to do Crossfit a better understanding about the trainers who are teaching these classes. I agree with you that there are many trainers who have no experience teaching Crossfit and the unfortunate result is that many people get injured. A Crossfit certification won't make someone a good trainer (nor will any certification in itself). My concern is that, because of the nature, intensity, and complexity of Crossfit workouts, a more formal education and understanding of the complexities of human physiology is required to teach it safely and effectively.
2. Crossfit is not for everybody (especially for beginners, those with muscle imbalances, prior injuries, or other medical conditions), and it appears to attract all sorts of people at a variety of fitness levels. I admire the enthusiasm Crossfit has generated. I'm not blaming Crossfit for taking everyone under their programs, but they need to have a better way of screening people. I know many who have been injured training at Crossfit, and this is part of why injuries occur. Crossfit is a great concept if it is taught well and if the right people with enough experience are running the programs.
You can also read answers that were posted by others in the past on this topic, as there have been lively discussions here.
The exercises in themselves aren't necessarily bad, but like any kind of weekend certification, you won't have much time to absorb all that information before the weekend is up to be able to teach those skills properly (at least if you don't already have a background in some of the skills that they are teaching over the weekend). To put things in perspective, to do a basic kettle bell course that will run you a weekend, you may only cover a handful of techniques. Maybe you'll cover only 15 or so techniques for this one piece of equipment; maybe you'll cover even less. It'll depend on how much your instructor values you getting it right before certifying you (quality over quantity).
The point is, when it comes to CrossFit, kettle bells are one of the many components you can possibly learn over the weekend. Aside from this, you'll cover a broad range of disciplines over the weekend such as Olympic lifting, Power lifting, body weight exercise, yoga/pilates, plyometrics, unconventional training tools, and whatever else CrossFit deems necessary to teach you. If CrossFit is your only exposure to these exercises prior to doing a CrossFit certification, then one should take it upon themselves to expand and learn each discipline well before getting others to do it; because now we have coaches who only got an introduction to each of these exercise discipline now trying to impart the knowledge to another group of people who may not have the knowledge to lift properly.
Regardless of whether there is a proper program design or progression, CrossFit does offer something unique for the elite athlete who needs to break up their program every once in a while. Now, will it work too for a novice? Maybe. Maybe not. It might cause more harm than good. But, is it necessarily the overall program, or is it more of the coaches? I would say that would fall into the coaches hands more than the overall program. There's nothing really unique about the CrossFit approach, aside from them putting a name to it and then aggressively marketing it. It is another form of circuit/complex/interval training (and in much of those combinations as well).
Of course, circuits, complexes, and intervals aren't much to market since they've been around forever. But you put a name to it and make it a bit different and then it seems all brand new to people. Take a look at Curves. It's just circuit training (more specifically, super resistance circuit training). Of course, circuits have been around forever and people aren't going to pay big bucks for something that everyone else has tried already. Much like CrossFit.
Now, despite these facts about CrossFit, they are still drawing people in. As much as trainers can talk about why it's not a good idea to do CrossFit, they are still drawing in the novice exercisers. As much as trainers can educate the public about CrossFit, people are still choosing to go to these facilities. There's something about CrossFit that trainers don't realize (and I'm seeing this myself), and that is the ability to empower the individual. You see, most trainers operate from a position of safety (and rightfully so due to liabilities and practicing outside of one's scope). However, CrossFit has never really said "no" to its members. They've created a culture where they support each other and encourage each other to push harder (despite all safety concerns). Whereas a lot of trainers will say to a client that they aren't ready to do this and that, and that the client must start here first. We sometimes hold our clients back too much, and that can create a feeling of frustration and incompetency. When you are told you can do anything and are allowed to anything, then that gets people excited, because that allows them to build an image around what they want to be (even if they really aren't ready for that type of training).
Now does that mean that we can't train novices, seniors, sedentary individuals, obese and morbidly obese individuals like athletes (if they have that vision in mind)? Not at all. I don't think we need to go to extremes like CrossFit to get our clients on board; but I do think there is some merit in their approach to getting a client psyched up to exercise. Lets face it, how many workout programs have you seen have been successful in not only getting a person started on exercise, but also kept them on as long-term members? They are pretty successful in retaining their members. If they weren't, they wouldn't have grown to the size they are now.
So, to answer your question specifically on the novice exercisers wanting to train at a CrossFit only facility, the way to really address this is to figure out why the novice exerciser wants to train at one in the first place. Something is motivating that person to go to one. If you haven't figured out their motivation, then you'll be scratching your head on that one for a while. There is obviously some appeal of the CrossFit facility that is making them want to go there, instead of anywhere else. It's alright to be uncomfortable recommending CrossFit to anyone, but you have to figure out their reasons too. You can't just present your side of things and expect them to change their mind just like that.
Once you figure out their reasons for doing things, then you might be able to offer a safer and maybe even better approach to giving the novice exerciser what he/she wants. Work with your clients, allow your clients to be involved in the process, and meet your clients half-way if you need to. I believe too many trainers gets so proud of their own program and what they can do for others that they sometimes forget to listen to what their client wants. If you go back to what I've written and reflect on this through your own experience, you might be able to find the answer you are looking for.
Basically Crossfit has put a name on a workout program and I agree that they use the power of support to make sure their clients return. In this day and age, where human contact is becoming less and less I think people are embracing the mentality of having a cheerleading squad behind them
That being said, I believe that Crossfit is more of a competition, it's been marketed to "be cool" and is the buzz workout for now.
Remember, this is an unregulated industry.
Anyone can still do anything.
It's not the workout that bothers me as much as the execution of the workout.
Even though Calvin has some good points, I do see and agree with Eric's point of view. I've known healthy, fit and experienced people who were injured at Crossfit classes. Any time you have a large number of participants executing a number of moves that require a lot of practice and training to do them correctly and at a fast pace in a competitive environment, you are setting yourself up for injuries. This is even more dangerous for novices or non-fit participants, and when you combine this with inexperienced trainers, then the potential for injury is exponential.
Yes, it’s a different type of training and the support and enthusiasm that participants get from others around them is remarkable, but those factors don't diminish the fact that it’s not the safest method of training. It is more of a competition than a fitness class. Of course you can get injured by taking a different class or doing 1-on-1, but if there is no correction or proper supervision when performing moves at a very high intensity and speed, then there is a problem with the program instruction or design. As trainers, our first priority is to make sure our clients are performing exercises safely and in good form. If we can't do that, then we've failed our clients. If clients knew how to perform exercises and progressions safely and effectively on their own, we wouldn't have jobs. Anyone can come up with a bunch of exercises and throw them out there to challenge others to a competition to see who can do the most and the fastest. Are these people qualified to be called coaches or trainers?
If you want to strike a balance with a current client who expresses an interest in Crossfit and who you feel is not ready, be honest. Show your enthusiasm about their interest in Crossfit. Explain why in your professional opinion the client is not yet ready for Crossfit. Work with the client to develop a plan whereby the client needs to meet x/y/z goals to graduate to that level. Then, set your client free and know that you've done the right thing for both you and the client.
Again, I'm not criticizing every Crossfit gym or every Crossfit certified trainer. Quality of trainers varies greatly, even within each certification. I'm just suggesting that in my opinion, the level of difficulty of a Crossfit class can easily be above the ability of a coach, and is often above the ability of the participants Crossfit attracts.
Crossfit might be benificial for people who need to train like that (MMA, some firefighters/police), but its not for the vast majority of people. It does have the cult/social aspect going for it. The problem like you mentioned is it brings in both teachers and students who really aren't experienced.
It depends on the definition of novice and what activity level the client is actually presenting.
Generally speaking, it is not a good fit for novice to do crossfit.
I can see your concern and I wouldn't recommend training with someone not certified or no degree. Crossfit may have captured their curiosity and they simply try/tried it.
How does Crossfit feel about their program/name being represented and used by those not certified?
Finally, I think it depends highly on the trainers at the Crossfit facility. I've known some very qualified Crossfit trainers who practice safe progressions for their new clients, including classes for different fitness and experience levels. I've also known some Crossfit instructors who I wouldn't feel comfortable recommending.
The NSCA, USAW, and other organizations teach olympic lifts.