Well if you’re uncomfortable with recommending it to most people, then don’t recommend it. That would go true with any type of training. But do state your reasons why you wouldn’t recommend it (without slamming it and making you look like a dick in the process).
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.