Adapted from Greg Glassman’s post to the CrossFit Message Board, Dec. 12, 2008.
Here’s what we know about CrossFit, general physical preparedness (GPP), sport training and athletic development:
- GPP is the most underdeveloped and neglected aspect of athletic training, especially in elite athletes.
- CrossFit produces an unmatched GPP in novice, intermediate and advanced athletes regardless of their prior training and sport.
- Every athlete we’ve worked with, from Olympic medalists to UFC legends, has some glaring chink in his/her GPP, and it takes at most two hours, two sessions, on average, to find these chinks.
- Fixing these chinks, these deficiencies, has immediate benefit within your sport and very often in ways not quite obvious mechanically and perhaps metabolically. For instance, more pull-ups make for better skiing and skiers. Upper-body pushing movements make for better rowing and rowers. Anaerobic training is a boon to endurance athletes.
- There’s greater margin for improving performance in elite athletes, where the margins of victory are very tight, in improving GPP with CrossFit than can be garnered through additional sport-specific training.
- “CrossFit produces a ‘ready state’ from which more advanced or sport specific training becomes very efficient.” —Mark Twight
- CrossFit will for many sports reduce the total training volume, reduce training injuries, and allow more time for vital sport-specific skills and drills.
- CrossFit is more fun and seems more athletic to experienced athletes than does traditional GPP.
- CrossFit has athletes improving their fitness for years beyond, to levels significantly beyond traditional GPP.
- Sport training and physiology are not so well understood that highly specialized strength and conditioning routines are optimally effective.
Comments on General Physical Preparedness
This is one of my favorites and I reference it frequently.
Something that jumps out at me from Leyland's article - which I see in many areas, not just physical performance - is the intellectual arrogance of elite trainers and athletes. I recognize I haven't been an elite athlete, or trained any, and so there are elements I can't understand. But to say an elite athlete can't benefit from generalized training is to assert, as a trainer/coach, that you have identified every area of performance they require and the precise degree to which they require it. The amount of data you'd need to make that claim with confidence, the amount of theoretical situations you'd need to account for, seems too great for any individual.
Per Leyland: "How can I prove having more pull-ups will improve the performance of the soccer players I coach? I can do a study to show this or that particular training regime will improve pull-ups, but being better at a sport is impossible to directly measure due to the myriad variables that are relevant to sport success. "
Is the opportunity cost of GPP (versus additional specialized training) so great that we're willing to bet we've isolated precisely the right set of variables, and have made no errors of inclusion, omission or relative importance?
The same argument goes for the general population as well - our focus on "cardio" is a similar bet that we've selected the one variable that matters an can discard the others. If a prescription exists that lets us effectively, generalizably, cover our bases I'd reckon that should be the default, and the burden of proof falls on the alternative.
The intellectual arrogance is particularly ingrained in the university-educated crew and CSCS communities–both of which rely heavily on classical periodization. Anything that doesn't look like periodization is "worthless" despite the fact that no definitive body of evidence supports classical periodization as more effective than other methods of training.
I'll not even bother to comment on the many, many flaws of existing exercise "science," which is often the research equivalent of a sponsored Instagram post.
Most criticisms of GPP seem to be less about improving training and sport success and more about preserving market share and retaining clients. The NSCA worked for years to establish itself as the world's foremost authority on sports performance, yet we know that the NSCA itself will not stop short of inserting fake injury stats to discredit rivals in flawed research papers. When that's the behavior of the leadership, I'm not surprised by trainers' vague, pigheaded, unsupported assertions that periodization and sport-specific plans are "better."
Specialized athletes need sport-specific training without doubt, but what if their base levels of GPP allowed them to avoid injuries, train skills more effectively and then use those skills to a greater degree in competition?
I love reading the old journal articles!
Quote of the day, " If you are not a specialized athlete, your training should be aimed at keeping you healthy and prepared for the variety of challenges life will often throw at you." This sums up why I crossfit.
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