Sunday, July 18, 2010

Firefighter Strength and Why Crossfit Sucks!


The Firefighter Strength and Conditioning program’s primary purpose is to develop operational fitness for Firefighter and Rescue personnel. When developing a comprehensive strength and conditioning program, firefighters must consider the physical demands of operational related activities in order to optimize physical performance. Physical training for operational performance is not a new concept. In fact, throughout history warriors and soldiers physically trained by performing various strength and conditioning exercises that later evolved into athletic events, such as boxing, wrestling and many track and field events. However, unlike the modern day athlete, these soldiers were not training for specific sports. They were training to be stronger, and more powerful and agile than their enemies on the battlefield. Their superior athletic prowess was developed for the primary purpose of becoming physically prepared for battle. Ironically, the traits that we generally consider to be components of athleticism were requisite based on the demands of war. Thus, many of the first competitive athletes were actually soldiers.

The firefighter not only needs to devote time to improving operational skill but also must focus on improving operational strength, conditioning and/or nutrition. As with any professional athlete, a professional in the EMS community is obligated to maintain a certain level of “Operational Fitness”. By implementing the latest cutting edge training methods and fundamental scientific principles, the Firefighter Strength and Conditioning program focuses on enhancing athleticism for today’s Firefighters.

Click here to see the beginning of our progression for training firefighters.


Ok, before all the cultists start jumping all over me, Crossfit isn't THAT bad.  It just many flaws.  Too many for me to recommend anyone doing it.  Here's why I wouldn't recommend it:

No Progression - And sadly, no regression.  Crossfit doesn't have a progression or regression protocol for it's "coaches" to follow.  They just expect everyone to be proficient at the olympic lifts from day one. 

Doing Technically Challenging Lifts While in a State of Exhaustion - Many times the workout of the day (WOD) will have an olympic lift preceded by some long run.  It may be like:  run 200 meters then clean and press 135 pounds as many times as you can in 60 seconds.  My opinion, pre-exhausting yourself before doing a technically challenging lift is a recipe for disaster. 

Unqualified Coaches Teaching These Lifts - To be a Crossfit "coach", you must pay $500 for a one day workshop.  In this workshop, you spend the day learning to teach the methods and lifts in the Crossfit program (I use the term Crossfit program loosely, but more on that later).  Granted, they do have some of the best in the business at these workshops (Mark Rippetoe and Louis Simmons), but you can't learn enough in one eight hour workshop to be proficient at teaching these lifts. 

No Program - The slogan of Crossfit is "Increased work capacity over a broad domain."  To me, that sounds like be mediocre at everything and good at nothing.  It seems as though the WOD's are just made up on the spot with no thought given to periodization.  I think the people who write the WOD's focus on the workout and not the program.  The workouts just focus on being hard.  It's important for people to realize that just because something is hard, it doesn't means it's effective. 

Like I said earlier, Crossfit isn't that bad.  I am all for anything that gets people off the couch and moving.  I just fear that, with Crossfit, the risk far outweighs the reward.  The reason I made this a double post was that Crossfit really targets the Police/Fire/Military crowd and I felt as thought the two were pretty closely related.

  By the way, this is Crossfit's mascot, Pukie the Clown.  Sounds like something I want to be a part of. /Sarcasm


  1. Jason,

    I am gonna disagree with you on most of your reasons "why crossfit sucks". I feel that your perspective is very similar to many others that dont know shit about Crossfit. I, myself, once stood on the same soapbox that you are on; making the very same points.
    1. Crossfit methodology involves a great deal of instruction, progression, regression, scaleability (whatever you would like to call it). The WODS posted on the mainsite are not intended for any slapdick to attempt, they are intended for experienced Crossfit athletes. The mainsite is primarily a marketing tool to get people into a local crossfit facility.
    2. I have become a huge fan of "Met-Con" or "Metabolic Conditioning". It involves using technical, multi-joint exercises (such as the O-Lifts)at light-moderate loads as a modality for developing and enhancing anaerobic conditioning, stamina, muscular endurance, and efficiency. At the end of your next heavy clean & jerk workout, strip the bar down to 135. With a continuously running clock, do 10 C&j then use the remainder of the minute as your recovery. When the next minute begins, repeat. See how many minutes you can keep it up for while maintaining that pace. You will not be disappointed.
    3. I will agree with you on this one regarding some of the coaches. However, it is really no different than the USAW cert requirements for coaches. I will not be spending my money on this cert.
    4. I think you really have to dig deep to understand Crossfit programming. I do my own programming, but I steal several ideas/concepts from Crossfit on my work capacity days. I use the Met-Con for conditioning. I incorporate the gymnastics weekly. In my mind, the mainsite WODS are not a formal program.

    I am a huge fan of what Greg Glassman has done with Crossfit. My training has gone to another level since I have incorporated some of the Crossfit concepts. However, I am not ready to stop thinking for myself and drink the Crossfit Kool-Aid.

  2. David,

    I'm going to respectfully disagree with you on these points. Please don't think that I based this opinion on the website alone. We have several affiliates in the Indy area, and I've personally visited a couple of them. What I saw was just aweful. Maybe what Glassman is teaching just isn't getting through? I don't understand why someone would want to use technically challenging lifts for Met-Con. Not when I can get the same metabolic affect by using much less technical lifts. More than one way to skin a cat I guess...

    I know it doesn't mean anything, but I also wonder why, if the program he created is so great, he doesn't do the workouts himself? Seriously, the guy looks as though he swallowed a watermelon and couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper sack.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. I will disagree. Crossfit does not suck, bad coaches do. IF there are coaches who don't teach the olympic lifts adequately, it's their fault and not that of the program.

    The program is based on progression, and if coaches aren't programming well they're the exception, not the rule.

    Regarding the pre-exhaustion before technically challenging lifts, high rep cleans and snatches are not as technically challenging as a 1RM attempt and are very useful conditioning tools. Not coaching ANY movement properly to ensure safety is inexcusable and is not something you'll experience with a good coach. More challenging movements provide greater training stimulus, dumbing it down is never a good training plan.

    As far as certification goes, two 8 hour days of instruction from some of the best in the business to learn 9 movements. This is the Level 1 certification (There is also a Level 2 as well as numerous specialty certifications from running, to powerlifting), intended to cover the basics. I think that pretty well covers the basics. If you want more, look for a more qualified coach. If you want proficient olympic lifting instruction get a USAW certified coach, if you want powerlifting find one that's been to Louie Simmons at Westside, want more than the basics look for a CSCS.

    The majority of people need broader capacity, not specialization. So I don't see being good at many things as a bad thing, it's actually much harder than being good at 1 thing. Sport specific athletes need cross-training to improve in their specialization. Crossfit has been used very effectively for that purpose.

    Pukie isn't a mascot, just a image someone created. In over 3 years of Crossfitting, I've never thrown up and don't think it's instrumental in the program.

  4. I have been a fan of crossfit, but have some serious doubts about the crossfit program. What is the purpose for me to be in crossfit? I know what I need to do if I want to become a faster sprinter. It will not be doing crossfit! I know what I need to do to become stronger. I do not see how crossfit can help me do this......Now I do use crossfit type workouts but only as a 1/5 of my overall programming. Their are other training aspects that need to be properly met for a true athlete. If I am into endurance I might do crossfit, but even those guys have progressions in their runs and workouts.

  5. I'm chiming in on this late in the game. However, I agree and would like to further assert, crossfit and the mentality it engenders, is dangerous!

    I started training in crossfit about five years ago and after a year or so moved to another more 'advanced' crossfit style program.

    Since then I have notice lots of MMA gyms and fitness centers moving to the CF style. And until just a few weeks ago I was a huge advocate of these programs.

    That is until I saw a sports medicine physician at the request of my family doc (who is a runner & cyclist). I am wasted! Overtrained! And I have a half dozen small nagging injuries and they are all related to this macho garbage surrounding CF and it's clones.

    I have been doing so many sporadic, unstructured workouts at high intensities that I have screwed up my metabolism! Oh and by the way, I am fatter to boot! Yes, I've gained 21 lbs of the overrated muscle but I've also gone from 14% BF to 15.5%, which has taken me from a nice 225 on my 6'6" frame to a miserable 252 lbs!
    And the other numbers don't lie! My VO2Max has declined in the last two years and the sports doc didn't attribute it to age. My recovery heart rate has gone from 75-85 beats in 2 mins to 55-65. And the sports med doc said, "It's too many HIIT, Tabata's, and workouts above your LT." And these sorts of workouts are the norm on CF and CF clones.
    Crossfit is a fitness joke. It's masochism disguised as workout. Rhabdomyolosis, joint injuries, dehydration, and arrhythmias await the long term practitioners of these insane high volume, unorganized training regimens.