Busting Crossfit Myths - Part 2

Posted by Lora on Sun, Oct 23, 2022

In the previous article we discussed how common CrossFit folklore, the lack of scientific evidence and overdilutted knowledge base result in the common impression that CrossFit is not a sport for the faint of heart. False information is only perpetuated within the community by toxic redneck culture, lack of knowledgeable coaches and lack empirical evidence on proper functional fitness training methodology. Today we will bust one of the worst myths that haunts the CrossFit space - You should always put your max effort into every workout.

Myth #2: You should always put your max effort into every workout

This is a big one, arguably the biggest and baddest of CrossFit myths. I am truly struggling to discuss this topic without ranting out about all the toxic culture and way of thinking that perpetuates this most dangerous myth.

The first issue I have with this statement is “maxing out” or putting 100% effort every time. Putting truly max effort into every workout will most likely result in overtraining and increased risk of acute or overuse injury. The practical reason to not do that is most of us are following a general program, either the box program or a program we have purchased online. While we should rely on our box coach or the person who has written the program to advise us on desired intensity and scaling options for every session, this is too often not the case. Blindly following a program that is built for some sample athlete or following a cookie cutter approach to training, coupled with maximum exertion every time, would likely lead to overtraining and all associated health risks that come with that. In addition to that most programs are built with the intent that you don’t end up doing too little, but only a few consider advising you on how not to do too much. This is why here at Atlon we advise our athletes to aim for an Effort Score between 70% and 85% during their regular training days. If you want to figure out your workout Effort Score, you can download Atlon for free from the app store. If you are not an Apple user, you can use rate of perceived exertion (RPE) as a way of assessing your workout effort. Here is a good article on the topic, if you would like to learn more about rate of perceived exertion.

The idea behind 70-85% effort every time is that you train hard enough to achieve the intended adaptations, but not too hard and overtrain. Going too hard in a workout for a lot of us might mean not showing up at the gym for a few days, and there is no way that one max effort workout would surpass the results of 2-3 or even 4 sessions at a good to high effort. So, aim at a sustained performance and effort, instead of max effort. As you get fitter and more experienced you will be better able to gauge how much fuel you can put in the wod.

“Stimulate, don’t annihilate!”- Lee Haney

Second issue I have with putting max effort every time is how CrossFit Inc. talks about technique. There is so very little emphasis on the importance of maintaining good form throughout the WOD, that for most crossfitters, this is not even a consideration. While within their Level 1 Training Guide (full PDF here) CrossFit Inc. does talk about the importance of safety and technique (see p.40-44 of the CF L1 Training Guide) it is largely in a discussion of intensity and ‘work capacity as a primary value for assessing technique’. While the underlying concept is correct, which is simply - the one who can do the work more efficiently has better technique, this is extremely difficult to quantify in a practical scenario, such as a WOD where a fresh L1 coach has 10-15 athletes doing complex gymnastics or weightlifting. It also, yet again, puts an enormous focus on effort and exertion, rather than form and movement quality. All this paired up with a lack of comprehensive training and information on good kinematics for most CrossFit exercises causes for most of us to prioritize intensity and effort over technique. And then we wonder why so many people deem CrossFit as silly, ridiculous, or just dangerous.

Lastly comes the culture, social media accounts, and the countless MEMEs perpetuating the idealization of “actually dying in the workout”, “hitting big lifts with bad form”, or “hiding from the warm up”. While we can all see a bit of ourselves in some of those posts, we must be mindful about making them part of our way of thinking. While these are certainly entertaining, I myself follow several Instagram accounts dedicated to that, let us see them for what they truly are - a bit of fun and the ability to laugh at ourselves. They are NOT something that should affect our way of training or even thinking about training. So please, please, STOP IT! Stop idealizing bad technique, going all out every time and potentially hurting yourself. Be an intelligent athlete and focus on getting fitter and not becoming the inspiration for an “epic fail” video.

In the next article we will be busting the myth that promotes the idea the best way of doing a workout is doing everything unbroken, as fast as possible, ideally taking no breaks.

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