Millions of people flood my DM’s every week asking me the CrossFit Question. It’s become quite clear to me that most experts are afraid to tackle the JQ- I mean CQ. It’s a radioactive topic and I’m risking my life with this post, as per usual on this blog. Just yesterday a young college student came up to me and asked, “why are CrossFitters so jacked?!” I smacked him on the top of his head with a tack hammer, instantly raising this country’s average IQ. What I’m saying is that you have a moral obligation to murder stupid people.
The CrossFit Games is a competition held once per year in which 40 men and 40 women vie for three respective podium spots. The Games is a series of athletic events over several days to showcase which athlete is psychologically damaged and masochistic enough to have trained in such a way that allows them to end up with the most points after all the tests are finished. The events include weightlifting, plyometrics, gymnastics, aerobic conditioning, and sometimes an amalgamation of all those ingredients. Surprises are sprinkled in with swims, pegboards, and other various torture devices. That was probably even more boring to read than it was to type.
The typical CrossFit Games competitor looks like Ivan Fucking Drago from the neck down (and most of the women look like Ivans with great rumps, see Brooke Wells). This is why I’ve been summoned to write, to provide the web with another Correct Opinion. In today’s lecture, I will thoroughly rummage through the CQ and answer it. There will no longer be a need to discuss the following subject matter. Good luck and Godspeed.
The winners of the last 4 competitions have been Rich Froning Jr. (’14), Ben Smith (’15), Mat Fraser (’16-17), Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (’14), Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir (’15-16), and Tia-Clair Toomey (’17).
Sorry to spoil the end of Fittest on Earth, but you should still watch it if you aren’t yet thoroughly convinced that you’re softer than baby shit. You’re getting me sidetracked again. This is not about you, it’s about the CrossFit Question.
While you’re on Netflix, watch Pumping Iron as well.
Why Are CrossFitters So Buff?
If one were to ask their neighbor, John Johnson, how to look like an elite CrossFitter, he’d likely say “do CrossFit” or something stupid like that. Fuck off, John. If Brad Pitt called me today (not an unlikely scenario) to inquire about how he could look like he’s in the NBA and I responded with “play basketball,” I’d be lampooned and ostracized for being dumb. I’d tell him, “Brad, you’re my oldest friend and a straight-shooter, so I’ll be frank. You should’ve picked parents who could make somebody a foot taller than you with a 37-inch vertical jump. Goodbye, my lover.” If he wanted to look like an elite marathoner, I’d tell him he should’ve been born in the Kenyan tribe known as the Kalenjin (and to get a psychiatric evaluation).
“There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in the marathon. There were 32 Kalenjin who did it in October of 2011.” – David Epstein
I’ll move on before I start being accused of eugenics. The Smart Reader will be red in the face right now, accusing me of a disingenuous argument. He is partially right. Obviously, the point of basketball is not to make one grow taller. The point of CrossFit is fitness. So, physiological changes are par for the course in CrossFit while minor physiological changes from basketball are byproducts of those who play it consistently and vigorously. But, playing basketball will never make the participant taller. Today, and for the rest of eternity, I’m making a case that there are physiological requirements one must possess if they have the intention of being Elite, CrossFit or otherwise. This is in stark contrast to the popular belief that Hard Work comes first and the Elite tag comes second. The vast majority of Top Dogs are born that way and foster those capabilities through training. The Normal/Loser Dogs don’t train their way into Sport Supremacy because they can’t.
Put on a hard hat
Basketball is a ball sport that isn’t directly loading the body in a way that would produce changes in an athlete’s physique. The more skilled and practiced a weightlifter becomes, the more likely it is that their physique will reflect that fact, provided their programming and nutrition isn’t garbage. Try to find a guy who can squat 300kg but has skinny legs. The sport of CrossFit is a combination of, let’s say, fitness tools that are used as a competitive test (usually against others but can be against the Self. Faster times, heavier weight, more reps, and so on. Now that I think about it, the point of CrossFit is to annihilate the Self and transcend the ego). So the sport itself, when done correctly, is an amalgamation of all the training one could do to make themselves stronger, more muscular, more “fit”, or have a sweet (pointless) six-pack. The sport of basketball is an amalgamation of minor skills (dribbling, shooting, passing, etc.) that happen only when one is playing that exact sport. The point of playing basketball is not to become taller (it won’t help you even a little) or more fit, it just so happens that there is a positive correlation between height and basketball proficiency. This winding tale has a cohesive ending, please be patient.
What did I mean when I said loading the body?
When one sets out on the path to improve themselves in the game of basketball, they are taken through shooting, passing, dribbling, footwork, lay-up drills, and much more. The game of basketball can be broken down into a near-infinite number of skills that are drillable and need to be routinely practiced for ascendance into the Basketball Heavens. This is true. CrossFit, as I vomited out earlier, is no different in that it is a compilation of skills. But, many of the skills in CrossFit use compressive forces that force the body to adapt to such stimuli. Think of a High-Bar Squat, the mass sitting directly on the axial skeleton, hips, and legs will force the body into much different physiological adaptation than anything in basketball, or even swimming (a sport often mistaken as one that makes people strong as hell because one has resistance to their every movement in the water). Nothing like this exists outside strength-related sports and can’t be duplicated inside the rules of ball sports. Anne, punch me in the face.
If one were to attempt an entrance into basketball supremacy (D1 or professional, let’s say), the way he/she would do it is not by playing 5-on-5 basketball for 6 hours every day. They’d improve with that approach, but it would hardly be as productive as breaking the sport down into its specific skills to tackle efficiency issues to create a more well-rounded player when he/she comes back to 5-on-5. Playing 5-on-5 all day every day is a great way to die. This is the same as doing CrossFit to train for CrossFit. Playing 5-on-5 basketball is a taxing performance. It should absolutely not be confused with and/or substituted for training to perform. This is getting dry and tedious, I know.
I made a distinction before about CF done correctly. One does not compete if they are not doing individual weightlifting/gymnastics/aerobic/etc. sessions. The biggest reason Mat Fraser has dominated the past two Games is that he had over a decade of weightlifting (Snatch, Clean & Jerk) under his belt before he started competing.
An athlete raising his squat from 195 lb for a 5-repetition maximal effort to a 325 lb 5RM and using the common byproducts (stronger hips, legs, erectors, abs, Self) to make his/herself better at basketball isn’t quite as efficient as squatting to make oneself better at squatting (a movement used extremely often in CF) because there is a bit of a time lag between adding the strength and transitioning it into current skill work for sport. Squatting for strength will enhance the athlete’s work capacity and ability to adapt to stimuli, any stimuli, but it doesn’t automatically improve their ability to make the ball go in the hoop. That takes specific, skill-dependent drills after accumulating this new neuromuscular efficiency from strength training. The actual squat is used more or less in every CrossFit event. The Snatch uses an overhead squat, the Clean & Jerk uses a front squat, High-Rep Body-Weight Squats are used often, High-Bar Squats, etc. Both CrossFit and basketball athletes would benefit greatly from learning to Low-Bar Squat 500 lb. However, many (almost 100%) professional basketball players have entered the HOF while never squatting routinely in their entire lives. A CrossFitter will not make it a week without squatting. So, basketball as a sport can exist independent of the loading of the body that occurs with weightlifting and gymnastic-style movements, although there are some acrobatic feats performed at high levels of Ball. Basketball players routinely experience much running and plyometric movements, though, so it’s not as if the sport is free of load-bearing activity. It’s just that the entire sport of CrossFit is made up of various forms of load-bearing activity. CrossFit is different than every other sport (except for Strongmen competitions and the like) in that respect.
Many of you have a gun in your mouth right now, but others reading this have never taken Sport through the Socratic Ringer. They are becoming enlightened.
This lays enough groundwork to bring me back to the disingenuous objection. Playing basketball to make oneself taller is not perfectly analogous to doing CrossFit as a way to get jacked, yoked, ripped. Fine. The individual skills of CrossFit are fitness tools that change the body and that is their purpose (for the most part). The individual skills of basketball are to make one better at basketball, their only purpose. A fortunate side effect of basketball skills is a little fitness, but that is not the end goal of the activity. And the point of basketball is certainly not to get taller. Maybe I’ll smack myself with the tack hammer.
To be Great at basketball, one must be tall. Below are Sports Illustrated’s top ten players of 2018.
10. Draymond Green, 6’7. ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING GOURD, SI? Oh yeah, Draymond Green is better than JIMMY BUTLER, A GODDAMN NATIONAL TREASURE (this statement didn’t age well – me, 11 January 2020). HOW ABOUT HIS OWN TEAMMATE, KLAY THOMPSON, WHO SCORED 60 POINTS WHILE HOLDING THE BALL FOR A TOTAL OF 90 SECONDS. THAT’S .67 POINTS PER SECOND FOR THOSE KEEPING TRACK AT HOME. YOU LISTED HIM AT 20. WHAT! AM I THE ONLY SANE PERSON ALIVE? I GUESS IT’S TOTALLY REASONABLE THAT DRAYMOND “THERE’S SOMETHING IRRESISTABLE ABOUT KICKING GROWN MEN IN THE BALLS” GREEN IS BETTER THAN KYRIE IRVING, KAT, PAUL GEORGE, JOHN WALL, GORDON HAYWARD, LILLARD, CONLEY, FUCK. HE’S JUST BARELY NOT AS GOOD AS THE GREEK FREAK. HUH? BEN GOLLIVER AND ROB MAHONEY, HAND IN YOUR EYES. YOU ARE NO LONGER ALLOWED TO WATCH SPORTS.
9. Giannis Antetokounmpo, 6’11
8. Anthony Davis, 6’10
7. Chris Paul, 6’0
6. Russell Westbrook, 6’3
5. James Harden, 6’5
4. Kawhi Leonard, 6’7
3. Stephen Curry, 6’3
2. Kevin Durant, 6’10
1. LeBron James, 6’8
We have one man who is slightly tall. The mean height in the NBA is a hair over 6’7″. You must be at least this tall to ride this coaster.
To be Great at CrossFit, one must need a genetic capacity for an absurd workload. Work = Force (the influence causing a change in motion to the body or body plus a barbell/dumbbell/etc.) multiplied by the Distance of the movement. There are many critics of CrossFit. There are no critics who claim CrossFitters don’t do a lot of Work.
It’s not at all abnormal for somebody to gain 10-20 lb of lean body mass over a relatively short stretch of time spent under a barbell. It is abnormal to have 8-10% body fat, hold a lot of skeletal muscle mass, and be damn strong while doing copious amounts of aerobic activity. You are going to be in the former group, the normal one. That is fine because you can still exploit the human body’s ability to adapt to the stimuli it undergoes. That’s what’s so nice about being a biologically complex organism such as a homo sapien. Anybody, even my dear reader, can start lifting weights or shooting a basketball. It’s obviously not necessary to be 6’8” to play basketball or look like a Greek statue to do CrossFit.
But, and this is the crux of my argument, no matter what you do there is a .000001% you will ever be able to look like a Games competitor. CrossFit does not make the athletes look like that, it allows them to exploit their genetic tendencies. The NBA is no different. So my analogy is actually super good. Apt, one might say.
The elite athletes in any athletic endeavor all look almost identical. Middle school swimmers come in all shapes and sizes. It’s about having fun and getting some exercise. Varsity high school swimmers are in good shape and have likely accrued many hundreds of hours in the pool working solely on conditioning, technical proficiency, or both. High-level collegiate swimmers look like brothers and sisters, Olympic swimmers look like identical twins.
Does one have to be brilliant to do algebra? Absolutely not, but if one wants to be a theoretical physicist he/she (LOL) isn’t getting a seat at the table with an IQ under 145. Here I go with the eugenics again.
The long, drawn-out point of this blog is that people who are insanely successful at the CrossFit Games or at least compete regularly (top 40 in the world) are genetically predisposed to excel in the events that occur. None of the competitive athletes were rotund desk jockeys before they decided to get their act together. All of them had previous success in Sport and transitioned once they finished that activity for whatever reason it was. These people were going to carry around a lot of muscle and look cut without much effort no matter what they did. This is not to say that they don’t work their asses off every day for years to reach the point they do. I’m not discounting their work ethic in the slightest. Lots of genetic freaks dwindle and then bow out of competition for lack of effort (except for Michael Beasley. Sometimes people are so athletic that they don’t have to even remotely try to foster their talents and they’ll make millions. But, he is 6’9″).
Aside: it’s common for the layperson to see a competitive female CF athlete and be somewhat shocked by their muscle mass and definition. This is a fairly reasonable response, as most professional sports for women do not require size like the sport of CrossFit. There are only a few high-profile sports in which females compete on a national/international scale: tennis, basketball, soccer, MMA. Volleyball and ice hockey are popular during the Olympics. However, in comparison to their male counterparts, there is little money in these sports unless they are a Williams/Sharapova. This is because people don’t watch them. CrossFit is a new sport that offers a fairly large purse for the podium qualifiers and endorsements galore through supplements, clothing, equipment, etc. The potential to make money naturally selects for a larger pool of genetic powerhouses. Sport is the last aspect of Darwinism left for humans. More incentive to compete means higher level of play and higher-caliber athletes. Hence, Brooke Ence. I am Dr. Seuss’s grandson.
A hypothetical to send my argument home: let’s say you trained seriously with a barbell for about 2-3 years. Your squat bled into the range of 450-500 lb, deadlift around 550, power clean in the upper 200’s or low 3’s (if you picked the right parents), et cetera. Then you hop in with Mat Fraser and match his work for an entire year. One or more of three events will likely occur.
- You die because Mat is a gorilla.
- You can’t handle the work capacity and overtrain, forcing you to quit or drastically reduce your workload which results in insufficient stimuli to ever be competitive in the CrossFit Games. Better luck next year, bucko.
- You hobble past the finish line with Mat as he begins to taper his training so that he is fresh and ready for the Games and you, for some strange reason, don’t look anything like the statue you expected. Your body hurts all over, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. You’re in good shape, no doubt, but you certainly aren’t carrying the muscle mass of a Rich Froning, Jason Khalipa, or a minuscule Dan Bailey. You are defeated and want to go home. Mat is gearing up for the new biggest competition of his life and you are loving this IV drip after being hospitalized. Get those electrolytes in son, you done good.
Do CrossFit if you must, but you will not be suspiciously good looking like Alex Anderson or Celia Gabbiani.
“Well, that about does her, wraps her all up… I guess that’s the way the whole darned human comedy keeps perpetuatin’ itself, down through the generations, westward the wagons, across the sands of time until we– aw, look at me, I’m ramblin’ again. Well, I hope you folks enjoyed yourselves. Catch ya later on down the trail.” – The Stranger