In a previous post (“Crossfit: the danger zone part 2″) I offered up the assertion that CrossFit is not about “exercise”, it’s about managing fitness. When I got to thinking about it, I had to admit that had someone asked me then and there what I meant, I would have had a hard time explaining it. Well that won’t do.
That blog post was part of another thread that started with a young man named Anthony Dream Johnson. Johnson doesn’t like CrossFit, and I responded to some of his comments in a blog post of my own (“Crossfit: the danger zone.”) Johnson’s point was that CrossFit is not worth the risk because there are safer alternatives. He sites back squats in particular as being really unsafe (“Barbell Squat: the Worst Exercise in Existence?.”) So does Michael Allen Smith (see “I No Longer Give a Squat About The Squat.”) I don’t know nearly enough about physiology to make an educated comment about the dangers of back squats.
But here’s the thing I think Johnson (and perhaps Smith) misses: CrossFit is not about exercises, it’s about a core concept of managing fitness that has three ideas: functional movement, high intensity, and constant variation. Which means any set of physical routines that meets those three criteria is acceptable. That’s why you see physical movements from gymnastics, weight lifting, running, rowing, cycling, kettlebells, yoga or whatever in the warm-ups and WODs. CrossFit is therefore 100% pragmatic, so if there are safer methods, they will end up as part of the core set of CrossFit WODs.
If there is a point to be made that the back squat is not worth the risk, or any other exercise is not worth the risk, so be it. Once that point is proved, CrossFitters will move on to the next best alternatives. And that open-minded and open-ended approach is what makes CrossFit all about managing fitness, and not about a devotion to a particular exercise.