Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Being 'ripped' and being physically fit are two very different things

A recent article from the Globe and Mail points to a fundamental problem that's endemic in much of mainstream workout culture. Dave McGinn, in his article, "Muscle confusion: Hey biceps, you'll never guess what's next," frequently conflates two very different concepts: physical fitness and bodybuilding.

There's a common misconception that a person who looks huge and ripped must be in great shape. This is not always the case; guys who hit the treadmill for five minutes a day, blast their pecs on Tuesdays and work their legs on Thursdays are almost certainly not physically fit. These are often the same guys who, when doing a CrossFit WOD for the first time, are confronted with the shocking reality that they're not even close to being fit.

Now, I'm not trying to take anything away from the practice of bodybuilding -- it's a completely valid activity in it's own right. If body sculpting is the goal, then micro-focusing on specific body parts is very likely the way to go. Moreover, as the McGinn article suggests, isolation workouts should probably be interspersed with dynamic (and dare I say CrossFit style) workouts to create the desired muscle confusion to facilitate development.

But if the goal is to be as physically fit as possible, then the bodybuilding paradigm is most certainly not the way to go. What bodybuilding fails to do is address a number of critical elements that have been tied to the development and onset of true physical fitness.

According to the CrossFit model, there are ten different fitness domains:
  • cardiovascular/respiratory endurance
  • stamina
  • strength
  • flexibility
  • power
  • speed
  • agility
  • balance
  • coordination
  • accuracy
The CrossFit program utilizes a number of very specific movements that are designed to address all these elements -- movements that include kettlebell swings, medicine ball slams, box jumps, push-ups, pull-ups, running, rowing and more. Sure, this might not sound as sexy as doing bench-presses, but these movements are highly refined and proven to work.

That said, the program also has a weightlifting component that includes complex and compound movements with heavy loads. Movements include deadlifts, overheat squats, snatches, thrusters and clean-and-jerks.

The utlimate goal of CrossFit is to create the 'quintessential athlete', equal parts gymnast, Olympic weightlifter, and sprinter. By regularly engaging in CrossFit workouts, participants are able to increase their work capacities and speed in these domains by facilitating neurological and hormonal adaptations across all metabolic pathways.

Needless to say, while a bodybuilding workout will address some of these fitness domains, it does not come close to addressing them all. It's an activity that's far too specialized and not designed to help athletes achieve high levels of fitness.

And it's also worth noting that a significant benefit of CrossFit is that bodies can and will get toned --a rather nice side-effect to getting fit if you ask me.

1 comment:

  1. I follow your blog and some of the workouts you post are so crazy I find myself having to try them. Finding a solid WOD blog is surprisingly hard to do and the workouts you post definitely adhere to the three pillars of Crossfit. This post is really insightful and the things you write are things I truly believe in. Mthank a for having such an awesome and inspiring blog.