Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit? This topic seems to come up in my little world more and more these days. What do I think about this? As usual, I have several opinions.
First, I would like to acknowledge that there are many people, myself included, that would have never been introduced to the Oly lifts without CF. I had never heard of a clean & jerk or a snatch, ever in my life, before I became a CrossFitter over 4 years ago -- and I was a gym regular for years. So the exposure to weightlifting that CrossFit has provided, has been beneficial to the sport, I am certain. And I am grateful, because in learning to lift, I found my passion.
That being said, there are ongoing problems with CrossFit regarding the Oly lifts that cannot be denied. Let’s talk about some of those things.
Teaching the lifts: Currently, when one receives a CrossFit level 1 certification, it “qualifies” them to be a CrossFit trainer. The level one cert does not introduce the Oly lifts. By the way, a medicine ball clean is nothing like a clean. And a push jerk isn’t nearly as useful when someone doesn’t know how to get the bar from the floor to the racked position. CFHQ does not require any sort of proficiency in the lifts. However CrossFit regularly programs Oly lifts in wods. Are we to assume that the level one trainer is equipped with the basic knowledge to teach a clean, a snatch, and a jerk? The vast majority are not. But they are CrossFit certified trainers. So how do these new CrossFitters learn to lift properly? Many don’t.
Misinformation/representation regarding Oly lifts: I cannot count how many times I have seen video links to wods that are not a representation of how the wod is actually written. A clean & jerk is a clean & jerk. It is not a thruster. Yet a CF newbie who viewed the video would assume that what they see from this “elite” CrossFitter is a technically correct clean & jerk. CrossFit needs to say “ground to overhead.” That is what they generally mean.
Incorrect terminology: Why, oh why, does CFHQ not get the terms correct? It’s far from rocket science, yet they seem to take great pleasure in confusing the shit out of the mass CF main site followers. If they just used the correct terms, they would eradicate all of the ridiculous posts that ask, “It says ‘clean,’ does that mean I can ‘power clean’ it?” Or “It says ‘clean.’ So do I ‘squat (don’t get me started) clean’ or ‘power clean?”’ It is so simple. I could go in to the explanation, but I have in a previous blog. So I won’t. But I am left to believe that CFHQ enjoys the message boards being clogged with stupid questions. It’s either that, or they love to f@#K with the lifting community. I personally believe, it’s a combination of the two.
The programming of lifts at high repetitions/intensity: This is a recipe for disaster in many circumstances. Let’s take people who can’t even tell you what a snatch is and have them do it 75 times during “Randy.” Awesome idea? Not hardly! Yet, it’s being done over and over by CF affiliates worldwide. If your affiliate is better than that, I applaud you. But don’t be pissed because I am speaking the truth about the vast majority.
So, it’s my opinion that the biggest CF problem, by far, is not taking the time to teach people how to lift correctly. And I believe this to be such, primarily because it’s a long process, and needs to be taught in a progressive manner. Most affiliates do not have trainers or the resources to spend the time necessary to teach new people. Newbies are pushed into classes well before they should be, either based on economics or scheduling -- which I understand to a point. I was trainer at a small affiliate and I understand the challenges -- so I’m speaking from experience, not out of my ass. But regardless of the excuses, affiliates need to do a better job. It isn’t their fault entirely, however. I blame CFHQ for not policing the quality of movement being taught, or more specifically, for the fact that the Oly certification is a separate entity from the Level 1. You simply cannot be a good CF trainer, if you don’t have the necessary basic knowledge of Olympic weightlifting.
I realize that many, many CrossFit trainers have taken it upon themselves to further their education regarding the oly lifts. And that is awesome. I have been to the CF Oly cert. I am USAW level 1 certified, and I just recently attended the Catalyst Athletics seminar. I watch videos, read everything I can get my hands on, and I follow a lifting training program. Does this make me flawless at teaching the lifts? Unfortunately, no. But I do my best -- and I continually try to become better and continue to educate myself.
I have a great deal of respect for the sport of weightlifting. And although I have been lifting regularly for a few years, I know that I have so much more to learn. So when I was asked recently, “Don’t you ever ‘just lift’ without worrying about your form?” My answer was, “Uh, No. Never.” That’s like asking me if I go anywhere without wearing lip-gloss!? You get my point. It matters to me. Always.
CrossFit continues to introduce the lifts to its massive followers – which is super great. What they don’t do well -- is communicate to them that it takes lots of time (years) to get proficient at them. And that’s IF you practice. And have a DECENT trainer. And CARE about it.
So, herein lies why I say that Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit are an awkward marriage. The two are linked now -- for better or worse. There is an undeniable bond between them. Weightlifting is benefiting from the exposure that CrossFit has given them. CrossFit continues to flaunt their relationship all over the internet in a way that isn’t always accurate or beneficial. But the two are linked. Good or bad. If only they could find a way to come together and form a cohesive union. Find what is good between them. And fix what isn't.
Maybe CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting need a couples retreat to try and mend the vast differences in this troubled twosome.
Or maybe they will continue to live in limbo.