Crossfit has long prided itself on fitness. The winners are deemed “the fittest on the planet”, but this abstract term doesn’t hold up under any kind of scrutiny. This article is not meant to demean anyone who enjoys CrossFit. It can be really fun! It’s simply to aid in understanding CrossFit programming and general fitness.
“Fitness” can in fact mean a lot of things. Biologically, it simply indicates the ability to survive and produce offspring. As a colloquialism, it’s used to mean “athleticism”. CrossFit, for obvious reasons, uses the latter. Therein arises the problem: CrossFit does not use any sort of empirical metric to measure this. So what are the “stats” of fitness?
An obvious one and the Games actually do generally measure this in some indirect fashion. Often through a ladder event, like deadlifts. However, since CrossFit loves to tout “adaptability” why is so much emphasis placed on barbell work? In the gym, it makes sense. They are generally cheap and most people have some familiarity with them. That’s without getting into the concept of removing the clock. Ladders are great to be timed, but max strength isn’t measured via time. You wouldn’t even really have multiple people competing at the same time (see: lifting, field events).
The other obvious facet of athleticism, foot speed isn’t really measured at all in CrossFit, which is a shame because a flat-out sprint can be thrilling to watch. With most CrossFitters being a bit bulky though, the times they put up would probably be unimpressive.
Again, the Games do highlight this in a general sense, but athletes aren’t allowed to showcase their max ability. Do progressively heavier snatches or cleans until there’s a last man standing! Discus! High jump, even!
What, I guess they do handstand walks? Because those are useful, right? They did have that obstacle course in 2017 and it was really fun to watch! More of those, please.
Usually there’s a token event per year for this, be it a 3-mile or trail run, mini-triathlon, et cetera. Given that humans evolved massive stamina abilities in heat compared to other species, you’d think it’d be better-represented.
This is the place where CrossFit really shines. Using muscles for extended periods of time, with heavy fatigue. Arguably, this is the only true thing the Games measure.
Ultimately, a big part of the CrossFit Games is watchability. Having the athletes go head-to-head on every event and switching things up. All of that is totally fine. And metabolic conditioning and HIIT as systems for personal health and well-being are great (with the right coaches)! But this idea and claim of the “Fittest on the Planet” is merely a marketing gimmick, without evidence to back it up.
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