Can CrossFit Make You a Better Athlete?

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Over the past four to six years, the fitness industry has been taken over by CrossFit. CrossFit gyms are popping up worldwide, and the sport of CrossFit is broadcasted on ESPN year-round. Some feel that it is just another fad, some feel that it is too dangerous, and some feel that it cannot help build a better athlete.

Even with all of the naysayers, CrossFit is proving that it may be on its way to successfully supplementing or even replacing many traditional strength and conditioning programs from high school all the way up to professional level for athletes in various sports and specialties. So what is it that is causing coaches and athletes alike to start turning to and utilizing CrossFit in their strength and conditioning programs?

The NFL’s New Orleans Saints incorporated CrossFit into their strength and conditioning program starting in 2014 after their head coach Sean Payton found CrossFit to get back into shape. This is one example of CrossFit being utilized to build stronger athletes. When asked if CrossFit can help build a better athlete, University of Cal Berkeley Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Adam Potts answered, “I think that if CrossFit is properly utilized it can most definitely be beneficial to an athlete. CrossFit utilizes multiple types of movements that can increase rate of force development in athletes.”

In football, like many sports, the athletes who participate are specialized for that sport. Just like the athletes themselves, their training is specialized. A football player isn’t going to train on ring muscle-ups simply to be able to do them because that doesn’t translate to what is asked of a football player on the field. On the other hand, a football player is going to be asked to have cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength and flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy – all of which are the 10 recognized fitness domains of CrossFit.

James Townsend, a two-sport high school All-American and Division 1 college football player, is an avid believer in CrossFit. He is co-owner of Automo CrossFit in Southern California and said, “CrossFit can make you a better athlete. In football, we train the power movements (power clean, power snatch, etc.) so the explosion and power of ground-force movements can translate onto the field for your specific position. I became more flexible, more powerful, stronger, faster and more conditioned.”

CrossFit uses science to track progress. In a journal article from CrossFit.com, fitness is defined as “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Capacity is the ability to do real work, which is measurable using the basic terms of physics (mass, distance, and time).” By timing specific exercises and by tracking the increase of weight during specific lifts, coaches can watch their athletes increase in both strength and conditioning.

No matter the sport, being a stronger athlete who can perform at a higher percentage of the body’s ability for a longer period of time is never a bad thing. Having a sprinter holding his top speed for longer or a basketball player who isn’t winded in the fourth quarter all because they not only focused on their conditioning but they also focused on their strength and power simultaneously, is a win-win. Lauren Gibbs, a member of Team USA Bobsled and a 2018 Olympic hopeful explained that, “CrossFit is great for teaching an athlete how to push themselves, training both physical and mental toughness, which I believe has made me a better athlete.”

The ability CrossFit has to be tailored to any specific sport and maintain its methodologies is what makes CrossFit such a valuable new program in the world of strength and conditioning. The focus on CrossFit’s 10 domains of fitness will only yield a better all-around athlete for any sport. It can help develop an athlete who is less fatigued late into the game, and who can push longer and harder without breaking mentally. This is an athlete who can meet and go beyond the demands of their specific sport.

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