CrossFit vs the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

When your bottom line is at stake, all kinds of things get overlooked…or just plain lied about.

I’ve seen more injuries from people in personal training and/or sports than in CrossFit. I enjoyed doing CrossFit a lot, but it ended up being too risky for me with certain lingering injuries (that I got doing not CrossFit, I should add). I now include Crossfit-like work in my sessions.

CrossFit doesn’t have the science that says its methods are better than other kinds of work outs. Indeed, CrossFit isn’t actually ABOUT getting fit. It’s the “Sport of Fitness.” It’s doing fitness as a competition in and of itself.  And let’s face it, few new work outs ever do get the science to back them up. How many DVD work outs come out each year? How many new specialty clubs that hit or kick or drum and call themselves “fitness”? CrossFit is fun, challenging, and competitive, keeping many people engaged in fitness in a way 3 sets of rows just don’t.

But you’ve heard and seen the CrossFit bashing going on. Your own trainer or chiropractor likely warned you. Most people hear anecdotes and extrapolate, but they don’t have statistics to back them up. And, apparently, neither did the National Strength and Conditioning Association! This body is in the business of certifying and re-certifying — and collecting those revenues from personal trainers, strength coaches, and athletic trainers. CrossFit Level I certification is a one-time shot of $1000 or so. Different business models. Different fitness models.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) knowingly published false information in a 2013 journal article criticizing CrossFit Inc., a California federal judge ruled last Wednesday in an ongoing lawsuit between the two groups.

“[T]he evidence now before the court could reasonably support the inference that the injury data were false and—worse—that the NSCA knew they were false and published them anyway in an attempt to protect its position in the market,” the judge said.

CrossFit representatives said that CrossFit poses an “existential threat to the NSCA” and the nonprofit’s “traditional” model of issuing trainer certifications. As a result, the NSCA allegedly “engage[d] in a smear campaign—using its JSCR as a platform to malign CrossFit training as ‘unsafe,’” the order said.

The order states: “Looking at the communication from the JSCR editorial staff to the Devor Study authors, a reasonable fact finder could conclude that the NSCA pressured the authors to include data disparaging CrossFit’s exercise regimen, and the editor-in-chief’s admonition—‘[r]emember the paper can still be rejected if the reviewers are not impressed with the sophistication of the revisions made’—could be construed as a veiled threat that the JSCR would not be interested in publishing the Devor Study if it did not include information showing ‘the fact many people do get injured doing these types of workouts,’ whether or not that ‘fact’ was true in this qualitative study.” (Club Industry)

I don’t see CrossFit doing away with the NSCA, strength coaches, athletic trainers, or personal trainers. Their “existential threat” is a little overblown. But they are taking some of the industry profits.

The NSCA is arguing the bad stats are still protected First Amendment speech, while CrossFit is saying it’s commercial speech or at least has commercial implications and they dragged the NSCA throught the mud on their blog. The upshot is it’s the NSCA who is suing CrossFit for liable.


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4 Responses

  1. Kimmie says:

    There’s definitely higher risk of injury doing Olympic lifts in quick succession with less time for set up. When heavy deadlifts are included in a WOD and particularly in an AMRAP, that is risky. I also have heard (from those that crossfit themselves) that kipping pull ups can be hard on your shoulders. Jumping down instead of stepping down from a jump over 20 inches is risky.

    But of course, this isn’t definitive of crossfit, there’s risk in all activity, what’s important is being informed of risks and deciding if the risk is worth it or changing programming to mitigate risk. Some of the “girls” WODs are problematic, some of the heroes are, and some programming in individual WODs created by boxes is needlessly high risk.

    Part of fitness (as I read in another article specifically about this that I should dig up) is getting injured less. Crossfit is awesome in that it spends a lot of time on the movements and slowly going through learning highly technical moves. People who are weight lifting themselves often don’t take that time to understand the movement that they are doing.

    Crossfit is functional fitness, I love that. But as with any training, we need to be informed and do research about what works best for our bodies.

    • Teresa says:

      CF is a sport. I don’t think most who try it realize that. The ones who stick around do. They’re competitive and like high intensity. They call themselves “athletes.” Like any sport, some should avoid it because they have neither the talent nor fitness for it. Like any sport, there are common injuries and modes of progression and times to quit. The only problem I see in CF is the boxes and coaches who don’t treat it like sport and work to get everybody doing everything. For getting fit, personal training/strength training is more adaptable. It can go high, mod, low. Modifying CF is never easy or satisfying. That said, I personally love the big moves and integration of gymnastics moves. I like the philosophy of “constantly varied, high-intensity functional movements.” I disagree it should be done by anyone with the interest unless they have the conditioning and mindset for competition and for dealing with potentially debilitating injuries.

  2. Kimmie says:

    Found it: This is the article I was looking for about risk profile.

    • Teresa says:

      Love it! I especially like “Lots of options exist of which many CrossFit boxes are not taking advantage. Strict pull ups, ring rows, planks, box jumps, standing triple jump, lunges, dips, hand release push ups, burpees, no-push-up burpees, double unders, bear crawls, farmers carry, walking lunges, front squats, bench presses, Russian kettlebell swings, prowler pushes, sled drags, dumbbell thrusters, dumbbell push presses, wall balls. Not to mention the Airdyne and the rower.”

      He’s making the same distinction between pursuing fitness and pursuing a sport. Boxes want the volume and the money, so they don’t say no and they do say it’s for everyone. It’s not. But CF is a way for some people to get stronger and compete. As legit as any other mode of exercise out there. It’s about finding the right fit.

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