If you've read my blog for any period of time, or know me well enough, you know that I'm not a Crossfit fan. To its credit, Crossfit has excelled in making people excited about working out and lifting weights - which I obviously love. Plus, anything that gets rid of pink dumbbells and machines, in favor of barbells, dumbbells, and trap bars is always going to get a thumbs up from me.
I've always maintained, however, that the devil with Crossfit is in the details. Should you perform 30 reps of an Olympic lift in a row, and then run a quarter mile, as many times as you can in 15 minutes? Probably not (the answer is, of course, never, ever do that). But, often times, people really dig Crossfit style workouts saying that they love the variety of all the exercises they do: overhead squats, box jumps, olympic lifts, double unders, kettlebell swings, rowing machines, etc.
Well, when it comes to actually seeing results, variety is completely overrated. In fact, it contributes to what I call "exercise ADD."
So, what IS exercise ADD? Perhaps an example will convey my point.
A former client of mine expressed goals that were typical for the clients that I see - lose weight, better shape, get stronger, etc. But, rather than focusing on the same exercises (and seeing actual progress), they stated how they wanted to perform all of the following exercises: bottoms up overhead carries, kettlebell snatches, windmills, pullups, kettlebell cleans, single leg squats, bottoms up turkish get-ups, ab rollouts, as well as "walking kettlebell swings" (I had to YouTube that last one). The problem? They couldn't perform a single, proper push up.
Suffice to say, it's probably no wonder why I used the word "former" client of mine. Yes, we could have tried to do all of the exercises that they stated. But, was that in their best interest for actually seeing results?
Think about it another way: yes, you could give a 4 year old a chainsaw. But....should you?
The Pareto principle states that 20% of your efforts will be responsible for 80% of your results. Think about that for a second. Okay, for another second.
That was a hard pill for me to swallow, as I always tried to take pride in being one of the hardest working people in whatever gym I was in. Wait, I need to cut out all my accessory work? But, my bi's! My tri's! My delts!
But a funny thing happened when I started cutting many of exercises I didn't need - I actually got stronger. How?
Almost everyone I know is short on time, and it's important that we get our work in, get strong, and stay healthy to live another day. By actually doing less work not only do we save time, but we also save our nervous system from a bunch of other exercises that have little effect on our bodies. Yes, you could do the leg press, calf raises, hamstring curls, and those silly looking adductor/abductor machines....or you could just perform a proper squat. Beating yourself down is just silly (this I learned first hand), and more is not always better. Better is better.
I've often claimed that a completely balanced program really only needs to consist of Turkish Get Ups and Deadlifts....everything else is just "nice" to have. Pick a few exercises, make sure it's balanced (as in, there's a push, pull, core, and something for legs), and train hard.
That is truly all you need.