CrossFit IS Holistic: Sorry Jillian Michaels, You Were Wrong About This One

A few days ago, Shape shared a video of celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels describing the problems she has with CrossFit as a fitness regimen. Like many of history’s greatest arguments go, she made very blanket generalizations and then didn’t back up any of her claims. There has been some serious backlash from the CrossFit community on Twitter, and of course some great memes (see MakeWodsGreatAgain). I’m not going to personally bash Jillian by diving into her history and all the goofy fitness related things she’s done, I’ll leave that to the memelords out there. Instead let’s just take her arguments word for word and explain why they’re incorrect.

“You’ve got 20 to 25 movements that don’t really vary…”

I’m not quite sure exactly what 20 to 25 movements she’s talking about here, but literally the entire basis of CrossFit is “constantly varied functional movement”.  If you look at a typical CrossFit gym’s programming, one of the biggest focal points is variety. Running, climbing, jumping, pushing, pulling, squatting, pressing – all of CrossFit’s most common foundational movements revolve around physical challenges that humans may need to perform in everyday life. Plus, any movement performed in a CrossFit class could have endless variations. Saying that we only have 20 movements is just flat out incorrect – take a simple squat for example. You could do a barbell front squat, back squat, overhead squat, goblet squat, single arm DB OH squat, pause squat, box squat… etc. Now think of all the variations that can be (and often are) done with all of the other movements such as lunges, overhead presses, deadlifts, rope climbs, jumping rope, etc. These movements are EXTREMELY varied and work completely different muscle groups and skill sets. What other movements could she possibly be talking about that we don’t use? Bosu Ball Squats? Any movement she can think of, we have an equivalent movement that does the same thing.

“It stops being effective because you’re not challenging the body from various angles of push and pull…”

Ring dips, push ups, strict overhead press. There are your different angles of push in each plane. Pull ups, ring rows, sumo deadlift high pulls. There are your different angles of pull in each plane. These are all basic movements performed in CrossFit gyms.

“Stops being effective… different types of movement that work different modalities.”

In any given day at a CrossFit gym you will see classic periodized weightlifting cycles, steady state cardio work, HIIT and interval training, gymnastics work, plyometric work, and isometric movements. These are all different modalities and different types of movement. I’m starting to think Jillian Michaels has never actually been to or seen a CrossFit gym.

“…and I know CrossFit (says) we work all the modalities, but no not really!”

Good argument… (that was sarcasm). She should have cited some examples.

“choose a workout that has more flexibility and strength… agility work, some endurance training

As we’ve demonstrated above, CrossFit does not only focus on power and strength. You will see many gyms working on agility (ladder drills, shuttle sprints, box jumps, double unders), as well as endurance training (our gym does an aerobic session, anaerobic session and a speed and interval session on a mono-structural movement such as running, rowing, or biking each week). Jillian says that people should find a program that does some of these things, which implies that she doesn’t understand that ALL of these are done within the CrossFit framework. She is demonstrating that she doesn’t actually know what goes on in a CrossFit gym. We have people hitting new personal records on strength AND endurance workouts, which is empirical evidence that this stuff works and works well.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Look, we could argue over what CrossFit or any other workout regimen has to offer all day. Jillian makes some blanket statements that just blatantly aren’t true, but of course she’s going to say those things because she doesn’t make money off of CrossFit. She makes money off of people buying HER programs.

The fact of the matter is that at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what it is that gets people off the couch to work on their health, as long as they do it. Aside from the technical stuff, one of the biggest values of a CrossFit gym is that it gets a group of people together who want to make themselves better and they are having fun doing it. They are cheering and encouraging each other, and leaving the gym happier and healthier than when they entered it. I’ve seen people climb a rope who never thought they’d be able to. I’ve seen people lose 100 lbs in less than a year because they finally found a group of people that encouraged them. Jillian Michaels is just trying to sell her own brand and I get that, but I don’t think she should discourage people from joining a program that could literally save their life.

 

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