The movements and strength from the butterfly stroke should traslate to bicep curls better than the other way around. (Picture from AllPosters.com)
When I was down at the American Ninja Warrior tryouts I had the pleasure of engaging Rafe Kelley, one of the founders of Parkour Visions, a non-profit Parkour gym in the Seattle area, regarding training protocols and techniques. While we were discussing CrossFit, he summed up nicely something we were both commenting on. He indicated that skills and strength from complex movements translate better to simple movements than skills from simple movements do towards complex movements. One of the examples that Rafe gave to clarify his point to a couple folks who were listening in was that gymnasts who typically have never touched a barbell can usually dead liftwell over 300 lbs on their first try. ( Such was the case with me. When I competed in the CrossFit Total in the 2007 CF Games, I scored 335 in the dead lift, but only because I didn’t know how much to lift since I had never maxed out on a deadlift before. My max was actually about 365 to 375 at the time. My background was some gymnastics as well as track, soccer, and climbing) Another example was that if you have a planche, chances are that your bench press is pretty good whereas if you have a descent bench press, it doesn’t necessarily translate as well to a planche. I want to indicate that both the dead lift and the bench press are also compound movements and they do loan themselves to other skills effectively, or at least a lot better than “muscle isolation” exercises do towards other activities. Both the dead lift and bench require control and balance.
CrossFit provides an excellent base far superior to nautilus and other exercise machines and the Olympic Lifts require true athleticism, speed, and coordination. Nevertheless, there are many other complex movements and combinations of movements that if you only do CrossFit workouts as they are commonly thought of, you will be depriving yourself of. There is also an elements of “play” that is missing from the common CrossFit protocol. In parkour, martial arts, rock-climbing and ball sports, and even gymnastics you get to experiment, explore, and use your creativity. That’s why the CrossFit prescription as it was originally intended encourages participation in other sports and constantly varied activities. If you do Fight Gone Bad, chances are each Sumo-Dead Lift-High Pull, wall-ball, etc, won’t be that much different from all the other ones, (with the exception that they may progressively hurt more) whereas if you are wrestling with an opponent, playing soccer, or navigating a line of obstacles in parkour, you constantly have to react, assess the situation, and use your creativity to overcome the challenges at hand. So, in my opinion, there is a hierarchy of complexity at which the common CrossFit protocol is not at the peak, but more in a median position, when compared to other movements.
An interesting fact is that on Tuesday May 24th, 2011, the workout on the main page was comprised of 50M swim and push-ups. This immediately brings up a couple of questions I think should be obvious to ask given several assumptions. The first assumption(s) are that swimming must be a valuable, and complex skill and an excellent exercise for a workout. I’m not going to make a supporting argument for that claim in the interest of brevity. Secondly, I’m going to assume that swimming is dangerous in certain situations because someone who is not a good at it or who finds themselves in a strong current can end up drowning. So my questions are a) why haven’t we seen swimming prescribed previously on the CrossFit home page before (at least not in the last few years) if swimming is, as assumed, a valuable skill? Secondly, why only 50M at a time? My guess is that it has to do with the safety of the activity and the liability that CrossFit Incorporated exposes themselves to when prescribing something like swimming as a component of “Fitness”. A fitness protocol where people end up dying from drowing, falling off a cliff while climbing, or breaking their back from a parkour fall leaves itself exposed to lawsuits in our hyper-litigious society. Complex skills and movements aren’t any less a part of functional fitness than work capacity in simpler movements. On the contrary, they may be more pertinent to fitness if looked at from a practical survival and skill based point of view, albeit they carry with them increased possiblities for injury. But if you are willing to take that additional risk, participating in activities such as self-defense, parkour, gymnastics, climbing, swimming, skiing, surfing, ball sports, paintball, Ninja Warrior, etc, can be extremely valuable and mentally engaging, which leads to having more fun, which is directly related to what is, in my opinion, the most important and often over-looked element of fitness- happiness!
Is this kid engaged in fitness??
Don’t forget to mix it up, CrossFitters!