Application of Functional Movements, Part 3

An Overview of CrossFit

E. Lack of Functional Movements in Other Programs

A lack of functional movements is the biggest indicator of a program that is not developing well rounded fitness. Remember, “fitness” as defined by the ten skills in the Endnotes. Numerous comparisons to isolation strength training programs, bodybuilding, and long distance running have been developed already; but even programs like Pilates and yoga are guilty of the fault of lacking functional movements. Isolation strength training and bodybuilding are lacking in functional movements and do not develop all ten areas of fitness; therefore they are not developing true well rounded fitness. 

Programs like Pilates and yoga may seem to develop fitness, but do they increase cardiovascular endurance, speed, power, accuracy or stamina? The answer is basically no. These programs provide such little improvements that they might as well be non-existent. They do not improve all the areas of fitness. Pilates and yoga may seem to improve fitness and health but imagine a professional athlete, like a football player, that used only Pilates or yoga as his or her training method. This athlete would be lacking in power, speed, accuracy, strength, balance, stamina, etc. to such degree that the example is ridiculous. Pilates, yoga, and similar programs do not develop functional power, speed, agility, flexibility, stamina, or accuracy. A football lineman needs power to drive opponents away from the quarterback. Pilates has no ability to develop this much needed power. Consider this, Pilates or yoga doesn’t work for a professional athlete but is widely recommended to women or the elderly. Conversely, CrossFit works for both professional athletes and women and the elderly. This is because football players, women, or the elderly use the same functional movements every day; the only difference is the intensity level the movements are executed at. Football players are at a much higher intensity then some other groups.

Most would argue that Pilates or yoga programs develop balance; but these programs develop a nonfunctional balance. An example of this would be a basic Pilates or yoga balance movement. For this move, the athlete stands on one leg, with the foot of the other leg resting on the side of the knee of the supporting knee, with arms to the side and eyes closed. While this will definitely develop the ability to stand on one leg, what most people call balance, the problem lies in the fact that an athlete, or anyone, rarely stands on one leg with eyes closed. This move develops balance, but not a useable balance. This move is a non-functional movement and is similar to practicing hitting baseballs in preparation for a championship tennis match. It makes little sense to practice something that isn’t going to apply to the participant’s life. The elderly are not worried with standing on one leg; they are focused on not falling from their two legs! A more functional balance developing movement would be a weighted walking lunge or even the squat. These exercises are much more useful in everyday life and sports because a person or athlete is more likely to use either of these positions at some time. Even the flexibility gains of Pilates or yoga fall into the non-functional realm. When on the field, an athlete is not slowly lowering themselves into a stretch and holding that stretch for 10-20 seconds, they are quickly moving that joint to the outer reaches of their range of motion. 

F. Over-emphasis of a singular Functional Movement

Participating in a functional movement pattern too often (to the exclusion of other movement patterns) also fails the CrossFit definition of fitness. For example, running is a functional movement but one look at long distance runners showcases that the extensive time spent training in the oxidative pathway has caused a pronounced decrease in muscle mass, speed, and power (What is Fitness 4). Long distance athletes, while commonly regarded by many as “the fittest,” are severely lacking in several areas of fitness such as strength, speed, power, flexibility, and accuracy. (Refer to Endnotes Table 1) Remember, the fittest athlete is the one with the most balanced strengths in each of those ten areas of fitness.