Over the last few weeks, something incredible happened: an athlete competed in both the CrossFit Games in Carson, California, and also the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The reason I find this amazing is that the general knock on CrossFit is that it only prepares athletes decently well across a broad range of fitness activities, whereas sport specific training specializes in one area. To quote CrossFit itself, it is, “constantly varied functional movements done at high intensity.” It would appear, then, that to become a world class Olympic weightlifter, track and field athlete, swimmer, etc. one would have to focus specifically on training for just that sport. However, this may not be the case.
The athlete who competed in Rio and the CrossFit games is named Tia-Clair Toomey, and she is from Australia. At the Games, Toomey finished second, an outstanding feat. There is no doubt that she has a bright future in this sport. While the Olympics did not go as well, she finished 14th overall, the ability to do both in a month is incredible. In fact, Toomey actually credits CrossFit with getting her to Rio, in the first place. It would appear that all the endurance training, compound movements, and gymnastics skills only served to increase Toomey’s overall athleticism. Somehow, she is still being greatly criticized by some in her own country for doing CrossFit in preparation, however. I don’t know about you, but I will take the athlete’s word for what helped her training over that of a newspaper journalist who has probably never done Olympic weightlifting for more than a day of his life.
In furthering the question of sport specific training versus general preparation (CrossFit), this article from Stack talks about some things to consider before deciding that little Johnny should focus solely on one sport all year round. One of the most important points is the talk about overuse injuries. Let’s take a soccer player as an example. Soccer players typically have extremely develop quadricep muscles, good core stability, and good cardiovascular stamina. However, they also typically lack posterior chain strength (the entire backside of the body) and because of this are extremely prone to hamstring injuries. If a soccer player chooses to focus solely on soccer style fitness, as well, it will only serve to exacerbate this imbalance. This is where CrossFit can help. Many high level sports have seasons which last the majority of the year, and practice times typically overlap. This makes it difficult to do both soccer and football, for example. Or to play basketball and also swim at a high level. However, if an athlete can find two or three days out of the week to make it to a CrossFit box, he or she will still be able to help balance out the sport specific training being done by taking part in intense general physical preparation. With the packed schedules of modern athletes, this may be the best way to avoid overuse injuries, as well as to train to be a complete athlete, regardless of your sport.