Ultimate’s Crossfit Problem

by | March 10, 2016, 7:30am 41

I’ve been talking about training principles for several years now and I’m happy to see that more ultimate players are taking their physical preparation for the sport we all love more seriously. However, despite repeated warnings and consensus among the strength and conditioning coaches in the ultimate community, there are still too many ultimate players, some of them even elite players, who believe that Crossfit is adequate training for ultimate.

I won’t even go into a diatribe about how Crossfit coaches are only required to have very little training to open up a gym. Everyone argues that their coach is somehow different than all the others.

The thing is, regardless of how good your Crossfit coach is, Crossfit cannot be a good solution for serious ultimate players because it was not designed for athletes and its programming is fundamentally flawed. The best Crossfit coaches are those who deviate the most from Workout of the Day (WOD) style workouts. The best practitioners of Crossfit, and those who actually win the Crossfit games, don’t follow Crossfit’s own philosophy.

What’s The Difference Between Crossfit And Training For Ultimate?

One of the foundational tenets of Crossfit is that they are building all around athletes. People who do Crossfit are supposed to be adequately prepared for whatever comes out of “the hopper” – which is to say a selection of movements which may not have any correlation to previous workouts. Crossfit’s own publication proposes that “workouts need considerable variance or unpredictability, if not randomness, to best mimic the often unforeseeable challenges that combat, sport, and survival demand and reward.”

If you are looking for general fitness, then this philosophy is correct. If you are trying to become prepared for anything in particular, like the sport of ultimate, like survival in a desert, or combat in the jungle, then you need more specific training. Sports are not full of unforeseen challenges. The parameters you need to train for are fairly predictable.

For ultimate, the primary athletic qualities are speed, agility, jumping ability, and speed endurance. There are specific ways to train for these athletic qualities. You also know when you need to be best prepared. Tournaments do not come out of a hopper. They come on specific weekends. You likely already know the date of the most important weekend of the season.

Instead of training for the theoretical random, we can train for the known specific thing that’s most important to us.

What Have Ultimate Players Been Learning in the Ultimate Athlete Project?

When I asked my UAP members what they learned most by being a part of the program, the overwhelming choice was the concept of periodization. A simple explanation of periodization is that you cannot train all athletic qualities at once. Instead, you stack training blocks which focus on various athletic qualities in a way that allows for better overall physical adaptation.

Why Can’t You Train Everything At Once?

When the body has to choose between adapting for endurance or adapting for strength or power, it will always choose endurance. This is why you have to eliminate a lot of conditioning in order to make true gains in strength and power. This is why you cannot train everything in one workout – or even in the same week – if you want efficient adaptation.

Each athletic quality has its own unique profile for adaptation and loss of that adaptation. This is true of the short term (supercompensation) and in the longer term (residual training effect). But in general, your body adapts the most to a new training stimulus in the first three weeks of applying that stimulus. A new training stimulus means means more than just a variety of exercises or workout types. It means a change in focus on what athletic quality you are training. WOD-style workouts are basically metabolic conditioning. The exercises change but the focus, the athletic quality you are training remains the same.

A periodized program, however, begins with the end in mind. We have a specific sport we’re training for and a specific time we want to be at our best level of performance. Crossfit has no way to handle this planning other than modifying the volume or frequency of different types of workouts. How does what you are doing in your Crossfit gym today relate to what you did a month ago beyond perhaps doing more reps in the given amount of time? How does it relate to what you will do a month from now?

In a periodized program like the UAP, my athletes know that certain phases focus on strength. Others focus on power. Preseason has a focus on conditioning. Stacking training blocks in this way leads to more efficient adaptation. It is common for athletes new to this type of training to be skeptical. New UAP members often wonder if they are doing enough training. They don’t feel exhausted every workout because I want them to fully recover from each workout in some phases. They are not tired during certain workouts because we target speed and agility vs a continual focus on conditioning. The proof of a training program’s effectiveness doesn’t come during or even after the workout. It comes a few months later when the same player who once had doubts skyed someone they never skyed before. Or when they play in their first scrimmage or tournament and realize that they inexplicably “never felt this springy this early in the season before.”

Why Are Ultimate Players Attracted To Crossfit And Other General Fitness Programs?

A lot of ultimate players use ultimate to keep themselves in good shape. They are after general fitness. For these people, Crossfit is fine since it’s a general fitness program and helps keep people active doing a variety of activities. For players going after marked improvements on the field, whether that brings more playing time, a spot on a higher-level team, or a lower risk of injury, a more tailored approach to training will provide a direct path to those specific goals. 

What confuses me is why many players who have supposedly made the switch to training for ultimate are trying to utilize Crossfit for this purpose. My guess is that the metabolic conditioning WOD-style workouts are attractive to the competitive nature of ultimate players. Competing with the clock and with teammates is fun. Perhaps ultimate also draws athletes with a slightly masochistic streak. Especially in the United States, ultimate has evolved with a tournament style format, squeezing in 6-8 games in one weekend. There is a part of us that likes the challenge and is attracted to the full body exhaustion that comes with it. So it makes sense that ultimate players would also be attracted to metabolic conditioning workouts that feel difficult even if they lead to less than optimal athletic adaptation.

I have never met a college educated, certified strength and conditioning coach who thinks that Crossfit is an actual plan for athletic performance. There is no controversy about this in the field of strength and conditioning. If you are using Crossfit as a training plan, you are disagreeing with the overwhelming consensus of experts in the field. You can put yourself in the good company of climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers.

We know what the athletic demands of ultimate are, and having a periodized plan to build each element of your on-field strength and conditioning will help shape your game in  more direct, functional ways than a generalized approach.

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  • Tank

    “I have never met a college educated, certified strength and conditioning coach who thinks that Crossfit is an actual plan for athletic performance. There is no controversy about this in the field of strength and conditioning. If you are using Crossfit as a training plan, you are disagreeing with the overwhelming consensus of experts in the field. You can put yourself in the good company of climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers.”

    This is a great article. That said, while an appeal to authority isn’t the most scientific argument, ^this statement should have quite an impact on the layperson’s opinion of Crossfit as an adequate form of sport-specific training methodology. Also, being a part of this college educated strength coach community, I agree that I too have never met a colleague with a positive opinion of using Crossfit to train athletes.

    • nrojb

      You’re not Tank

  • BigSky Guy

    Melissa, this is your magnum opus. Beautiful.

  • As MC said, *mic drop* :)

  • myoho

    I do CrossFit (and have done UAP) and play ultimate here are my thoughts:

    1) CrossFit isn’t for everyone and isn’t perfect for ultimate training.
    2) If you are doing CrossFit for ultimate training you should be smart and add extra or say no to some things. Ultimate prep and CrossFit have different philosophies but if you are smart you can train for ultimate using tenants of CrossFit.
    3) I consider CrossFit and ultimate separate. When it is CrossFit season I prepare a different way than in ultimate season.
    4) I did UAP. I didn’t see the results I wanted and I felt it was unsafe to do some of the movements without proper training. This is also true in CrossFit when there are bad coaches (which is too often).
    5) My thought is that you should find a training program that works for you and have an informed conversation with the programmer about what you are trying to accomplish. I am in much better shape thanks to CrossFit, but I also have conversations with the coaches about what I can do to modify when I am prepping for ultimate season.

    I value Melissa’s expertise in the subject, but it is interesting to post an article that claims objectivity, but promotes the writer’s program.

    • Ashley Daly Morgan

      I agree with all of your points. Although I also do track workouts and some light jogs, I use CrossFit as my main form of training for ultimate and I am extremely pleased with the results. That being said, I have a demanding job that doesn’t provide much flexibility for working out and I tailor it as I see fit – doing the most HSPUs and MUs isn’t going to make me better at ultimate – but those heavy weight cleans and muscular endurance focused WODs sure do, as well as having a group of people that are there to train with every single day at the times that work for me. I’m faster than I’ve ever been, I’m explosive, and don’t fatigue easily – even though I’m 31. I think that my ultimate peers would agree. Although this article is nuanced and there are plenty of good points, the ” [y]ou can put yourself in the good company of climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers” comment only serves to alienate those who like to use xfit as part of their training regiment. I don’t feel “offended,” say what you will, but I know that I am faster and stronger than I was three years ago, even though I’m only getting older and spending less total time working out. Maybe if someone wrote specifically tailored workouts for me, provided a gym 1 mile from my house to do it, kept it open from 5am to 8pm, and provided me with a coach and a group of other people doing very similar things at the same time, for the same price as xfit, I’d be just a little faster or more dynamic – but that isn’t a realistic option.

      • smitten

        Wholeheartedly agree with Myhoho and Ashley’s point that selected elements of Crossfit can be a good fit for ultimate players, especially those with busy lives and/or who seek a workout community.

        Beyond that, wanted to observe that including an alienating reference to climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers (people who ignore *decades* of scientific research and, more importantly, whose POV arguably harms other humans, as opposed to just resulting in less amazing training results), not to mention an arguably clickbait title, only served to push people away from engaging meaningfully with your point of view. Which is unfortunate, because there could have been value in talking about what elements of Crossfit you recommend that athletes avoid, and what elements of other programs (including yours) that they do instead.

      • Bob

        For what a lot of crossfit places charge… I wouldn’t be surprised if you could find that…

  • Char

    Wow. This is quite extreme. And grossly generalized. Let us have our fitness.

    How do you feel about players (I know quite a few Elite women) who only run to train for Ultimate? Are they climate change deniers? Or is it just because CrossFit competes with your business? UAP workouts actually look like CrossFit to me and I’ve even called them WODs (gasp!)

    • Sam Tobin-Hochstadt

      Melissa wrote about endurance running and its lack of application to ultimate training for Skyd here: http://skydmagazine.com/2014/02/strength-training-endurance-addict/

      • Char

        I liked that article!! Because it showed some respect for endurance athletes and gave them some new ideas; rather than just writing them off as conspiracy theorists.

        • Bob

          The “conspiracy theorists” are not “people who do crossfit,” it’s “people who say crossfit is better training for a sport than a sport specific training program.”

          If you are not one of those people, then there is no reason to be offended.

          • John

            If you’re innocent, be cool. Only the guilty are catching offense.

    • Dunte Hector

      Remember that she explicitly said that those seeking general fitness from Ultimate can get it from CF, too.

      Athletes in other sports have also had to learn that “general fitness” isn’t a sufficient training condition for competitive play. High-level Ultimate will eventually attract athletes who are too fast, too strong, and too technically skilled for general methods. Any athlete that doesn’t get on board with training specifically, with training with a plan, with training long-term will get left behind.

      You can have your fitness at the bottom of the bracket.

      • Char

        CrossFit isn’t putting anyone at the bottom of the bracket.
        In 2013 I got cut. Didn’t get to one closed tryout. Spent a year doing CrossFit and then made the team in 2014. Half to most of the women on my team do minimal stength training. A couple of us do CrossFit and I don’t know any of them using UAP. It is my argument that ANY strength/agility training is going to help ultimate playing athletes (specifically women who could be initimdated by a gym). Sure UAP is probably best and is designed for Ultimate players (awesome!) But such harshly negative rhetoric shouldn’t be used for people working hard on what works for them. I have also only ever experienced periodized CrossFit training and all CrossFit affiliates compete in at least one competition (the Open) and even train “general fitness” members with that in mind and program the training for that.
        Again just grossly generalized.

        • Dunte Hector

          “ANY strength/agility training is going to help ultimate playing athletes.”

          For now, this is correct. And CF is infinitely better than no training and far better than what many are currently doing. But in an era where golfers have to strength train selectively, where basketball players have team physios, where club and college kids in track need more guidance than just “run fast,” these days of Ultimate being an “in decent shape is enough” sport are going to end soon. The sport will either recruit better athletes or sensible training will create them.

          I am a coach, not a player. I don’t use UAP. I’ve advocated for it, for circuit training, for just doing push-ups at home. This is still an everybody-gets-a-trophy environment in competitive Ultimate. But look at the quality of players, at USAU’s goal to field an Olympic movement, at growing participation numbers at youth levels in the sport – CF won’t be enough forever and the highly competitive players are already asking for personalized, sport-specific, planned, professional training programs.

          And that seemed to be Melissa’s point from the jump: general fitness is great if you just want fitness, but if you want to be the best, it won’t get you there.

          • Ashley Daly Morgan

            I think that we can probably agree that over time, as money pours into the sport and attracts better athletes, the training will become more specialized because people will devote more time and money to being great. If I could quit my job and get paid the same to play ultimate, I’d try all kinds of training to improve my game – but you’re right, we are not there yet as a sport and it could be coming soon. But, a few points: 1. Different training works for different players across all sports at the highest levels – whether that’s golf, football, gymnastics, or frisbee. As a swimmer at Stanford, I trained differently than people on my team who swam the same events. Some lifted; some did not. Some put in 10,000 meters a day, some put in 4,000. Five people on my team made the Olympics in the same year and some of them never picked up a barbell all season, some of them could deadlift 300lbs. To say that xfit is not right for any frisbee player is ridiculous, and to imply that it’s even the same across all gyms is incorrect. 2. Making extreme, unfounded comments detracts from your arguments. The “You can have your fitness at the bottom of the bracket” and “general fitness is great if you just want fitness, but if you want to be the best, it won’t get you there” comments are groundless and don’t move the discussion forward in a meaningful way. I did crossfit the season Scandal won Nationals and was a starting O-line cutter. Some of the best players on Scandal and Riot do xfit. Some of our Team USA members do xfit. (They may do other things as well, as I do). Does that mean everyone should do it? Almost certainly not. Does it mean that it is helping make some of the best get even better? Sure looks like it.

          • Dunte Hector

            I agree. What I agree with most is that CF cannot be exactly right for every athlete, that personalization is needed.

            Melissa states it in her reply below better than I have the following: CrossFit is not preparation for Ultimate. No general program is preparation for Ultimate. Personalized programming – whether you the athlete take a fitness instructor’s plan and modify it to your preferences or a professional coach builds a program specifically for you and your needs or some degree of specific preparation in between – IS absolutely the only way to be at your best.

            You’re right, saying you can have fitness at the bottom of the bracket doesn’t clarify my point. Hopefully this does.

          • Johnny Walker

            the counterfactual argument is that you/they would have been better had they done a different training program. pointing to non-lifting/crossfit/whatever training examples is both anecdotal and a straw-man argument

        • Melissa Witmer

          Hey Char. Congrats on making the team you were trying out for. You’ve brought up very valid points. Getting into the gym in any way is far, far better than never getting started. I 100% agree. And I hear you on the issues specifically as it relates to having an environment where you (and other women) feel supported (rather than intimidated) and educated as you make progress in your training. I’ve had many people come to the UAP from Crossfit and they credit Crossfit with helping them get started. A lot of people like Crossfit for the camaraderie as well. All of those things are great! And if that’s working for you, or anyone else, go with it! The point I’m really trying to drive home in this article is just not to call Crossfit something that is isn’t. For those who are trying to get to the very top of their athletic potential, Crossfit’s programming philosophy is fundamentally flawed. That is all. If it is producing results for you that you’re happy with, I sincerely think that’s great! Assuming that you’re at least getting programming with some unilateral movement and functional strength, carry on.

        • Harbison Schwartzkopf

          Huh. Didn’t realize anecdotes = data.

    • pancakemouse

      >> How do you feel about players (I know quite a few Elite women) who only run to train for Ultimate?

      They would be much better if they did more than run, no doubt. I also know elite male players who don’t even lift. But that speaks more to the immaturity of ultimate as a sport than anything else.

      >> UAP workouts actually look like CrossFit to me

      In what way? There are 4-6 lifts per day and the exercises and programming fits the course of the season. That’s nothing like Crossfit, which is a randomized training program.

      • myoho

        I would point out that it is not randomized. Nearly every gym I have visited has detailed programming that stretches weeks and also incorporates lifting programs that are in line with what is needed on the ultimate field.

  • Latin UP

    Excellent article Melissa, should write in spanish for the latin american community

  • Robert Dulabon

    I was planning on staying quiet on this, but after multiple people sent me the same article, I decided to throw in my two cents.

    There are good coaches and there are bad coaches. And that isn’t limited to CrossFit. There are militant style High School football coaches that insist more is always better. But we don’t say the sport is fundamentally flawed (I’ll exclude the concussion debate here). I personally know plenty of CrossFit coaches that take their role seriously by programming mobility in every session, utilizing unilateral movements, not progressing an athlete until it is safe to do so, and implementing periodization to peak for certain times. I have also experienced coaches who don’t do any of that.

    I did CrossFit consistently for a couple years and loved it. It was competitive working out and it was right up my alley. I did choose to stop to implement my own training plans, to apply my growing knowledge base, and to more or less be my own guinea pig. I did continue to pull some things from CrossFit though, particularly the metabolic conditioning. I pull from a lot of different disciplines to be the most robust ultimate athlete I can (and create more robust ultimate athletes). Yoga is great for athletes, but I wouldn’t recommend only following that program. The same goes for gymnastics, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and, yes, CrossFit. The key is to be smart about your training – think about your goals and what you need to focus on to get there. If you are unsure or inexperienced, talk to your coach. They got into coaching because they have a passion for it and should be excited to help you reach your goals. If your gut says they aren’t, it’s time to find a new coach, CrossFit or other.

    • Melissa Witmer

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Robert. I appreciate your thoughtful reply and your own experience especially in regards to pulling things form other disciplines, the importance of unilateral training, and the need for continuing development as a coach. Keep up the good work.

    • Brian Canniff

      Is anyone saying football is a training plan for ultimate?

      I can’t tell if you’re saying crossfit is a training plan.

      (Big fan of Dulabon, btw)

  • Jonah Wisch

    To preface: I have only been an outside observer of CrossFit and I started my training journey 3.5 years ago as a senior in high school with UAP. I also work at RODU with Robert Dulabon.

    I have classmates in Pitt Exercise Science that are passionate about CrossFit and compete. I have been surprised by how much they believe that my training should inherently be different than their training and that they believe that CrossFit is not the best way to train for field sports.

    The president of the CrossFit club at Pitt periodizes the workouts the club does as a group. Outside of that the members are on their own for training, but can ask him for guidance. This is my one question about CrossFit. How individualized can CrossFit (in this setting) get when the programming is done for a group? Is this what CrossFit is like in CrossFit Gyms?

    As a coach you don’t always have the time to individualize every small detail of workouts or a periodized program. If you own a gym and have group workouts you can program for the group, but unless you do personal training it isn’t as simple to periodize and individualize. Rob does a great job at RODU of balancing the combination of group workout structure, periodization, and individualization. Balancing all three is key and as a coach it is difficult to be perfect.

    What I loved about UAP was that it started off my training journey on the right foot. As a young coach I am trying other programs and stealing elements, then programming for myself, and I wouldn’t be able to understand what a “program” really means without UAP. If we want to progress the sport we need MORE ATHLETES TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO SAFELY AND EFFECTIVELY TRAIN THEMSELVES.

    I don’t believe that CrossFit does that as well as a “educational curriculum” for training for ultimate SHOULD, from my outsider perspective.

  • John Wee

    This is pretty ignorant. There is a lot of programming in CrossFit boxes that will increase athletic performance and injury prevention in Ultimate (Cleans, Squats, Deadlifts, Pull-Ups to name a few). Yeah we don’t need to be snatching or doing HSPUs as Ultimate athletes. The benefits of CrossFit outweigh the negatives in relation to Ultimate. Also working in a group setting drives a lot of people. For those of us who aim to make club teams and get to Nationals, the internal competition in CrossFit is fantastic. Yeah the accreditation for CrossFit has been criticised a lot, but really you don’t know the quality of your coach (whether it be a CrossFit coach, USAW coach, CSCS coach) from the get go. Experience is everything (just like anything in life).

    In addition, remember that everything in CrossFit is scalable – both up and down. CrossFit’s programming (whichever box or blog you follow) is based on functional movements at a high intensity that are constantly varied. I would argue that the best pure athletes in the world (weightlifters) train with a program that varies their exercises and lifts all the time. And the best CrossFit athletes (i.e. Games athletes) do actually follow CrossFit’s philosophy. Just they are doing it at a higher volume.

    As a CrossFit Coach, athlete and Ultimate athlete, CrossFit has only helped me get better at Ultimate and life in general. I do program for myself and tend to add in more Olympic Lifts, Rowing and Lunges than the average box. Before, running was the ‘only’ way we knew about getting fitter and conditioned. Spending an hour or two in the gym, having fun and working hard has changed all that and now my teammates are seeing me as the ‘engine’ on the team from being the good handler but less ‘athletic’ guy.

    CrossFit can work for the Ultimate athlete, it just needs to be applied in the right way.

    • John

      You’re comparing xfit to nothing rather than xfit to something that’s specific to the needs of ultimate. You’re fighting a straw man.

      • Brian Canniff

        Spikeball can work for the Ultimate athlete, it just needs to be applied in the right way.

        Activity X (which is better than nothing) is not a plan. Crossfit is a sport / activity and not a training plan.

    • Koho

      If you didn’t start ff with “this is pretty ignorant” I wouldn’t bother commenting, but … everything you say may be true. Yet none of it invalidates anything in the article. You’re arguing against a different thesis.

  • Remy Schor

    A handful of thoughts since I’ve now been sent this article enough times to warrant a few comments.

    1. I, personally, have yet to speak to an ultimate player who Crossfits, for whom Crossfit hasn’t resulted in serious gains on and off the field.

    2. I, personally, believe that people react differently to different types of programming, and that for me, Crossfit has proven to be the single most effective, fun, and enjoyable way to train for life, and that the fact that my skill as a player has improved as a direct result of Crossfitting is simply an awesome by-product.

    3. I certainly take offense to the click-bait title of this article (Ultimate doesn’t have a “Crossfit problem,” Ultimate has a people-frequently-don’t-train-enough problem) and I too (in addition to some of the folks commenting below) feel that tearing down the efficacy of another program while selling your own is a disconcerting approach.

    4. There’s a lot of research and thought behind a periodization approach to training – I’ve read Dietz’s Triphasic programming and would gladly shout out an Ultimate specific trainer who subscribes to this system. There’s no question that the concept is well supported and frankly, very applicable to Ultimate, however, *just because* that’s all true, doesn’t mean that Crossfit’s constant variation is random. We do periodization training in my gym.

    5. If “[e]veryone argues that their coach is somehow different than all the others[,]” then maybe “everyone” is right? Coaches come in all different iterations – there are great coaches, intense coaches, laid back coaches, extremely knowledgeable coaches, coaches who don’t know as much but who are supportive and backed by others who do – what really matters is that your coach knows YOU. That you trust them and hold yourself accountable to learning. A quick analogy that comes to mind: ever go climbing with someone to whom you have to teach the basics of belaying, that day, only to trust them to then belay you? Finding a great coach is your responsibility as an athlete and once you have found a box with great coaches, stick with them. The Crossfit community is full of excellent coaches.

    6. Crossfit has taught me patience, a more refined and supportive way to be competitive, variation, confidence, an appreciation for nutrition, recovery as a skill, motivation, and, I look and feel better than before I started Crossfitting. I’d add, too, that my knees hurt from track workouts and Ultimate prior to Crossfit and now, with the proper pre-hab and re-hab approach, I’m in the best shape of my life – both in terms of nagging injuries, speed, and skill. At the age of 35.

    • Jonah Wisch

      1. Did those same players start their training with CrossFit? What did they do before?
      2. Exercise (before ultimate) saved my life so hearing a story like that is sweet
      3. Promotion aside…is CrossFit a program or a philosophy? I can directly buy the UAP and have it as a program, but can I buy a CrossFit program?
      4. I agree that variation does not = randomness necessarily. However, Varying exercises too often does not allow for optimal adaption to imposed demands. As you probably know from Dietz’s Triphasic, varying too often won’t produce as much of a respond to a certain exercise stimulus over time and when you don’t vary enough your dose-reponse curve platueas. Which end of the spectrum does your CrossFit gym sway towards?
      5. All great coaches have one thing in common, and that is that they understand the what, when, where, how and most importantly WHY they do every single thing they do. Ask your coach why he/she keeps his hands on his hips or points his finger or smiles at a specific time and the good ones will have an answer. They have tried everything, found their grove, and have a reason for why they do everything they do. Any coach can say, “oh well this book says that,” but it takes a great coach to say “When you point your finger at the joint you are talking about when cueing an exercise more of your audience will grasp the concept because they get a clearer picture of the visual and audial stimulus” (babbling, but an example)
      6. Would you directly attribute those pre-hab and re-gab exercises to CrossFit or your specific coach?

  • Jerry McIntire

    Hey, I train with the UAP but vaccines… that’s another story.

  • D42

    It seems that most of the comments defending Crossfit are missing the point of this article. The point being that Crossfit is not the optimal way to train for Ultimate. Just like it is not the optimal way to train for the NFL, NBA, NHL, etc. The article is not saying that Crossfit absolutely could not make you more athletic but that there are better ways. Crossfit is a fitness training program not an athletic program. Rich Froning and Dmitry Klokov certainly don’t “Crossfit” in the same ways as your average Crossfitter to become the World’s top Crossfitter and Olympic Weightlifter respectively.

    Also I have not seen a decent refutation to the argument that good Crossfit gyms are few and far between and that the beginners can not tell the difference and are more likely to end up on a YouTube fail video then being fit. I speculate that the better Crossfit gyms look much less like the typical Crossfit gyms that run the WOD to the “T” ten times a day.

    Here’s an example of a WOD from a few days ago

    135 pound Clean & Jerk, 10 reps
    1 Round of “Cindy”
    135 pound Clean & Jerk, 9 reps
    1 Round of “Cindy”
    135 pound Clean & Jerk, 8 reps
    1 Round of “Cindy”
    135 pound Clean & Jerk, 7 reps
    1 Round of “Cindy”
    135 pound Clean & Jerk, 6 reps
    1 Round of “Cindy”
    135 pound Clean & Jerk, 5 reps
    1 Round of “Cindy”
    135 pound Clean & Jerk, 4 reps
    1 Round of “Cindy”
    135 pound Clean & Jerk, 3 reps
    1 Round of “Cindy”
    135 pound Clean & Jerk, 2 reps
    1 Round of “Cindy”
    135 pound Clean & Jerk, 1 rep
    1 Round of “Cindy”

    Ill give it that it looks aesthetic with that reverse pyramid but clean and jerk for ten reps?! High volume oly lifting with zero recovering time, because your doing Cindy instead to recovering and reflecting on the lift. I don’t think that any professional sports trainer would have an athlete do that due to the compounding risk of injury from fatigue and arguable gains of work capacity that could be trained in a safer way.

    This is Crossfit as the article is discussing. If you change the program to be better fitted to Ultimate are you really doing Crossfit at that point? I think we need to separate Crossfit as the commercial program and programs that were created by Crossfit coaches. I would guess the coaches that are willing to custom tailor a program for you have some other qualifications…. I hope.

    • myoho

      As one of the people defending CF I don’t believe anyone is advocated CF as the optimal way to train for ultimate. Personally I know that it works for me with modifications leading up to/during the season, but wouldn’t advocate for other ultimate players to do it unless they detailed their goals with the coach and modified/scaled the programming to meet them.

      My frustration with this article is that it starts with the best of intentions (detailing why CF isn’t the solution for elite ultimate fitness), but ends up stereotyping the CF methodology and discrediting the idea that your play and ultimate fitness can be greatly improved by CF. Tack on the clickbait title and the idea that I am the equivalent of a climate change denier, then it is safe to say that it is fair to be a little disappointed and defensive.

      ps that workout looks fun and can’t wait to try it (after ultimate season)

  • shiv

    The Crossfit community is large and diverse. Taken at its most simplistic (“hopper”-style training), it’s easy to create a straw-man to knock down.

    After over a decade playing ultimate at a high level, I got into what felt like the best ultimate condition of my life after one season of CF workouts tailored for explosive sports. (Strength training and a lot of power endurance in both running and jumping. I remember heaps of sprints, sled pushes, relatively low volume high box jumps and Olympic lifts.)

    Although I’ve never followed it, I suspect Crossfit Football would be similar to an effective programming for ultimate. I would be curious to hear an evaluation of that specific option in contrast to this first-pass criticism.

  • Russ Greene

    Do you think that the repeated publication of baseless claims about injuries in CrossFit has anything to do with some exercise science students being concerned about CrossFit?


  • Great back and forths in the comments here – this is a controversial topic and Melissa wrote with some passion. For those who argue that it sounds like she’s promoting her own product, I would say, of course she is! She created and runs the UAP because she believes it meets the needs of ultimate players in a way other philosophies do not…I don’t fault her that. Those of us who’ve spent years trying to create programs and write articles to serve the ultimate community are passionate about what we do, and I don’t apologize for having strong feelings on matters like this. I’ll add my two cents, which is pretty much what I wrote in the UAP members thread about the article a few days ago:

    I don’t think Melissa was saying there was nothing of value in CrossFit – she and I talked about this a lot when she was here. I believe her point was that sport-specific and periodized training is better, and I agree with her! The main beefs I have with CrossFit aren’t really mentioned in her article. One is that in a game, adrenaline is high and random things happen, which takes mental toughness to deal with. But that mental toughness can be achieved in ways other than simulating those conditions in a gym. We don’t want or need to be in a fight-or-flight, balls-to-the-wall mental state every time we train – in fact, that’s a huge strain on our nervous system. I think track workouts are a great place to train mental toughness in a sport-specific way. Also, traditional CrossFit WOD’s have almost no unilateral work (single leg anything, single side core anything), which ultimate players desperately need in order to balance their bodies against the asymmetry of the sport. And then there’s the injury rates within CrossFit, which have been the subject of a lot of debate – more (and better) studies need to be done, but I’ve had a significant number of players come to me looking for a different philosphy after suffering an injury sustained in CrossFit, and my PT and chiropractic colleagues joke that CrossFit keeps them in business. I’m really hoping the injury stuff decreases, because I think it’s the most serious problem. The #1 mandate of S & C work according to Michael Boyle isn’t to increase athletic performance…it’s to do no harm. I take that very seriously as a coach.

    I know a lot of great coaches in the CrossFit world, and of course there are many people taking CrossFit concepts and workout ideas and adapting them for ultimate with great results. I wish they would call it something else besides CrossFit – it would make it easier to see the changes they’re making to the original programming, including periodization! I dunno, UltimateFit or something. :)

  • Joel Maloney

    Thank you, Sam. Great article. Best program I’ve partaken in for Ultimate benefits is Field Strong by John Wellbourn (consults NFL, NHL, and other sports teams, you name it).