Ask Rocco 10/27/15

Holy CrossFit, Batman

By Rocco Castellano
This is the first time I am coming out against CrossFit. Many of the business clients I coach are CrossFit studio owners and many fans of mine are CrossFit participants. Normally, I believe that any kind of movement is good for you, but, recently, I have seen too much to call this a good way to train. In most cases, it’s f—ing scary. I went to a CrossFit gym when I was traveling and wanted to call the police.

This is not an I-hate-CrossFit article. Trust me, I hate Planet Fitness; I don’t hate CrossFit.

Now don’t get me wrong, CrossFit has caught on in a big way for good reason. Its social environment, its competitiveness within the environment, the ability to gauge your progress against yourself and others, the WOD (workout of the day) all make it work. But I have a problem with the science, injury encouragement and how nothing about it is a safe environment.

Let’s start out with the acronym AMRAP. It means As Many Reps (Repetitions) As Possible. If you are doing jumping jacks, burpees, pushups, pull-ups, wind sprints, etc., I’m all for AMRAP. But if you are doing movements that take real skill, like Olympic lifts, and trying to get them done with significant speed, it’s a f—ing disaster waiting to happen. It’s never if, it’s always when you get injured and just how injured will you be. Olympic weightlifting is a sport … you guessed it, in the Olympics.

The men and women who compete at the Olympic level have taken years to perfect their lifting style. It’s not something you can pick up in a weekend or an introductory class. Olympic lifts take way more skill than you can imagine, and, on top of that, it takes skill to lift and not get hurt. It’s like taking a weekend NASCAR driving course and believing on Monday you’re ready for Daytona.

Now some of you CrossFit junkies will cry, “But that’s not how it is! You’re exaggerating!” OK, let’s say that I’ll listen to your idiocy. No, actually I would rather listen to physics, kinesiology, physiology and perhaps a little common f—ing sense. No joint is 100 percent stable. Ever. When you are developing strength and stability within a joint’s range of motion, there are so many variables. Very similar to a machine that has many parts. If there is one weak muscle, any imbalance, a tiny tear at the origin of the tendon… repetitive, high-speed movements will absolutely result in injury. So to all you newbie, and even intermediate, CrossFitters: It is very important to include basic weightlifting principles and consider your workouts at CrossFit an event and not an actual workout.

Now all the Crossfit owners out there are going to put a hit out on me for saying this because I will crush their membership revenue by about 30 percent. Sorry. It’s your fault for getting into a flawed business model. I don’t think anyone should go to CrossFit the recommended three days on, one day off. That’s f—ing ridiculous. High speed, repetitious training at that frequency is begging for on-call orthopedics.

When you’re first getting into training you need your body (AKA musculature and skeleton) to get used to throwing weight around. Basic movements, chest press, pushups, rows, pull-ups, squats, light deadlifts all at 50-60 percent of maximum weight. Then once or twice a week go get lessons on how to snatch, clean, split jerk, push press and even pistol squat because it is a very skilled movement and can f–k up your knee or ankle for the rest of your life. Yep, that means until you die, a-hole.

I know compound movements like the clean, snatch and split jerk are cool to watch. The people who do it well are artists. The issue I have with doing these movements comes when the participant’s body isn’t ready for the beating. Performing a “clean” repetitively creates what I call a “strength curve vacuum.” A clean in and of itself is a high momentum movement. Basically stated, you are using strictly momentum to raise the weight, then you have to stop the momentum while it is in an accelerated position. Only elite athletes have the musculature surrounding their joints—and sometimes that’s not even good enough—to keep that joint stability with its integrity intact. The strength curve vacuum happens when you are pulling the weight up and getting underneath the weight. It’s basic physiology: You are pushing or pulling weight under a specific time under tension for a specified repetition range. With repetitive Olympic lifting, there is absolutely no stability within the joint or multiple joints that you are performing a movement through. In my book, that’s reckless and dangerous.

I was pretty reckless and dangerous for most of my younger life, and the adrenaline rush was pretty cool. But being reckless in the gym is not something I recommend—ever.

The views and opinions expressed in Ask Rocco are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

Rocco Castellano is the author of “askROCCO Uncensored v1,” a speaker and a controversial fitness personality who has won an Emmy for his fitness training role in MTV’s Made. For more information, please visit

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Rocco Castellano is the author of “askROCCO Uncensored v1,” a speaker and a controversial fitness personality who has won an Emmy for his fitness training role in MTV’s Made. For more information, please visit

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