Sprinting and Multiplanar Movement: Holes in CrossFit’s Game?

CrossFit is still a relatively new training methodology and its foundational ideas have only been around for about twenty years. However, in the short time that it’s been a part of the fitness landscape, it has transformed the way people view their bodies, approach working out, value good, clean food, etc. Furthermore, since the induction of the CrossFit Games in 2007, CrossFit has boasted the ability to find and crown the fittest man and woman on earth. How? CrossFit is known for its ‘be prepared for anything’ approach to fitness and it does this by focusing its training methodology on the ten general physical skills that are widely recognized by exercise physiologists (cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy). 

Some of these skills are more often incorporated into daily CrossFit wods than others, such as cardiovascular/respiratory endurance (rowing, biking, running, or skiing), strength (squats, deadlift, and presses), and flexibility (gymnastics movements). The other seven general physical skills are usually sprinkled into programming here and there, but it can be difficult to incorporate some of these other elements on a regular basis. Does the absence of some of these other skills in daily programming reflect a hole in CrossFit’s methodology?

After scrolling through the previous month of CrossFit.com’s daily programming, two ideas become glaringly evident: 1) there is little emphasis on multiplanar movement and 2) there is little-to-no sprint work included. Now, I will say this: CrossFit does not claim to be a sport-specific training regimen. If you want to be good at tennis and you only do CrossFit, you probably won’t be very good at tennis. You will probably have pretty good stamina, speed and power, but the actual skills needed to play the sport of tennis will not be developed by just doing CrossFit. However, what CrossFit does offer is a training regimen that enables individuals the ability to perform a variety of tasks (running long and short distances, lifting medium-to-heavy weights, swimming, climbing, etc.), compared to a distance runner, a weightlifter, or a football player who can only perform tasks specific to their sport. 

But what happens when CrossFit athletes, those who just train CrossFit, start to play other sports like soccer, ultimate frisbee, softball, or flag football? These sports have two main components in common: they involve sprinting and multiplanar movement. Just like in the tennis player example above, if a CrossFit athlete joins other sports outside of CrossFit, they will have a distinct advantage in the areas of cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility – essentially all of the general physical skills. However, there may be an increased chance of injury due to the fact that they don’t regularly train short-distance sprints or multiplanar movement. If CrossFit’s view of fitness is about “performing well at any and every task imaginable” and it encourages its athletes to play other sports, then shouldn’t the training regimen better prepare its athletes to play these other sports?