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What Makes a Better Athlete—CrossFit or Traditional Weight Training?


THE answer, of course, depends on who you ask.

There are tremendous benefits from both a traditional bodybuilding or weightlifting program, and a CrossFit program. But what do the Researchers say? Lets put some science behind the divisive argument between recreational CrossFit and traditional weightlifters/bodybuilders.

Researchers say since CrossFit Combines resistance and endurance training, it has the potential to negatively affect strength development.  Basically they are saying you can gain a greater amount of explosive strength versus maximum strength.

In the study, published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology, 26 men ranging in age from 20 to 32 with at least a year of training experience were brought on board. Half were CrossFitters, half weightlifters, and all trained 2 to 3 times weekly. But they weren’t just fitness enthusiasts who volunteered for the study; these guys were legit. Weightlifters had to be training in accordance with the American College of Sports Medicine, meaning their regimen included periodized training with 1 to 12 max reps and some emphasis on heavylifting (think 1 to 6 rep max) using 3- to 5-min rest periods between sets; their reps also had to be done using a 1-2 second concentric phase and a 1-2 second eccentric lowering phase. Meanwhile, CrossFitters had to be training under a certified trainer within a certified academy.

All the men completed the same fitness tests, in a randomized order, with at least 48 hours of recovery in between:

1) Pullups (to measure relative strength of upper body)
2) Shuttle Run over 40 meters—run between two 20-meter lines, guided by an auditory signal, getting faster, and repeating until exhaustion—(to measure endurance and estimate VO2 max)
3) Countermovement Jump—from standing, hinge at the waist, bend knees, while keeping hands on hips, then immediately jump up for height—(to measure lower-body explosiveness)

*A 15-minute warmup with 10 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and 5 min of calisthenics was performed before pullups and countermovement jump.

The Results

For the most part, the men didn’t have significant differences in performance in regards to muscle strength (i.e. the countermovement jump and pullups). Weightlifters hit 35.85cm (give or take 7cm) while CrossFitters hit 41.1cm (give or take 7.7cm). And results flip-flopped for pullups: Resistance-trained athletes as a group performed more reps (11, give or take 3) versus CrossFitters (9, give or take 6).

But there were marked differences in VO2 max; CrossFitters reigned supreme. Using the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines about 31 percent of weightlifters were classified as having a “regular” VO2 max, 61.5 percent had a “good” score, and 7.7 percent were “excellent,” while 46 percent of CrossFitters were classified as “good” and 53.8 percent as “excellent.”

What This Means For You

Bottom lineCrossFitters demonstrated greater endurance and jump capacities, while resistance trained weightlifters had greater relative strength in their upper bodies. So, it becomes more of a question of your personal goals.

What are you striving to improve? 

The every day man or women, in my opinion, is not looking to be just strong in the upper body. In fact most women equate being strong with looking bulking and manly, of course this is furthest from the truth, but the myth is out there. Sorry more of a traditional bodybuilding / weightlifting program is not your “go to” program.

As for CrossFit building more endurance and jumping capabilities seem more in tune with most daily activities like chasing the kids around the yard or park, playing weekend ball with the boys or your kids. Plus as researchers say, CrossFit is known to amplify VO2 max, provide better body composition, yup more burn for your buck and looking good is what we all want!

So do yourself a favor and give CrossFit a try, we are pretty sure you will not regret your decision.

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