crossfit-girls-5I’m pretty pumped to share an interview I did with S and C Coach to the St. John’s IceCaps, Justin Murphy. Justin also has an Athletic Therapy degree from York University, his Certified Exercise Physiologist certification from CSEP and is also a Registered Kinesiologist with the NLKA.

Justin was kind enough to chat with me about his inclusion of some Crossfit (CF) principles into his training. Justin is very athletic and has been incorporating some CF ideas for over 2 years into his workouts. I was curious about his opinions on CF based on his previous Athletic Therapy education and with the fact that people all over complain about high injury rates associated with CF.

Let’s get started:

JK: What benefits have you seen from incorporating CF-like principles into your training?

JM: There are a lot of benefits with CF. I myself have improved in many areas including strength, endurance, flexibility and body composition. I have even seen an increase in my explosive power. I would, however, argue that one of the most important benefits I’ve seen with CF is what I have learned relating to the variety of training. CF has allowed me to become very open minded when it comes to training and I have adopted a different approach to the way I do things. To be honest, the concept of “constantly varied” is what I enjoy most, and I like the idea of always being challenged.

JK: That’s awesome. I know a ton of people that become bored very fast in the gym. I like variety too, but like to keep consistent with the basic exercises week in and week out but like to challenge myself to using heavier weight, shorter rest periods or creating supersets that I haven’t done before. With your education and experience including CF-type ideas into your training, do you see any risks with CF?

JM: Like any other sport or activity, there’s always a risk for injury. With respect to CF, there is definitely a chance for injury when performing a complex movement while exhausted, but I think that’s where you need to use your own judgment. Many of the workouts are structured under a timed setting, but you don’t have to rush through a workout with sloppy form just because you are trying to hit a PR.

So why do people do it? I think there are a couple factors involved; both the individuals themselves and their trainers. Firstly, individuals must recognize when it is appropriate to push their limits. It’s also important that an individual know and understand the risk factors before starting, and if they are willing to accept them, then so be it. This of course shouldn’t excuse the second factor though. I also think that it’s important for CF trainers to recognize and prevent improper technique, and really understand what an individual is capable of before getting them to do a difficult movement under pressure (fatigue and time).

Do I think that CF trainers set individuals up for injuries? Of course not. That’s definitely not the intention. I do think that there may be an increased risk of injury with an inexperienced trainer, just like I wouldn’t rock climbing with an inexperienced instructor. I will not deny the fact that there are probably a lot of bad trainers, but as with any other profession, I do not think that the few bad professionals represent the whole profession or organization.

JK: I totally agree. People must use their common sense in the gym and should know what their limits are and when not to cross them. As Dan John says, first rule in the gym is to do no harm. The gym is a place where we make our selves better, whether for life or sport. S and C coaches are no different from CF coaches who are no different from personal trainers or Kinesiologists. All should be educated enough to recognize and teach/coach proper technique and should also know contraindicated bodies. By that, I mean, not all bodies are made the same (due to different life experiences, postural habits, previous injuries etc); therefore, not all exercises are fit for everyone. Have you ever been injured implementing CF-principles into your workouts?

JM: Other than a few torn calluses, I have yet to sustain any major injuries while doing CF style workouts. I have also spoken with a few health care practitioners affiliated with CF gyms, just out of curiosity, to find out what kind of injuries they deal with on a day to day basis. They do see a lot of upper body injuries, but (and this is a big ‘but’) nothing more than what they see from individuals playing competitive or recreational sports.

JK: That’s good and true, as with any other professional or recreational sports, injuries are bound to happen and part of the game. Lastly, tell my readers what you’re training goals are and your finals thoughts on CF.

JM: I myself don’t really have any specific training goals, but I do wish to be well rounded in all aspects of fitness. I fully understand that I can’t be the best at everything, but that fits well with me because I enjoy the variety. This is not to say that CF wouldn’t help me if I wished to get better in a particular area. I think the problem for a lot of individuals wanting to utilize CF for training purposes is that they are afraid about the lack of periodization. The beauty about CF, however, is that it’s not a one way fits all style of training. You can incorporate various training methods into your workouts and have a bias towards any area of weakness. I have seen a lot of individuals benefit from this type of training, and also know of professional athletes who’ve started to incorporate CF style workouts into their own training programs. Whether or not CF is the best way to train is certainly a question for debate. However, I would highly suggest any naysayers to give it a try, keep an open mind, have fun, and see where it takes you.

JK: Great advice Justin. I find people too critical these days. I have learned over the years that people are going to have their opinions, good or bad, on everything. If CF works for you, awesome, if not, find something else. As I have said before, I like aspects of CF but don’t agree with all of it, but that’s my opinion. Does that make me a bad person? Absolutely not. I was Tweeting back and forth with Sean Hyson, the Fitness Editor of Men’s Fitness and he agrees with me that AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) is not a great idea when applied to O-lifts and jumps.

I also like incorporating CF-principles into my workouts, but these principles have been around long before CF. Such aspects include supersets and timed-sets. Does it mean I do CF? No. I like high intense workouts as much as the next guy, but wouldn’t risk injuring myself just to get a certain number of reps or to pull a certain weight. As I do with my clients, I try to draw the line between success and failure. For example, here’s a clip of me pulling my 1RM deadlift (so far); nothing amazing but I’m proud of it as it’s closer to my 4 plate/side goal. I wouldn’t try to pull 405 based on my form at 395; it’s just not worth it to me.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this as insightful as I did.

Am I saying you should or shouldn’t do CF? NO, just trying to open your eyes to opinions from experienced and educated people.

Thanks again Justin, I really appreciate it.

-JK

I recently visited Newfoundland for one month, and was looking for a good place to train while I was there. Jon and the team at JK conditioning really took the time to assess what I already knew, and set achievable goals for the time that I had with them. The gym was such a great place to push yourself. It had everything you needed, but more importantly it had a well organized, very knowledgeable, and really motivating group of trainers to push you at each workout. Not to mention a really nice group of other members who also motivated me to go that little bit further. I would highly recommend the gym to anyone who has a goal and wants to find a place to help them achieve it.

I joined JKC because I wanted to better care for my physical health, but didn’t really know how, or where, to begin.  Seeking help from a trainer seemed like a wise choice, and I had heard great things about the staff at JKC. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate exercising.  So, I’ve only ever tried sticking with a gym routine twice in my life.  Each experience consisted of me wandering around, not knowing what to do, and settling for an elliptical machine or something else that seemed comfortable and non-threatening.  Each session was the same, and I felt like I was wasting my time.

Each session at JKC, however, is specifically crafted for me.  I don’t have to think about what to do, because I’m told what to do.  I don’t have to worry about how to do things properly, because I’m shown (sometimes multiple times!) how to accomplish each task.  I don’t have to be concerned about slipping into a comfortable routine, because Jon and Thomas won’t let that happen.

trap bar deadlift

A few of my wonderful friends and colleagues recommended JKC. I was told by one colleague that “It’ll be the best thing you ever do for yourself” and she was right! To be honest, I didn’t have much experience in any gym setting. And NO prior weight training experience. It was always so overwhelming! But from the first day, nothing was intimidating about JKC. Each workout is set up just for me, and with my specific skills and goals in mind. There are no stupid questions, you learn as you go, and what I really love, I always feel included and important, regardless of my skills/experience.

sumo deadlift

I had always wanted to start lifting weights and get stronger, but didn’t know where to start. I was looking not just for a gym, but for training on proper technique to prevent injury and a program designed for my specific goals. I also wanted a fun and supportive atmosphere to keep me coming back. JKC delivered on all of this and more.

Jon and Thomas have a wealth of knowledge that help their clients get the most out of their time in the gym. Programs are continuously modified to keep the workouts challenging. Even through everyone’s program is unique, you always have the coaches and other clients cheering you on and pushing you to achieve new bests.

I had spent a fair bit of time in gyms in my teens and twenties but I turned away from the gym to focus on activities that I enjoyed more. What keeps me at JKC is that I do really enjoy it. I always feel that I’ve accomplished something when I leave at the end of my workout. The environment is really positive and focused on challenging yourself whatever your level of comfort and fitness. I’ve also seen results that I’m really happy with; having someone who really knows what they’re talking about to guide your workouts makes them way more effective and focused than just “going to the gym”.

Shortly after I started at JKC, I sustained a fairly major injury that took me off my feet for several months. When I started to get back to activity, it was very difficult. Jon and Thomas worked hard to tailor my workouts to my goals and what I could do. With their help, I’ve been steadily building back strength and function.

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