Sunday, 11 October 2009

A Response to John Sheaffer.

Greyskull Barbell Club has resigned their affiliation with CrossFit.

We think this is a good thing.

Consider Greyskull's websites programming, which much more closely mirrors a powerlifting schedule than a CrossFit program.  A gym which does not train with CrossFit's objectives or methodology should not call itself a CrossFit gym.  You shouldn't go to a spinning class and end up playing basketball.  It makes no more sense to show up at a "CrossFit" gym and get put on a powerlifting-focused program devoid of serious bodyweight training or middle distance running.

John Sheaffer's post explaining his decision, however, caused quite a stir in the CrossFit Community.  It seems that many other affiliates agree with Sheaffer's complaints.  We disagree with these complaints at their core, and have chosen to stick with the CrossFit organization.  Nevertheless, we agree that affiliates who sympathize with Greyskull's views should follow that gym's path and de-affiliate.  CrossFit HQ should not cater to the needs of affiliates who follow neither its objectives nor methodology.

Sheaffer apparently longs for the earlier days when CrossFit was underground.  At Evolve Your Fitness we do not miss the days when functional movements at high intensity were less common.  In fact, we don't think that Crossfit's current level of expansion is nearly sufficient.  We only wish that squats, ring dips, and 400m sprints were mainstream.  CrossFit, in our minds, cannot grow fast enough.

Granted, we agree with Sheaffer that many CrossFit affiliates could stand to improve their training and programming.  However, CrossFit is an open source, decentralized organization, and HQ (rightly, we believe) does not consider it to be their duty to ensure that every single affiliate and trainer makes proper use of the resources available to them.  The information necessary to improve one's knowledge of proper CrossFit programming and training is all available either for free on or for twenty five bucks a year in the CrossFit Journal.  Beyond that, we have found that competent Crossfit trainers are nearly universally willing to help out any trainers or athletes who seek their help.

Is the right thing to do turn our backs and claim to be too good to be associated with those gyms?

Sheaffer also claims that there are "many, many strong, capable athletes training in chain, commercial gyms."  We can't say when the last time John Sheaffer stepped into one of those gyms, but for us, those globo gym days are still a recent memory, and Sheaffer is dead wrong.  We have certainly seen the occasional strong, capable athlete who is stuck in a globo gym...but it's not common.  Not in the least.  Most of the people we see in those gyms would do a whole lot better with even the most poorly-executed CrossFit programming.

CrossFit's expansion has brought with it a dramatic and unprecedented increase in interest in previously marginalized disciplines such as olympic weightlifting and gymnastics.  Mike Burgener has frequently credited CrossFit for a surge in interest in olympic weightlifting.  We find it funny how many olympic lifting and slow lift specialists only discovered those disciplines through CrossFit, yet they still criticize CrossFit to no end.

We also disagree with Greyskull's attitude towards CrossFitters in general.  Apparently, in Greyskull-land, if you weigh 160 and aren't 5'2, then "you suck."  Charlie Dunifer weighs 165 pounds.  He also deadlifts 455 pounds and has done 36 rounds of Cindy.  Does he suck too?  I'd be curious as to how many athletes training at Greyskull can perform an Iron Cross.  Perhaps that's simply not an adequate display of strength by their standards.

Should all males aspire to weigh a certain amount in order to attain a "man's physique?"  What exactly is a "man's physique" anyway?  Do you have to weigh 225 pounds to be a man in Greyskull-land?  Count the vast majority of our friends in special operations units out then.  I bet those operators will be devastated to know that they don't yet meet Greyskull's aesthetic standards of manliness.  We don't believe that one's worth as a person, male or female, is defined by their bodyweight or their max deadlift.  To insinuate that it is is a highly offensive contention to a lot of great men and women.

We don't think John Sheaffer gets it.  Yes, there are CrossFit trainers and affiliates who aren't programming or coaching as well as they could be.  Yes, there are gyms who ignore heavy lifting, and there are also gyms who ignore 5k runs.  There are lone CrossFitters in globo gyms doing nothing but burpees and dumbbell swings.  And you know what?  They're still getting fitter.  They're not doing bicep curls in the squat rack and half range-of-motion bench press.  And we say that's better.  A LOT better.

So go ahead, Mr.Sheaffer.  Disassociate yourself.  Keep all the 200+ pound males who don't give a damn about their 5k time.  Refuse to train people who don't necessarily want to be powerlifter strong, or for whom training is not priority number one.  As for us?  Give us your soccer moms and your businessmen and your "emaciated, pussified, faux hawked nerds" who "can't press 105lb for a set of five."

We'll do our damnedest to make every one of them fitter, stronger, healthier, and happier.

Without elitism.  Without discrimination.

With a genuine desire to bring fitness to everyone.


Jason J. Neal said...

While it's true CF is about pursuing Elite Fitness (referred to as "EF"), however, it can't be elitism. It should be accessible to those who will put forth the effort. EF is aspirational and contingent on scaling, according to the needs of the individual CFer.

There are some affiliates out there who do their thing, but they want to be a part of the community. Some might have a strong-man focus, for instance. They aren't trying to mooch off the name, but truly desire to add to the community's narrative.

If some affiliates want to stay, yet do something a little different, wanting to HELP the community at-large, then so be it. If they want to learn and have an open mind, then so be it. If they have a humble attitude, then so be it. However, I can't say I was that familiar w/ GS until I read that post. Unfortunately, it didn't help his cause in my mind. Therefore I wasn't sympathetic.

It is clear in his post he doesn't have a humble, open-minded, helpful attitude to others, but an elitist attitude; that's his prerogative. CF hasn't left its roots, but is staying true to them. He's the one who left those roots.

I wish Mr. Sheaffer no ill-will. In fact, I hope he gets what he is looking for. But we shouldn't have to be apologetic for not being his ideal. Maybe one day, it will dawn on him that maybe that could be considered rash on his part. It would be great if there could be a reconciliation one day in the future. Would there be differences? Yes, but there would be more understanding and flexibility for all parties. My $.02 worth.

ben b said...

Different people have different personal goals, so all power to Mr. Sheaffer for pursuing his individual goal. However, more than a few of his comments struck me as absurd. Using "zone-eating" as a pejorative? Ha.

The bottome line is that Mr. Sheaffer apparently believes his methods of training are superior to others (I disagree, but that's a separate issue). The appropriate manner to display that superiority, however, is not disengagement - get your coaches athletes together and compete against others. Prove, with quantifiable measures, that you can better out-perform others on a mutually agreed-upon measure of fitness. Otherwise you AREN'T Crossfit, and you shouldn't be calling yourself that.

traucer777 said...

after review the last week of Greyskull's posted workouts it seems that he has forgotten the foundation of crossfit.
Improving work capacity everywhere, through use of functional movements preformed at high intensity.
aka not just power lifting.
with this in mind it makes sense that there gym cant be a crossfit gym, and should drop its affiliation.

Kristi said...

Well said Jacob and Russ. Thanks for being "old school" and keeping CF what it was meant to be, a community focused on improving the fitness and health of others.

Andrew said...

That pumped me up! I joined CrossFit to improve my fitness and health in all areas: running, strength, diet knowledge, etc. I am convinced that it is the best physical fitness program I have ever done, and the only one that I have truly stuck with.

Maximus Lewin said...

"a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

There are a few marginally valid points in the Greyskull post, but his programming is, in my opinion, equally shitty as that of the affiliates he belittles for too much Metcon focus. Training as they do will result in being very, very strong and very little else. At least if someone does train that way they have a good CF base, as limit strength is the hardest of the ten physical skills to acquire, however color me unimpressed by a guy with a 500 or even 600 pound deadlift who cannot run around the block. In fact I know a guy who is working on 800, but as far as his athleticism goes, I could beat him at, literally any other athletic pursuit, besides, limit DLs or Squats and that includes metcon with 225 squats or 315 DLs.

Cindy Handler said...

Amen! As a 49 year old female CFer I have to look askance at those who say I am no good for the sport. CrossFit has brought me more in terms of physical, mental and spiritual progress over the last ten months than any other "fitness program" out there. The guys at Greyskull might look down on me for my efforts but I'll bet my potential Michael time when I'm 80 years old versus theirs any day!

Rocky said...

No need for me to re-state what I wrote on Mr. Sheaffer's blog but suffice it to say that Crossfit nor Mr. Sheaffer invented hard work or elite fitness. D1 football teams, at least many of the good ones, have been doing olympic lifts (which are often overused and overrated) years before Crossfit was even around. Crossfit may be how you found out about hard work, and if it is, then Crossfit was successful. But any question that hard work or the type of programming involved in Crossfit was created by Glassman is absurd. Go to, search his blog, and look at all of the old strength and conditioning manuals from the 1920s-1950s that lay out most of the principles many believe Crossfit to have founded. Nothing wrong with drinking kool-aid, just make sure you know why you are drinking it.

Tsypkin said...

Rocky: We are not claiming that CrossFit or Greg Glassman invented hard work, fitness or Olympic lifting. If, however, you believe that D1 football is responsible for more people practicing the Olympic lifts than CrossFit is, you are sadly mistaken. I recommend you speak with Mike Burgener, Josh Everett, Greg Everett, et al on this issue: they will all tell you that CrossFit has done more than anyone to bring Olympic lifting to the masses. Roger Harrell (CrossFit Marin) and Jeff Tucker will tell you the same about gymnastics.

Was the information available before CrossFit: Yes, though in lesser degree. That doesn't mean that nearly as many people were actually absorbing and applying that information.

Jason Lyons said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maximus Lewin said...

Rocky: I looked around Ross' site, I found no such information: I suspect you are a strength athlete who thinks you know what CF is but have never, or barley done it.

"The problem with Ross Training (which is great training) is that Ross hung out on our msg board for a couple of years before launching his program and was at first every bit as much a newbie as anyone has ever been. This is the same problem Mark Twight has compounded with his illegal copyright theft and unethical plagiarism.

Ross is guilty of nothing. He's reinvented the wheel while this community watched. He's reaching people we might not have, and it doesn't take much exposure to find your way back to the source. (Derivative is praiseworthy ONLY when accompanied by improvement. Improvement will be recognized by data. Those are the world's rules.)

The line of reasoning that "the elements of CrossFit were well known and that therefor the program is not original" is factually and logically untenable. Beethoven invented nothing - the notes were each known to all. Shakespeare did nothing original in Hamlet - the words were common place. Andrew Wyeth bought his tempera from readily available sources - colors we've all seen before, so no original works there. Wofgang Puck is no chef - he's using ingredients I can find in my local grocery store. Absurd utterances each, stupid to repeat, and dangerous if believed.

CrossFit is as original as any novel, poem, musical score, recipe OR software (always ones and zeros, therefor never original). The argument you describe is, Sir, stupid, indefensible, and shocking. I don't fault you for it, however. You didn't think it through.

Maximus Lewin said...

- continued -

This argument/observation, used sadly by our dear friend Phil Mancini last week, is so weak that when it was offered by one of the Queen's JAG's in Canada during meetings to formally decide whether Canadian Forces needed to attribute/compensate CrossFit for their use of our program, immediately on hearing this week line of argument, the majority quickly decided that this, CrossFit, was IP and that attribution, compensation, and licensing was morally, ethically, and legally required. Good, good, people Canadians. Neither stupid nor dishonest. Great combination of attributes.

And, as for your comment about this, CrossFit, being "extant knowledge", on this point you're 100% wrong.

We've weathered attacks against every single facet of this concept from academia, commercial fitness, athletic training, and Internet turds with no athletic training or experience beyond Internet posting (DD, IronGarm, T-Nation). Truth is CrossFit is "Bizarro World" different from what is going on at every university sports program (except the ones we've infected), commercial gyms (except for the ones we've infected), and among exercise physiologists (except for the ones we've infected).

Our problem, your problem, James, is that you came in during the third stage of Arthur Schopenhauer's dictum that "every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first it is ridiculed; in the second it is opposed; in the third it is regarded as self-evident." I actually enjoyed the first and second phases best!

Your comments about marketing are spot on. I mentioned unreplicatable methods only to describe the failure in using ineffective programming with the same marketing efforts, or slightly altered or indistinguishable programming to identical marketing efforts.

Let me be clear. Anyone that does for plumbing, architecture, or lawyering what we've done for fitness - create something uniquely effective, and then couple that with our open source, community developing, methods-results-criticisms held to light methodology, will find themselves significantly more successful than businesses as usual.

We "get" blogging, open-source, the Internet, and the new "peer review", like few people anywhere in business. The blogging community doesn't even recognize us as a blog - we're an experiential blog not a self-indulgent teenager's diary so they don't see us. True for folks at MoveableType, amazingly!"

- Greg Glassman

Maximus Lewin said...

Context of above comments is here:

Rocky said...

Maximus: Sorry, I've seen in Ross' own materials that he has been working out in his own manner for years before Crossfit came about. Just because you and many other affiliates never took the time to look for workout possibilites that existed outside of the "globo" gyms does not mean they did not exist. Feel free to contribute over at Ross's site as I posted a portion of your quote over there for further discussion. Maybe you could tell Ross that he is simply following in Crossfit's shadow since that seems to be what you are implying. Funny how Glassman references a burpee as done by Ross Enamait in a video but yet you still think Glassman created it all. I understand you have a business and I respect that but you should be sure of what you say before you say it so that you don't come out looking like the uninformed.

Maximus Lewin said...

Hey Rocky, can you give some links to the materials you are referencing, or email me about them at

You may have missed the point: no one is claiming Glassman invented burpees, snatches or box jumps, just that the way they are combined in metcons, along with the monomodal and max effort WODs form a new entity that is totally original: I have heard umpteen people claim that this stuff was out there in training manuals from the 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s, but in every case that I have actually looked at such materials they have never looked at all like CF.

Rocky said...

You can read some of the strenght material if you click his blog link. You can read GPP information in his books which you must buy. References are contained within his material that were published and peer reviewed long before Crossfit came into existence. But based on your last post, some CF affiliates aren't doing crossfit b/c many of their programming structures do not meet the definition that you just laid out. I've been to one of them personally. So maybe Greyskull or whatever his name is has a point in that HQ should police it's own. It's like the guy who won the games did Crossfit for 2-3 years before the games but exercised for 15 years prior building his GPP and work capacity and strength and many people don't think about that.

Maximus Lewin said...


I looked over the materials on his blog, and, as usual, I found nothing similar to say, Fran, Filthy Fifty or Murph (Murph was invented not by Glassman, but by the eponymous Lt. Murphy, RIP).

I read you comment over at Greyskull, and it seems you were at an affilate that gave you bad advice and training.

My experiences have been very different:

Just a few of dozens if not hundreds of amazing things I have seen and witnessed:

I sent an athlete to the games this year; she came to us in good shape (able to do a muscle-up first time she tried it), but she has made astounding progress in the last year or so - 30 round LEGIT Cindy (full ROM), Bench Press 165, C&J 155 @ BW of 138, etc, etc, etc. Lot's of Metcon and lot's of Max Effort.

I worked with a local SWAT guy in decent shape, who after 6 months of CF blew away the competition in a World's Strongest Cop type competition, decimated the records.

I personally was finally able to deadlift 400 after a plateau of 18 months, using ONLY metcon (or more properly "strenghtcon", using 315 DL, 155 Thrusters, 165 C&J Burpees, Rowing, etc) in our ramp-up to the games.

I work with blind athletes, athletes recently recovered from open-heart surgery, 50-something Moms, and they all benefit from CF. I enjoy working with all of them and all get great results.

I suggest you find another affiliate and try again; if you are local, you can come check out our facility.

Rocky said...

Max, sorry not local. About 3000 miles to your east and about 5 hours away (in the same state) from a great CF gym which has good programming. Either way, I built my own home gym, I am about 1.5 hours from a Muscle Driver location so I saved big money on shipping costs.

Apolloswabbie said...

Thanks for the response - I think now I won't bother.

Paraphrase - "I'm frustraed becasue the cheerleader down the street's got more clients than I do, and I know a whole shit ton more than he does so CF must suck."

I'm not surprised at people's frustration that CF HQ has not fallen for the absurd notion that they should 'control' the quality of a CF affiliate. I'm always surprised at 'who' get suckered into thinking that would be a good idea.

Be excellent, gain recognition in the market, or fail. Simple. No centralized control necessary to implement that.

Did Greg invent CF style training? I could care less. What I know is that at 42, CF made me fitter faster than anything else I tried, and I tried a lot of modalities. More results in less time spent. It was a miracle for me. Paul

Tsypkin said...

"Be excellent, gain recognition in the market, or fail. Simple. No centralized control necessary to implement that."

Paul, you hit the nail on the head.

Ross said...

Whoever wrote the following line is misinformed:

"The problem with Ross Training (which is great training) is that Ross hung out on our msg board for a couple of years before launching his program and was at first every bit as much a newbie as anyone has ever been."

I never hung around on a Crossfit message board, never posted on one, and never had any involvement.

I have nothing against Crossfit, but I actually have much different beliefs regarding the development of athletes. To suggest that I was somehow influenced is ridiculous.

My mentors are listed here:

That's it.

Thank you,
Ross Enamait

plumbergirl said...

The only reason John has terminated his affiliation is because he cant afford the membership dues, and had his heart broken. In addition he has lost all of crossfit clients to better, stronger and more knowledgeable coaches.

Kathy said...

Wow plumbergirl. You are sooo out in left field.

I would love to know where you pulled that from. Maybe a sewer pipe?


Lucky said...

Kathy, she pulled it from her PVC. That pipe is oh-so-handy.

To Plumbergirl: I'm LMAO. Did you think you cracked the case? Did you think you were calling out what's really going on here?

You clearly know nothing of Johnny Pain, his business, or his goals.

To those who disagree with his programming: give it a try. Unless of course your goal is to be weak; in that case, do the opposite.

Jay Ashman said...

there are two sides to every story, so let's not sling mud at each other for the sake of doing it. Johnny Pain doesn't want to be involved with CF anymore, that is fine, that is his right and we should all wish him the best, for he is a great trainer.

those that want to stay, good. Let's follow Max's and Bullfrog's lead and program ourselves and our athletes to achieve a high work capacity over broad times and modal domains.. (I never thought I'd say that... ha).

I would say that Max is one of my CF influences. I am 35 he is 40+ and still kicking it hard. He's strong, fit, helpful and cool as hell. If most box owners were like him, we'd be mainstream already.

Tsypkin said...

Well said Jay.

michaelchasetx said...

Yep. Sharing this is healthy
... ignoring the Subject Matter Experts' was, is, and will be a HUGH error with reverberations. I hope positive comes from this for HQ .. for the certs, for the games, for the affiliates.

Garrett W. said...


More unsubstantiated lies please.

Also, how did you manage to plateau at <400lbs DL for a year and a half? I assume you're a grown man. Maybe not per the definition of 70sBig, but more like a medical definition. How did this happen? Were you happy being that weak? Why did you tolerate it for so long? How big are you now? Did you call yourself fit before being able to DL 400? I thought strength is a component of fitness.

Bethany said...

First of all, let me say I've just spent a half hour bouncing around your blog and I like you guys. Second, I want to tell you about my perspective. I am a proud Crossfit Affiliate since Jan. 2008...yes, an early adopoter, and crossfitting for 3 years. I'm a 46 yr.old soccer mom and am in the best shape of my life. Prior to crossfit I was a student of MMA which got me pretty fit, but I have to say CrossFit took me to the next level. I have a garage gym and train mostly "non-athletes"...ya know..old ladies that want to be strong enough to play with their grandchildren. Some of these ladies are now dl-ing 225.
Thirdly. I have visited Greyskull, and the workout was GI Jane....hardly a powerlifting workout. He does have a disclaimer on his blog stating that the posted workouts are for a small private group and not what everyone does. I haven't spoken with him recently but he is a decent guy and I think we need to at least "cogitate" a bit on what he is saying....even if it wasn't eloquantly stated. In order to keep CrossFit open to all we need to guard against it becoming an exclusive club where only the "cool Kids" who zone and wear designer workout clothes are welcome. We need to focus on our programming constantly making sure it is creating the most efficient adaptions for our individual members. New affiliates will make mistakes..I have, and probably will continue to, but with each month of training I become better. I am sorry John has left because I think he had something to contribute.

Amadraeus said...

Damn, guys, well written!

Dan said...

Well, there are some affiliates out there who do their thing, but they want to be a part of the community.

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