CrossFit, P90X and the truth about training

There are some basic principles that govern what kind of results you will get from any given training program. In this podcast I go over some of the basic training principles and how they apply to us as mountain bikers. I then look at how two popular training programs stack up against these training principles and why they may not be the best option for a mountain biker training program to increase your on trail performance.

You can download the MP3 file and/ or subscribe to this podcast by visiting this link

-James Wilson-

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  1. Pete says:

    thanks for making this podcast. This topic was one that I was interested in learning more about. I was in crossfit for about a year before switching to your program. Crossfit never seemed to translate well to the bike. It also left me totally drained and sore.

    I was fit before using your program, but with your exercises I am noticing large gains of bike control and certain applicable muscle strength. I think your program just makes sense. Your podcast did a good job of explaining why. Thanks 🙂 oh – and I have way more energy now to RIDE hard

    Reply • November 13 at 9:57 pm
  2. Flame flame flame 😉

    Reply • November 14 at 12:52 am
  3. Hans says:

    How about creating a podcast channel in itunes, then we could download every podcast automatically when it is available?

    Reply • November 14 at 4:57 am
    • bikejames says:

      @ Hans – You can visit the link I posted and subscribe to the podcasts via ITunes or other popular subscription channels. I’ll be sure to mention that in my main posts for the podcasts from now on, thanks for the suggestion.

      Reply • November 16 at 11:11 am
  4. Jade Jenny says:

    Haven’t posted here in a while, just a couple thoughts. I started bodybuilding training 4 years ago, did the MTB program this past winter, and switched to CrossFit in August. I can say I’ve never been fitter over a wide range of activities including cycling. While I do agree the MTB program is awesome and probably the best option for mountain biking, how many people are actually at a level that MTBing is there sole focus/sport/all they care about. While I don’t race much anymore (I’d love to but can’t afford it), i do hold a pro license, and in my one race back this summer after 2 years off I finished 15th with a so so run, out of I believe 45 riders, in a very competitive East Coast pro class. I definitely attribute some of this to James program, but even at the level I’m at no way do I consider I need an MTB specific program as I still like to engage in a number of other activities. I can say since going on CrossFit I haven’t lost any of the capabilities I gained on the MTB program and have only improved them along with other exercises (huge improvement in bodyweight). As far as being always sore I think a large part of that is nutrition which many people overlook. I can say since I’ve been on a Paleo diet (about 40 days now) I feel amazing. So certainly not putting down the MTB program I thought it was great, but I don’t think that because you mountain bike you should be on a mountain bike specific training program. I suppose if it is your only sport then that’s great but for people who engage in a wide variety of sports/activities I feel there are better options. This is my view based off of the using the bodybuilding routines, the MTB strength system, and now CrossFit. And yes I’m definitely defending CrossFit as I certainly don’t think it is a poor program which seems to be the consensus over here. I suppose it all comes down to your goals, and for me and avid mountain biker and wanted to be stronger in other aspects as I do partake in other activities. Lastly I’ll say I haven’t been brain washed by any CrossFit trainers, etc. I don’t have an affiliate in the area, and do my training on my own, following the main site. Just a few thoughts.

    Reply • November 18 at 9:39 pm
    • bikejames says:

      @ Jade – Thanks for taking the time to post. While you make some interesting points, I still stand by the statement that CrossFit doesn’t hold up to any of the training principles I mentioned. They are a 1 size fits all approach to fitness that uses principles they made up to create their workouts. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason from one day to the next what you do and what the intended goal is. They are also responsible for a lot of injuries and all in all they are a bad organization. They have driven out guys like Mark Ripetoe, Dan John and the Gym Jones crew. No good strength coach uses or recommends their program. All in all they are not a good choice. However, they are free, make you feel like you worked hard and use a lot of cool exercises so they will continue to be popular for a while.

      And I disagree with that you have to be super serious about mountain biking to want to use a program geared toward riding. If you are going to drop $2000+ on a bike I’d say you are serious enough to want to get the most out of it during your trail time. No, not everyone eats, sleeps and breathes riding like I do but the truth is my program would work for just about any sport as I have gotten countless e-mails from people commenting on how it helped them in a wide variety of sports. What I would do with a mountain biker is 90% the same thing I’d do with any athlete as the idea is to address the human first, the athlete second.

      Reply • November 19 at 8:15 am
  5. Diesel Sanchez says:

    I have been doing Crossfit for about a month and, though I have seen gains & lost weight, I am not sold on the system. The bigger picture I do agree with, that of training your anaerobic energy system (or whatever they are calling it these days)with high intensity interval type workouts. How they accomplish this I do not completely agree with…some of the exercises are suspect, IMO, such as kipping pullups, the whole love affair with kettlebells, the ultra-high reps of technical lifts. There also seems to be a “shotgun” approach with program design with little structure or regard for a future outcome or goal (which I understand is part of Crossfit’s philosophy, I just don’t agree with it).

    I’ve also noticed that Crossfit appears (to me) to breed Crossfit athletes…people who are good at doing Crossfit. Not saying they aren’t good at other sports, but for me I want a training program to help me with my chosen sports, not to be a workout athlete.

    I do like the high intensity interval training as well as the group dynamic aspect of it. I also like their incorporation of the Olympic style lifts and, for the most part, the whole body aspect of most of the exercises.

    I will more than likely continue for a little longer but ultimately will pick and choose the components of Crossfit that benefit me personally rather than buy in to the whole Crossfit philosophy.

    Reply • November 19 at 10:54 am
  6. Jade Jenny says:

    James. Good points as well. I do feel there are also a number of coaches in the CrossFit community who certainly do know what they are talking about, Coach Burgener for example. I will say that a lot of what I’ve seen in CrossFit myself I don’t like. Often people sacrifice form for capacity and that’s something I don’t agree with. I always try and concentrate on proper form when doing workouts. Personally I’ve also added additional strength work into the daily WOD where I feel it fits as I believe there is not enough strength work in the program.

    Maybe there are better options but haven’t there been a number of elite level athletes that have seen great success, and more gains from CrossFit over other training principles, and doesn’t it produce a pretty high level athlete, given your willing to put the work in. The guys at the CrossFit games seem to be pretty fit in a very wide range of activities, and I know the likes of ski racers, mma fighters, and others have found great success with CrossFit based training. I train BJJ and I know personally that the MMA community uses more or less CrossFit style training for most of their strength and conditioning and I would certainly consider those guys and the few gals pretty well rounded athletes.

    CrossFit certainly has designed it’s own principles, and while I think the MTB program is great, I also think the CrossFit program is great, and I personally feel it’s a bit hard to say that is essentially a terrible program.

    Reply • November 19 at 11:01 am
    • bikejames says:

      @ Jade – Thanks for taking my comments well, after I posted them I realized they may have sounded a bit harsh and that not everyone realizes the history behind CrossFit and why I feel that “flying their banner” is hurting the overall cause of fitness training. Here are a couple of quick points –

      – Just like you mentioned, few people really follow the true CrossFit program. Just like you have added in more strength work and other athletes have tweaked the programs to fit their needs, there are some holes in their programs. If you modify their stuff, are you really following CrossFit or are you learning from it?

      – Their quality control is pretty poor. They will grant a frnachise tag to anyone who has the money, their certification is granted to everyone who puts down the money and shows up (no test involved). While they may have had some great coaches involved in the beginning, as $$$ started to rule the show a lot of them have left. The standard CrossFit facility is not as good as it was a few years back and they don’t seem to really care.

      – Their emphasis on work capacity at the expense of form is kind of scary and sends the wrong message to newbies. I’ve had several ex-CrossFitters come into my facility and I am shocked at what they were doing. For example, I just had a guy come in with a really bad squat pattern, bad shoulder mobility and bad hip mobility. Despite this he was being asked to snatch, overhead squat and to back squats. He had no business doing any of these movements yet because they were part of the Workout of the Day he was doing them, no questions asked. This is not programming and coaching, it is simply blindly following the workouts.

      – Their handling of the whole situation with the guy who contracted Rabdo was appalling. This guy was severely hurt as a result of one of their franchisees and their reaction was to post videos of kids doing the workout and turning the whole thing into a joke, complete with t-shirts for them to sale.

      When you fly their flag you are endorsing all of this stuff and every video on YouTube with the horrendous form and bad coaching. There are certainly good aspect to the program but when you say you follow CrossFit you are signing on with a group that has a pretty bad track record in several areas. I know that you are smarter than that which is why I hope you see my point and change your view from “following” CrossFit to learning from it and adapting some of their stuff to what suits you. We just don’t need to support their cause as it is not as noble as they make it out to be.

      Reply • November 20 at 10:07 am
  7. James says:

    3 years of Crossfit.
    355lb deadlift at 145lbs bodyweight, 160lb press, 5:05 mile, top 20 50k ultramarathon finish (run), cat 1 mountain bike racer (started racing again last year after 10 years off).

    I’ve trained with excellent Crossfit coaches and I’ve trained with those that shouldn’t be there. These days I combine a mix of Crossfit/CrossfitEndurance with my own programming (and lots of riding in the woods since thats what I love the most). I’ve been doing this long enough to know what works.

    When you argue that most “dont follow the Crossfit program”, you misunderstand Crossfit.
    Crossfit is defined as “constantly varied, functional movements done at high intensity”
    Crossfit is not simply the workout of the day you see on – unlike p90x, there is no one path to follow.

    Your statement about Crossfit quality control is correct — the more ‘boxes’ opening up, the higher potential for less than optimal coaches and training. But please keep in mind that Crossfit is not an franchise. It’s serves as an affiliate system. CF is still a business — you’re trying to run one yourself.

    “Their emphasis on work capacity at the expense of form is kind of scary and sends the wrong message to newbies.” Here you’re generalizing again. Find literature on that states form should be compromised at the expense of work capacity. It’s not there. Your statement does, however, tie into the one above about trainers who shouldn’t be trainers in the first place (quality control). Those are the ones to blame for all those youtube videos with shitty form — not the system itself.

    You also bring up (several times) that you cant overload a movement if the workouts are never the same, therefore violating a fundamental training principle. Listen — while the workouts are constantly varied, the movements used in them are not. Crossfit workouts are built on scaling (up or down): I’ll deadlift heavy several times a month over varied WoDs and increase my weight as often as possible. Two or three times a month I’ll opt to do a ‘heavy’ day of 3×3 or 5x5RM deadlifts/squats/etc with the intention of lifting heavier than last time. There’s your overloading. These workouts are not as random as you make them out to be.

    “We just don’t need to support their cause as it is not as noble as they make it out to be.” I realize you may not see eye to eye with all things Crossfit — which is fine — but you come off as very bitter. Something else bothering you?

    I had wanted to enjoy your site. But your attitude in this podcast is off-putting.

    Reply • February 10 at 12:30 am
    • bikejames says:

      @ James – Crossfit tends to say one thing and then do another. If you google Crossfit Workout you will get more form that makes you cringe than form that you would want to teach a clinic with. Obviously something is not getting from mission control to the men in the field – the website and journal espouse decent training ideas but the implementation by the average Crossfit facility does not reflect it.

      I have personally seen too many people who have been wrecked by a steady diet of high rep Olympic lifts and overhead movements to just pretend that they are isolated incidents. And the fact that Crossfit is an “affiliate” and not a franchise also speaks to their intentions – they will take your money and let you fly their flag, they just are not going to make sure that you actually know what you are doing and are representing the brand in the intended manner.

      Listen, you have had success with their “system” and I seriously applaud your efforts. The numbers you posted are impressive and I think speak more to your dedication to training and hard work than the actual Crossfit system, but that is just my opinion.

      The fact remains that there are some serious issues with how their system is being interpreted and until they take steps to fix it I will have a major problem with their business model.

      Lastly, random workouts produce random results. If you are fine with that then great, but for me as a rider I want to get better on the trail. I can apply specific exercises and strategies to produce better cornering, bunny hopping and other skills. I train to ride better and Crossfit simply does not target things as effectively as a more targeted program can. That is kind of the point of Crossfit – be great at nothing. I want to be great at riding so my workouts need to reflect that.

      Reply • February 10 at 8:45 am
  8. gary says:

    I really enjoyed the podcast and all of the comments. I am a MTB racer and will be racing expert this year after several years in Sport class. I have heard a lot of advice from doctors and friends to be very careful about the ‘military’ style attitute that goes along with crossfit and how this along with the technical moves will get you injured. Unfortunately, to bikejames’ point, this may be true in a lot of places.

    Fortunately, I’ve done some research and accepted that risk before joining a local crossfit gym and found that my gym could not be more opposite than the negative things i’ve heard. My coach absolutely requires perfect form before permitting advancing to heavier weights and is very committed to each person’s individual success.

    I’m doing crossfit to augment my MTB racing because history has proven that I am unable to find sufficient motivation to self-train with weights. Somehow I can do it on a bike, but at this point I need more to improve my level of fitness, and a weight program is what i need. Crossfit is intended to be a a ‘generalized’ program to make one a ‘general athlete’. Pretending it can be ‘specific’ to any sport would be a misinterpretation of the program. My hope is that the crossfit does not take the place of my specific on the bike training, but simply augments it. I’ll let you know in 6 months or so whether it worked for me or not. I’d say the only problem i’m having so far is that I like crossfit too much. In the winter, it’s so much more fun to do crossfit than it is to sit in the basement doing intervals. Bikejames, I have no doubt your program is fantastic. But unless you’re in my living room telling me what to do, I’m not going to do it at the frequency required to make it worthwhile. For me, and folks like me, finding something that motivates me to put in the effort is half the battle. And at the same time I’ve learned that I can do a lot of things better than I thought I could.

    Reply • December 19 at 8:51 pm

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