Sandbag Training and the CrossFit Ethos

If you’re into fitness training then it’s hard to ignore the impact that CrossFit has had on
the industry. At over 10,000 affiliated gyms, their rise in popularity has been rapid indeed.
If you scan various popular blogs and news sites you’ll quickly come across a post either
praising or damning it - there seems to be little balance when it comes to peoples views
surrounding CrossFit. Why is this? What has CrossFit done so right or wrong? In this
article we take a look…
Most people reading this won’t remember the early days of CrossFit and probably only
know it by its current incarnation of named WOD’s, the ever-expanding community and
the CrossFit Games. But early on in the development of the CrossFit movement, there
was less structure. In fact, you can still see some of the original challenges on their
website here:
Despite the limited structure there was clearly a strong desire to bring an element of
performance into fitness. Something that, although it existed, was perhaps not all that
common in the commercial fitness industry. For many years the commercial fitness
industry was in fact overly focused on attendance. If you showed up then you were doing
things right. While consistency is important, we all know that intensity has a huge part to
An overly rigid viewpoint can stifle progress and that’s exactly what the fitness industry
had at that point in time - a pretty rigid view of how things should be done. There was
little new happening (save for the next BodyPump release) and the industry was crying
out for some creativity. CrossFit sparked the imagination of a number of people who were
looking for something new.
Fast forward a decade or so and there is an incredibly passionate community of
CrossFitters worldwide, and also an incredibly passionate group of people who think
CrossFit is a bad idea.
The thing is, despite all of the negativity surrounding CrossFit, the ethos is difficult to
fault. At its heart, the CrossFit ethos is about looking outside of your existing skills and
experience to find ways to improve. You can argue until you’re blue in the face about
specificity but the basic concept is sound. It’s really no surprise that the CrossFit
movement is courting such controversy - after all, it has forced many traditional fitness
training methods to closely examine their effectiveness. And when you upset the apple
cart, apples get spilled…
What Does it Mean to be a CrossFitter?
I imagine everyone has their own views on this, largely governed by their particular goals
and the elements of CrossFit that they’ve been exposed to. For me, it’s not specifically
about the games or the WOD’s or even the general exercise selection. It’s about looking
at your current training and taking a multidisciplinary approach to improving it. It starts
and ends with the CrossFit ethos - looking outside of your existing skills and experience
to find ways to improve.
Yes, beginners will undoubtedly end up following the path of someone before them and
that might not be quite right. But isn’t that true of beginners in all fields? We learn, fail,
correct and develop - over and over again.
The intrinsic value of the CrossFit community is that we now have a large group of
individuals who value continued improvement. The danger comes from assuming that
improvement for all is achieved with a simple formula and that, if you follow this formula,
you’ll achieve the same results. The true value of CrossFit, and the key to the success of
the very best CrossFitters, is the ability to make your own choices regarding what works
for you. Follow the pack when you need to, but be brave enough to break away if
required. Isn’t that true with most things?
What Does All of This Have to Do With Sandbag Training?
CrossFit made great leaps in the field of performance-based fitness by looking at the
current state of fitness and asking “does this work?” and “how can we improve this?”.
How often do you look at your own training and ask the same questions?
Are there better ways for you to train with your sandbag?
• Do you need to integrate other forms of training e.g. bodyweight, yoga, swimming to get
better results?
• Are you training at the right intensity?
• Could you adjust the performance elements of your workouts to encourage better
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below - how do you
-Matthew Palfrey, Brute Force Europe

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