Is Quality Control Necessary in CrossFit Gyms? My Two Cents.

So this video was uploaded by CrossFit HQ, and it’s sparked some pretty interesting debate.  I thought I’d chime in a little bit and gage some reactions from fellow fire-breathers.

CrossFit has exploded in the last 5 years or so, and its not to say I’m on the outside looking in on this seemingly cult movement.  I caught on to this training program two years ago, and while the time I’ve spent learning the nuances of teaching others, its exactly that still–two years.

The feeling is similar to the that of realizing I’ve only been married to Jennie for 3 years, being that it seems like so much more time has passed.  I’m not alone in this sentiment however as people are jumping into the programming, getting hooked on the “kool-aid” and attending a level 1 cert at an alarming rate.  Now this isn’t a bad thing, the more educated trainers the better.  The problem is, the power you have with a level 1 cert is quite high.  If you’ve got the money to affiliate, the level 1 is all you need to open your very own “CrossFit MegaAwesomeSuperIntense” in your very own city.  So before people jump on me in the comments section, lets get a couple things straight: I do not own an affiliate, and I am not accusing other affiliates of ANYTHING.  I hold a level 1 cert, nothing more besides my ISSA certs.  I’m not on a soapbox talking down to anyone.

In my opinion, HQ needs to up the standards for affiliation.  As I said before, the level 1 cert allows you to affiliate if you have the money to do so.  So I just pulled this from HQ’s certification page (

          On completing a Level 1 CrossFit Trainer Course, attendees will have the resources and sufficient foundation from which to               continue development as a CrossFit trainer and/or athlete.

Now this is an outstanding course, and when I finished I felt as if my head had been opened up and crammed full of useful tips, verbal cues, and general knowledge that I couldn’t wait to teach others.  The first time BNI’s owner Mike let me train some clients, I unloaded with all sorts of trainer jargon like triple-extension and whatnot and one client look me in the eyes and said “what the hell are you talking about?!”  I had exactly what the site had advertised, a sufficient foundation from which to continue development as a trainer.  A year later, I know how to better make corrections with clients, explain fundamental movements for those working out seemingly for the first time, and adjust motivation techniques for those that need it.

Saying that the course gives you the foundation to continue development and also saying “Hell yeah, open a gym and do some WORK!” is a head scratcher.  My suggestion?  Require trainers to prove a certain level of teaching proficiency outside of the two day level one seminar before being allowed to affiliate.  I’m not saying those who already own a box need to attend or close down, but set the bar from this point on to control the explosion of affiliates (3200+) and reduce the risk of running into the “Boogeyman” that Coach G is talking about.

Lets move on to injuries related to CrossFit.  You’ve seen this scenario before: HQ posts the next days WOD on FaceBook and it says “Rest”.  Comment #1 is something along the line of “Rest is for the Weak!” or something arrogant like that.  Yeah, we get it–you’re a badass–but science is science and the fact is overtraining leads to injury.  So as a trainer, what am I supposed to do when I see Jon WODkins show up for the fifth, sixth day in a row and he’s telling everybody how he’s SO drained but can’t rest because “this is how you get stronger”… Do I knock him out and put him in a coma for a day?

Another example, I teach form over speed to all my on-ramp attendees, but I always see a few of them get into regular classes to find a veteran firebreather knocking out the WOD nearby.  So what happens?  We start seeing deadlifts that look like elephant trunks flailing around in an effort to keep up… I can yell “reset your stance!” and “shoulders back!” all day, but as you can imagine, they sometimes need to learn what a sore back feels like because Mr./Mrs. Ego got in the way.

My point is this, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them take bubble baths or something like that.  Let me know your thoughts.




  1. #1 by Ryan Anderson on July 8, 2012 - 1:51 pm

    Nic, I completely agree. I recently have moved from one box to another and have seen some drastic differences in between. I have friends that tell me horror stories of some of the box’s out there that are in it for the money, more-so than the mission. Just figured I would let you know that you are NOT the only one thinking about this lately. Keep it up.

  2. #2 by James Broun on July 8, 2012 - 1:56 pm

    My opinion is, that people are going to indulge in what they feel safe doing (and enjoy). There are so many aspect of CrossFit, and fitness in general, which makes appealing to everyone kind of a challenge. Do you METCON everyone for 40 minutes every day so they feel like they are getting their money’s worth (time-wise)? Do you stick to strength and form to get people to the level where they can do deadliest to perfect form every time? If three people in your CrossFit box get an injury, is that a sign that your coach sucks?
    I believe that EVERYONE will eventually have an exercise-related injury if they exercise longer than six months at a harder-than-self-paced tempo. Working in the high-intensity realm makes it even more likely that you may pull something, twist something, or hit the wall from over-training routinely.
    Glassman’s comments about being glad that people are out there getting into the sport, regardless of the quality of their coaches is how I feel. I know my abilities and limitations as a coach. Some things I am good at, other things I am not so good at. I don’t let it slow me down when offering advice on things I am not so good at.
    Besides, everyone who is just getting into a CrossFit program is going to have a steep learning curve, and will struggle with mobility and flexibility. How many people could Coach Glassman stop on the street, and from day one, have them executing a squat snatch at 100% perfect form? Probably only a small handful out of a thousand. The goal is to grow people’s form over time, and have them advance their strength gains at the same rate as their form gains, so they do not damage themselves.

    • #3 by Nic on July 8, 2012 - 2:23 pm

      Great points man, there’s no way you can set a certain “this many injuries equals bad coaches” standard. Any kind of quality control in that realm is tricky. From a new client’s perspective, I’d like to walk into “CrossFit Whatever” and know that my coach has some time teaching that specific program. I remember back to my cert, we had a guy who had NEVER tried CrossFit before and was being blessed by HQ to open an affiliate by passing the class… That’s what I think needs to be limited is the people getting into it to cash in on the craze.

  3. #4 by James Broun on July 8, 2012 - 1:57 pm

    I should really pay attention when I type… LOTS of typos.

    • #5 by Nic on July 8, 2012 - 2:20 pm

      Attack that keyboard, Jim!

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