Not All Exercise Programs Are The Same: TSMMA v. Cross Fit
Cross Fit Newest Fad Workout
By: Sensei Thad Campbell TSMMA Feasterville Head Instructor 10 Years Experience
A recent article I came across in the New York Post highlighted an issue I’ve understood for years as a Martial Arts instructor. Instead of being healthy for you, exercise can have the exact opposite effect if not properly overseen by a professional instructor. Most fad exercise programs have no formal accreditation system. Anyone can do it. The programs that do have a certification system are rudimentary at best. In fact the standard would shock the average consumer. For instance a typical personal trainer at the gym can be on the job after a weekend course that lasts for less than a full day.
I’ve been teaching MMA for ten years now and in that time I can remember at least five fad exercise routines bursting on the scene. Zumba, Pilates, P90X, Spinning and most recently Cross-Fit (I can remember aerobics bursting on the scene if you must know, I can also remember the resulting low impact aerobics after millions of participants found the impact on their joints to be damaging). There will never be a stop to the trend. While Martial Arts has lived on into it’s 6th century as a means to a healthy mental and physical lifestyle, other workouts continue to reinvent themselves constantly in an attempt to keep their practitioners intrigued. The routine itself is not enough to keep the mind occupied during exercise, so the routine itself must change constantly to create that excitement.
There are a couple major problems with this. The first and most important problem is what exercise is designed to accomplish. The point of exercise is to get the body in shape, not to injure yourself. While the concept of muscle confusion popularized by P90X and embraced by Cross Fit is great in theory for getting and then keeping the body in shape, it is also important that a person learn proper technique so as to avoid injury in their exercise routine. If the routine itself is constantly changing then it is hard for a person to master proper technique. Without proper technique you increase the chances for injury exponentially!
The second problem is that if a person has to constantly search for new routines to keep them interested it is much more likely they will give up on the routine altogether. Human beings are motivated by results. Improving at a routine is key to enjoyment, but the routine itself must be exciting as well. This is the major reason my average students trains for 3 years. Measure that against a gym where the average client lasts 3 weeks!
Cross-Fit is the latest of these workouts to take over the national consciousness. It espouses high intensity, short duration exercises that vary greatly from week to week. A circuit of exercises of varying numbers of stations is set up and students are either given a time frame in which to count their repetitions or a vice versa. An instructor will walk through the different stations and instruct on what’s expected and then set up students in their respective stations.
In some cases an instructor may actually take the time to stress the technique needed in each exercise for students to avoid injury. But the whole premise of the routine is high intensity in a short time, thus stressing the exact opposite of going slowly and practicing solid technique. This pushes students to train beyond their level, encouraging injury.
This is in direct opposition to what TSMMA has been teaching for 30 years. The important thing is not how quickly you get in great shape, but how long you stay in great shape! It should be a lifetime goal.
We want to exercise in a fashion that is sustainable for life. Short bursts of high intensity exercise using weights far beyond our bodies daily typical use serve only to stress our bones and joints and shorten our long term ability to exercise. Short bursts of a workout using our own body weight, done with proper technique and increasing gradually in intensity as our body adapts is the key to long term fitness.
Gradual Improvement Key To TSMMA Success
What keeps the average student training at TSMMA for far longer than any other exercise routine or other Martial Art for that matter? It is professional instruction! Our instructors at each and every location are trained on how to build someones health for the long haul. Instead of stressing short term improvement, we stress short term technique. A few weeks of doing something slowly to master the technique will lead to a lifetime of doing something fast to keep yourself in shape. A few weeks of doing something fast with no technique will often lead to injury and jeopardize a persons long term health.
While a cross fit operator may open up a school with little or no certification, for Tiger Schulmann to allow someone to teach in one of his schools they must put in hundreds of hours of training, both practical and in the classroom. They must also continue their training forever in order to maintain that certification.
One of the main teaching points we go over weekly is how to make sure our students get a proper workout, but in a safe environment. Injuries are going to happen in any exercise routine. However, through in depth teaching of technique and moderation of expectations we as instructors can limit the number of injuries to our students significantly.
By our own ongoing training we understand firsthand the possible pratfalls students may encounter during training and also understand how each technique must be taught to be most effective. Only after years of training can a student truly understand enough to become a teacher!