Nick giving Ryan pointers during yesterday's complex.

How do you gauge the quality of a CrossFit Gym?  In a program that uses almost all the fitness disciplines to create the most well rounded athletes, there are bound to be trade offs and compromises.  Some critics contend CrossFit doesn’t take a person to max strength or max speed or max… anything.  CrossFitters know that.  We accept that to be really good at everything, you cannot be the best at anything.  That is what CrossFit is at its core…  a program designed to create the most balanced fitness.  We know a CrossFitter will not be a world champion powerlifter or record holding marathoner.  But we know we are bounds faster than the first and way stronger than the second.  That is CrossFit.

But the critism of CrossFit doesn’t stop at specificity.  Compromises in form, technique, and the disregard for mobility have led to most of the criticism of the CrossFit model. The most popular over the years has centered around Olympic Lifts and how CrossFit has incorporated them into workouts.  Critics contend the poor instruction by inexperienced CrossFit “coaches” were, at least, misusing the lifts and at worst, increasing the potential of injury with little gain from what the lifts true stimuli are.  The misuse and inability to teach the Olympic lifts are only one of such arguments.  But almost all of them originate with the lack of quality instruction from many affiliates.

“As long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitable to dispense it.” – Dick Cavett 

I agree with the critics on many of their arguments, especially about poor instruction.  It is that criticism of CrossFit that has fueled my

"Curls for the Girls"... Brooke gets a spot from Amanda. Single joint movements support prime movements.

endeavor to ensure the instruction presented at CFW is, and always will be, beyond the critics’ reproach.

Over the past four years, we have painfully witnessed first hand the results of a CrossFit with lacking instruction.  Somehow, the word on CrossFit in Wilmington was, and may still be, a person interested in starting CrossFit should join the other CF before coming to CrossFit Wilmington.  It almost sounds like a good idea… go to the “easy CF” and then switch to CrossFit Wilmington once you are “in shape enough”.  The problem is, once you’ve learned something the wrong way, it is more difficult to learn the correct.  No problem though…  we fix them right up and get them moving properly and efficiently.  They immediately reach PRs.

“Quality is no accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution.  It represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” – William A. Foster 

I’ve always looked beyond CrossFit for instruction in the specific disciplines of conditioning.  As part of our pursuit of mastering CrossFit (an endless one, no doubt!), we recognized you must master the sports that comprise it as a whole.  If the 2011 Games competitors had known there would be a ball toss in the competition, the smart ones would have hired a pitching coach to improve their throw.  That’s what we’ve been doing since our beginning.  We invite experts in their fields to come teach at CrossFit Wilmington.  CFW members and instructors learn from specialists, not just generalists.  Seemingly, we are the only affiliate in the area that considers this important.  That’s ok, I guess.

But I am not ok with being ok.

The latest of these outsourced clinics we hosted were two sold out POSE Running Clinics with Ed Bugarin.  Having Ed in our house was an opportunity we couldn’t miss out on.  If you were unable to attend, don’t worry, Ed will be back in April for POSE running and cycling clinics.

So is it meaningful if experts outside of the CrossFit community weigh in with criticism and positive words on CrossFit?  I think so.  Only because there is an opposite bias in their assessment.  It is easy to look only to the CrossFit community to qualify our program’s worth.  Many in the CrossFit community say “any CrossFit is better than no CrossFit”.  I don’t know about that.  I do know Wilmington has a choice.

It’s no secret I’m a Coach Charles Poliquin fan.  I have followed his training methods numerous times.  One of those times was during the rehab following fracturing my L4 vertebrae.  The tempo work we Rx at CFW is directly linked to what I learned from Poliquin’s books and articles.  A few years ago, Coach Poliquin weighed in on CrossFit and expresses his opinions on CrossFit’s downsides in this article, “The Case Against CrossFit”.  Obviously, it wasn’t very well received in the CrossFit community.

CrossFit was still in its infancy.  At that time, anyone who said anything bad about CrossFit was lashed out at, many times in ignorant language that made our CrossFit community sound like uneducated, emotional fools simply repeating what they read in the CrossFit Journal.  Rightly so… many CrossFitters were exactly that.

In the last few years, CrossFit has, for the most part, matured quite a bit as a whole.  Most affiliates understand you can’t pull programming out of your a**, train your clients at 100% effort everyday, or not learn tried and true strength conditioning techniques.  I think the improvements being made in CrossFit is reflected in Poliquin’s latest, “Getting the Most Out of CrossFit”, where he discusses his take on the good side of CrossFit.  Funny, but CrossFit Wilmington hits all five points he lists.

Before the purist CrossFitter reading this gets upset because they think I’m bashing our own, let me clarify… I value outside points of view on what we are doing and how we are doing it because the points are not biased in favor of CrossFit.  The value I place in it comes from my desire to make CrossFit Wilmington and CrossFit generally, the best it can be.  You cannot improve if you believe you are perfect.

Seeking criticism is better than just being open to it.  We ask all our members to give us feedback.  When I meet our new members, I stress to them how important their feedback is to me.  I want to know what we can improve and new members bring new perspectives on what we’re doing.  Their new eyes offer a fresh review.  When a member switches from the other affiliate, we make sure to ask why they came to CFW.  We don’t want to make any of their mistakes for sure.

Having said all that…  I think the best gauge of an affiliate is its membership.  The core of CrossFit Wilmington’s successes are you, our members.  Most of you do not know we use a combination of techniques learned from Glassman, Poliquin, Wilkes, Mackenzie, McCarroll, and Kuenzel and probably don’t even care.  It matters only we give you the highest quality training for your investment in a professional, supportive environment.  As it is with the other affiliate, once the word is out that there is a better gym for a better price just down the road, members leave.

“The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything.” – Mark Twain

CFW is not perfect, but we’re doing something right.  Looking for and considering feedback from outside sources and from our members is the best way to make sure we’re doing the right thing.


CFW - No Compromise


External Shoulder Rotation   5 x 8 (ea arm)
Internal Shoulder Rotation  5 x 8 (ea arm)
Reverse Hyper Extension  5 x 5  (3/0/1/-)
Weighted GHD Sit Ups  5 x 5 (35lbs/25lbs)

19 thoughts on “CrossFit: An Outside Assessment of Quality

  1. Albert Steed says:

    Great post and as I said yesterday I really appreciate this place and the emphasis that is placed on learning from the best. That mentality of doing more and doing it technique first is great for building positive habits.

    @ Peter – Same article as posted yesterday..

    Hey everyone I came across this today.. very interseting..

  2. Andrew says:

    Ed Bugarin? As in, career in SOF, former Delta operator, on site during the Beirut bombing Ed Bugarin?

  3. t. says:

    Like I said… I bring in the best in the biz. Oddly, Ed has a little more than just running coaching on his resume.
    Ed was on a SF dive team when I was born.

  4. Amanda W says:

    Great job last night 6 and 7 crews! That complex is no joke for even veterans of the sport. For those of you who are fairly new to the crossfit game, don’t be discouraged if the movements didn’t feel smooth or natural. Give it a few weeks of practicing the burgner before class and it will eventually become second nature. Don’t remember the burgner movements? Grab an instructor to take you through it. There’s also a “cheat sheet” behind the oly platforms.

    And Brooke – thanks for your good attitude while learning something new! You always come in ready and eager to learn. I guess that’s your inner student coming out 😉

  5. Andrew says:

    I first became aware of Ed Bugarin when he was one of the designated team leaders on a short lived show called Combat Missions that ran on USA in 2002. It was a bunch of SOF and SWAT guys split up into squads running staged missions for points with the MILEs system. Scott Helvenston was on that show as well.

    Evidently I need to keep up with the website a bit more. Having him teach that class may have actually prompted me to run. Maybe.

  6. sara! says:

    I know I’m a little late to the party (fashionably, I might add), but I wanted to share with y’all that my mom sent me a link to the “article” that we’ve been discussing, and she (I love my mom, but the idea of a workout to her is getting in the garden, and at 66 years old, I’ll let her have it) says to me:

    “I disagree with some of the things that are said because I have seen results with you!”

    So be aware that the word is out that it’s really up to the quality of instruction and the commitment of the participant.

  7. t. says:

    Hey Trooper… I try to keep CFW’s site up to date and propagated with good info.

    Maybe, while you’re sitting in a median waiting to write your next revenue producing ticket, you pull up the site and get yourself up to date. That is, instead of shopping online for floral arrangements for the big day.

  8. Meagan says:

    Andrew-the clinic with Ed was AWESOME! I learned a lot from him. I am very appreciative to t. for arranging the clinic.

    I have not been to a lot of other Crossfits, but I am very appreciative of the gym we have as well. The knowledge of our staff always amazes me. You may catch me listening in on a lot of the coaching from staff because I love to hear different’ cues given. I think we all have a positive attitude and we are all able to learn from one another. Thanks to everyone who has helped coach me along the way!

    And last, but definitely not last, welcome to all of our new members. You are all looking strong. Yesterday’s workout was tough. I saw a lot of new members in the 3:45 class and you all looked great! Keep up the great work!

  9. Andrew says:

    If you weren’t such a good customer for the state, T, you might not have to work so hard getting out good information for your business. The citizens of NC thank you haha.

  10. Jeremy says:

    I have to say instruction makes all the difference, I’ve gotten my parents on the Paleo train and while not 100% they are seeing results. Now dad is interested in CF, so I’ve been looking in to the one in their area. The problem is when you look at their photos on both the website and facebook and the technique and form is horrible and I’m not comfortable sending him in there to get hurt. Value what we have at CFW because you definitely don’t get it at all CFs

  11. Felice says:

    Ha, the convo between T and Andrew is hilarious. On another note, I have been to a few different CF boxes when I go home to Florida, and I’ve luckily had great experiences. However, there is still no comparison to CFW. I noticed that the members of the gym were slow, unmotivated, and weren’t really pushing themselves. My husband, sister, mom, and I did a 5:30pm class one night at my mom’s box, and the instructors couldn’t believe how hard we were pushing ourselves and how bad we all wanted to beat eachother! They loved it, but you could tell that it wasn’t something that they saw everyday. Needless to say, I was happy to come back home to CFW =) …I am so lucky to be surrounded by amazing athletes and coaches everytime I step into the gym.

  12. Nick Mazejka says:

    Good job to everyone on the complex yesterday. It really help’s other instructor’s and myself when our athletes become more understanding of the ques and techniques that are applied at CFW. The more we strive to listen and practice the right forms with proper progression we all seem to climb to new PR’s on everything we do. I have learned so much from CFW, while going to school for Exercise Science I was always amazed at how T always hit what I would learn on the head and then add more. Hand’s down I would have never been what I am today if I had not walked in the door of Crossfit Wilmington. I’m still practicing and I’m still eager to learn just like all of us. Keep up the hard work! It shows. Thank you.


  13. DC says:

    Oh how I miss you all.. It’s funny to me being gone and working with guys from other boxes and seeing how they do things.. It’s very shocking and sad to watch sometimes but what sucks the most is when you try to help someone but they just wanna blow you off and then they get hurt and then they say oh it was crossfit.. NO you fool it was you not wanting to listen to the right person or your coach not teaching you correct.. When T 1st opened the box he wanted form drilled into everyone.. Those OGs of the box know what I’m talking about.. I look forward to getting back in and learning some more myself as well has helping teach. With that being said I need to know if there are 3 guys and 3 females who feel they are good on a row.. a 2k row.. Some of you may have seen a couple of our brothers and sister doing some extra work on the rower.. I would like to put a race together for them. So they can feel the heat from someone else. To help them prepare for the race they have coming up. I would like to have it done on feb. 18.. Any takers??

  14. Meagan says:

    DC-we miss you! I remember the old box. I am so thankful for the form drilled into us all…if it were not for that….there is NO way I would be where I am today! And I am out for the row…these short little legs can’t hang!

  15. Sara Clark says:

    All– CFW promotes personal responsibility for your fitness, and goes to great lengths to give you the tools to do so… and also a kick in the pants. CFW kids lays a foundation for the younguns out there to start a fit lifestyle at an early age. For anyone interested, take a look at the ad campaign in Atlanta (excerpt from article below). I am personally on the side that obesity is not something we should accept and condone, nor should we gloss over its presence in youth. Obviously not everyone agrees.

    “[S]tudies show that the perception that obesity is solely a matter of personal responsibility as opposed to understanding the complexity of contributing factors, can increase negative stereotypes about overweight people.”

  16. Jeremy B. says:

    Get back here DC so you can yell at me in person. This email business doesn’t quite have the same effect.

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