CrossFit is a gateway drug for Weightlifting. It really is.
A lot of people start CF, discover they’ve a passion for lifting and/or they’re actually stronger than they thought they were, and eventually stop doing metcons in favour of lifting.
Why is this?
First, lifts are popular. They really are. It’s so easy to post a 10 second video of your backsquat PR or snatch on Instagram than it is to post a 12 minute “Helen” video. Sure, you can put up a post run selfie and say you beasted your 5K time, but still an above parallel round back squat will still get you the likes. That’s just the way it is. Lifts look cool.
Lifts are also easier to track. You put 15Kg on your deadlift this year, but are you a better CrossFitter? It’s hard to track given the wide range of movements in this crazy sport, and the only way you’re going to know is The Open. Even at that, does coming 2013rd in one year versus 3209th the next mean you’re worse? Or the competition got better? Or it was a bad year? These are regular ups and downs that happen every year in sport, but can be quite detrimental to a recreational CrossFitter’s ego.
Your handstands may have gotten better, or you can now do 12 strict pull ups instead of 9, but the numbers on the lifts are easier to track. Having an “easy” metric to track means we’re more likely to chase it. It’s kind of the same as comparing jobs. We all know that hours, commute, satisfaction, co-workers, etc. etc. are important, but we tend to reduce it down to salary. Our brains like to reduce complex things down to simple things.
Now, when you’re in year one of CrossFit, you make progress just by hanging around. Eventually, you need to put in more work. But more work where, and more work generally means doing the kind of things that aren’t as intrinsically enjoyable as slamming bars.
Weightlifting becomes an easier goal for most people. Easier is an insulting term, really it should be “simpler”. It’s far easier for your brain to wrap it’s head around “get a 2Kg Snatch PR” than “get better at metcons.” Metcons are this nebulous thing whereas Snatch is a concrete, easily measurable goal.
It’s in the same vein that people are attracted to 6 and 12 week transformations. These are easier to wrap your head around than “well, continuously work hard 3-4 times a week for the rest of your life to stay in shape.”
Because the goal itself is easier defined, it becomes easier in your head too. This isn’t necessarily true, but in your head it’s easier to concentrate on snatch, clean & jerk, squat, than ALL of CrossFit.
So the chasing of those sweet, uplifting PRs is one reason why they move. The other is that lifting doesn’t beat you up as much as CrossFit does. Because of CrossFit’s mixed modal nature, it’s hard for us to stay in a proper training zone. Particularly if we’re in the middle of a metcon, we don’t have a good pacing strategy, the music is blaring and everyone is screaming at us. You go alactic brah, and that beats you up. It’s harder to beat yourself up in a program that prescribes exact percentages, exact reps, and exact rest.
A PR in Fran requires you to put yourself under a lot of pain and then stay there until you’re done. Then you get to squirm around on the floor for the next hour and dry cough for the rest of day. A PR Snatch requires you to pick up the bar, snap and hold! You slam it! You run around getting high fives and then enjoy all the Facebook likes and comments for the rest of the day. In short, weightlifting definitely appeals to our desire for mastery and also our natural tendency to avoid pain!
Occasionally, you see people who’ve moved from CrossFit to Weightlifting start to mock their former love. We’ll delightfully call this the lifting smugness. It’s fine if you’ve moved on, and train for whatever goal you want, whatever makes you happy. Just please don’t knock CF because you’re in love with the barbell instead of the burpee now.
Just to finish up, I’ll point out that Fraser PR’d his snatch doing CrossFit:
There’s reasons behind why that would happen, but I’m not smart enough to write about that now 🙂