February 7, 2014

Benefit of Isolation Movements

As some of you may or may not know I was a very successful body builder, seven gold medals and numerous Mr. Costa Rica titles, before I was injured playing basket ball and retired very despondent and depressed after three surgeries. Then I found CROSSFIT . Why do I mention this? Well mostly so that you can have the advantage of not wasting your time discovering what it took me one year to go full circle and discover. I love weightlifting. I’m selfish when it comes to training I think of what I have to do to win. I rarely let family, girl friends or nieces and nephews get in the way. I’m ok with that. I prefer to lift weights then get bitched at about not cuddling or not ever going to dinner. I’m probably going to be a lonely old man some day but I don’t regret my decision. Believe me when I tell you I have probably forgotten more about weightlifting than most people know. I have done everything from powerlifting to body building and now Olympic weightlifting. Simply put I know what I’m talking about when it comes to strength training. Now, I’m here to discuss the benefit of isolation exercises as it applies to making you better at Crossfit, and why I think CROSSFIT is wrong with ignoring “gyms”.


When I first started CROSSFIT I never had any tendon or ligament problems…ever. Now I suffer from tendinitis in my elbow and some pain in my right shoulder. My push-up and dip strength have dropped considerably. Don’t get me wrong I love CROSSFIT now, I’m in much better cardio and overall conditioning then when I was a bodybuilder. I weigh 190lbs now instead of the 215lbs I used to weigh, but I never had joint problems until CROSSFIT. Why? I think I finally figured it out. It is the randomness of CROSSFIT WODs that got me and CF almost snobbish view that isolation exercises are unnecessary. Let me explain.


CROSSFIT preaches functional movements as the pinnacle for strength, power and speed. I agree with them on this point. They also make fun of isolation movements like bicep curls, giggling derisively about looking foolish doing them. I disagree with them on this point. Isolation movements are corrective movements and while a direct result of an isolation movement may be specific muscle growth, that doesn’t take away form the effectiveness of isolation movements to strengthen the ligaments and tendons that run through a joint. CROSSFIT puts such a strenuous demand on your body and ligaments that I believe corrective exercises are absolutely necessary to strengthen the joints and ligaments to help prevent tendinitis and joint injuries. I know that cf says that push ups takes care of the triceps and pull-ups takes care of the biceps and that’s true, however cf random pairing of exercises makes getting steady work on those muscles with those specific exercises in a WOD unrealistic. Therefore you must do separate work on those joints outside of the WOD to benefit you in the long run. Mixing your cf gymnastic movements with isolation weight training exercises will help you strengthen the ligaments and tendons and almost eliminate tendinitis in the joints.


Let me put it another way, as a bodybuilder I dedicated two days a week to just chest, biceps, shoulders and triceps. While I wasn’t CROSSFIT ready with this kind of weightlifting I could knock out ring dips, push-ups and muscle ups all day with no pain whatsoever in the elbow joint and had insane strength for those movements. As I went away from that I started having trouble with my elbow and my shoulders and triceps got weaker. So what to do? I don’t have time to do CROSSFIT and be a bodybuilder so what now? Well a few weeks ago I went back to doing chest and arms once a week and my tendinitis and shoulder pain are not only diminishing but my strength in the tendons for the gymnastics movements like the dips and muscle ups is returning as well. This led me to the conclusion that isolation movements as a form of corrective exercise is crucial to CROSSFIT and that CROSSFIT is making a huge mistake ignoring them. I researched and found out that plenty of Olympic weight lifters do isolation exercises to better their Olympic lifts, as well as gymnasts to better their gymnastic movements. C’mon you have all seen the gymnastics guys with sick arm development, that’s because what they do on the ring requires tremendous tendon and ligament strength through the elbow joint. They get that strength through isolation exercises for the arms such as bicep curls etc hence the huge biceps on men gymnasts.So if Oly lifters and gymnasts do isolation exercises for strength and to help with their sports, why does CROSSFIT which incorporates movements from both disciplines ignore it? It doesn’t make sense.


A lot of it has to do , I think, with lack of knowledge on cf certified coaches. Most of them have absolutely no fitness or exercise physiology back ground. They drink the kool aid, pay for a weekend certification and can then immediately start coaching and use their limited knowledge to preach anything they perceive as anti CROSSFIT and speak against isolation movements simply out of ignorance. Another part that comes into play is most Boxes are just that, boxes. Even if they admitted to the necessity for certain isolation movements these boxes don’t have equipment for it. So why admit to something your members can’t do at their own box? Ha! Enter the hybrid gym. Where we not only have a CROSSFIT box but a gym side as well where isolation movements can be done to better improve your CROSSFIT. Win-Win. On the days you aren’t WODng or doing USAW then add one day for corrective exercises, I think you will benefit greatly and your CROSSFIT will benefit greatly from it. Take advantage of your hybrid gym and I think you will see improvement in your skill set for CROSSFIT. Don’t be surprised if you see more hybrid gyms popping up in the future. Let me reiterate that I love CROSSFIT very much but I don’t understand the myopic view this community has a lot of times with disregarding other disciplines. I will defend CROSSFIT to anyone and CROSSFIT is fantastic but it’s not the end all be all that some people make it seem. We need to embrace a wider span of ideas and principles in order to keep CROSSFIT moving forward and ensuring that it doesn’t become just a fad. That’s all I’m saying. Well that and start doing isolation movements as a corrective exercises to stay healthy.

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