Getting tired of elitism in the weightlifting world

Oh no! Her chest isn't up and her core isn't tight. She must not lift any weight until those are perfected!

Oh no! Her chest isn’t up and her core isn’t tight. She must not lift any weight until those are perfected!

You ever hear a band and just love their music? You think their music is unknown and since it isn’t played on MTV (do they still play music videos?) and the radio 24×7 you like them even more. Then the first time you hear them on the radio you hope it doesn’t catch on. Then you hear them again. And again. And again. Now you don’t like them as much. They aren’t your little secret any longer. It’s kind of a curse for a lot of bands because once they go “mainstream” then they lose their edge or street cred or whatever term the kids might use today. They lose their core fans and before you know it they are playing local CrossFit competitions.

Alright, alright, Shock G hasn’t been relevant since I was in High School nearly 20 – TWENTY?!? – years ago, but you get the idea.

Now we, CrossFitters mostly, have infringed on this little underground physical activity and many of its core fans do not like it. The sport of weightlifting is going mainstream and those who have practiced it in dirty, grimey basements for years don’t like it. They don’t like that people are performing the snatch with pretty new bumper plates and pretty new bars. They don’t like that their dirty, tough, hand ripping exercise is now being performed by the local dentists secretary who wears more nail polish than chalk. We are turning their sport into a mainstream sport!

These oldies (some of them, not all of them) hate on CrossFit because some people are moving decent weight with semi-decent form. Some people are moving a ton of weight with, what they feel, too little training to be able to lift that amount of weight. CrossFitters are showing that you can clean and jerk a metric shit-ton without focusing solely on the clean and jerk. The fitness gained in CrossFit performing other exercises does help us with the snatch and clean and jerk. So, to steal a term from Rudy from The Outlaw Way, when professional exercisers qualify for the American Open with ease and a few of them compete for the podium, we see articles like this one.

I am probably totally misinterpreting Bob Takano’s intention, but when reading that piece it sure feels like he is being a bit elitist, doesn’t it? I am far from knowledgeable on the sport of weightlifting, but I do know enough to know that Takano is an “OG” in the weightlifting world. He has been coaching and participating in weightlifting since before there were bumper plates. To him weightlifting requires years of practice to get proficient at the snatch and you need to have your form nearly perfect before you, lord help us, attempt to lift your max.


I like to go back to golf for my analogies. I have played golf since, well, forever. I’m not the best at it by any means but I am pretty good. I can break 80 routinely and had my handicap under four last summer. I like to think I know a thing or two about the golf swing and can generally help anyone I am playing with if they ask for help. And trust me when I say this – it takes a lot more practice to be good at golf then it does weightlifting. I’m talking World Class good. There are millions of golfers in the world and there is only one Tiger Woods. There are, I don’t know, thousands? of weightlifters in the world and there is only one Ilya Ilyin. Being the best amongst a group of millions is more difficult than being the best among the group of thousands.

I would never suggest to anyone that they better not hit their driver until they have the swing nailed. I would never suggest that someone shouldn’t go play a round of golf if they don’t understand how to properly transition their weight during the swing, how to properly release the club or based on how straight their left leg got throughout their swing. Golf is fun and people should be able to have fun whenever they want, even if they can’t hit the golf ball straight or more than 70 yards.

I think weightlifting is fun and I should be able to test myself and attempt what I know as a one-round-max. I should be able to coach a class of weightlifting newbies and allow them to perform power cleans as part of the workout (and scale where needed). We scale in golf, too, it’s call the blue tees versus the red tees.

Sorry Mr. Takano (and to an extent Mark Rippetoe) but we – CrossFitters – will continue to perform variations of the snatch and clean and jerk with less than perfect form and have fun. We will continue to get healthier, fitter and stronger by performing these lift in ways you don’t agree with and haven’t employed in your training . The weightlifting world, especially here in the US, should embrace CrossFit and the droves of people it is driving to weightlifting to help support the sport here in the US and, hopefully, make us more competitive in world events.

Not everyone does everything the same, or, more importantly, for the same reason. Takano and his athletes are performing the Oly lifts to get better at the Oly lifts and that’s it. I like to Oly lift as part of regimen to get fit. I suck at running, too, but I don’t see marathon runners up in arms because running is part of CrossFit classes. You can surely hurt yourself with poor running mechanics: bad knees, shin splints and plantar fasciitis are all due to poor running form. And I have a friend with plantar fasciitis and it sets him back at the gym just as much as a bum shoulder.

In addition to the increasing number of articles by self prescribed “old school CrossFitters” hating on CrossFit coaches who only have a Level 1 certification and their ability to properly coach, these elitist weightlifting articles are getting old. Be happy more and more people are participating in the sport you love that has been on life support for years. CrossFit has probably driven numerous fresh faces to your gym in the hopes of perfecting their snatch form. People who would have otherwise never looked you up in the Yellow Pages (WHY DO THEY STILL PUT THOSE ON MY DOOR STEP!?!).

And, yes, golf can hurt you. People twist their backs into all sorts of trouble golfing all the time.

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