Oh Jillian!

A Fitness Icon Challenges CrossFit

So, Jillian Michaels created some controversy recently regarding CrossFit and some of the movements that we utilize.  She progressed further by questioning the methodology of CrossFit’s strength & conditioning system.  Specifically questioning its variance and overall safety.

Observe Balance & Symmetry… or the exact opposite

As a human utilizing CrossFit as my primary strength & conditioning program for the last decade, a physician treating patients of various backgrounds but including Marathoners, Triathletes, CrossFitters, Weightlifters, Powerlifters, and Athletes competing in all types of mainstream sports, a student of the human system with a Masters in Sports Science & Rehab, and a normal person with an interest in common sense, I had to throw in my opinion.

Let us start at the very beginning… a very good place to start.  Jillian Michaels is a bad-ass!

Didn’t see that one coming?

Seriously, much respect to someone who in one day will positively influence more people toward greater levels of health and wellness than I will throughout my entire life time.  And yeah, this is my occupation, of which, I am very good.  But let’s be completely honest… she is a health, wellness, fitness icon that positively motivates men and women alike at levels that the lot of us can only dream about.  She deserves our respect and admiration.

That said, I think there is merit to her thoughts on kipping.  But that is all.  She is discussing something that has been cycled through the community 20 times over in the last 5-7 years.  In other words, it is old news and she is severely late to the game… something that may be strategic (which I will get to later).

“Bad Sushi” face

Regarding the methodology, all I can say is “seriously?” 

  1. The exercises are too complicated for the average person – Yes, we should only keep people in their comfort zones with movements that they can already do so they can stay the same and not progress to new levels of capability and capacity which inevitable allows them to experience greater level of physical confidence, but also mental confidence within every aspect of their human existence (severe sarcasm).  We must not ever let this occur (even more severe sarcasm). She can’t really believe this.
  2. Instructor Certification isn’t Rigorous Enough – Is she a Level 1 certificate holder?  If not, she can’t really speak to it with any level of certainty or judgement… or she wasn’t able to pass the test.  Who knows?  Having gone through the certification process, I can say that it is rigorous, and it is potentially more informative, efficient, and applicable than any other course or certification that I have experienced. 
  3. CrossFit logic doesn’t make sense – Constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity for the purpose of increasing work capacity over broad time and modal domains.  I dare her to put forth a sentence that supports her methods in such a clean, concise, and (dare I say it… yes, I dare say it) LOGICAL fashion.  CrossFit’s market penetration/saturation speaks to the results of the methodology.  There is too much data to support it being a logical system to say anything contradictory… unless she is just saying it and doesn’t really believe it.
  4. There is no time for recovery – This is totally true if you find the other 23 hours in a person’s day inconsequential and believe that every person who utilizes CrossFit is forced to workout every single day.  So yeah, this is also a bit silly.  3 on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off is pretty much an industry standard.  The confusion may reside in the fact that a seasoned CrossFitter’s “off” day is generally a “recovery” day which consists of exercise that many would consider too “extreme” for the average person, but is actually very easy, relaxing, and restorative to the seasoned CrossFitter.  I know that may offend some… but it’s true so I gotta say it ya’ll.
  5. Not enough variety – Say what?  I thought it was too complex?  And now, there isn’t enough variety.  I have never heard anyone say this when evaluating CrossFit.  Honestly, the argument used to be that it was varied too much to make any gains (True for an elite specialist, False for a well-rounded and generally fit human).  I believe that her argument is for more training in different ranges of motion, which has merit and exists in our gym (and probably many gyms) today.  However, I think that most of her focus here is on isolation of muscle groups which is something that CrossFit has avoided and will always avoid.  We aren’t body builders.  We are dominators of human existence that can seamlessly transition from activity to activity across the spectrum of human capability.  Yet, some isolation work in areas of atrophy or areas that need enhanced movement awareness can be very beneficial.  So yes, she is making a solid argument that while CrossFit is very close, it is not perfect. (Last bit of sarcasm… maybe 😉)

Now it’s time to bring this full circle. 

  • She is a bad-ass and huge asset to the human species
  • She has influenced millions and has probably made many millions in the process of becoming a fitness icon… hmm?
  • She is late to the game on the kipping issue and potentially for a reason… hmm?
  • Her 5 issues with CrossFit are of the low-hanging fruit variety and don’t have much backing, but may resonate with people who don’t like CrossFit… hmm?

Add all of this up, while considering that Jillian Michaels is a very smart woman, and you may come to the inevitable conclusion that she doesn’t really believe much of this, but is saying it to maintain market relevance, excite her base, and prep to launch a new (or old) product to make more of the monies. 


What do I say to that? Well done!


In the end, CrossFitter’s will love CrossFit more, Jillian Michaels lovers will love Jillian Michaels more, people will talk about Fitness more, people may do fitness more, and there may be an increased level of general fitness in the world which will curb the long-term cost of healthcare.  All good things!

Good Luck and #keepmoving