When CrossFit first became popular, a lot of weightlifters and coaches found fault with its incorporation of the Olympic lifts. Olympic lifting is highly neurologically taxing and performing more than three lifts in a set leads to inherent breakdown in form. Weightlifting coaches disliked WODS like “Isabel” that require an athlete to complete 30 relatively heavy snatches for time and “Grace” that demands an athlete finish 30 clean and jerks as quickly as possible. These type of workouts are a divergence from weightlifting’s intended aim- the sole purpose of which is to lift as heavy as possible once.
To do “Grace” on occasion because you want to participate in Barbells 4 Boobs is fine. A smart athlete will scale their weights for this workout to approximately 50-60% of their 1 rep max in order to safely execute 30 lifts while still being able to push the intensity of speed for the cardiovascular benefits. Though traditional Grace calls for a male to lift 135lbs and a female 95lbs, focus within the community has shifted from needing to do everything “as rx” in order to earn bragging rights to individualizing workouts to illicit the appropriate physiological response for each athlete.
Before the internet warriors jump behind the keyboard: YES, CrossFit has always encouraged scaling, but anyone who has been involved with the sport over the past 5+ years can attest to the fact that the community has evolved and the emphasis on scaling workouts whether that be up or down, has increased.
Five years ago, the typical CrossFit box focused most of their training solely around completing a WOD and the ultimate goal of a CrossFitter was to be able to do that WOD as RX. Today, most CrossFit gyms are heavily strength focused and incorporate individualized percentage based barbell work before WODs. Gone are the days of doing 30+ minute WODS as close to rx as possible on the regular- CrossFitters are training smarter now, occasionally completing an endurance workout but more often, training to gain strength and stay cardiovascularly fit at the same time all while scaling appropriately. (Of course I’m speaking of the community in general terms. There are always outliers and those who were doing this from the start, but most CrossFit gyms operated this way at the time).
On the flip side, the weightlifting community has also evolved. In the past, weightlifting and CrossFit were at odds with one another, but today, weightlifting has benefitted from an resurgence of popularity and sharp increase in membership because of CrossFit. Likewise, elite CrossFitters have challenged the perception that weightlifters had regarding a CrossFitter’s ability to lift well. Today, athletes such as Australia’s Tia Clair Toomey who has qualified for both The 2016 CrossFit Games and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio have challenged that perception.
Despite the fact that CrossFitters and weightlifters have found common ground, it’s still ill-advised to complete workouts like Isabel and Grace regularly. If someone wants to become good at snatching or at clean and jerking, they won’t do so by performing multiple lifts for time. To be good at the Olympic lifts requires some degree of specialization. Sure, Toomey is a CrossFitter who has excelled in weightlifting, but she didn’t become a better weightlifter simply by performing the lifts as a part of a WOD. To develop proficiency in weightlifting, one must spend time working on strength and technique specific to weightlifting and the focus of each session must be on performing the lifts well which won’t happen during Isabel.
CrossFit if you love to CrossFit. Weight lift if you love to weight lift. But don’t expect weightlifting within a CrossFit WOD to improve your form and make you a great lifter. That’s the equivalent of a weightlifter assuming that doing a few snatch complexes is sufficient cardio, which we all know, is not.