I recently attended the Charles Poliquin biosignature seminar (with Scotty Hagnas of CrossFit Portland) in Scottsdale, AZ. With the recent developments of Charles’ thoughts on CrossFit this has left me in an interesting position given my place in CrossFit. This review is my best effort at an objective assessment not only of Charles’ technology, but also my experience implementing it in a thriving CrossFit practice. I have sought guidance and fact checking from Scotty, James Fitzgerald (OPT) and Ido Portal. This was to discuss theory, compare notes and make sure I’m doing things “right” and to verify if these other folks were observing the same things as I. That said, this final analysis is solely mine and therefore any errors, stupidity or other goofiness is mine and mine alone. This first section will describe the content of the seminar, the second will look at my experiences implementing the technology the past few months, the third section will look at Coach Poliquin’s position on CrossFit and some thoughts I have in response.
Biosignature Seminar: Scottsdale AZ.
Scotty and I attended the Biosignature Seminar a few months ago in the still toasty, Scottsdale AZ. The format was a 5 day seminar with a mixture of lecture, hands on training in body-fat measurement using calipers and Q&A.
Biosignature: The premise
Disclaimer: I will not discuss any of the specific protocols. Please do not ask me questions about how these measurements are made.
The premise of the biosignature technology is that different hormone states lead to different patterns of fat deposition around the body. This can indicate pending disease states and can offer insight into potential training, supplementation and lifestyle changes to address hormone imbalance and restore optimum health and performance.
The sites we learned to measure were assumed to indicate relative levels of the following hormones: Cortisol, insulin, testosterone, estrogen, hGH, thyroid, and progesterone. Most people are now familiar with the notion that an “apple” fat deposition pattern (thick midsection) is consistent with insulin resistance and thus higher rates of many associated diseases. The biosignature program is an outgrowth of this type of epidemiological work.
The caliper measurements require a great deal of practice to achieve a decent level of accuracy and precision. One of the measures in particular, the hamstring is so prone to error I have abandoned tracking it (this was confirmed by OPT).
Coach Poliquin provided detailed protocols for specific situations: Insulin protocol, cortisol protocol etc. Most of the conditions in fact have several different protocols; there is the potential of managing various conditions simultaneously and thus achieving some level of synergistic action. The protocols involve lifestyle factors to change, nutrition support/alterations and heavy use of supplements.
Dietary recommendations consisted of a paleo diet (gluten free) and carbs up to one’s insulin tolerance. Coach Poliquin uses the cyclic low carb approach with most clients, folks who have very high glycogen demands make good use of post WO carb feedings. Charles uses of shakes extensively, although he recommends the bulk of food should come from whole sources.
The protocols are heavily supplement oriented and Charles offers an extensive line of supplements to support the biosignature practitioners. Charles was very balanced about offering products outside of his line if he felt it was a better product. There is no MLM element to the supplements (I’ve received this questions several times).
Charles was solid in presenting the need for sleep, adequate rest and recovery and how all this fits into cortisol and insulin management.
Charles has a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of everything health, fitness and training related. I really liked the content of the seminar from a geek standpoint but Charles’ frequent digressions into experiences he has had with clients and experiences of other coaches he respects (Mauro Di Pasquale for example) was just as good as his foundational information. He certainly has a passion for what he is doing and he is a good public speaker. He was good about citing sources other than himself for various techniques, protocols and information that he uses or presents.
Q&A was good but sometimes tough as Coach Poliquin has a very brusque style…there was not an opportunity for “discussion”, you asked a question, he answered it…if you did not get it, agree, or wanted to delve into minutiae that was not well received…this can be attributed in part to keeping things on a fairly strict timetable AND some of the folks were just in over their heads with regards to the information. I took 36 pages of hand written notes and had a far better background than anyone else in attendance. I am still working my way through those notes and there are some gems.
85% of the material I really liked and “bought” right away. 10% I was (and am) unsure of…this pertains specifically to the various protocols centered on insulin management and other conditions i.e.-do the prescribed protocols work? 5% I just could not buy into. Coach Poliquin threw out a few dingers like: right hamstring pulls are a magnesium deficiency and left hamstring pulls are a potassium deficiency and this based on yin/yang theory. I completed 40+ units of Chinese medicine theory and diagnostics and thus feel fairly well steeped in the theory. Coach Poliquin has thrown out some thoughts on training with Chinese medicine principles that I liked, but some of this seems far-fetched. He also did an applied kinesiology/muscle testing demo. I hate that shit. It just reminds of Yuri Geller spoon bending and psychic surgeries…Maybe I’ll take a course in it because I thinks it’s complete crap, but there are a lot of other things I’d rather do with my time. That considered, this represents a very small proportion of the seminar.
Implementation, Results and Interpretations
Upon returning to Chico I started tracking the biosig of several of our trainers. I also embarked upon an insulin management protocol and cortisol protocol for myself. As background, I believe I had severe adrenal fatigue earlier in the year. Travel, bad food on the road and running a CrossFit facility cooked me to a crisp. I talked with Josh Everett, OPT and few other folks about the adrenal fatigue and embarked on a recovery program back in July. The protocol Coach Poliquin laid out for the cortisol was identical to what I was familiar with from previous research.
My biosignature showed high environmental insulin levels and high cortisol. This was consistent with what I had experienced and this was right at the height of my mass gain experiment. I was damn chubby, but nearly all of it right at the love handles (insulin) and umbilicus (cortisol). Coach Poliquin suggested that I switch my mass gain efforts to more of an insulin management protocol (cyclic low carb for the diet). I was to continue with the cortisol management.
The biosignature of our trainers (all female) correlated well with what we knew of their nutritional status and it jived with some issues such as PMS (too much estrogen) and even corroborated a hypothyroid condition. Overall I’m quite impressed with what the biosignature tells us with regards to hormone status.
I have been under-whelmed with regards to the insulin management protocol involving Insulinomix and Fenuplex. I am honestly bummed as I hoped this would be my ticket to solid muscle gain without turning into a fat-ass. I have yet to see anything touch CrossFit, a low carb diet, sleep and fish oil for leaning out. As I mentioned before, the cortisol management protocol seems VERY effective. This was something I used previously and have found good mileage. In fact OPT verified these findings in his own practice and puts the greatest emphasis on cortisol/stress management.
One piece I have found helpful for nearly everyone is a digestive support protocol that involves HCl supplementation with meals plus zinc and magnesium near bedtime. Nothing too controversial there, this is a common and well described protocol.
Our female trainers have had little results with the estrogen management protocol that we do not get from a low carb diet and the endocrine response of CrossFit (see James Fitzgerald’s article in the Performance Menu for more info on this). In essence, if we manage sleep, stress and insulin effectively, we see favorable shifts in estrogen. This is in process so I’ll report any changes if they occur.
I’ve found the biosignature readings to be accurate of hormone status however I have had limited success with the protocols besides the cortisol management. This from the perspective of significant (and pricey) supplement usage. Granted, I may be doing all this wrong, but I’m a reasonably bright guy and have found corroboration with other folks familiar with the Poliquin material. I have yet to implement an androgen protocol for myself, I’ve been holding off on that till my cortisol readings are stellar. No sense in ramping up DHEA-S just to turn it into cortisol. I have begun recommending a methylated-b vitamin due to a HTMFR genotype that benefits from said supplementation…this is a large point for Poliquin in his seminar.
As it stands right now, the biosignature material is interesting, but I cannot say that it influences my coaching much. We will likely use it in our practice to help keep some metrics on our clients. I feel comfortable with recommending a fish oil and methylated b to our folks…this seems like a slam dunk as we have recommended this for some time. At this point I cannot, in good conscience, recommend much beyond that for our clients. I’m reticent to recommend something that cannot be had by simpler (cheaper) means. The totality of the Poliquin seminar for my practice then is reduced to HCl, zinc/magnesium, a multivite and fish oil. In the case of a cortisol situation I feel comfortable recommending some specific supplements for that. I will continue to tinker with this stuff and if I change my mind on something, I’ll post an update. As it stands I guess a good question would be “Do I recommend the biosignature seminar?” That is a “yes”, the information contained is well worth the price of the seminar. The material is, as I said previously, 85% solid. I need to update my biosig status once per year, so, in theory I will be attending this again next year. It’ll be interesting to see where things are in a year.
In other Poliquin news, I want to comment on Coach Poliquin’s Case Against CrossFit. Again, I’m attempting to be a balanced on this as I can. Obviously I run a CrossFit facility but I think this allows for not only bias…but also actually knowing what the fuck I’m talking about. That’s up to y’all to decide. Below is Poliquin’s original piece that went up on www.charlespoliquin.com but was subsequently removed. Posting something on the internet is a bit like pee in a pool: tough to remove. I will put my responses to each section in bold.
The Case Against CrossFit
A closer look at this controversial workout program
by Charles Poliquin
“The best program is the one you’re not using,” is one of my favorite axioms. I say this because I’ve never believed that there is one perfect workout system. The high-intensity training methods of the late Arthur Jones work…for a time. Strongman training works…for at time. And weightlifting and powerlifting methods work…for a time. Variety, whether it be correcting a lack of it or too much of it, is one of the keys to making continual progress with your training and achieving your goals. And that brings up the topic of CrossFit, Inc. TM.
If you Google the words “Poliquin” and “CrossFit,” you’ll find that there has been a considerable amount of discussion about my recent comments on another website about this method of training. Although my intent was to make a few general comments about what I thought of this method of training – and throw in a few wisecracks in the process – it’s obvious that a more in-depth discussion about CrossFit is in order. So, here it is.
What is CrossFit?
Founded by Greg Glassman nearly three decades ago, CrossFit is a militaristic type of workout that uses a variety of training methods, including gymnastics and Olympic lifting, using short rest intervals. CrossFit is very popular with the military, police forces and mixed martial artists. CrossFit offers certifications, and graduates can pay a fee to become an affiliate. And because the equipment used is relatively inexpensive, it’s relatively easy to open a CrossFit gym.
Charles is usually pretty precise in his language so it’s odd that CrossFit is a “militaristic” type of Workout. Many people in the military do CrossFit, most people (though not all) are fans of the military (those serving their respective countries) but I find it tough to call a fitness movement Militaristic:
- Glorification of the ideals of a professional military class.
- Predominance of the armed forces in the administration or policy of the state.
- A policy in which military preparedness is of primary importance to a state.
Often with CrossFit you don’t perform the same workout twice, and because CrossFit often facetiously uses feminine names to describe their workouts, your training schedule might look like this: Monday, “Fran”; Wednesday, “Grace”; Friday, “Helen.” Here are some workouts I’ve found on a CrossFit website:
Perform the following circuit using this repetition scheme 10/9/8/7/6/5/4/3/2/1 – for time:
A1. Deadlift, 1 1/2 Bodyweight
A2. Bench Press, Bodyweight
A3. Clean, 3/4 Bodyweight
Perform five sets of the following superset, for time:
A1. 400 meter run
A2. Overhead squat 95 lbs x 15
Perform three supersets of the following exercises, for time, performing sets of 21/15/9 reps.
A1. Deadlift 225 lbs
A2. Handstand push-ups
The CrossFit program is controversial. A New York Times article published on December 22, 2005, presented these quotes by Glassman: “It can kill you…I’ve always been completely honest about that,” and “If you find the notion of falling off the rings and breaking your neck so foreign to you, then we don’t want you in our ranks.” The article also said that a popular axiom among CrossFit practitioners is “I met Pukey,” which suggests they have vomited as a result of training so hard. Notes the author of the article, Stephanie Cooperman, “Some even own T-shirts emblazoned with a clown. Pukey. CrossFit’s other mascot is Uncle Rhabdo, another clown, whose kidneys have spilled onto the floor presumably due to rhabdomyolsis.” Rhabdomyolsis is a serious kidney disease, often associated with excessive exercise.
Ah yes, the New York Times piece. Charles and Mike Boyle must have circulated the same copy, juicy gossip that it is. WHEN is anything reported that is not taken from the sensationalistic angle? Admittedly, a story talking about our geriatric clients who have rehabbed from hip, knee and shoulder replacements is less compelling than the NY times piece. What Charles IS doing however is citing the NY Times as some kind of expert resource and is thus comfortable with any and all points in the article that may be non-factual, inflated or spun for effect. The Rhabdo story is something CF-HQ has NEVER shied away from. They publicized rhabdo immediately upon learning of it’s existence and potential to do harm. But again, there’s not much sensationalism in that.
On the legal side, on October 9, 2008, the Associated Press filed this story:
“MANASSAS, Va. — A former Navy information systems technician has been awarded $300,000 after suing a Manassas gym over an exercise program he says left him permanently disabled.
“Makimba Mimms, 29, of Bristow says the CrossFit workout he did in 2005 caused him to urinate blood and his legs to swell.
“Mimms sued Manassas World Gym, where he did the workout; Ruthless Training Concepts, a CrossFit affiliate at the time; and a Ruthless employee who administered the workout. A Prince William County jury found all three defendants liable Wednesday.”
In the legal complaint, these were the specific breaches of duty (constituting negligence or gross negligence) cited against instructor Javier Lopez:
• He failed to exercise ordinary care.
• He failed to refrain from injuring plaintiff.
• He failed to give plaintiff proper and reasonable instruction.
• He gave plaintiff unreasonable and hazardous instructions, entreating and demanding that plaintiff exert extraordinary effort, not cease to rest, not cease to drink fluids or regain his strength, breath and resilience.
• He failed to refrain from exposing him to extraordinary hazards and actual injury to his person.
• He failed to observe and monitor plaintiff so as to guard and protect him from injury.
This sniffed remarkably of a hatchet Job after a higher ranking Navy officer wrote a critical and ignorant piece on CrosFit. Oh well, the legal system is always right, just ask OJ.
In the basic CrossFit certification, which costs $1,000, participants are introduced to numerous workout protocols and exercises, including the Olympic lifts. According to recent comments on a website from an individual who went through the certification, and from information that I viewed on their website, these certifications primarily consist of participating in workouts. There is no written exam to determine if the participants fully understand the material presented. Pay $1,000 and you are certified, and pay $1,000 and you can promote your business as an affiliate. The first CrossFit gym opened in 1995, and I’ve read where there are now over 600 CrossFit affiliates.
The Level 1 cert involves lecture, hands on coaching and directed training via CrossFit WOD’s. The Front page of CrossFit.com has been an open forum for people to say if they liked or disliked the cert since their inception. The vast majority appear to think the cost of attendance is equal to the return on investment. So this whole “I talked to someone” thing just does not feel right. I have NO DOUBT there have been people who have attended the Level 1 Cert and it was not to their liking. What percentage of folks is this? Gauging the rate of growth of CrossFit it’s apparently quite low.
I attended my CSCS exam which consisted of a written test. No coach to coach interaction, no hands on instruction. I studied for the test while driving to Oakland. The most challenging element of the exam was remembering to not answer the questions as I would DO things but rather how the NSCA wanted. Benefit? I got insurance through them, other than that, a waste of time.
I’m not sure how a CSCS or ACSM newbie is any better than a CrossFit Level 1 newb. More book learning? Perhaps, but there is ample opportunity for folks to further their education both in and outside of CrossFit. Specialty certs in Olifting, basic barbell, kettle bells, gymnastics. A level 1 cert is, like many other certs a beginning…I fail to see a problem with that.
A Cause for Concern
Many individuals love CrossFit, and in fact it has been criticized as having a cultlike following. Many of these individuals believe it is the perfect program that will enable them to achieve their goals and are very satisfied with their progress. And I have no doubt that some individuals have never been injured from CrossFit. That being said, here are six of my major issues with this form of training
Lack of Sufficient Testing Protocols. In looking over detailed notes from a CrossFit certification, I was concerned about the lack of testing for structural balance issues with trainees. There are protocols for beginning, intermediate and advanced workouts using multi-joint movements. But in my work with Olympians in 20 different sports and with numerous professional athletes, before having any athletes perform their first power clean or squat, I recommend a series of structural balance tests to red-flag muscle imbalances that could increase the athlete’s risk of injury. And if there is a history of injuries with an athlete, those should be addressed in any workout design.
I suspect the section on scalability, mechanics, consistency then intensity were lacking from the “detailed” notes Chuck was referring to. I use quite an interesting battery of screening movement…they are called “functional movements”. Inability to perform them leads to corrective measures. That there are trainers (both in and out) of CrossFit that are better or worse at this screening and scaling process is without a doubt. Is Charles 100% confident in the abilities of EVERYONE he has certified? This is just ignorance of our methodology and holding CrossFit to a standard his own trainees cannot uphold.
One reason Olympic shot-putter Adam Nelson could not perform power snatches before I started working with him was that he had adhesions in his rotator cuff muscles – after we addressed this injury with such treatments as Active ReleaseTM, Nelson was able to reintroduce this valuable exercise in his workout and within a month did 286 pounds for three reps. Jim McKenzie, a professional hockey player I’ve trained, went from a 280-pound close-grip bench press to 380 pounds in less than four months by focusing on corrective exercises – and for the first three months of this program Jim did not perform bench presses!
We refer to an Active Release Practitioner on a nearly daily basis to enormous benefit…I guess it’s time to measure Dicks since we appear to be doing the same things. Charles is good at what he does, other people are good at what they do…there is not a monopoly on information good training or results.
Focus on a Single Training Protocol. In regards to the concept of specificity, the protocols in CrossFit are not appropriate for developing the highest levels of strength or power or speed. It is doubtful that you will see any elite powerlifters, weightlifters or sprinters using CrossFit protocols as their primary method of conditioning. For example, I’m training Sam Baker, an NFL lineman who needed to dramatically increase his strength and muscle mass. Prior to Baker’s entering the NFL, where he went as a #1 draft pick, in two months my training protocols enabled him to add 25 pounds of solid muscle, reduce his bodyfat by 8.1 percent, increase his vertical jump by four inches and significantly increase his strength. I didn’t accomplish this by having him superset high-rep push-ups with mile runs.
Any coach worth a bucket of piss would know that a football player needs more time indexed efforts for conditioning with ample strength and power work. John Welbourn has done exactly this in his training to good success. There has never been a claim that CF would produce a world class Olifter or sprinter…the statement has been “Forging Elite Fitness” and fitness has been defined as “Work Capacity across Broad Time and Modal Domains…” That said, people have used the concepts of intensity, functionality and variation to good effect for GPP. Shocker. Look to Mike Burgner’s use of CrossFit in the off season for his athletes and what Jason Bagwell accomplished with his Powerlfiters.
Many sport coaches often overemphasize energy system training with athletes, often to the detriment of other physical qualities. Check out any exercise physiology textbook and look at the studies performed on elite athletes and their VO2 maxes. It is not necessary for a baseball player, or a basketball player for that matter, to have a VO2 max of 70. The promotional materials I’ve read about CrossFit imply that this type of training addresses all the strength and conditioning needs of an athlete, but the concept of specificity suggests that if you try to excel at everything it is unlikely that you will reach the highest levels at anything. This is why we don’t see individuals who can run a mile in four minutes flat and also bench press 500 pounds.
Again, for MOST athletes, a generalist program of gymnastics, olifts and smart, time indexed met-can is the goods. Fun to do also, AND this is a big point, CrossFit is a methodology unto itself. Folks do CrossFit for the sake of doing CrossFit.
Insufficient Instruction for Teaching Complex Training Methods. It takes more than a single weekend seminar to develop the competency to teach certain types of exercises or be able to adequately prescribe protocols for complex training methods. In this category I would include the classical Olympic lifts, strongman exercises and plyometrics. Often in the strength coaching profession these aforementioned training methods have been criticized as dangerous; but when you look at why athletes become injured from these training methods, it can often be traced to poor technique.
The basic movement covered in a level 1 cert are accesable and easy to implement in either a 1-on-1 or group setting. Specialty certs, level 2 testing and internship offers many opportunities to improve one’s skill base. Again, does Charles expect that everyone know everything all at once?
Inappropriate Repetition Brackets for Complex Exercises. Although high repetitions and short rest intervals can be used to develop muscular endurance, these protocols should not be used in some exercises. This is especially true with the Olympic lifts, as it is difficult to maintain proper technique when using high reps with these exercises – especially when supersetting them with other multi-joint exercises such as deadlifts. Simply watching CrossFit trainees performing these lifts in videos on their website will confirm this truth. Further, the Olympic lifting movements are most appropriate for developing power; if you want to develop muscular endurance, simpler movements should be used.
Oh boy. We can buck hay for 8 hrs and that’s ok, but high rep Olifts are dangerous? Mike Burgner seems to think otherwise. Javorek complexes anyone? This is just crap. Hang a sign on something that it is “dangerous” and you have instant credibility.
Inappropriate Exercise Order. To achieve specific responses from exercises, the exercise order should be addressed. As shown in the “Linda” workout described earlier, what is the logic in fatiguing the lower back with deadlifts prior to performing power cleans? To activate the high-threshold motor units with power cleans and to perform them with optimal technique, all the sets of the power clean should be performed before deadlifts. Further, combining weight training exercises with sprints places an athlete at a high risk of injury, especially to the hamstrings.
Again, this is a lack of familiarity of what CrossFit IS. Linda is not designed as a max-effort, optimized motorunit recruitment workout…it is designed to kick your ass. The technicality while under significant muscular and metabolic load is really something EVERYONE with an opinion on the topic should experience. Again, this seems to belie the potential of doing planned strength work in and around metabolic efforts. Judging a whole fitness program by 1-workout?
Endorsement of Controversial Exercises. On one website of a CrossFit affiliate, I saw video clips of athletes jumping onto cars and standing on Swiss balls. I appreciate having a wide variety of exercises to use with clients, but you have to question the logic of using such high-risk exercises in a program.
I dislike swiss balls and endo-boards. These guys sound like retards. Finally something we agree on? OHH! Wait…these guys were having FUN! I think I’ll pump my 9am geriatric crew through this next week…bilateral hip-fractures anyone? One affiliate defines the programming and technicality of everyone in the movement? This sounds like a line borrowed from Mike Boyle! Perhaps it circulated with the NY Times copy?
The principle of individuality suggests that not everyone will response equally to the same workout program, and that for optimal results a workout program should take into account those factors that are responsible for this difference. If you’re an 18-year-old Army recruit about to be deployed to Iraq, then perhaps the CrossFit program might be appropriate for this individual. If you’re an elite athlete trying to reach the highest levels in your sport, a CrossFit approach may not be the optimal way to train.
Or perhaps it is. The trophy case is growing, time will tell on this count. Kelly Starrett Coached a girl to a Gold medal in rowing using CrossFit. We have a national champion motocross racer, several people going to worlds in Triathlon and a few others I’ll keep to myself for now. Again, it appears to escape Coach Poliquin’s notice that programming can be modified for individual needs. That the WOD may or may not be appropriate for an NFL lineman is immaterial…the concepts are what matter in conjunction with smart implementation. If people need significant strength work, they get it.
Because of these concerns, I cannot recommend CrossFit training, especially for those seeking the highest levels of athletic performance. But in the interest of being open-minded, let’s leave it at this: Despite its many inadequacies, CrossFit is a workout system that is continually evolving. It’ll be interesting to see how the program changes as more athletes, and non-athletes, participate in this program.
The take home message I guess is that someday, perhaps, CrossFit will not suck? This is really an unfortunate situation as I think the two camps have much to offer each other. I think Charles would appreciate and actually LIKE the holistic nature of CrossFit. I think many people in CrossFit could benefit from Poliquin’s knowledge of high-end strength/power training, planning and nutrition.
My friend, Ido Portal, did a blog post recently on Jack of All Trades. He makes a solid, irrefutable point that one would be best served coming to something like CrossFit with a year of o-lifting instruction and a year of gymnastics instruction, and then layering on significant metabolic conditioning. This is an enviable sequence of events that I think we would all kill to accomplish. The reality is that this is not a reasonable proposition for most CrossFit devotees to DO this. It is possible for coaches to shift focus and help their clients to bring this base up as best they can. In fact this is the criteria by which I judge coaches in and out of CrossFit…the ability to build this well rounded base. When I see affiliates doing 30 min long WOD’s, day in, day out I know the instruction and coaching suck. These folks need to get a clue.
Something to keep in mind however is that the folks doing CrossFit are also: running a business, fighting wars, raising children, fighting fires and arresting criminals. They are normal folks doing incredibly hard things amidst friends. I think this is still something that escapes folks like Poliquin, Boyle and the various and sundry haters out there. CrossFit has taken Olympic caliber strength & Conditioning and brought it to the masses. You’d think this would be a good thing…I know it’s a good thing, other folks are slow on the realization of this fact.
Anthony Bainbridge - CrossFit Fredericton says
Solid reply. Did you get a chance to speak with CP directly? Did the topic of CF come up? Just curious what his response is like in person VS online.
Yea, we talked a fair amount. He never commented on the CF deal but it was after that week that the original T-nation piece came out, then his case against CF. Guess I pushed him over the edge?!
Everyone knew I (as well as Scotty) owned a CrossFit affiliate as we introduced ourselves at the beginning, and of course, I had on T-shirts. I had a few questions from other attendees about CF. They were almost universally NSCA/ACSM folks. People were friendly enough but there is some obvious ignorance about CF based on their questions.
I had a very strong grasp of the material from the outset and I think that might have tempered peoples vitriol towards CF. Charles referred to me as “brainiac” by day two and generally things were mellow.
Robb – Welbourn is spelled with one “L”. And I disagree with Poliquin on many levels. The issue i find with Poliquin is he wants to be the Wizard of Oz. He wants to hide behind the curtain and only show the magic to those who pay for it. He dislikes CrossFit because the knowledge is given for free. Nothing is a secret. It is an open book and given to all the world on the internet. His training is only given to those who pony up to pay his fee. This years makes 10 years in the NFL and i have trained with many top people from Tom Shaw to Mark Verstegan to Mauro di Pasquale. While these coaches are excellent, CrossFit crushes it. CrossFit’s goal is to create the best overall athlete. To train for football i had to focus my attention in certain areas. I would sacrifice overall conditioning for speed and power. I would rather have the 500 lbs bench press then the 4 minute mile. But it can be tailored to any athlete. Whether it be CrossFit Endurance or Coach B using it to train Olympic lifters it works. I had no exposure to CrossFit before my level 1 certification. i went there completely unbiased and naive about who or what CrossFit was. After two days at HQ in Santa Cruz and a drive home i knew i would never train anyway else. And I thank CrossFit for bring the Paleo Diet to my attention. It is creating leaner stronger athletes all around me. And thanks Robb for all the counseling and diet info you provide.
This is a great post…much appreciated. You are a huge (no pun intended!) asset to the CF community. The “give it all away” approach just bedevils the masses. Great points John and a much needed perspective.
BTW-The extra L will be gone asap!
Excellent read, Mr. Wolf.
Thank you very much for posting it.
CraigH - DiabloCrossFit says
Thanks for your evaluation and notes. Poliquin appears to be a bright guy with a lot to contribute to the fitness and nutrition industries.
What is unfortunate is that he is clearly an ego-maniac and threatened by alternative methods to his own. The client name-dropping was my first clue (ex., Sam Grabow was not a #1 draft pick, he was #21 in the 1st round).
His commentary on CrossFit was simply disappointing, and not from a “in defense of CrossFit” position. I’ve been training for 30 years and competed in many different sports from water polo to skiing to triathlons and marathons. For many years I was an avid bodybuilder and then powerlifter. With as few people in our population exercising at all, why do many gurus feel the need to make fitness seem so complex or dangerous? The only reason I can fathom: ego and money. A guy like Poliquin (and Boyle) should be applauding the growth and success of CrossFit (or other successful programs) and highlight the reasons for success. I won’t give the guy my money for that reason alone.
He’s as stupid as he is smart.
I’d say that is a pretty fair assessment. I’d have to second the sentiment that it was disapointing when he posted this stuff. I’d hoped there might be some synergy and cross-pollination between the two camps, but I tend to be naive with this stuff. The name dropping is an interesting point. Many of the CF detractors launch all manner of accusations at Coach Glassman but he has always been humble in this regard. He mentions we have people at the top levels of various sports but tends not to out them. I think there is some enviable integrity in this.
It’s interesting to note: There are haters of all varieties who just nit-pick both Poliquin and Glassman…to what affect? These same detractors have never built anything, or helped anyone…just bile and vitriol. Nice.
Chris - CrossFit Alpha says
Well spoken Robb.
People do not like change, and CrossFit is just that.
The thing that kills me is CP, Boyle, and others don’t see the overall fitness of a nation isn’t just good for the nation, but also their businesses.
I guess I just buy into the “all boats rise” argument and many don’t.
Their ignorance on CF and other topics is hurting their business and based on their apparent personal make ups I’m fine with that.
Measured, respectful, tactful, and on point throughout. My professional life is spent in the medical world; ego and attribution fuel competition where none is necessary. The fact that I see it in the fitness world is not terribly surprising, but the vitriol and lack of respect and politesse is disturbing. The simple fact that you refer to CP as either “CP”, “Charles”, or “Coach Poloquin” throughout makes the impolite and disrespectful manner in which many posters refer to Coach that much more objectionable.
Thanks for the thoughtful response and the time you spent in doing it.
John Velandra says
Will you address any of the info at your nutrition seminar? Not specifics, but general guidelines and directions?
Looking forward to December – see you then.
ALSO…. book status?
Yes in that I hit paleo, insulin management, stress/cortisol management but that’s stuff I already hit. Book…coming along…slow going.
Allison Bojarski says
Robb, thanks for great reads such as this. I always make sure to link up your articles on the CFNYC blog. Posting this one now!
John Velandra says
Hang in there with the book… moving, teaching, traveling, running a biz – ya gotta love being pulled in 80 different directions!
Nick Cummings says
Robb, interesting read. The popular take on CrossFit seems so odd these days. Any chance you could expand on the benefits of methylated b-vitamin or the cortisol treatment program? Seeing as my studies for the next 7 years are specifically designed to stress me out I wonder if they could be of use.
look up the HTMF-R genotype for specifics on the methylated-b’s….it’s pretty interesting stuff. The cortisol management is fairly detailed…I think I might try to put together an e-book to help folks navigate that scenario. It gets complex because you need to know am/pm cortisol levels, dhea-s and some other goodies. How you tackle the whole thing matters and I’m a little nervous to throw out a 101 approach to the whole thing when it could actually make the condition worse. Aye! I’ll get that project going just as soon as I write those two CFJ articles I obligated myself to, the PM articles…the blog posts I want to hit….Oh, and that book thingy I’m writing. Fudge!
Blair Lowe says
Loved the review Robb, especially as Ido has talked a bit about insulin and cortisol management at certain sites of the body over at Gymnasticbodies.com ( Coach Sommer’s site where he is a mod and apparently in close with Sommer ).
As for Polinquin, I was told from another coach who has either done or looked into that camp and going forward, that Charles only likes what Charles does. He will also state he only trains athletes or bodybuilders, basically not the everyday person that CrossFit targets and can appeal to; but specialty cases. As for whether crossfit is appropriate to elite athletes of any discipline has been beaten to death, but again he is just trying to feed his followers that he has the right path.
Honestly, I’ll take my soccer moms, cops and school teachers over “elite athletes” any day. I feel like i actually make a difference in the lives of our clients…a stud athlete is going to be a stud athlete almost regardless of what I do. Perhaps this is low-brow training but it makes me happy.
Really good article, I started reading Poliquin’s stuff way before I got into CF and I still respect him but everything I’ve been reading here is true. His ego, his fear of CF, and a lack of understanding should preclude him from writing anything regarding CF. Welbourne’s comments hit it right on the head.
I have to say, I don’t think Poliquin or anyone else who trains athletes at the professional or elite level has any fear of CrossFit. When looked at from the perspective of strength training or specific athletic development, many of the workouts seem crazy, because doing CrossFit will generally only makes you good at CrossFit, which isn’t very functional…unless you love Crossfit.
From what I saw of workouts being done this summer while in Austin, TX, they didn’t make much sense, and some of the form displayed by practitioners was terrifying (heavy tire flips for reps with an arched back- yikes!). However, it gets people working out, and they appear to be having fun pushing themselves.
I had heard of CP before, but did not know too much about him prior to reading your blog and his how thing with crossfit.
i’ve been introduced to a lot of alternative medicine/diet? things via crossfit (zone, paleo, biosignature) that are not generally accepted by mainstream medicine or have not gone through rigorous randomized controlled trials.
what I want to know is, with a limited knowledge, how do i separate fiction from fact? I’m especially skeptical when people run these things as money-making businesses. The biosignature thing sounds pretty out there – if it was that effective wouldn’t we have seen it being used clinically? zone and paleo i can accept because it makes sense logically and there is an increasing body of evidence.
that’s a good question. Whenever I talk to someone about web/computer based stuff I just have to take it a bit on faith that they are right about what they are doing. With the health stuff I encourage people to check how they feel, perform and look. Additionally I recommend a series of blood panels to show what’s happ[ening before and after tweaking the diet. This SHOULD really clarify things for folks and removes the smoke and mirrors.
Just to clarify: I do think the biosignature has diagnostic value for what is happening hormonally, just not as sure the supplements have much, if any efficacy.
Your nutri cert did a FANTASTIC job with recommending common labs that represent health status: fasting glucose, lipid panel, LDL particle size, etc. (YOU R-O-C-K !!) From the medical literature, the TG/HDL ratio is a good estimate of insulin and insulin resistance status. Ideal 60/60 and really really ideal (ie, Crossfit-worthiness!!) is 30/60 (or lower 30/90). A ratio of > 5.0 is associated high insulin and heart risks. As you were discussing, I think fasting insulin is great to evaluate too (with goal < 5 or negligible amounts).
Don’t forget all of us in Northern Cal are becoming mildly vitamin D deficient right now — the 25(OH)D test is a common test now (blood or order online) — goal 60-80 ng/ml is promoted by the Vitamin D Council and many experts. It’s a great hormone which improves insulin resistance. In one study it lowered body fat. Lowers CRP too (and prevents colon cancer).
Thank you so much for your thoughtful and considerate comments!
What’s up Hotness!?! Because of you my book now has a chapter on Vit-d…damn you! Seriously though, thanks for you interest, suggestions and contributions…always great stuff. Hot-Smart-Chicks…what could be better?!
Analysis and write up my friend… I only wish I could have gone to this with you. I have traveled many of roads in this industry, and through it all I have found that the most open and educational place in the industry exists within CrossFit. Unfortunately when the old smoke and mirrors trick is your business, CrossFit has to be the enemy! I am very aware that Poliquin is great at what he does, and OPT is a great indication of someone working in our part of this industry utilizing his methods. He is also a great indication of how well CrossFit works as a program and a business, something Mr. Poliquin I guess has yet to take a look at.
In working with athletes from everything from Endurance sports to the NFL I have yet to use a program or a system that is so well adaptive to an individuals need’s. It is the staple part of our programming as you know, it is also used in our off seasons… When you remove sport, you can continue to CrossFit, therefore not loosing fitness. Funny thing about the other programs I’ve used is that when my athletes went to training camps or in final prep for a season they got fitter for their sport. With CrossFit as our protocol my athletes get de-conditioned every time by these training camps and final prep phases of training that I have no control of. Every time! JW is a prime example of this, and he came here the same way I did… An open mind, and completely unaware of what CrossFit really was.
So true…properly dosed CF just kicks ass. It takes a little tinkering to figure out time indexing to fit a sport, how much and what kinds of stimulus is needed amidst skill sessions…how to taper for best effect. Everyone is different and it just takes some observational skills and willingness to fuck-up a few times!
See you in Reno if not before.
Brad Hirakawa says
In four years, Robb for president!
fudge that! Then everyone will find out about my college drug usage…oops, I guess they just did.
Robb, great response. CP(mr musclemedia 2000) represents in my opinion the total antitheseis of what CF is about. Trainers that are not open to the implementaion of different methods or ideas to skin the proverbial cat. They covet their knowledge hold it above all else and then dismiss anything that doesn’t fit nicely into their box. Any cf trainer knows that we all are different and what gets one person to keep their heels down on a squat might not work for the next so to speak. any way, thanks for the read.
Nice piece Robb, both on the Biosig stuff and the response to Poliquin’s written stance on Crossfit.
Welbourn’s take on CP parallels mine…he’s got a lot of money riding on his system and he’s loath to give up any small amount of it for free…let’s not forget that Poliquin was balls deep into Biotest’s ass for the first 3-4 years of that companies existence, and shilled the Biotest supplements while pretending to be an uninterested party.
However, to ignore that Crossfit also can be a versatile and effective money making system is a mistake. Boyle came off like an idiot in his critique too.
Again, nice piece, I enjoy reading your blog, as usual.
Dude, great to hear from you man and thanks for the props. Honestly, I was hopping the biosig stuff would change everything I did…Ido said it would be 90% consistent with what I was already doing, provide some insights in other areas. I’d say that was spot on.
I’ve never sold supps in our clinical practice but I think we are going to offer fish-oil, a methylated multi, and some kind of zinc/magnesium along with digestive support stuff. I’ve been sending folks OUT for that crap for a few months and they are all benefiting from it and completely stunned that we do not sell it…I seriously fear coming across as a cheese-dick with this stuff so I’ve been slow to warm to the supps. I know there are some really powerful products out there, especially some of the herbal derivatives, but it just get people off the basic track of good food, solid sleep, hard training and trying to make life fun.
Anyway…great to hear from you Shaf! Funny thing…Nicki and I are planning on starting that whole “kid” thing next year. I had a dream I had 2 daughters…home gym, wacky stuff. I woke up and thought “I’ll be a nini-Shaf!”.
Another question. Can going on the zone or eating paleo cause an ulcer?(stupid question but I still gotta ask) What about eating a lot of deli ham, or a lot of all deli meat for that matter? Can eating a lot of salt covered almonds cause one, because that is almost my only fat?
For the past couple days my stool has been blackish green, which I googled and found out it could be caused by an ulcer, which also caused stomach pain, which I have had for the better part of the last week.
My stomach hurts so much when I eat that I have not eaten more than a few blocks in the last couple days, which is causing me to lose all my hard earned weight while doing SS and GOMAD.
P.S. I realize ulcers and dark colored poo are not your specialty, but I figured that maybe your studies in nutrition might have showed you some different ways in which ulcers and the conditions that come with it occur.
I’d ditch the salty foods and if thigns do not improve immediately I’ get checked by your doc. Tarry black stools are indicitive of blood in the GI tract…no bueno. Typically we see GERD/ulcers in high carb situations but I think salt can be an irritant as well.
Let me know how all this plays out.
James Kitcher Jr. says
Great response Rob.
I’ve been off of the main CF boards of late and was wondering what had you and Greg Everett so peeved.
Before I transitioned to this field I worked in IT for a few big corporations and the information silos / hoarding happens over there as well. There’s a lot of sharing in the overall community, but pissing contests abound and just try getting some information from someone that feels at all threatened.
The best people in tech and the best people I’ve seen in the S&C field have an open mind and realize any given methodology is just that — a tool set. Experiment and choose wisely. Shift your paradigm. Or, as my BJJ instructor Marcos Santos said “Change Your Angle!”
Amen Coach Robb… Amen…
Hi Rob, Very Interesting. I myself have attended the Biosig among some of charles’s other workshops, and your explanation of him was bang on. I have also found the hormone corralations in biosig are correct, however I find most of the time, Eating Correctly, Training Hard, and doing this consistantly seems to correct the ” Hormonal imbalances ” without the need to spend a fortune on supplements the majority of the time. You mention that you find for leaning out nothing works like paleo/ low carb, crosfit, fish oils, Do you find that people will have difficulty doing all the metabolic crossfit work on Low carbs ?
I just tried to tackle the thing as objectively as I could…really give the technology to show it’s merits. Unfortunately, the supplement side is not panning out to be a miracle. Oh well…no easy roads except for D-ball, no?
The leaning out process I’m thinking…low carb, crosssfit etc, is tough but VERY effective. Keep in mind, this is a highly modified variant of the CF.com WOD…these folks are overweight, sedentary and low work capacity so I start them slowly and carefully. That said, the full body movements which comprise the metabolic cercuits are fun, challenging and effective. It is stunning how quickly change occurs when compliance is good.
So I know your familiar with Modern Forager and Scott Kustes, but I was wondering if you had seen his latest post on fat soluble vitamins. It was pretty interesting as they are not usually what you hear about in regard to lifting and strength training. Of special note was Vitamin A which seems to have a huge benefit to resistance training in regards to hormones and protein utilization.
All that to simply say, sweet potatoes appear to be one of the highest sources of Vitamin A. I thought this particularly interesting since it is your number one recommendation for PWO carbs with respect to recovery. I was just thinking if you didn’t already know that connection, it might be an even stronger reason to recommend sweet potatoes as the go to PWO carb. Rather than touting them for their slow absorbtion, starchy, goodness, you can add that fact they allow better protein utilizatin and help in the production of testosterone.
I’ve not read it but that’s excellent material. Scott kicks ass! Something ot keep in mind, the vit-a of the yam/sweet potato is beta-carotene, which much be converted into retinoic acid. I think the best route is via organ meats…loads of vit A&D. Cod liver oil is perfect for this also.
Bob Guere says
It’s guys like you that make newbs like me feel like I can run an affiliate. Your attitude, knowledge and dedication to your students is apparent even in your writing. Can’t wait for the book, and attendance at a Nutrition Cert. one day.
Thanks for the kind words…always a pleasure to be of service to folks.
Chris - Zen to Fitness says
Great post Robb and very helpful/interesting. I would like to know your thoughts on HCL therapies I have been on 600mg with each meal for about 2 weeks now and have seen great improvements in digestion but am unsure if I am starting to feel the “hot tea” feeling I am unsure as to what to look for. Anyhow is there any danger of prolonged use of 600mg with protein meals or am I dealing with a safe dosage?
Its been a great supplement so far though solving 99% of the digestive issues I had been experiencing!
HCl is money…cheap as dirt but it works great. I see no problem with this long term. If you add Zinc to the mix you SHOULD decrease your need for HCl over time. The hot feeling is pretty obvious when you start getting a higher dose, you will know if when you feel it.
I am in grad school for Public Health–and you know I learn more from you than from my professors! I want to go into research and policy concerning the efficacy of low carb/paleo diets. Where do you suggest I begin. I can’t travel for school–I need to stay in the Bay Area due to my kids…..all suggestions deeply appreciated. I went back to school to change the system from the inside—-and need to join the small growing army of truth tellers.
Thanks for the kind words! Hmmm…I think it’s just a matter of getting done with school and then finding folks to work with OR do private consulting. I think there are some interesting opportunities here to do corporate wellness programs looking at before and after using a paleo approach. I think you are in a perfect area to do this…lots of opportunity!
I found this article about chocolate milk for post workout and wondered what you think, and if you have seen any of the studies spoken of? I want to hear from you since I really respect your opinion. Thanks for all the great info.
Some folks SWEAR by the PWO choc milk. Damn yummy…not sure how healthy it is for the long haul but there is no doubt it works. I think there less gnarly ways to do it…but one just needsw to get in and tinker.
I did notice that it was the beta-carotene, but I figured it only helped right? I’m a broke college student and cod oil or anything of the like gets expensive fast. I haven’t yet tried organ meats though… any ideas on preparing them?
Fried. With onions works well for liver!
Mike OD - IF Life says
Robb – great post. I like the focus on insulin and cortisol control, so key and so many people with f’d up adrenals out there nowadays. Sometimes the simple answer of simple short and intense training, stop doing excessive cardio, eat whole foods, get sleep is the path to the best results….yet most people won’t do it and expect miracles.
As for the whole world of fitness celebrities….when did any of them ever really get along? But that’s ok….we take what is best from all and apply as needed. That and leave the bosu balls out by the trash.
Robb – Awesome post, I have never heard of CP until now. More reading to do now. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to write this out, very helpful.
Regarding CP’s and other people’s take on CrossFit: A while ago, you had a post on the Weston-Price diet, specifically “… personal attacks leveled at Prof. Cordain for his position on Sat’d fat. Sally Fallon and Mary Enig have really taken him to task on this topic and not in a nice or professional way. It burns my ass because Prof. Cordain always conducts himself with class and professionalism. He sticks to the facts as he sees them, states his case and provides ample opportunity for rebuttal. This SHOULD be how scientific inquiry occurs.”
I find it interesting that neither MB or CP ever reference “What is Fitness” or”Understanding CrossFit.” It is this lack of interest in learning or listening that makes me wonder what they are really doing with their comments. Is it some kind of guerrilla marketing or are they really just that arrogant and unprofessional? It is a little confusing, but you did a good job of focusing the discussion. Maybe if CP reads this post he will… nevermind.
Saul…I think this needs to go on the front page. This is a REALLY good point: No one ever attacks the foundational pieces of crossfit. There were some folks on the message board trying to, but as usual, they offer no better point, they simply say “it’s not so”.
Chip Conrad says
Most of the above assessments from other posters about Poliquin’s ego and stubbornness aren’t off track….
BUT, there’s a reason the CF community is easy to scrutinize from the outside. Consider what follows as perceptions from a different set of eyes, not a blatant attempt to piss in the punch.
A ‘thing’ cannot be debated or argued unless it is defined. Too often we try to define something by what it isn’t, which is sort of what Poliquin has attempted. Unfortunately for the non-CF affiliated world (including yours truly), there doesn’t seem to be a strong definition to what Crossfit IS. Bodytribe (a stupid little gym in Sacramento) has often been labeled as a CF gym simply because we have GPP combos, use kettlebells and have a vast collection of bumper plates.
So is it the equipment that defines CrossFit (let’s face it, there is a cookie-cutter template that most CF gyms follow. Rings? Check. Warehouse-like atmosphere? Check.)?
Is it a philosophy? During a lengthy discussion on Mel Siff’s Supertraining forum I posed the question of what the philosophy of CF was. Each response was identical, but not a single one was actually a philosophy. They were simply regurgitated (or sometimes verbatim) ideas of the protocol discussed on the main CF homepage (this type of multi-person, single-voice response also leads to the outside world’s judgment of CF as ‘cult-like,’ as Poliquin mentioned). Eventually one person wrote a very eloquent response from personal experience, but it was quickly evident that this was HIS philosophy, not necessarily a CF one.
Is CF a protocol then? I’ve encountered many a folk, trainers and trainees alike, who claim to be ‘CrossFit’ simply because they throw a bunch of exercises together. So is creating a gut-busting circuit CrossFit? If so, then anyone who has ever put a few movements together and created a substantial sweat from it would be considered ‘CrossFit.’
Is CrossFit the sport of getting better at mastering the official WODs?
As an ‘outsider’ I’m not unfamiliar with the workings of CF (I actually DO know people who were less than thrilled with the level 1 cert. but that’s neither here nor there). Having been to several locations, communicated with many CF affiliates, trained dozens of folks who have been part of the CF world, and participated in probably all of the original WOD’s, I still couldn’t tell you what CrossFit actually thinks CrossFit is. I can find great strengths and great faults in my perception of CrossFit (no, I won’t go into them here). I believe Poliquin is arguing from a common perception that is shared by many. I speak of the view from the outside when I say it is easy to write CF off as a trend or a cult since it doesn’t seem to have a cohesive response to a lot of the critique against it. Can you speak for all of CF when you defend it? I’m not even sure Glassman can do that anymore.
And here’s where it gets tricky. If you do something at NorCal (like assessment testing before Oly lifting, for instance), is it therefor CrossFit? I’ve never experienced it from ANY other CF I’ve been in contact with, unless they also practice other policies and protocols as well. If a CF affiliate also utilizes, say, Scott Sonnon’s methods, is RMAX suddenly CrossFit? I know many CF facilities are embracing AKC methods… will this be considered CrossFit? Would Olympic lifting or ‘Starting Strength’ be considered CrossFit?
CrossFit, at this point, seems like something that wants to evolve, but is having a hard time because there isn’t a solid base from which TO evolve. The kernel from which to grow isn’t strongly defined. The outside perception of the foundation of the CrossFit concept is simply a workload protocol utilizing compound movements. Is CrossFit more than this? Only through (it seems) splinter cells trying new things. I could see Poliquin arguing that CF would be a tool, not the toolbox, and that isn’t necessarily inaccurate until someone can define CF as a complete package addressing a great deal more than just workload.
Just because the tenets of fitness are listed on the CF homepage doesn’t mean that what CF puts into practice actually meets those (for instance you don’t see too many CF articles or videos dealing with ‘flexibility.’). Someone like Poliquin is pointing that out, and even through a potentially pompous pair of eyes, he is voicing what many are thinking.
Please don’t judge this post as any sort of gauntlet dropping (aw, heck, judge it however you want), but maybe I can give some insight to his critiques. Since no one from different physical culture camps ever seem to want to meet at a neutral table, ideas become attacks instead of discussions. Consider this not a defense of Poliquin’s words, just some reasoning behind it, and some possibilities for future thought.
Ask yourself how you’d define CF.
We need to splice together our RSS feeds…it would spawn something truly un-gawdly. I tackle a bunch of the CF defining over at your place…perhaps folks can click through to check it out there.
Got any specific recommendations with the supps, Robb? I think you mentioned above that you didn’t want to get into it (somewhere). If that’s the case, drop me a line via email.
I did some short searching around but didn’t come up with a lot on menthylated multis.
A note on your:
“I have yet to see anything touch CrossFit, a low carb diet, sleep and fish oil for leaning out.”
Sleep is so important yet so under-rated. Good to have that emphasized every now and then so people remember.
I get a lot of questions on this so I need to beef up the FAQ’s a bit to cover this. Do you remember the Rx from Protein Power:Lifeplan? Pretty damn solid. Magnesium, alpha lipoic acid, cod liver oil (Grace will be all over this for the A&D). I just received an email from Pedro Bastos saying it’s critical we get some vit k2 from supps or organ meats…just cant do it with standard meats.
I’ve been doing an acetyl-l-carnitine+alpha lipoic acid in the am. Empty stomach, and it just viola! Clears the fog. Tripy stuff.
That’s off the top of my head…I’ll flesh stuff out more on the FAQ.
The sleep dealio:It can COMPLETELY cock-block any and all fat loss. I think OPT made the point that his folks with sleep dep who: Train & eat low carb are just barely staving off type 2 diabetes due to the hormonal dysregulation. It’s no fucking joke. If I could sell sleep in a pill…oh man!
omg…damn you…only one chapter?! *ha haa*
don’t forget a mention on PEET’s and Patrone’s…my favorite poisons. I agree, Robb for Prez. Reform our healthcare!! (and ur well-rounded — a strip-club experience posted deep in the blog confirm)
Consider a chapter on low-fruit intake? For my diabetics I slide their carbs depending on stress, sleep deprivation and vast desaturase-issues… like 20-50 grams only daily. This as you aware may only be like 2 bites of banana. You know what I’m sayin? You mentioned to me that Paleo living had immense periods of time with little fruit (or only hard-to-pick wild berries) right?
It’s good you DREAM. I luv Nicki (&covet her 6-pak)! AND I can see a pack of Paleo babies soon!!!!! *wink* better start storing up your SLEEP dude…vit ‘S’ for supermen like u
(BTW NOW brand — they’ll put ur name and face on the label if u ask; as u know I almost use this brand exclusively 4 friends and family)
Girl, I am all over a “strippers for a better America” health initiative!! Frack-yea! You are spot on with the low-fruit intake…Cordain has been slower to adopt this but you see it in his recommendations now. Damn dirty carbs!
I just need to convice Nicki that she is “bi-curious” and into brainy Asian chicks…I suspect that would grease the wheels of baby-making pretty quickly…
Not sure the point you are trying to make here. Feels like Crossfit advocates are spending way to much time defending crossfit instead of listening to constructive critisism and using it better your system. I feel there are some very good things about crossfit and it seems to be getting better and better. However, having 4 Olympians this year, 16 N.H.L athletes, 3 M.L.B athletes , 14 Division 1A athletes under my current current coaching belt, I do feel qualified ( as does Charles ) at giving valid critiques regarding crossfit or any other training program. Very difficult to discuss these by simple articles and writing a rebuttal exclusive to your site.
I guess it’s the deal of painting us all as a bunch of para-military buffoons who do little more than step aerobics! I said in the article that I think Charles has much to offer most of the folks doing CF, in particular higher end strength development. I’d hopped to talk to him about this after the biosignature seminar…but I guess that’s a bit of a pipe-dream now. I still recommend that folks attend his offerings, I’m not liking the results of most of the supplementation interventions…I’m not sure how much more objective I can be when admittedly, I DO have a dog in the fight.
You present a bit of a no-win situation here:
1-I argue charles points which makes me “closed minded and just a member of the cult”.
2-I ignore the writings of a well known strength coach who has a very limited view of crossfit…and just let the mis-information continue?
If I can navigate this stuff in a way that does not piss away my time on articles like this, by all means show me the way!
What is bothersome is the constructive criticism that COULD indeed improve most affiliates gets lost amidst the: “high rep olifts are dangerous”, “crossfit certs are $1000 and they have no written test”, “the NY times says CF is a bunch of meanies who just induce rhabdo on clients and each other for kicks…”
Everyone of these critiques, whether from Boyle or Charles HAD the potential of offering some constructive input…but there is always an undertone of BS that closes ears and discredits the author/speaker.
I guess I’ll hang my hat on folks like James Fitzgerald who trained with Charles for years but has changed his training to relfect that of CrossFit. Or Jon Welbourn who has “trained with everyone”, yet has settled on CrossFit as his main modality. Now, these guys are smart, savage athletes who have a solid steeping in how to get strong, nutrition etc. Is every person in CF similarly qualified? No. But neither are the masses of CSCS, CPT’s Poliquin level 1’s or the like.
I appreciate you thoughts and wish you continued success with your impressive list of folks.
Thanks for the detailed write-up. Extremely interesting, both in the review and the arguments.
I am familiar with the benefits of Zinc and Fish Oil, and have been taking them for months, but HCl is new to me. Could you point me towards a decent resource for learning more about this or (even better) provide your own views? Searching your site didn’t turn up anything.
Low stomach acid leads ot poor digestion. stress, lack of minerals etc. can impair stomach acid production…it can become a vicious feed forward loop. I have a burly section on this for the book…have to wait for that or just do some digging on the net!
Robert Ross says
To beat a dead horse, Mr. P is training sport-specific athletes. He should be (and may well be, for all of us CF’ers know) using the CF workout for a baseline. These clients, both men and women, and I’m guessing at the female part, should be exposed to a multitude of exercises in order to exceed at their specific discipline. They also have to deal with multi-million dollar contracts which dictate to whom they can delegate their training regimen in the off-season.
No less, the CrossFit regimen proves itself again and again. Like any other program, if you don’t like it, don’t do it. No one is putting a gun to your head.
big thanks for recommending Faigin’s “Natural Hormonal Enhancement”. It’s honestly been my all time favorite read for better understanding how the body responds hormonally to food (exercise, stress, sleep, etc). Based on your recommendations, I now follow a cyclical low carb diet, practice IF and also sleep in a completely dark room. Most recently I’ve begun supplementing Betaine HCL, Zinc/Magnesium, Methylated Vitamins, and fish oil into my diet. It’s all coming together for me. I feel great, I’m adding more weight in the gym, and I’m sleeping like a baby!!!! I can’t thank you enough for sharing your extensive knowledge through your blog. Your efforts are very much appreciated.
I do have a couple of questions concerning additional supplements. I basically understand stress causes excess cortisol production (bad) and vitamin C reduces excess cortisol (good). When is the best time to take Vitamin C to affect cortisol production? post workout? bedtime? early morning? All of the above?
Also, do you still recommend your clients supplement w/ creatine and glutamine?
a million thanks for all you do!
vit-c is great PWO, or late evening. I like creatine, kinda ambivalent on the glutamine…hav enot seen stunning results with it. Thansk for the kind words and Im glad its all coming together!
hey rob. Awesome article! So I’ve been doing starting strength and drinking a gallon of milk a day but I had a quick question. John told me you know of an enzyme that I can pick up that’ll save my bowels. Could you give me the name?
that would either be lactaid for the milk or a general enzyme blend called Super Enzymes by NowFoods.
D M says
Charles Poliquin’s Knowlege and experience makes you guy seem like kids with trainer wheels. “Just listen and learn”
DM-Do you have some kind of stuttering thing? TWO posts?! My goodness…this is getting serious!
D M says
Charles Poliquin’s Knowlege and experience makes you guys seem like kids with trainer wheels. “Just listen and learn”
right DM. Thank you for your enlightenment. What percentage of your profit margin is derived from supplement sales? Care to share that with the world?
Some interesting and insightful comments indeed. As one of your fellow attendees of the Biosignature seminar in question and a PhD candidate in Exercise Physiology, I’m a bit curious as to your claim that you “…had a far better background than anyone else in attendance.” Perhaps I missed the discussion of when we all compared educational background, practical experience, research experience, results, etc. and then were ranked?
Intelligence claims aside, I remember chatting with you about CF during the seminar and it was clear to me that neither you nor anyone else you were (are) affiliated with was making any false claims about the validity or application of CF. You appeared to be abundantly clear that there was a time and place for what you all do. Period. It’s my opinion that the criticisms of CF are in many instances unfounded and stem from a lack of knowledge. I’m personally quite tired of the apparent pissing contest between strength coaches about who’s best and what works best. It’s too bad that CF got dragged through the mud to the extent that it did. I think you guys are doing a good thing and as Mark Rippetoe wrote, I’ve yet to see anything that works better that a low-carb diet and CrossFit for getting people lean. I’m not a CF coach so when I need to get someone lean, I kick their ass for about :45 minutes and keep ’em on a low-carb diet. Someone else might call it German Body Comp, someone else Escalating Density Training. It all looks pretty similar to me. Why try to pick fly shit out of pepper?
Not my intention to come across as a dick…what I wrote sounds bad and that was poorly thought out on my part.
I appreciate your thoughts on this….I think CF is great for what it sets out to accomplish, I think anyone in CF would benefit from Charles material. Always so much to learn.
I own a CrossFit Affiliate in Tempe and just finished the Poliquin BioSIgnature course and Charles is a trip. There is no arguing the man’s inteligence or his success and his ego shows it. That being said I think his stuff his groundbreaking and his ability to critique others and their systems is in his nature. Just like coach Glassman and any other great trainer they believe what they do is the best way otherwise they wouldn’t do it. The fact is if you watch this Poliquin Performance video you will see very similar exercises to what we do, except for the sport specific ones. Poliquin’s debate is more in the volume and reps that CrossFit uses rather than the basic movements.
Poliquin is legit, no doubt about it. I think a more function based approach compliments Poliquin well. OPT is a good example of this.
Robb, just came across your blog and find what you post to be very intelligent and insightful. I am a Poliquin Certified Strength Coach and have also completed the BioSignature course.
My experience myself has been mixed. I found that the majority of what he said was very applicable and knowledgeable. To be honest, I feel I learned more in one week than I did after achieving my degree. I do feel that there are many claims Chuck makes that seem to be a little on the deep end but with everything you do need to take it with a grain of salt and do your own research.
I’m surprised that you have had little results with the insulin protocol because that actually seemed to work the best for me and in a very short amount of time. After completing the course, I went from 16% to 12% in about a month using the insulin protocol. But it is hard to say which had more of an influence; the no carb diet protocol or the supplements. I feel strongly that it was a mix of both, but if I were to do a no carb diet again without the supplements who knows if I’d have the same results.
Personally, the hardest protocol for me to see results with was with the cortisol modulation. Other than providing more restful sleep, I hadn’t noticed much change in the scores.
All in all, I think your assessment of the overall BioSig course was spot on. The supplements I recommend most are the HCl, zinc, mag, and fish oil and have had great success with all.
In terms of crossfit, I can understand where Poliquin is coming from. Sometimes I think Chuck doesn’t understand that there are trainers out there working with ordinary people who are just looking to get in shape and that not everyone has the privilege of working with only elite level athletes. I can also understand his point on the olympic lifts and high volume. They’re so technical that strict form is absolutely necessary as to not develop an imbalance. I’ve noticed this when watching a few videos of people performing crossfit routines. The videos of women doing overhead squats and clean and jerks for high reps (15+) are the most notable.
To be honest though, I do hold his PICP certification higher than his BioSig certs. They’re applicable to every one of my clients and personally I’ve had great success and unbelievable strength gains.
Keep up the good work!
Robb Wolf says
I need to do an update on this. I did not du the insulin protocol as charles prescribed…I tried to graft some elements with a mass gain and it did not work well. My fault, not his or the programs.
Would appreciate an update on this. Any success with using the program/management protocol on yourself or some of your clients? You’ve mentioned/recommended BioSignature on your podcast a few times and it sparked my interest to go back to this post.
Robb Wolf says
I need an update on this. I did not give the technology a fair shake.
Hey Robb: Thank you so much for this write up. I’ve been researching the BioSig cert, and trying to figure out if it’s worth the money (My trainer is obsessed with it). After reading your review, I’m definitely going to check it out. Thanks again!
Robb Wolf says
You will like it.
I recently saw Coach Poliquin speak in Toronto a few months back. Someone asked about his thoughts on CF and I shuttered, expecting this poor young lad to be humiliated in front of 800 people. Instead, Poliquin’s answer was actually quite different from what I thought having read his previous stance. He actually said “great intentions, poor programming”. BUT he meant he didn’t like the pure randomness of mainsite, from what I gathered. He actually praised how a lot of boxes “do” CrossFit – do your high motor unit recruitment work first and finish off with some higher intensity stuff after you get strong. Most CrossFitters will know this as strength + MetCon after. He also said he was extremely impressed with how strong females get from doing it, particularly in the pullup department.
You’re totally right when you say we can take a bit from his knowledge and a bit from crossfit and put it together. We’ve had great success at our gym using his screening methods, paying attention to structural balance issues, addressing them, using his progressions, many of his training protocols etc., and using some of the CrossFit and CFFB principles as well. Of course, how much you sway to one direction over the other is relative to the client’s goals. I think people get caught up too much in right or wrong ways to train. There’s tons of great programs out there, including Poliquin’s and CrossFit. Goal-related and balls out always works though.
very interesting reading…so good to see i am not the only one that is questioning the Poliquin protocols. I am a personal trainer and fitness instructor but have studied quite a bit of nutritional medicine, including some naturopathy. I am a nutritonal nerd…i decided to try Biosignature Modulation and was told that i cannot touch carbs and should eat high fats and protein to get lean. This was based on my subscapular skinfold. I found this contradictory to my experience as a figure competitor where i ate carbs everyday during my pre-competiotion phase and achieved under 5% bodyfat. But being open minded i decided to give this a go (which i had also done before and it made me put on muscle but not get leaner). I started at 15% bodyfat, went up to 16% bodyfat and did not move in 12 weeks on the program, eating minimal carbs (only 1 time per week which needed to be 1 carb meal, gluten free). My coach thought i must have been cheating on my food. So what i did was eat the opposite for 2 weeks – lower fats, higher carbs, same protein intake. I dropped 1.5% bodyfat – my coach still does not know that this is what caused the fat drop and believes it was his recommendation that caused this. He obviously is no longer my coach!!! What you eat and the proportion is very individualised…you need to find what works for you and skinfolds do not and cannot tell you if you are carb resistant or carb tolerant!
With regards to estrogen protocols he recommends, they may be effective for people who are exposed to execessive environmental estrogens. Charles does not seem to cater for women who are peri-menopausal who are estrogen dominant due to progesterone declining faster than estrogen levels. The protocol does not work for women in this bracket…some of the supplements do help (this is already widely known from integrated medicine doctors) but his protocol will not correct this biological imbalance.
I agree the HCL, magnesium and zinc are valid but again nothing new…
People think Poliquin is a genius – he is just very good at communicating what has been done in TCM, naturopathy, homeopathy, natural medicine and branding it as his own – and the supplement marketing is fantastic.
Personally, i read his articles and they are egotistical and rather abusive. That is what turned me off the most.
I’ve come across this page while searching for the PICP ultimate (level 1 and 2 together) reviews. I’m wondering – if I’ve been training in a gym environment for a few years, one year now with a certified biosig and level 1/2 trainer, have my certificates in fitness, but have not started training any clients yet, would doing the ultimate (1 and 2) be ok? Or would it be too much? I’m going to sign up for at least level 1, but would like to do both if it was achievable for someone in my position.
Fred Barbe says
I know it’s an old piece and that you already mentioned in the comments that it needs to be updated, but I was wondering if per any chance you have been across some studies, at the very least case studies, that would confirm the Biosignature’s claims. The whole idea of specific fat pockets representing specific hormonal imbalances sounds a bit like iridiology or reflexology to me. Anybody with excess fat should probably do something to manage insuline and cortisol level, which simply translate most of the time by eating and sleeping better. If you see this, I would appreciate your insights on that technique, especially 7 years later. Thanks!
Robb Wolf says
I have not stayed up on this, no idea how solid the science is. I know a lot of folks use biosig successfully in their practices…is this smoke and mirrors to just get compliance? Is it a legit insight into hormonal state? Not sure.