Jon Snow, you row nothing…!

Cathy working the sled pull.

Cathy working the sled pull.

CrossFit has had it's fair share of detractors during it's meteoric rise to popularity.

Some incorrectly criticise it for the apparent propensity to do nothing but extreme and injurious high intensity exercise.

Others simply hate on its tight knit community vibe, and some CrossFit fans themselves, selfishly hate the fact that it has become so popular.

And I also hear on podcasts or read in blogs quite regularly, that "CrossFit lacks lateral movement, or single limb training, or horizontal pulling ....."

I always thought this was a weird accusation, as here at Reebok CrossFit 09 we've always included those movements on a regular basis, and I guess I always just thought that everyone else did too.

But here's what I think has happened.

1. Pullups are cooler and more quantifiable.

These days, everyone wants to know how much you snatch.   But, back in the early days of CrossFit, the kipping pullup was a brand new and amazing skill; everyone wanted to learn it.   Your fitness was partially judged on how many pullups you could do.

And then butterfly pullups came on the scene, wow, it was like being at a Penn & Teller show.  People would come up to you and whisper, "do you know how to do butterfly..?  Will you show me..?"  Knowing how to do these elevated your status to elite....

In commercial gyms the pullup was considered too hard, most exercisers pre-CrossFit did a lot of seated cable rows, bent rows, single arm rows instead, which are all good movements.

But when they switched to CrossFit, horizontal movements with the upper body were performed less and less as the pullup took over.  Without horizontal movements being included in their programming,  there is a danger of lopsided development.

To be clear, CrossFit.com programs plenty of horizontal pulls and lateral movement on their website, so it's perhaps an interpretation issue, along with the above 'pullups are cooler' factor.  And then there's competition......

2. Competition tempts predicability in training.

A horizontal row is not that easy to measure movement standards on.   Bent over rows, and Pendlay rows have a lot of variation in body position, and would be a nightmare to judge. Whenever it's come up in Games competition it's been a sled pull, and distance dragged is the aim, simple to measure, a great movement.   But it's not as universal as a pullup. No one really cared how many kilograms you could single arm dumbbell row...

So most people stick to pullups, as they know with reasonable certainty that they'll be asked to do those, whether at a local comp, or the Games themselves.

You probably didn't know that Jon Snow does CrossFit!  BUT, like many people do, he mistakenly thinks it's all about the high intensity intervals.....however, the improvements in structural balance, mobility, posture and functional movement are arguably far more important.

And if this 'bastard' had bothered to include a decent amount of row based exercises into his routine, and built a strong, stable upper back with great posture, perhaps the traitorous Night Watch may not have managed to stick their swords clear through him... (spoiler!)...... it's ok he doesn't die (major spoiler!!)

It's no spoiler that we have rows on the menu today.  You have a choice, some heavy Pendlay Rows with the barbell, a fairly full body based movement, or you can dial it into one limb at a time with the Single Arm Row, a fantastic unilateral movement that works the upper back muscles around the shoulder blade over a great range of motion.

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