Review: Double Crossed: CrossFit's Dirty Secrets | Modern Manual Therapy Blog

Review: Double Crossed: CrossFit's Dirty Secrets

Recently a new book kept popping up on my google+ feed. It's called Double Crossed, CrossFit's Dirty Secrets: A Scientific Analysis of CrossFit and It's Dangers.

I was not interested until I clicked on the link and saw it was by a DPT, Dr. Sean M. Wells, DPT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS, NSCA-CPT. That had me intrigued, plus I wanted to know more about CrossFit, it's methodology, and what his research on this fitness phenomenon stated.

What did I already know about CrossFit? Some good things - it's getting more people into HIIT than ever, the love of bacon, it combines olympic lifts, gymanstics, and other forms of exercise, and promotion of paleo. I also knew the negatives, Rhabdo (and how it's mocked enough to be a mascot at some gyms), and that olympic lifts are used in intervals, as opposed to skill lifts.

The text is well written and broken down logically into chapters that tell you everything you need to know about CrossFit
  • how it got started and grew exponentially
  • the "training" of it's coaches
  • what it takes to open up a box
  • what Rhabomyolisys is
  • basic descriptions of its exercises and lifts (step by step pictures would be great for those unfamiliar with them)
  • the Paleo diet
  • Circular health care
    • you workout at the box, get injured or feel sore, return to the box for more
  • how CrossFit compared to more well established peer reviewed organizations like the NSCA
  • no assessment!!!!!
The lack of assessment is very troubling, especially with a lack of medical and/or movement screening and CrossFit targeting greater segments of the populations.

To sum it up, what is wrong with CrossFit is probably the same things that are wrong with most personal trainers, PTs, strength coaches, the "average" individual working with the public's knowledge and skill to teach movement is not very good. Excluding CrossFit coaches, the other professions I mentioned can still cause injury with this lack of knowledge, but since the intensity and frequency are much less, the chance of injury is also less. CrossFit coaches learn Olympic lifts over a weekend, can pay a fee, then open up a box. 

The text often references and goes back to a general lack of training of most of the coaches, and a lack of follow up once your business becomes an affiliate. There are may variables that can potentially lead to a failure in good coaching. I'm not generalizing this to ALL coaches, but many of the moves taught in CrossFit need more practice and coaching than a weekend course. You've seen the youtube videos (who doesn't love a good fail). These moves are also most likely not "for everyone." 

It's the intensity, frequency, and lack of experience/skill that makes CrossFit inherently more dangerous than other forms of fitness and strength training.  I enjoy seeing CrossFitters as patients, as they are generally motivated, understand the importance of quality movement and symmetry, and are compliant.

Dr. Wells also sums up his text by offering recommendations to make CrossFit a better and safer sport at the end of the text. These are evidenced based recommendations based on what other longer standing organizations like the NSCA have done. Time will tell whether or not CrossFit adopts this.

Why should you read it?
  • if you want to know more about the lifts and WODs so you can effectively communicate with your patients
  • you should know about one of the fastest growing fitness movements the industry has seen
  • you are thinking about joining a box, and want to make an informed decision
I highly recommend reading Double Crossed, the kindle version is very affordable coming in at only $6.99 and I read it over a day - 84 pages. You can support both Dr. Wells and myself by picking it up using this link.

Keeping it Eclectic...


  1. Dr. Religioso,

    Thank you for your review of my book. I hope it can help many in their quest for better health and continued wellness!
    Sean Wells

  2. Dr. E, this is an interesting audio on FMS' website. It's refreshing, because my biggest problem with CF is the lack of an assessment. I was glad to hear this audio. I hope you're doing well!

  3. Sorry, this is actually the correct link!

  4. Thanks for the link Lee! Yes the lack of assessment is troubling. However, the FMS just became standard operating procedure for the NSCA, and apparently CF is suing the NSCA based on some study results... so adopting the FMS organization wide is unlikely at this point in time.

  5. My book was prompted by a student doing a sports medicine research project on rhabdo. I had asked him to focus on rhabdo and CrossFit. I was shocked when he came back with no peer-reviewed data.
    Another driving force was a meeting that I had with a magazine rep. He wanted me to write fitness articles for him. He and his organization were very pro CrossFit. As a result he put me in the "hot seat" and asked me defend why I did not care for CrossFit. In the matter of few minutes I presented my thesis and he seemed surprised by my scientific approach -- he commented that so many are emotional, angry, or apathetic. It was refreshing to be challenged, but it was even more rewarding to channel this energy into a book that can help others.

  6. Absolutely agree... organization-wide they are still a long way off. But it is nice to see at least some within the organization attempt to do better and protect their members. It is simply good business if nothing else. Keep your members healthy, they can stay in your Box longer. Coming from the Personal Training world it really disturbs me when I see trainers putting clients through the ringer without some screen or assessment. I was just as guilty, I used to do that same thing. But I took the time to reflect on my weaknesses and do better. I'm glad to see some members of the CrossFit world doing the same thing.