Why CrossFit and Kettlebells Can’t Be Friends (and What That Has To Do with God)

American Swing or Russian Swing?
American Swing or Russian Swing? Is it really worth fighting over?

As a physiotherapist and ex-professional gymnast, I’m a huge fan of functional fitness training. Anything that challenges the entire body as a unit and uses natural movements to produce real results. That’s why I love Kettlebells, and why I am following the rise of CrossFit with great interest.

What I find unfortunate however is the way these two “movements” can’t seem to get along.

Kipping pull-up or strict pull up? American swing or Russian swing?

You may have no idea what I’m talking about, but let’s just say that these two differences alone have filled the blogosphere with heated and vitriol debate. Camps have emerged, lines have been drawn, defences raised, and stones thrown from both sides. It has all gotten pretty nasty.

Are their differences valid? Absolutely. Is one better than the other? Depends who you speak to, of course. Is it really worth fighting over and causing hurt? In my opinion, NO!

Yet, it seems this is our human propensity. To divide and build barriers and polarise. No matter what industry, culture or belief system, the sad truth is we have become so used to working in competition and division that we have forgotten what it’s like to be united in hearts and mind. And instead of focusing on all the things that we can agree on, we focus our attention on our differences and things that separate us from one another.

I work at a church, and I see this all the time. Churches with the same basic vision and mission, yet unable to work together because of some intricate (and ultimately irrelevant) theological details.

Now that doesn’t mean I think we should all just agree with one another. There are definitely things I disagree about with other churches (and with CrossFit for that matter), and these are things that are important to me. But what I refuse to do is throw stones – to take a position that I must now defend to my death, and pretend like my way is the only way or the better way.

You see for me the real learning, the real discovery, takes place when we embrace our differences. When we learn to straddle two similar but different worlds, because it forces us to think and question.

As Josh Hillis writes on the Kettlebells/CrossFit argument,

“Sometimes real brilliance emerges out of the heated debates between the two communities.  Sometimes you aren’t sure where it stands until the dust settles and you take some time to look at what’s going on and what you’re about. Now you don’t have the luxury of taking Kettlebells word for it, and you can’t just get high on CrossFit Kool Aid. At one time or another both sides will force you to question things you have thus far taken as absolute truth, and this process of questioning  is what takes you to places you’ve never been before, and allows you to learn things you might not have otherwise been open to.”

And so it is with God.


Related Articles: 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Do Kettlebells4 More Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Do Kettlebells

8 Replies to “Why CrossFit and Kettlebells Can’t Be Friends (and What That Has To Do with God)”

  1. Nice… I think part of the problem is that too many of us hold on to our claim of truth, without simultaneously owning our inherent imperfect or incomplete knowledge…


  2. Brilliant. I just started to take a few cross fit classes and I am constantly debating with myself whether I agree with the philosophy of it all or not… but I think in a sense or another, all of us go through times where we verbally disagree with another but deep down, it has made us question our own thoughts, morals and values.


  3. Hi Tom, have you tried out CrossFit? My son has just done and passed his Level 1 Certificate and is going to be personal training at the Gateway CrossFit gym if you are interested! 😉 Both my children do it and just love it! And there is such a great community spirit amongst all the people that go there regardless of age or background.


  4. Love Crossfit. Love Kettlebells. Love Jesus.
    It’s so funny that you chose the two movements you did because the Crossfit rationale for each is diametrically opposed to the other.
    The American Swing is preferred because it is inherently harder than the Russian Swing.Greg Glassman has written a very technical article detailing the amount of force generated over the length of the movement and demonstrates that the American Swing is superior to their overall goal.
    Then, in the next breath, he says that kipping pull-ups are to be preferred since they are simply a more efficient (read, “easier”) way to do a lot of repetitions in a short amount of time.
    I find the contradiction entertaining.
    If the goal was to simply make things more difficult for the sake of difficulty (implying that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger), then all running should be done with both hands overhead. Or better, hopping on one foot.
    Don’t get me wrong, I do not argue these points at my box. I do American Swings and Kipping Pull-ups without complaint. But when I am working out at home, I do Russian Swings and Strict Pull-ups (But way less).
    Like Paul, we try to be all things to all men insofar as we can.
    Have enjoyed your blog.




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