We are a fitness community. We are unashamedly elitist in our approach to physical fitness. We do not discriminate against individuals but we do discriminate against many methods of fitness training.
We have a one-track mind, a clear purpose and focus. Our one core, driving goal is to make you – if you fit in with us – the fittest you’ve ever been. We practice what we preach. Stripping away the useless, the wasteful, the fluff, the extras, the fads.
We focus upon only those methods that work and that have been repeatedly proven in the gym, in the field and in life. We are critical, sceptical, inquisitive and radical (in the true sense of the word).
We know that we do not know everything. We seek out experts to increase our understanding and are prepared to admit fault where need be. We are prepared to pay the price in advance. And we accept pain and discomfort as part of the journey.
This is our manifesto. It is dedicated to fitness infidels everywhere.
No matter how much we learn, there is still more to learn. The pursuit of knowledge is an admirable task. It is the kind of task that has no conceivable end. The rewards are in the journey rather than the destination.
In truth, the more that one learns the further away the elusive goal of all-pervading knowledge becomes. To some this may be reason to resign themselves to ignorance. In other cases it sees people fall back on dogmatic beliefs passed on from generation to generation (or in our industry from trainer to trainer).
In our society, we see an overwhelming ignorance to the correct practices required to achieve lasting health and fitness. This level of ignorance is amazing given the apparently limitless amount of information available to the population. As a society we tend to believe what we read in newspapers, watch on TV or hear on the radio without bothering to consider the background, education or experience of the media presenter. And thus the knowledge gap grows. Governments, medical societies and professional training institutions are active in their delivery of misinformation to the public. These organisations are so invested in dogma that they fail to admit fault and change their stance on a wide array of topics.
In the health and fitness arena this problem is further exacerbated by the piles of money earned by giants in the industry: the globo gyms, the pharmaceutical companies and many more. Need examples? Take a look at the healthy food pyramid that your local GP and government department provides as the benchmark nutritional guide. It might as well be upside-down. Or have a chat to someone who works at a pharmaceutical company (off the record of course) and ask them about statins and whether GPs should be prescribing them as readily as they are. We could go on.
The gap in understanding is widening. Experts are resting on their laurels. Instead of educating their clients and public at large they play their cards close to their chests. Are they afraid that someone might learn their secret? (Perhaps their only secret is that they really don’t know what they are doing and why.)
Surely there is a better way. How about in place of taking money and keeping people blissfully ignorant of the truth we start to educate the masses? How about we break down the walls that separate the truth from mere speculation and downright underhandedness? The fitness professional has a supremely important role; she is part psychologist, part coach, part motivator, part empathetic companion. And this role is too often taken advantage of. There are countless individuals who honestly need the skills and assistance of a fitness professional. They should be able to receive fair, honest and above all successful service.
The individual must first understand their own limited knowledge. This is a substantial task. One must ask some tough questions and look hard for the answers. Sometimes they are not where expected. When athletes become intelligent exercisers and trainers are open to any and all praise and criticism we have a situation where real results can be achieved.
As trainers we have travelled (and are still travelling) a path of discovery and of continued learning. We are disillusioned with the state of the fitness industry and of the state of health and fitness in Australia (and indeed the world). It is obviously the case that the standard approach to health and fitness is flawed. For this reason we have become quite contrarian.
On the contrary
Our approach to fitness training is contrarian. We don’t follow the methods preached by the vast majority of fitness educators. We don’t subscribe to sports science concepts just because they worked in Communist Bulgaria or for some American Olympic athlete. In fact, we don’t follow anyone’s lead unless it makes perfect sense and has been validated empirically.
We’ve come to understand that common sense is too often wrong (or it simply doesn’t exist). What we are interested in is uncommon sense. We have found – through our own mistaken fitness training efforts of years past and current, constant testing and reviewing of our coaching practices – that a contrarian approach, one at odds with the majority, is in fact the correct choice.
The current fitness training industry is chasing its own tail, forever stuck in a loop that doesn’t not allow it grow, learn and adapt. This is its greatest flaw (followed a close second by the greed of the majority of providers). An entity of any type that does not grow, learn, adapt and develop is dying. It is locked in a state of entropy.
Following the common model of fitness training fits Einstein’s definition of insanity: continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result. Too many people fail to achieve results in their training due to the inappropriate approach offered by their gym or their trainer or the books and magazines that they read. This is a sad, sad state of affairs. The first part of our approach sees the definition of fitness (after all how can we expect to achieve something if we don’t know what it is?).
We follow the definition of fitness as described in the CrossFit Foundations Document. Firstly, we aim to improve the ten key areas of fitness: strength, speed, power, coordination, accuracy, stamina, balance, endurance, flexibility and agility. We extend this by looking at the individual and prescribing movements that are necessary to balance the body.
Our programming is but one part of our contrarian approach. We lift weights. We don’t run on treadmills. We use tools unseen in most other gyms – kettlebells, sandbags, tractor tyres, sledgehammers and more. We don’t have mirrors or anything else in the facility that will not promote real world health and fitness. Our contrarian approach to fitness training is not suited to everyone. We realise that people who are prepared to put in the effort will always reap the rewards. Therefore we are unashamed fitness elitists.
We are elitists but don’t hate us for it
We’re elitists. There we said it. It’s not that we don’t like you or other trainers or even other gyms. It’s not that we think we are better than anyone else. It’s just that, well, the fitness industry at present sucks. To not put too fine a point on it, it’s a complete shambles. Big box gyms follow business models that see them require thousands of members and a 20% attendance rate. We know of one gym that has 5,000 members and only sees 700 of them on a regular basis. In fact, it’s budgeted that way. We know of personal trainers that have no rationale for their training methods. We know trainers that market themselves as experts and they have completed a six-week correspondence course and have no experience at all. So, if our approach to fitness training ruffles a few feathers in the industry, we really don’t care.
Concerning our athletes and anyone else who wants to become one, we couldn’t be more welcoming. Our facility is not closed door. Anyone who wants to train with us can. You don’t have to be a freak to train with us (but if you want to become one then we can help). Our elitism extends only to our approach to fitness training. Our methodology has been developed with one end in mind: the development of unparalleled fitness in all individuals who want to achieve it. Simple.
We don’t entertain any ideas, programming, movements or equipment that does not fit with this goal. The ends don’t justify the means. The means bring about the ends. Results in the realm of health and fitness are directly proportional to effort. You truly reap what you sow. We don’t pussyfoot around this point. If you don’t put in, you won’t get results. If you want to sit on a machine and while the workout away that’s fine with us, just don’t complain when you’ve wasted your time and your money. If you think taking a 30 minute walk every day will get you fit then okay, you might get fit but not anywhere near our definition of fitness.
Let’s be clear, we are elite only in relation to the methods we use, the people that we train (intelligent exercisers) and the effort we expect of our athletes.
Let’s clear a few things upWe’ve admitted to being elitists but we are not exclusive. We don’t restrict access to our facility based on ability, experience or goals. Our approach itself restricts those who come to us for training. If you don’t like the way we do things then you’re best off somewhere else. That’s fine by us, we want you to be part of our community only if you want to be.
You don’t have to be fit before you start training at our facility.
Too many people have watched online videos of sub three-minute Fran workouts and think that they have to be insanely fit before they walk in the door. Wrong. If you are not fit now, we will get you fit fast and then you can start targeting the benchmark workouts. Thinking you need to go another gym to get fit before you train with us is like riding a push bike to get ready to jump on a Yamaha R1.
We won’t kill you.
The way we train puts your body under immense physical strain. The intensity, loads, movements and programming are all designed to elicit the most dramatic and rapid response possible. We make people very fit, very quickly. There is some risk involved. Some movements are complex. Some workouts are amazingly strenuous. Some people are ill during and after workouts.
But here’s the truth of the matter, only you can push yourself that hard. We don’t ever force anyone to do anything that they don’t want to do. If you wanted it easy you’d train somewhere else anyway. You will know all about the risks before you start training.
We will tell you about rhabdomyolysis (try find another group of trainers who have even heard of it). We will educate on you on correct technique before you even touch on intensity. Safety comes first, speed comes second.
It’s not random!
To the uninitiated and some of those who follow CrossFit via the web the method of our programming may seem completely random. There is certainly an element of randomness in our approach but we maintain an underlying matrix that defines 95% of our workouts. It is our own form of periodisation. We program workouts to elicit a broad and general response from the body. We aim to mimic natural movements and develop health and fitness that is applicable in the real world.
Strength and condition programs are suitable for women.
Nothing – we repeat NOTHING – could be further from the truth than thinking women should not do strength training. If you think that Curves or Contours or Aerobics classes are going to get you fit then you are – and we choose our words carefully – delusional.
Women are not second to men in their physical abilities, they should not shun intense exercise. The truth is a structured strength program might just be the best program for women. It has certainly changed the lives of thousands women all over the world. And don’t worry, you won’t get excessively muscular unless that is what you are training for (and you are genetically predisposed and possibly pharmaceutically supplemented).
[Please refer to Adam’s well respected article on women’s fitness.]
One thing that concerns us – among many – when we’re in a gym is why people are doing what they are doing. What is the rationale for the exercises they’ve chosen (or have been prescribed)? Why are they lifting that load for that many reps? Why are they using a Fit Ball? Why are they doing crunches? The list goes on and on. No doubt there are methods behind the madness, just as we’re sure people think that we are insane when we rotate at high speed from Olympic style lifts to pull-ups to the rower.
We are concerned on a number of levels. Firstly, we are concerned because many of the programs that people are following are complete unsuitable. Our biggest issue here is that often the programs are prescribed by fitness instructors who have no reason for picking exercise #1 in place of exercise #2. Often, the programs resemble a page from Men’s Fitness and we all know that those programs aren’t designed for the vast majority of the population. The problem here – well, one of the problems – is that the program is doomed to fail. Prescribing triceps pushdowns, bicep curls and seated leg presses aren’t going to do a whole lot for a person who is morbidly obese, has high blood pressure and doesn’t really like to exercise.
So, the clients who seek out the assistance of professionals end up deciding that it’s just not worth the trouble. We fitness professionals – and we include ourselves – really need to lift our game. Possibly worse than the doomed program is the prescription of movements that are entirely inappropriate for the individual concerned. The problem here – and it should be pretty obvious – is that these movements will most likely do more harm than good. So now we have programs that don’t produce results and also injure people. Yippee!
Here’s an example: Karen’s has lower back pain, it’s caused by the anterior tilt in her pelvis, she has weak glutes and tight hip flexors. Karen wants to lose a couple of kilos and has employed a trainer. Her trainer designs a basic program including leg extensions, seated leg presses and calf raises. These movements look harmless enough but they will all contribute to the dysfunction causing the back pain. The leg extensions and leg presses work the quadriceps (already dominant) and the calf raises tighten the calves and reduce ankle mobility (in turn affecting pelvic alignment). So, now Karen’s back pain is getting worse (and she’s not losing any weight to boot).
When you’re in the gym – and even when you’re not – it’s good practice to know why it is that you are doing something. If you have no idea why you’re doing it, then it’s just plain commonsense to stop and rethink things. We really wish fitness trainers would do more of this. Honestly, if we questioned 10 trainers, 7-8 would have no rationale behind their programming. The ratio would probably be higher for gym users who don’t have a trainer.
What’s the solution you may well ask. We think it’s pretty simple: take a bit of time and think. People seem to be doing less and less thinking these days. If you are employing a trainer then don’t for one second think they are above your questions. If you want to know why your trainer has you balancing on a Bosu ball, then ask. And if you are doing your own thing then really think about what you are doing. There are so many magazines and websites that publish training ideas these days that you could go to the gym twice a day for the rest of your life and still never try them all. But just because it’s in print doesn’t mean it’s right (Mein Kampf anyone?).
So, if you want results you really need to make sure that what you are doing is going to produce those results. The gym is no place for a scattergun approach. You have to be precise if you want to reach those goals. Choose your weapons wisely and you will reap the benefits of a well planned, well though-out program. Every workout we write, deliver and participate in follows a logical, rational approach.
We train for General Physical Preparedness (GPP). We don’t specialise. We won’t pretend that we are something we are not. We won’t make you the best triathlete ever. We won’t build you into the strongest person on the planet. We won’t make you win the 100m sprint at the Olympics. At this point, you are probably wondering what the hell we can do for you.
CrossFitters lay claim to being the fittest people on the planet. As a group it is hard to argue with this claim. Individually someone might think they are fitter than a CrossFit Firebreather, in this case there is always an open challenge to prove the point. If you think you’re fitter than someone like Jason Kahlipa then contact CrossFit HQ. Our approach to GPP and to our general training prescription follows a number of distinct principles, some of these are:
- First do no harm – it is imperative that our athletes do not undertake any movements that may exacerbate a pre-existing injury or condition. Our trainers are always fully aware of any issues that the athlete may bring to training. Assessing range of motion, posture, athletic ability, flexibility and level of fitness are all requirements of initial consultations and training sessions.
- Development of a solid base – initial training must develop a solid base for ongoing training. It is important that areas such as cardiovascular conditioning, strength development, coordination and balance are all considered when developing the initial program.
- Compound versus isolation – the majority of exercises utilised in any training session will be compound exercises. It is imperative that movements provide the most general benefit possible. It is for this reason that compound movements are chosen in preference to isolation movements.
An old CrossFit t-shirt said “Specialisation is for insects”. That really sums things up. We, in our lives, do not need to be specialists in the physical sense. An ability to do a wide range of tasks well ensures that we are best prepared for whatever challenges life throws at us. It is for this reason that many in the military and law enforcement community have converted to the CrossFit method.
Even athletes who require specialist training can benefit from a solid GPP base. When the level of underlying fitness is elite, specialisation for sports can be added to amazing effect. We have seen this with professional fighters, college athletes and even distance runners. Fitness training that is general allows our athletes and ourselves to excel at multiple physical challenges and deal with the daily requirements of our lives.
Your lungs feel like you’re breathing metal not oxygen and you can taste it on your tongue. Your insides feel like they’re on fire and you’re not sure whether you’re going to pass out or throw up. That’s what intensity feels like. Real intensity. The kind that burns an indelible mark on your soul. The kind that becomes your drug. That’s where the results lie.
The team at Firebrand Fitness have been around the fitness industry for more years than we care to count. We’ve seen – and often tried – just about even Men’s Fitness, three day split, HIIT training program ever developed and we’ve had more failures than successes. And the problem with all of these programs…they lack intensity, real intensity.
Take a look at the definition of intensity in any fitness course notes and it’s miles from the mark. Some talk about percentage of maximum heart rate and others about the load of lifts and none – well none that we’ve seen – talk about intensity in terms of how far you are prepared to push yourself to get the results that you want.
We train for life. We train for what we need our bodies to do every day. Some would say we are training for the apocalypse, perhaps we are. You see, by putting ourselves in a position of complete vulnerability where we’ve pushed ourselves past our preconceived limits we develop more than just physical fitness, we develop knowledge about ourselves. It’s a deep knowledge, one that you can only learn by tearing down the walls you’ve built for yourself and going all out, ‘balls to the wall’ as some might say. In training with extreme intensity we learn how far we can push ourselves mentally, physically and even spiritually.
We learn to depend on our own abilities and we learn to not question what we can do but to move forward positively. We are combating our fears. Every single time we step into the gym we know that it’s going hurt – and we mean hurt bad – and we do it anyway. We are not here to tell you that every other method of training sucks or that you can’t get fit doing yoga or Pilates or boxercise. It’s not our place to tell you what to do. What is true though is this: intensity equals results.
We challenge anyone to prove that you can achieve an elite level of fitness without intensity. No dancers, gymnasts, footballers or fighters ever succeeded by taking it easy. Do you think you train hard? Maybe you do. We can’t say otherwise unless we watch you train. The only way you know if you are training at your limits is to measure your results and to honestly assess whether you had more to give during any workout. Can you honestly say that you left everything in the gym?
We challenge ourselves and our clients to never accept mediocrity in training. We expect total dedication to goals and to results. We don’t care how many whiz-bang machines you’ve got at your facility. We don’t care if you’ve got twenty letters after your name. We don’t care if you learned your skills in communist Bulgaria. All that matters is hard work. There is no substitute for it and all the BS you can read in magazines will never beat just turning up a working your ass off.
Remember intensity is relative to your ability, level of fitness, current condition and a lot of other factors. Intensity brings about great results but at all times it must be applied sensibly.
A sense of belonging
Humans, we all want to belong. We all want to be part of something; perhaps something bigger than ourselves. Some of us join churches, clubs and sports teams. Some of us meet friends for games of golf or poker. Some of us join gyms. Some of us find we belong in uncommon places. We don’t want to be numbers. We don’t want to be nameless, lost in a sea of other nameless faces. We want a sense of belonging, we want in. We want to interact. To find people who are likeminded. We want to converse; to learn; to understand; to open our eyes and broaden our horizons. Most of us have been to gyms, clubs, societies where after a short period of love and attention we get pushed aside and forgotten.
Familiarity most certainly does breed contempt. (We hope to never fall into this trap.) Community is the core of our operation. Sure, we’re fitness trainers but more than that we are a community of fitness fanatics. We have come together to forge ahead into the realm of elite fitness. We strive for virtuosity; for excellence. We train together, for ourselves, for each other. We grow together, with and through our shared pain, effort and sacrifice. We share the rewards too.
Beyond the programming and the movements is the community. The sense of camaraderie, continued encouragement and, indeed, competition pushes us (and our athletes) to new heights. We succeed at a faster pace through the interaction with other athletes at our facility. This sense of belonging extends beyond the workouts. We encourage our athletes to get to know each other, to form social bonds, to network, to help each other and this further strengthens what we do and who we are. We might have to start charging some of our athletes rent soon. They tend to be here all the time. (But seriously, we wouldn’t change a thing.)
Our athletes – we call everyone who trains with us athletes – all fit somewhere on our ‘athlete continuum’ . The continuum includes people from all walks of life, from various backgrounds, varied occupations, varied beliefs and values. People train with us for one reason: to get fit – really fit. However, their underlying motivation sits somewhere on our continuum.
Three words best describe each position along the continuum. No one position is any better than another. They are merely the point where an athlete is right now. They might move one way or another sometime in the future. The three points along the continuum are: Fun, Fitness, Fanaticism.
We find that our athletes may start training with us at any point along the continuum but when we start fiddling with statistics we find that the distribution of our athletes is a neat bell curve. We have some athletes who train with us for fun, just to have a good time (a very twisted good time). We have some who are certified CrossFit fanatics, they give it all for their results, they just about live at the facility. However, most of our athletes fit under the Fitness position, they train for more than just fun, they want great results, but they aren’t drinking the Kool-aid just yet. We don’t really care where our athletes lie along the continuum.
We don’t discriminate. All we care about is that they show up, give it their all while they’re training and get results. If they don’t get results then we are doing something wrong. Period. We have noticed a trend of late. There is a slow creep towards the Fanaticism position. The bell curve is becoming distorted. It seems that once the training gets into your blood Fun just isn’t enough, and that once you’ve been training for Fitness for a while you need more and the only way to get it is to become a Fanatic. This seems to be true of those who started for Fun. After some time in our community they decide that they have to train more often and their focus becomes Fitness.
\Sol’i*dar”i*ty\, noun [F. solidarit[‘e], fr. solide.] An entire union or consolidation of interests and responsibilities; fellowship; community. Our community of fitness enthusiasts, intelligent exercisers and fanatics continues to grow. We merely give it a place to exist. It is our athletes who nurture it. As previously identified, our community is the backbone of our success. Our athletes enjoy the encouragement and camaraderie and reap the rewards of improved fitness and self-confidence as a group and as individuals. Interested? Get started.