Established in 2014, the NPGL (National Pro Grid League) is a new functional fitness sport following in the footsteps of Crossfit and other established functional training programs. The big question on everyone’s mind is, can the newly created NPGL compete with the now established juggernaut known as Crossfit? While there are a lot of similarities between Crossfit and GRID, there are more differences between the two than you might think at first glance. Those differences give GRID an advantage over Crossfit, and in many ways GRID improves on the functional fitness training formula. Here are three reasons why.
GRID is More Strength Oriented
Crossfit and GRID both place an emphasis on demonstrating strength over a longer duration of time than lets say powerlifting, but when it comes to GRID, the endurance aspect is much more limited than it is in Crossfit. Crossfit often has endurance metcons (metabolic conditioning workouts) which last 30+ minutes, such as Murph (for time – 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, 1 mile run) which do little, if anything, for developing maximal power output. When it comes to the typical shorter Crossfit WOD, strength and technique will determine the time or amount of reps you achieve, not metabolic conditioning. For example, a person who can squat 405 will have an easier time performing Rich Froning’s Bring Sally Up squat challenge than someone who can only squat 225, both using the same weight of course.
I bet those who struggled near the end have a lower 1RM back squat than those who didn’t
Any Crossfit workout or event lasting over 2 minutes can be classified as a metcon, which is essentially endurance training, and longer metcons are the standard for Crossfit. One to two minutes is about when aerobic (endurance) energy pathway begins to take over for anaerobic (power) energy pathways, so if the goal is to primarily train and improve strength and power output, a WOD for an athlete should last no more than 2 minutes.
GRID, due to it’s very format, is very fast paced, with events usually lasting no longer than 6-7 minutes. Additionally, during each race, the coach on each team can and will substitute out athletes who are starting to fatigue with fresher athletes. With this substitution rule in place, developers of the different GRID match formats keep the races strength and skill based rather than endurance based in order to keep the race times short and action packed. This skill and strength bias in the races is clear when you watch a GRID match, especially when the athletes make it to the fourth grid, where the heaviest movement is usually placed (such as a 2 rep clean and jerk). It is very rare to see an athlete complete more than two grids out of the four by themselves before subbing out.
GRID is not a Fitness Ideology
GRID is based on the concept of functional fitness, but GRID itself is not a training method. Crossfit promotes itself first as a training method based on the concept that constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity will optimize your fitness. The problem with Crossfit though begins with the WOD (workout of the day). If you base your training just off of the daily Crossfit WOD, the varied day to day workouts lend themselves to no specific skill and strength adaptations. Effective strength training and repetitive practice of the movements utilized in the WOD’s will increase the performance of an athlete, not the variable WODs themselves. Luckily, many Crossfit boxes have realized this and now prescribe strength and mobility work alongside the daily WOD, but with all the movements that Crossfit and GRID employ, It still is not enough to attain any meaningful skill mastery unless you train outside of the conventional Crossfit model.
To prove this point are the top athletes who compete in GRID and Crossfit. The top athletes of both of these sports do not train solely using a WOD structure. Instead, their workouts are very strength and skill specific, utilizing concepts such as progressive overload and periodization, with an occasional WOD thrown in to keep endurance up.
Additionally, some of the top GRID athletes currently, such as Sam Dancer, Danny Nichols, and Taylar Stallings, come from athletic backgrounds which heavily emphasized strength. In the case of Sam Dancer and Danny Nichols, they both played collegiate football, transitioning to strength oriented training afterwards, and first a track and field star, afterwards Taylar Stallings transitioned easily into an elite powerlifting career before turning to GRID.
These GRID athletes demonstrate that you don’t need to exclusively train varied functional movements at a high intensity in WODs to excel in competitions which are themselves varied functional movements performed at a high intensity.
GRID is not concerned with how you train. GRID is only concerned that the athletes competing are as competitive as possible. However success on the GRID is achieved does not matter.
With Crossfit, even though most of the top Crossfit athletes do not train primarily with WOD’s, Crossfit HQ likes to pretend that it is their special training system that produces the extraordinary athletes we see at the Crossfit games every year. For new, impressionable people discovering Crossfit, this is very misleading, and ultimately can negatively impact their goals to achieve “elite fitness”.
GRID is more Fun to Watch
As with any sport, the main reason to watch is because it is fun to do so. Between the fast paced events, constant substitutions, technically challenging movements, heavy weights, talented athletes, close finishes, and close referee decisions, GRID keeps you on your toes for the entirety of a match, which lasts about 2 hours. Other strength sports are entertaining to watch as well, but Crossfit hasn’t seemed to perfect the formula yet, as individual Crossfit events are just too long to keep attention to a maximum. With GRID, after watching races 1 through 10, if it all comes down to the final sprint relay to see who will win, it can be thrilling to watch the final outcome.
Even though Crossfit has some events based off of WODs which are very similar to some of the GRID races, Crossfit overall usually employs longer metcons for events which can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes to complete. Personally, I don’t find a one mile run, or a 1000 m row exciting to watch, and that’s usually only the first part of a Crossfit event. GRID dumps everything which is boring and instead delivers nonstop action.
Now THIS is exciting to watch!
GRID is also an interesting sport to watch because it often pits men and women against each other on the same movements at the same weights. Crossfit has team competitions, but rarely will you see men and women compete against each other equally. In GRID, it is not only frequent but the norm.
GRID has a strong team strategy aspect built into it which is as of now is lacking in Crossfit, especially since Crossfit is a distinctively individual sport. GRID coaches can substitute athletes at any time, focus on perfecting team dynamics, and they can also throw bonus point and challenge flags, adding strategy to a genre of sport (i.e. functional fitness) which had remained strategy-less until GRID was first introduced.
Will GRID Supplant Crossfit?
While their are a lot of differences between Crossfit and GRID, at the end of the day, the community behind both sports is the functional fitness community, and the functional fitness community so far has embraced both sports happily. GRID has undeniably taken a lot of cues from the Crossfit model and further refined it. let’s see if Crossfit will turn around and do the same.
GO FORTH AND CONQUER
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