My article “Elite Athletes who do CrossFit” has generated much misunderstanding and attention. Let me set the record straight: The list isn’t exhaustive – many other elite athletes do CrossFit. And we’re not claiming the elite athletes ONLY train with CrossFit, but rather that they use it as part of their training to improve their general physical preparedness.
For example, the first game of the World Series kicks off tonight between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals. And one of the Royals’ most valuable players is pitcher Wade Davis.
In 2013 Tampa Bay traded Davis to Kansas city. His 2013 season was “awful”: 8-11 record and 5.32 earned run average (ERA).
But in 2014 the pitcher was nearly magical, recording a 9-2 record and 1.00 ERA. Bob Lutz reports that Davis hasn’t “even allowed a hit in 47 of his 79 appearances.”
One difference was that the Royals moved him from starting pitcher to the bullpen. But pitching in later innings isn’t the whole story.
Davis’ “average fastball velocity this year was 95.7 miles per hour — more than 2 mph higher than any of his previous major-league seasons.” How did a 29-year-old pitcher drafted 10 years ago add over 2 miles per hour to his fastball?
He trained at CrossFit One Love in Montgomery, New York. CrossFit One Love reports that Davis, “has been training with us over the past 2 off/preseasons.” And they report that, training at CrossFit One Love, Davis “dramatically increased his overall strength including 25% increases in his squat and deadlift and 10mph on the mound!”
But was it really just the switch to the bullpen that made the difference? Davis doesn’t think so – he thinks it was the training. In the Spring, he threw the “best I’ve ever thrown a baseball in my life. I was throwing the ball at 70, 80 percent effort, and it was going 94, 95 mph … I’m not a velocity guy, but I’ve never thrown 94, 95 until August.”
Could it be that fundamental, functional movements translate to sports specific performance? And do pro athletes really have that much room to improve in their general physical preparedness? Davis thinks so.
“It got to a point where after a month or two of doing it I started feeling a difference in everything I did — the way I walked up stairs, everything started feeling better because I was getting stronger and faster than I ever had been in my life … The first time I started throwing bullpens I could tell the difference then … Just in my delivery and everything.”
Davis’ improved power won’t come as a surprise to many CrossFitters, but it may surprise other baseball players. The myth of the musclebound athlete still scares some from working hard in the weight room. Even Davis was “worried about the effect of heightened weight training on his joints, but those subsided when he didn’t lose flexibility.”
For now, other pitchers’ ignorance is Davis’ competitive advantage. But, it won’t be long until more pro athletes follow his example and apply what Greg Glassman first noted in 2008,
Every athlete we’ve worked with, from Olympic medalists, to UFC legends, has some glaring chink in his/her GPP, and it takes, at most two hours, two sessions, on average to find these chinks
Fixing these chinks, these deficiencies, has immediate benefit within your sport and very often in ways not quite obvious mechanically and perhaps metabolically. For instance, more pull-ups makes for better skiing and skiers.