“How to Not Fucking Kill Your Clients”

I tried, I swear, but I simply can’t hold my tongue anymore.

I have been a CrossFit affiliate owner for roughly seven years. I’m so O.G. that Greg Glassman called me the day after I affiliated, and talked to me for hours about how to run my affiliate. Google him if you don’t know the name, and if you’re a coach or affiliate owner—slap the shit out of yourself if you have to. At the time I affiliated I believe we were one of the first fifty affiliates in the world. If you do the math (which I did), we’ve had clients perform roughly 218,400 workouts since the day we opened (100 people a day, 6 days a week, for 7 years). Yes, this is a very rough estimate, but you get the point. Out of those 200,000ish workouts, we’ve had exactly ZERO cases of rhabdo. Yes, I’m currently knocking on a very large piece of wood.

I felt compelled to write about this “national controversy” for two reasons: 

1) I hadn’t even heard about the “dirty little secret” until yesterday. Now that I have, I’m realizing that people are talking about rhabdo like it’s a venereal disease you can catch by doing a “WOD” without protection. 

2) I was alerted to the dangers lurking in my OWN GYM by my dear, sweet seventy-four year old mother. How did she hear about the monstrous affliction that could befall my poor, unsuspecting clients? The fucking Facebook. Thankfully she read Eric Rosenstock’s article yesterday, and her fears for her son’s safety were assuaged.

When athletes, affiliate owners, and other coaches alert me to something related to our little exercise world, it’s no biggie. But when clients from my gym tell me their parents are sending them an article, and begging them to stop before they “catch rhabdo”, then we have a problem on our hands. I cannot imagine how many other mommas, just like mine, the evil Mr. Robertson has scared.

I believe enough has been shared about the likelihood of “contracting” rhabdo, and it’s side effects. I believe the greater issue—which hasn’t really been discussed—and is far more important than anything else related to the debate, is how coaches, as programmers, can take measures to avoid being the next affiliate who gets flambéed by some douche writer. So here it is… My number one suggestion for how you can make sure you don’t fucking kill your clients.


You would think that at this point—with eight-billion affiliates around the world, and a million rhabdo articles—that people would pick up on a theme. YOU’RE THE REASON PEOPLE “CATCH RHABDO”. It’s not coincidence that every story involving every case of rhabdo, has a common theme… Hundreds of pull-ups, or hundreds of push-ups, or hundreds of GHD sit-ups, or hundreds of whatever.
If you’re writing workouts with no regard for rep range, or taking into account what effect high reps will have on the localized muscle groups which are targeted—it may be time to turn the programming duties for your gym over to someone who has a better understanding of strength and conditioning, like your dog.
Why, IN THE FUCK, is it necessary to write a workout with hundreds of anything? Are 400 push-ups going to help your clients reach the general fitness, and overall well-being they crave? Massive amounts of pull-ups (especially with a pronounced slowing of the negative, which is usually a result of fatigue), and push-ups, target the extensors and contractors of the arms. These extensors and contractors are tiny in comparison to the primary movers of the lower body, and due to the ability to recruit the hips (I.E. Kipping), these relatively tiny muscle groups can be pushed well beyond their fatigue threshold.
Here’s another thing you may have never thought of… Extremely high rep workouts lead to massive amounts of DOMS. When people are really sore, they don’t want to work out. Also, DOMS generally leads to diminished performance. So, again, why are these workouts necessary?

At Outlaw HQ we very rarely go over 25 reps on any movement. If we do it is generally something like Double-Unders, or Burpees (which do utilize the arm extensors, but are a full body movement, with much longer rest intervals between each “push-up” rep). Also, we have a time cap on every workout, every day. It’s always twenty minutes, and every workout stops at that point. We do this to increase overall intensity, and to make sure that people who are not ready to do massive amounts of reps, simply don’t.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: assume everyone will get rhabdo, and assume that you are going to give it to them. Why? Because they are stupid and so are you. They are stupid because they will listen to coaches who tell them to do a ridiculous amount of push-ups. You are stupid because you think 500 push-ups will make someone “fitter”.
Good news: the “dirty secret” article got CF a lot of press.
Bad news: the press was bad, especially for affiliate owners like me.

At least it’s an easy fix… Stop writing stupid workouts—stop giving people rhabdo. If not for the good of mankind, then do it for the poor mothers of the world. Haven’t we made them worry enough?

Photo courtesy of Russ Greene (he’s “the Russ” that wasn’t on TV).

WOD 130928:


1) 15 minutes to establish a 1RM Snatch

2) 15 minutes to establish a 1RM Clean & Jerk


15 minutes to establish a 3RM Front Squat


3 rounds for time of:

250 Push-ups
Run 400m
8 Bar Muscle-Ups
16 OHS 135/95#

*Note: The strike through on the 250 push-ups denotes a joke. DO NOT do them.

38 thoughts on “130928

    • Laughed even harder at the note!!! After all of Rudy’s comments I hope no one would have really done them, note or not!!!

  1. this is exactly why i don’t train at the ONLY CF gym in my town and workout in my garage. by myself. love it!

  2. “*Note: The strike through on the 250 push-ups denotes a joke. DO NOT do them.”

    I hope this was not really necessary!!!

  3. Thanks Coach.

    Just made the move to Hong Kong – opening our new box very soon, anyone following The Way!?

    New move made for a bad day:

    1. 260
    2. 313

    FS: 330

    15:50, rings.

  4. 27/77kg/5’9″/M/CenEast

    2/2/5 – both biceps are hurting right near the elbow…not a joke.

    1RM Snatch: 165# (-10# PR). Got under 175 and 180 (got pissed) but lost both forward

    1RM C&J: 215# (-20# PR) Arms/Shoulders felt blown out from this week.

    3RM FS: Did 265# once, music stopped. Racked bar, fixed music, did two more reps and literally prairie dogged. First time I ever thought I was going to sh!t myself.

    Conditioning: 16:33 Not Rx. Dropped OHS down to 95# with the way I was feeling. Runs were easy, broke bar MUs into 4/4, but the OHS killed me…

  5. M/17/160#

    BBG: Couldn’t workout at the school so no drop weights. Just did doubles up to 90%.
    1) 165#
    2) 205#

    1) 225#

    Conditioning: Done.

  6. morning
    snatch 196 (9#off PR)
    c+j 257 (7#PR)
    fran 3:21 (36 sec PR from april)
    front squat 3×320 (matched PR)
    con 16:03

  7. 1) 170 (-10)
    2) 230 (-5) cleaned 240 and missed jerk)
    3) 235 (-15)
    cond: NO TIME! Pissed, looks like a fun piece so I may try to squeeze it in somewhere this week

  8. Snatch: 165, 170 failed 2x – so pissed at missing these
    C&J: 205 -20, demoralized after snatches
    Cond: 18.11 (ring mu, ohs @ 115)

    I have to do MUs individually due to low ceilings in my garage. Each starts from dead hang with knees fully bent to be off the ground.

    You guys and gals doing RX at 10min are just awesome.

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  11. BBG:
    1) 235# (PR – PVC pass through’d 245# a couple times)
    2) 315# (PR – missed the jerk at 325#)

    Strength: Skipped

    Conditioning: 15:29 Rx (ripped hands = singles on bar MUs)

  12. Interesting and timely article given the amount of news circulating about rhabdo in the last six weeks and the fact that I was a victim of Crossfit’s “dirty little secret” during the same time period.

    Six weeks ago, I did “Angie.” I have done the work out several times in the past and never got rhabdo. On this occasion, I got it. The next day I couldn’t move my arms; my urine was a “maple syrup color” – no joke. I finally checked into the hospital and they confirmed rhabdomyolysis as my condition as my CPK’s were north of 32,000.

    I had no clue how serious my condition was especially given the fact that I have one kidney. They kept me overnight and pumped me with saline to bring my CPK levels down. A few days letter, I noticed significant swelling in my stomach – which was pretty scary – and there were times I was experiencing dizziness and feeling lightheaded.

    I am still a big believer in Crossfit and anxious to get back to working out consistently. However, the experience has left me “cautious” on how approach our WODs. Even though I feel back to normal, I am not sure what internal damage has been done.

    Great honest and candid article and love the mention of doing 250 push-ups!

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  14. BBG 1) N/A. Did some reps at 135#.
    BBG 2) 230#, matches PR.
    Strength – N/A
    Cond – 12 OHS/round & ring MU, 24:03

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