“Athlete’s needs vary by degree not by kind.” This is one of CrossFit’s core tenets. Everyone should be doing the same types of things in the gym and modifying the intensity according to their specific ability levels.
I agree with this statement to a certain extent.
Yes, for your average gym goer (if you must refer to them as an athlete), a jack of all trades approach to fitness works. You should incorporate a blend of heavy lifting, speed, agility, endurance, and stamina work. The 70 year old looking to improve his quality of life can train alongside the 25 year old weekend warrior with some modifications in weight lifted and plyometric movements.
However, this approach to fitness falls short when training for a specific event or sport. You simply cannot use an all-around fitness approach and expect to perform at peak capacity without a certain amount of specialization.
Take for example a marathon runner. Not an “I just want to finish” marathon runner, but someone who is actually in the mix. Let’s say top 10% overall. Would this person benefit from a targeting running and strength program designed to peak around their next marathon, or a CrossFit style general fitness program?
The obvious answer is that you have to specialize in order to compete at a high level in any sport. Attempting to be sort of good at everything (but REALLY good at nothing) is not going to keep someone in the top 10% marathon category.
I’ve had this argument before with folks who are convinced that if football players only did CrossFit they would excel at their sport. That’s not really true. Football players have a very specific skill set require to be successful in their sport. While utilizing CrossFit methods may certainly be helpful, a true CrossFit “Get good at everything” program will ultimately be detrimental to their football career.
The flip side is specializing your program will probably not give you the most well rounded fitness. That’s something that may need to be taken into consideration when deciding to specialize. You will likely see a drop off in other aspects of your fitness. In our initial example, I doubt that our marathoner would be a very good Olympic lifter, but that’s not something that is needed to stay on top of his chosen sport.
The bottom line is that specializing shouldn’t be considered taboo, in fact I would highly encourage it for those looking to be competitive in any sport or event. You simply cannot train for everything and expect to be good at one thing. General preparedness is great for developing and maintaining general fitness, but it’s not ideal to be competitive.