Is CrossFit HQ Trolling You?

Patrick McCarty


Loveland, Ohio, United States

CrossFit, Mature Athletes


Recently, the CrossFit Games social media department reposted this video of Brooke Wells’ 345lb back squat double. Nice work, Brooke.


A twenty-year year old wunderkind, Brooke took the functional fitness world by storm last year when she was drafted by the Miami Surge GRID team. She went on to dominate the 2015 CrossFit Central Regional, taking first place on the podium and punching her ticket to the CrossFit Games. She followed this with a successful career in the GRID regular season, providing much of the strength and power needed on the female side of the team.



There is no doubt she is a tremendous athlete.


Watch the video. The video has been removed.  It showed Brooke’s knees caving in. The subsequent outcry was deafening. But there is a lot wrong with this post, and none of it has to with her knees.


Haters Gonna Hate

Let’s address the commenters. The so-called haters, or, as Jon Oliver has put it in the past, “Good evening, monsters…” (Watch the whole video or skip to 13:00. Oliver is amazing.)


Context is helpful when critiquing form online. Sometimes, that context is a request for critiques - the “Hey guys, what am I doing wrong here?” posts. Or in the larger sense, CrossFit has its own message board with threads devoted to sharing videos inviting critique. That’s when it is okay to chime in.


But this is not a video of some novice athlete at a random box. Brooke is a solid enough athlete to have won Central Regional. Won it. It’s fairly safe to assume she has squatted thousands of reps and hundreds of thousands of pounds. It’s also safe to assume she has a coach to address any form critiques. Brooke Wells does not need any of us to offer coaching tips via social media, thanks very much.



CrossFit Social Media Is at It Again

I have long taken issue with CrossFit’s social media team, because I know how they operate. They post as much potentially inflammatory stuff as they can to get the biggest reaction. They also use social media to humiliate at times. If you think I am making this up, read this. It’s why CrossFit HQ posts asses, dead bears, bloody animals being hoisted overhead, and their own athletes falling over bars. Trust me folks – CrossFit HQ saw the knees, and they knew damn well what would ensue.


"If you think this video was posted because of the impressiveness of the 345lb double, you are naïve."

So, like a sacrificial lamb, Brooke Wells was offered up on the altar of CrossFit’s great snigger-fest. They didn’t bother to repost Well’s 200lb snatch from the blocks or her 210lb snatch from the floor. These are amazing achievements, but they are hardly controversial. Rather than celebrate a 210lb snatch (think about how impressive that is for a second), CrossFit HQ would rather humiliate. If you think this video was posted because of the impressiveness of the 345lb double, you are naïve.


Falling Victim to the Troll

Like any marketing team, posting the most compelling, interesting, or sharable content is key. CrossFit’s media team is not going to post a picture of a brand new 20lb wall ball and hope that it gets even a like. No, clicks and shares are everything. This is how CFHQ approaches social media. Sometimes it’s laudable, as in the case of an elderly cancer survivor getting his or her first pull up. Other times, it’s blatant trolling, like the string of dead ‘gator pics from a few years back.



I wonder why we continue to fall for this particular troll. It would seem logical to step back and say, “I know what they are doing there – they are trying to drag me into a fight.” But before long, hundreds of people had posted, “OMG those valgus knees!!” and “Good luck with your ACL surgery.” And hundreds of other people shouted back, “Shut your mouth, you armchair coaches! When you can lift 345 then you can comment!” Our friends at CrossFit sit back and smile, because we’ve taken their bait.


Brooke took the functional fitness world by storm last year.

Brooke Wells does not need any of us to offer coaching tips via social media, thanks very much.


Them Knees, Tho...

I almost never comment on someone’s form. I don’t even do it in the gym where I train, unless I am asked. Giving unsolicited coaching advice is like giving liver to an eight-year-old. They don’t want it, they didn’t ask for it, and they will never ever consume it. They will shove it under the mashed potatoes until you aren’t looking, then feed it to the dog. (Sorry mom.)



In any case, there is conflicting evidence as to the harm done in a knee valgus response. Here are some resources for you to look at:



Let’s face it. Most of us shout, “Knees out!” because we’re taught to do so, without any real biomechanical knowledge as to why. Of course, in novice lifters, knees tracking over feet is a fundamental cue. However, as lifters gain strength, experience, and power, there are multiple schools of thought as to the best mechanical response coming up out of a squat. Femur length, quad strength, and hip flexibility all play a role in shaping the direction of the knees in the ascent. 


There is a good deal of support for what Contreras describes as a “valgus twitch” – knees caving slightly on the initiation of the lift before returning to neutral. On max efforts, you will often see the knees do this. Just watch the top lifters in any high-level weightlifting meet, and you will see knees moving inwards in intense effort to make the lift.


“But Pat,” you may say. “Brooke’s knees are way more than a slight twitch.” Maybe. But that’s not my problem, nor is it yours. The proper response? “Awesome job on the 345lb double.” 


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Photo courtesy of CrossFit.

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