In the current strongman pantheon, a star probably doesn’t shine any brighter than Mitchell Hooper. The Canadian athlete is the reigning World’s Strongest Man (WSM) champion and has firmly established his overall dominance atop the sport of strongman. As a versatile athlete, Hooper is clearly also willing to flex his fitness knowledge. He posted this one day after the conclusion of the 2023 CrossFit Games.
On August 7, 2023, Hooper posted a video to his YouTube channel where he performed a mix of strongman and CrossFit exercises. It appears to be a round-up of clips from previous videos that have appeared on Hooper’s channel. In the process, the athlete discussed the distinction between the two different athletic disciplines. The video is overlayed with Hooper walking in an undisclosed neighborhood, narrating his included workouts while sharing his thoughts. The narrated conversation takes place throughout the clip.
Over the course of his various workout clips, Hooper seemingly leaves no stone unturned. Highlights included him performing variations of high-rep log presses, clean & jerks, muscle-ups on a pull-up bar, jump rope, running on a treadmill, and classic back squats.
In the end, Hooper used a familiar argument against strongman’s effects on one’s health as it relates to CrossFit. Hooper particularly highlighted the unique tests of elite competition.
“The big challenge with CrossFit is that you take what the pros do, and it’s sort of the same argument as, ‘Strongman’s not good for your health,’ which, of course it’s not … because you’re pushing your body past what it’s capable of and, in the end, sometimes that causes you to break down. And CrossFit’s the same way.
When you look at how CrossFit Games are planned, often times when you’re dealing with the best in the world, you’re going to program things in a way that make it particularly challenging on the body. Let’s say you do a squat into a deadlift into a clean. That is massively challenging on the posterior chain and your back is going to blow up. But that’s the goal. When you’re at a competition and you’re at the professional level, that’s what you should be doing.”
At the local, non-professional level, Hooper condensed his argument in a manner more accessible for less experienced athletes and recreational lifters who don’t plan to shine at the Games. How athletes use CrossFit to get fit can vary greatly from person to person, with everyone having different goals and needs.
“The biggest difficulty [at the local level] is that every CrossFit box is sort of up to the person who runs it. Do you want to follow that style of programming? Do you want to follow it more holistic? And in the end, CrossFit has a whole bunch of fundamental movement patterns that they believe are fundamental skills, that they believe encompass fitness.
I think the only time you get into a challenge, and why people often hate on CrossFit and call it ‘stupid,’ is when you do something like a high-rep clean & jerk with someone who’s not proficient at doing the clean & jerk in the first place … that becomes really dangerous because your strength level and skill level have such a discrepancy.”
It is that discrepancy that Hooper says creates a conflict for CrossFitters of all experience levels. Per Hooper, it’s here that a coach should become a significant priority.
“So, that’s what happens with CrossFit. Even if you’re not particularly strong, that zero skill is going to have to be balanced out with some sort of strength. So you’re automatically stronger than your skill allows you to be. And that’s where a really smart and really good coach is going to help you get there.”
Perhaps few other people could explain the challenges and drawbacks of CrossFit as eloquently as Hooper. His rationale as an elite strength sports athlete makes sense and is one any prospective CrossFitter should heed.
Featured image: Mitchell Hooper on YouTube