What Do We Know?

By Tony Leyland

In Rest Day/Theory

November 01, 2006

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When Coach Glassman asked me to write for the CrossFit Journal on the science behind CrossFit methodology, I thought that the first thing I should do is discuss the term "science" and some important related concepts.

Science in the broadest sense refers to any system of knowledge attained by verifiable means. A central concept in science and the scientific method is that all evidence must be empirical--that is, it must be based on evidence that is observable by the senses. CrossFit trainers and athletes can certainly observe and measure the response to CrossFit training, but there are few other similarly intense training protocols that we can compare results with. Without this comparison it is difficult to scientifically validate CrossFit methodology. The Canadian military has done that, comparing CrossFit methods with conventional physical training methods (CrossFit Journal issue 41), but more such studies are needed.

The basis of the scientific method is that researchers propose specific hypotheses as explanations of natural phenomena and then design experimental studies to test these predictions for accuracy. But scientists cannot perform experimental studies on humans. In an experimental study all variables are kept constant except the variable of interest. You can do this in chemistry, for example, where everything in a number of solutions is identical except the one element under study. However, it is impossible to do in human populations.

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