Comparing Movnat® to Crossfit

I am often asked why I practice Movnat instead of Crossfit because most people haven’t yet heard about Movnat. When I describe what Movnat is, they think of Crossfit—since they know or have heard about it—which seems to them to be the most challenging and beneficial fitness method when you want to become or stay amazingly fit.

At this point in the conversation, I have to say that I believe Movnat is vastly superior to Crossfit, but it isn’t easy explaining why in a short discussion. In this post, I will describe it in more details.

Movnat is better for your Health

Crossfit is often seen as a great training method to improve general health levels. It’s marketed as functional fitness covering a wide variety of movements and the intensity of most workouts is seen as improving general metabolic conditioning. Compared to other general fitness methods, Crossfit covers a wider range with gymnastic skills mixed with olympic lifting, calisthenics, and many other moves.

That is all true in my view, but so is the fact that Movnat covers a much wider and varied repertoire of movements. Movnat covers all Crossfit skills that are truly functional. However it adds many more skills that bring a lot of health benefits like balancing, which doesn’t even exist in Crossfit. More importantly, the whole repertoire of moves within Movnat is explicitly designed to maximize health outcomes for practitioners. No so with Crossfit.

Handstands for example are not trained by themselves in Movnat as they don’t provide specific health outcomes not already present through other moves. Nor are they providing any practical, mental or physical capabilities. They can be fun and many people train them even if Movnat is their primary method of training, but they don’t have to be incorporated. This reasoning is not limited to handstands.

On the other hand, balancing and crawling, as well as jumping and climbing in much more varied ways than just plyo box jumps and pull-ups / muscle-ups do provide you with specific health benefits not present in Crossfit.

Another key distinction health-wise is that Crossfit is all about the daily (or near-daily) workout in the gym whereas Movnat is not only about your workouts, guided or not, but also about your lifestyle. Movnat will make you incorporate more movement in your daily life outside of the structured workouts, which of course leads to more exercise over time and so to improved health outcomes.

So if improving or maintaining your health is your primary motivation to train, you’re much better off picking Movnat over Crossfit. Movnat provides you all the moves you need to optimize your health with nothing superfluous. You can read more about this here.

Movnat is better if you have a busy lifestyle

Crossfit relies on specialized fitness equipment such as barbells, squat racks, gymnastic rings, standard pull-up bars, etc… Unless you’re lucky enough to have a well equipped home gym, you will have to travel to a Crossfit gym to train Crossfit. Most Crossfit gyms will also require you to attend classes, so you have to be at a specific place at a specific time. There are some ways around this, for sure, but they’re all substandard if you really want to adhere to the Crossfit method.

Movnat on the other hand emphasizes training in as many different environments as possible, without requiring any specific equipment. At first, and while you develop proficiency in the basic techniques, you are encouraged to train in a controlled gym-like environment with dedicated equipment and close supervision and guidance. But the medium to long term goal is to incorporate a dose of training outdoors in less controlled environments. Natural is the ideal but even the urban outdoors definitely make it more challenging than the indoor and controlled environment of the gym.

What this also means is that once you’ve learnt your first few techniques and are confident about them in the gym, you can practice them anywhere outside. Any grassy areas will be great to practice ground movements and jumping, anything above the ground can be used to hang from, you can lift any weight you have (books, suitcase when traveling, kids, etc.) or can find (rocks, logs, etc.).

It does take learning and you may need to be guided by Movnat Certified Trainers, but the goal is certainly to get you autonomous so you can train moves on your own outside while learning new techniques in the gym. You’re then able to literally train very efficiently anytime, anywhere, indoors or outdoors, at home and traveling. Crossfit will keep you confined to the Crossfit gym even as you develop into an exceptionally skilled Crossfitter.

Movnat is better if you have kids

This post goes into the details of what makes Movnat the perfect fitness practice if you have kids but there are two main reasons for that:

  • you can practice Movnat with your kids around, which makes it easier to increase your training volume
  • and because of that you are creating a very beneficial habit of frequent and varied physical activity in your kids, which will be a lifelong advantage for them

The gym environment in a typical Crossfit box is not an environment where you would naturally bring kids except for a kids class of their own. They would probably be bored quickly if all they do is watch you do Crossfit moves and, left unsupervised, the gym would be quite dangerous for them if they start to wander around.

Movnat on the other hand is practiced without dangerous gym equipment (except for the lifting portions) so you can generally practice it with your kids around. This can be indoors at your home if you’re a beginner still focusing on ground movements or outdoors while they play next to you. You also get the benefit of training wherever you have to be for your kids: playgrounds while they play, anywhere you have to wait for them to finish another activity, etc.. The result is that you have many more occasions to train if you include all the times you simply have to be with your kids.

But there is another benefit, even more important, for your kids: when you practice Movnat, they see you train and move often and in various situations and settings. Kids learn a lot by imitation. Watching you doing Movnat will make them want to do it as well and they will develop a habit of jumping, climbing, crawling, etc. in all environments. Habits created during childhood are very sticky in adulthood, and so they will continue to benefit from a high level of physical activity in their life. This is all reinforced in a virtuous cycle because Movnat is instinctive for kids and doesn’t require any equipment, so they can practice whenever they want.

Even if your kids watch you do Crossfit and somehow want to imitate you, they won’t be able to do it easily. Olympic lifting for 5 year olds? Not recommended, dangerous and they’d be bored learning proper form. Climbing trees, balancing, jumping and crawling as you do when you practice Movnat? They naturally find it fun and can do it without much technique correction because these moves are instinctive (and perfectly safe) for them.

Movnat is more accessible and beneficial for a much wider population

Crossfit emphasizes workouts practiced at high intensity and progressions used in Crossfit are very often discussed as carrying a high risk of injury, because the goal is to compete and complete the workouts as fast as possible. Crossfit really emphasize the “as many reps as possible” aspect of fitness and going as fast as you can possibly can, with technique taking a backseat. Google “kipping pull-ups” for example, and the first links you find will discuss the dangers they carry when introduced in a slightly less than ideal way, which seems to be the vast majority of cases…

Movnat on the other hand is absolutely appropriate for sedentary people looking to get back into physical activity in a progressive way while minimizing the risk of injury. Older adults looking to get back in shape are rarely attracted or suitable to take on Crossfit classes but Movnat starts with a lot of emphasis on movements simply done on the ground, totally appropriate to all ages and fitness levels.

What if you are an advanced athlete and in top shape? Movnat is also practiced at high intensities, as long as your general strenght and mobility levels allow you to. A conditioning circuit is part of all workouts programmed the Movnat way and you can absolute practice Movnat with the same intensity and competitive spirit you experience in Crossfit. In fact, Movnat will challenge you even further than Crossfit on physical and mental levels if you want to work at pushing your limits. Mental toughness is developed in Movnat in a much more powerful and complete way than the mental challenges you can experience in Crossfit.

Movnat provides you with more mental, physical and practical benefits

Mental capabilities

Movnat develops a very wide range of mental capabilities that you can redeploy for work or academic pursuits.

Mental toughness is the most powerful one as it can help you drive your performance higher in many other domains after you’ve developed it through physical activity, and Movnat is incomparable at developing it. But there are many others that you do not get through Crossfit either: innovation capacity, creativity, etc. See this page for a detailed list of them.

Physical capabilities

Movnat also develops physical capabilities beyond what Crossfit does, simply because it covers a much wider range of movements while also incorporating different levels of intensity. Mobility work in particular is directly worked on within Movnat but often requires a complementary approach for Crossfit.

Practical skills

Finally, the practical skills you gain through Movnat are incomparably higher than with Crossfit. Again, quite logically as Movnat has been designed around the movements that were practiced daily in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Guess what? All those movements were required to simply survive, so were all directed at a practical task.

Lifting for example is practiced mostly with barbells, kettlebells, sandbags, etc in Crossfit: i.e. with standard gym equipment that is smooth, designed to be lifted, has its weight equally distributed, and so on…

Movnat on the other hand is not only incorporating the very same gym equipment but also natural weights such as rocks or logs, and really anything that is heavy. The difference in complexity between a kettlebell and a rock, for example, is really meaningful. Rocks won’t be smooth, nor have a shape that makes them easy to grasp. Their weight will be unequally distributed and they may even be friable at their edges. Which of the rock or the kettlebell do you think will prepare you best to lift the objects you may have to lift in real life?

Climbing skills is another good example. Crossfit concentrates on pull-ups, kipping pull-ups, rope climbs, rings and bar muscle-ups, etc. Movnat keeps all that, except rings, but on a wide variety of surfaces: standard pull-up bars, much thicker bars, tree branches of all shapes or sizes, walls, etc… Again, you know which one will be best to prepare you for either real emergency situations like escaping a threat or practical challenges like the Spartan or Toughmudder obstacle course races.

Regarding Obstacle Course Racing, this post explains why Movnat is excellent for preparing such events and also links to resources on the Movnat website that will be very useful.

Crossfit is better for the community support

One advantage of Crossfit is undeniably the community aspect that comes with working out at the same gym all the time. You get to know everyone and I trust Crossfit affiliates for doing a great job fostering a supportive atmosphere. You are pushed to do your best in a group setting and motivation is no longer an issue once you get to the gym.

Movnat is still developing so there aren’t as many Movnat gyms or even certified trainers yet, but there is certainly a very active community on Instagram and other digital tools.

Crossfit has the clear advantage here, though I expect the gap to narrow down as Movnat develops further.

Photo credit: Rose Physical Therapy Group from United States

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Well, the first chapter anyway… We’re writing a book and we’d love to get your feedback on Chapter 1 plus all the other chapters as they are written.

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