I first heard this term during my CrossFit Level One certification back in January of 2009 and it has stuck with me ever since. The premise is that there is no skill and no knowledge base necessary to create a workout that just smashes people.
“Any old asshole can throw together a whole bunch of reps, of a whole bunch of movements, for a whole bunch time and crush just about any athlete.”
Workouts like these are the hallmark of “coaches” that don’t understand proper programming.
Every once in a great while, one of these workouts can be acceptable, if we are only looking at it in the context of being an infrequent exposure to far above average volume and it is otherwise reasonable and intelligently programmed. Used with any type of frequency, these types of workouts are not just subpar or unideal, they are dangerous and are a massive disservice to the clients and athletes that are working with the individuals who write this type of programming. When we look at workouts with very little rhyme or reason and just a ton of reps, we see that the clients subjected to them are not only being limited in their ability to make true athletic and performance progress, but they are quite literally being broken.
It’s pretty easy for most people to look at a workout with excessive volume and understand the correlation with overuse injuries. Overuse injuries occur as the result of repetitive micro-trauma to the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments and are generally chronic in nature. However, there are a few factors that can greatly contribute to overuse injuries in a much shorter timeframe. Increasing intensity, frequency, and volume too rapidly for athletes who haven’t developed sufficient work capacity can create overuse injuries in short order. If a training program doesn’t gradual work people up to very high volume training sessions, that programming is begging to break people.
Improper movement mechanics can also make overuse injuries a much more likely outcome, this is generally fairly quick and simple to understand as well. If something technical or biomechanical is happening improperly, going through that movement or sequence over and over again is sure to cause issues. The other pieces to consider when taking about poor mechanics in regard to TAOAW. is that generally there is little thought giving to balancing different types of movement patterns. Additionally, we universally see a degradation of form and mechanics through fatigue. So, if rep #1 of movement #1 has technical issues that pose injury risk, how do you think rep #100 of that same movement looks? Now what if movement #2 requires the same fatigued and flawed movement pattern be repeated for another 100 repetitions?
So what else about TAOAW? Well, repeated exposure to these stupid and flawed workouts create a devastating environment for your adrenal glands, immune system, and endocrine system. Our bodies respond to stress by releasing several different hormones (cortisol, norepinephrine, epinephrine, etc.). These hormones prepare our bodies for “fight or flight”. You’ll often notice when you are nervous or stressed your hands shake, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and you basically feel on edge or jittery. We all know that too much stress be it from work or life circumstances isn’t a good thing and often leaves us tired and sick. People often suffer from moodiness, daytime fatigue, insomnia, decreased sex drive, etc. when they’re under too much stress. Well, those TAOAW are a stressor to your body. All exercise to some degree but intelligently programmed exercise takes this into account and balances volume and intensity to help manage that stress. When you do TAOAW too often, your body pays the price. The adrenal glands that produce cortisol and those other stress hormones becomes “deranged”, producing too little of those hormones during the day when we need them to feel alert and energetic and then way too much at night leaving us tossing and turning and staring at the ceiling. Too much cortisol also causes issues with our thyroid, decreasing the conversion of T4 to T3 (the most active and important thyroid hormones). And as if that isn’t enough damage, too much stress causes us to feel grouchy and less than sexually healthy because the adrenals are also responsible for producing DHEA and testosterone.
These are sign of altered/impaired adrenal health:
- Extreme and prolonged fatigue after workout
- More frequent infections (upper repsiratory, colds, etc.), allergy symptoms
- Groggy in the morning
- Ulcers and digestive problems
- Craving sweets, salt, caffeine or cigarettes
- Blurred vision
- Moodiness, emotional swings
- Unstable blood sugar or unable to go for more than a few hours without food/carbs
- Insomnia or difficult going and/or staying asleep
- Dizziness or unstable blood pressure, fainting
- Hemorrhoids, varicose veins
So, there you go, plenty of reasons that these types of endless, soreness fests are doing far more harm than benefit. Keep in mind that we haven’t even began to delve into how awful this type of programing is for actual skill and strength development, but we just wanted to highlight how dangerous some of these types of workouts are to your health. Maybe it’s not just that any old asshole can throw a bunch of stuff together to smoke a client and athlete population, but that only a true and genuine asshole would throw a bunch of nonsensical junk together and call it “training.”