In the latter part of 2014, Jeff and Mikki Martin were summarily fired and then sued by CrossFit Inc. CrossFit Kids, which they founded in 2004 with Greg Glassman’s blessing, was taken from them. They have stopped using the CrossFit Kids name and are no longer affiliated with that program; instead the Martins are moving forward with their next-gen Brand X Method, bruised perhaps, but unstoppable.
There’s an anxious sense at Brand X that we’re just getting started. How we intend to do that is pretty exciting, so I asked the Martins a few questions to help shed some light on the new direction that the creators of CrossFit Kids are headed.
Dan: Can you explain how the Brand X Method is distinctive from other programming philosophies?
Jeff & Mikki: Most of what passes for youth strength-and-conditioning programming is sport-specific. The Brand X Method is built on our 10 years’ experience using the CrossFit Kids methodology we developed. This method focuses on building a strong foundation of GPP (general physical preparedness) through the introduction and practice of a variety of functional movements. In this way, we are able to develop well-rounded athletes, strong enough to withstand the rigors of any sport and athletic enough to perform well in many different contexts.
To make a particular point, we’ve seen many watered-down versions of methodologies similar to the Brand X Method where training with external loads is discouraged. We strongly believe in developmentally appropriate loaded resistance training when supervised by trainers who are specifically educated in training children and teens. To be sure, we use nominal loads until the preteen years, ages 10-12, at which time technically proficient kids are generally ready to explore external loading a little more deeply.
Our approach is in line with the position endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other notable organizations. What is best for kids? That question always trumps other concerns, and safety is our first measure. We are concerned with proper movement and mechanics long before we introduce intensity, which in this context is understood as heavier loads. Additionally, we promote the idea that fitness should be playful and fun. That idea is not new, but we define fun in a manner that keeps children and teens engaged and continuously successful.
Dan: We’ve been concerned with the problems plaguing youth sports for some time now. In what ways does the Brand X Method as an organization intend to effect some change?
J&M: We started in our own arena. The increasing popularity of fitness competitions meant we were seeing kids involved in adult-style events that put them at risk. Some of the videos we saw were really just terrible. We brought this to the attention of insurers. That we know of, two major agencies agreed to not cover events organized by facilities that lacked the training to supervise and program such things for children or that advertised adult-style competitions for children under age 12.
Out in the larger world, we were lucky enough to attend a roundtable discussion organized by the Aspen Institute’s Project Play last February at Google. It was heartening to see so many industry leaders interested in addressing problems related to youth sports and physical activity. We’re in Washington, DC, at the end of February for a Project Play roundtable event, which will be a great way for us to introduce thought leaders to the Brand X Method.
Dan: Can you explain how the Brand X Method supports the continuing expansion of the CrossFit Kids methodology?
J&M: Our daily workout posts on the Brand X Method Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms are beginning to reflect the direction we’re headed. There are some very exciting additions to the program at all levels. The CrossFit Kids Training Course was created in 2008 and contains the essential parameters for coaching kids and teens using that methodology. It has evolved since then, but mostly in organization and presentation. The content remains essentially the same. Brand X is our lab, and during the seven years since the first course was held at Brand X, we have continued to research, observe, and learn; and our methods have progressed considerably because of that. With over 100 members under the age of 18 currently at Brand X, we can confirm the validity and reliability of these methods. A key enhancement in the Brand X Method is the clear definition of best practices for training kids and teens. We don’t just stop with progressions for teaching a movement; we break down movements so there are progressions for teaching specific points of performance.
The Brand X Method has several one-day seminars to be rolled out in 2015 so that we can share our experience and advances in support of the program we created and so dearly love.
Dan: You have already held two Brand X Method Teen Weight Training seminars and have several others scheduled through 2015. Why would a CrossFit Kids or other kind of coach want to attend one?
J&M: Yes, we have launched the Teen Weight Training Seminar and will be launching the Advanced Kids Course this spring. As far as the weight lifting goes, with standard high school athletic programs, sports conditioning camps, and the popularity of the CrossFit methodology, vast numbers of coaches and trainers are lifting with youth. We think that’s great, but having teens trained by those who cannot really “see” well enough to correct them or keep them safe while lifting heavy loads is troubling. And it’s an area where we can help.
Much is written about coaching movement, correction, and effective cueing. However, there isn’t much out there with regard to improving the “coach’s eye.” Our goal is to shift coaching attention away from fuzzy understandings of why we lift and toward a richer view that starts with safety and efficiency and privileges excellent movement over loads lifted. The Brand X Method Teen Weight Training Program is a one-of-a-kind practical application of that idea based on how well a kid actually lifted—meaning adhered to points of performance—rather than how much weight was moved to determine the load used in the next session.
We feel a responsibility to share our experience and methods for safely coaching teens to lift. Good coaching in the weight room requires the capacity to actually see what is happening, correct it in the appropriate order, and apply the proper intervention when needed.
The Brand X Method is legit. I’ve seen its positive impact firsthand and have watched its evolution for almost 8 years. Yeah this blog is on this website, but it’s not intended to be a safe space where I’m just going to sanctify the Martins and rubberstamp the Brand X Method. That kind of stuff makes me queasy.
I think the Martins are generous and loyal to a fault, and given what I’ve seen over the years, I think people are compelled to take advantage of that character trait. But one thing I know is that good folk are often loath to confront, but when they do, those that have goaded them reap the whirlwind. The Martins have only just begun their quest to change the world, and anyone passionate about doing what’s best for kids in the realm of physical fitness and physical education would be wise to pay attention to what’s happening with the Brand X Method.