We Asked Fitness Experts to Explain Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Controversial Workout Routine
To casual viewers who rarely hit the gym, this routine is eye-watering, especially Greene’s flailing movement toward the end of the video.Politics
Marjorie Taylor Greene is the official gym rat of the United States Congress. The 46-year-old Republican freshman Congresswoman divides her day between peddling right-wing conspiracy theories, antagonizing transgender people, and working out wherever she can, be it her home gym or her Washington, D.C. hotel room. And Greene is convinced that it’s CrossFit that will save her from the damaging effects of the covid-19 virus, more than any mask or vaccine.
“This is my Covid protection,” Greene tweeted Thursday with the hashtag #MakeAmericaHealthyAgain and a video of herself working out. “It’s time to #FireFauci.”
Greene’s disdain for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and leading infectious disease expert, is well-documented, and now she’s expressing it in the form of two bills. One, the “Fire Fauci Act,” proposes to reduce Fauci’s salary to $0 until he is replaced as head of the NIAID, and the “We Will Not Comply Act,” which would bar businesses from “discriminating against a person based on their COVID-19 vaccine status” and cuts off federal funding for a vaccine mandate.
But it wasn’t Greene’s politics that turned her tweet into a viral sensation, it was the video, in which Greene lifts a heavy weight and swings from a pull-up bar.
To casual viewers who rarely hit the gym and haven’t lifted more than a five-pound dumbbell, this routine is eye-watering, especially Greene’s flailing movement toward the end of the video. So Jezebel asked some fitness experts for their take on Greene’s routine.
Lu Faustin, a New York-based personal trainer who previously demystified Donald Trump Jr.’s phantom lats for Jezebel, said that while she can’t stand Greene, “her technique for CrossFit is spot on.”
“It looks ugly to the untrained eye,” Faustin said. “But if you have the strength to do it, it’s something that many in the CrossFit circuit would love to do.”
Beth Skwarecki, Senior Health Editor at Lifehacker, was also apologetic in her summation of Greene’s performance: “The very sad fact here, and I absolutely hate this, is that she is strong and her form is good and there’s nothing to pick on about her athletically.”
Skwarecki, who does Olympic weightlifting, explained that Greene is doing three things in the video: A power clean, a few power jerks, and butterfly kipping pullups. She said that the first two are common in many sports, and as a weightlifter herself, she confirms that Greene’s routine is perfectly kosher on that front.
But what about the kipping pullups?
“It’s CrossFit weirdness, not really seen outside of CrossFit, but my understanding is that what she is doing is completely fine within CrossFit,” Skwarecki said. “Strict pull-ups are ‘harder’ than kipping pullups, and this has long been a point of contention between CrossFitters and people from other sports… But kipping is a specific skill, like an explosive gymnastics move rather than strictly a strength exercise.”
Bo, a fitness enthusiast who works in real estate, told Jezebel he agreed that Greene’s form was mostly fine.
“The first movement looks fine, just a power clean of 90 to 100 pounds into a push press… light enough weight that I don’t think there is much risk for injury,” Bo said. “It’s just inefficient and was clearly posted to show off.”
He was less impressed by the kipping move, however.
“Kipping pull-ups use momentum to get yourself above the bar, but they don’t really ‘work’ your muscles like your lats and biceps like a normal pull-up,” Bo told me via Twitter direct message. “They are meant for CrossFit competitions, but if you’re not competing? One-hundred percent pointless.”
Casey Johnston, the columnist behind Vice’s Ask A Swole Woman, agreed, tweeting that there’s, “no reason to do kipping pullups unless you are competing, and actually competitive in, crossfit, which MJG need not worry about since crossfit said a few weeks ago ‘we want nothing to do with this bitch.’”
Greene, who claims she does CrossFit every single day, first took up CrossFit a decade ago. She even became a CrossFit coach and ran a CrossFit gym for a time. But the love is no longer mutual. In March, CrossFit spokesman Andrew Weinstein released a statement saying, “CrossFit supports respectful fact-based political dialogue to address our common challenges, and we strongly oppose the loathsome and dangerous lies attributed to Ms. Greene.”
Bo is hesitant to paint all of the CrossFit community with a single brush, noting that CrossFit has been “sort of a whipping boy for years” now. CrossFit has been compared to everything from a church to a cult, its loyalists ready to defend the high-intensity interval training-based sport at the drop of a hat. Despite its reputation for espousing a toxic machismo ethos, Bo maintained that it’s a sport that people of various walks of life and political persuasions enjoy.
Not everyone who Jezebel spoke to was quite so gracious toward CrossFit.
“The pull-ups are classic, atrocious CrossFit bullshit,” said Mohammad, who has gained a sizable following for his irreverent blend of leftist political commentary and tasteful fitness thirst traps. “Pull-ups are a compound exercise that involves your biceps and lats. What she’s doing there is no different than a monkey swinging on a tree limb.”
Mohammad said that he’s dubious as to whether or not this move actually works anything out, but he’s certain it can destroy someone’s shoulders, arms, and back.
Writer and former competitive bodybuilder, Jamie Harris, disagrees.
“They’re just two different exercises,” Harris said. “One isn’t necessarily better than the other. Kipping is very popular in CrossFit because they think of their training as more functional, as in ‘why wouldn’t you swing to climb a bar?’”
Harris said that traditional bodybuilders tend to rely on the classic pull-up because it forces the back and biceps to do most of the work, and helps build muscle in those regions as a result.
“It’s not ‘inefficient,’ it’s just working different muscle groups than a traditional pull-up,” Harris said.
Skwarecki believes that gender plays a role in the deluge of criticism lobbed at Greene.
“This is a thing that happens a lot in fitness circles, and is often weaponized about women,” Skwarecki said. “So many dudes who don’t know anything will comment on a powerlifter’s world record lift to say that sumo deadlifts are cheating, or that they would take her more seriously if she could bench press without arching her back. Sumo and arching are both legal and considered good form.”
While Harris agrees that gender can make an impact on people’s perception of Greene’s workout routine, she suspects that the backlash is a result of CrossFit fatigue and online boredom above all else. Still, she has her reservations about the controversial kipping move.
“In CrossFit, you are asked to do repetitive motions as fast as possible,” she said. “It’s one of the measures you’re graded on, so if your form degrades as you move faster and faster, you risk tearing your shoulder.”
She added, “As a trainer, I probably wouldn’t ever teach a client the kipping mostly because the general population has shoulder injuries and shit from high school that they don’t even remember and can end up really hurting themselves. But an able-bodied adult who knows what they’re doing is going to be just fine.”
Faustin was on the same page. “Do I do them? No. Is it necessary for me or my clients? No. But at the same time, I’m not against it.”
But Mohammad isn’t willing to take any chances.
“Every single thing she’s doing is incredibly injury-prone,” Mohammad said. “You absolutely should not bend your knees and jump like that for the jerk motion. It can tear your knees, and if you land on them locked in a bad way, you could very well snap your knees forward. Not a nice image.”
Certainly not. However, despite endless anecdotes of CrossFit nightmares, one four-year study analyzing injuries among those who participate in CrossFit concluded that the activity is “relatively safe” compared to more traditional training methods, but newcomers and those who train less than three days a week are at a higher risk of injury.
Greene, a certified gym rat, is probably in the clear. But more alarming than any routine is the implication that lifting weights or exercise is the secret to preventing covid-19. The best defenses against covid-19 are masks, social distancing, and vaccination. Greene is skeptical of all of the above and has made a name for herself by actively defying covid-19 safety measures; on Wednesday she even called vaccine passports “Biden’s Mark of the Beast” and “corporate communism.”
“Yes being healthy through training and lifestyle, I trust my immune system as my Covid protection,” Greene wrote in a follow-up tweet.
Kippings aren’t going to stop a virus that has killed more than 550,000 Americans in the last year, but it’s a lot easier to pump iron to own the libs than face facts.
“If she were a terrible lifter, I would tell you all about how terrible she is,” Skwarecki said. “But that wouldn’t make her a worse person either to be honest. She’s already at rock bottom.”