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CrossFit has become increasingly popular in recent years as the new and very quickly growing area of the fitness world! With the CrossFit games being televised and evening making it on to Netflix, these athletes have made the simple act of training into a full blown competitive sport. Yes, it feels good to compete against others and against yourself, but the true beauty of CrossFit is the culture that comes with it. There is something about pushing your body to its absolute limits side by side with your fellow affiliate members and getting through it together that fuels great comradery and some seriously fit people.

So, what exactly is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a type of exercise where the programs involve constant variability of high intensity functional movements with the goal of optimising physical proficiency across several domains including cardiovascular endurance, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy!

CrossFit works within three primary components

  1. WEIGHT LIFTING: squats, deadlifts, clean and jerks, snatches and so on! These distinct types of lifting have many variations and require good technical skills training to perform them safely. Technique and skills training for these different lifts is a large part of CrossFit.

  2. METABOLIC CONDITIONING: this is a method of training that involves a very high work rate, using exercises designed to burn more calories during your workout and maximise calories burned after your workout. This aim is to increase your body’s efficiency to store and deliver energy for any activity, in other words conditioning your metabolism.

  3. GYMNASTICS: handstands/handstand push-ups/handstand waking, ring dips/muscle ups/ kipping pull ups, rope climbs and the list goes on!

While all exercise and sport can create injury, it seems that CrossFit has developed a bad name for itself due to the high-speed, high-impact approach to exercise. The workouts in CrossFit are generally time based which means you DO NOT STOP until the timer is finished, hence the high intensity. Within these time-based workouts you push your body to the absolute limit, which underpins the core philosophy of what CrossFit is all about. And it is this philosophy that is the key defining principal of CrossFit and the culture that comes with it.

But is it safe?

Absolutely! But At what point does this philosophy have detrimental effects to its participants?

CrossFit attracts a large, variable following ranging from complete gym newbies or novice gym goers to the elite athlete who is chasing excellence in their CrossFitting world and finding that peak performance. With such large variations in fitness ability, body awareness and understanding of risk and injury, it is easy to see where things can go wrong in a WOD (CrossFit lingo for “workout of the day”) especially when everyone is participating in the same workout.

There is minimal research currently regarding injury rates within CrossFit. However, one study out of the USA from the university of Rochester that wanted to establish an injury rate among CrossFit participants and to identify any trends between injury rates and demographic categories, gym characteristics and the athletic abilities among CrossFit participants.

What did they find?

The overall injury rate was high at 20% (73/346), and not surprisingly males (53/231) were more likely to injure themselves than females (21/150). Even less surprising is that those participants who had the help from a coach or trainer during their workouts correlated with a decreased injury rate. The most common injuries reported were shoulder injuries due to gymnastics exercises and then lower back injuries due to Olympic lifting.

How do you enjoy CrossFit without hurting yourself?

Firstly, many CrossFit gyms now have a beginner program where you learn the fundamentals of CrossFit. It is primarily focussed on technique and skills training. The first few weeks is going to be key to gaining that base core strength and mobility to perform the exercises safely. When I say core strength I am talking about shoulder and hip stabilisers as well as the deep core stabilisers. Secondly, if you feel like something does not feel right in your body when doing a certain movement i.e. too heavy, or just “wrong” it is a good sign that you are probably not ready to be lifting that weight or you are just doing too much. Go with your gut instinct and listen to your body – back off. These injuries come generally from progressing too soon in the workout e.g. performing an Olympic lift that is too heavy under fatigue is going to cause some stress to your shoulder and/or lower back if you have not taken the correct and necessary steps in developing the basic underlying skills that is needed to perform these highly technical tasks.

As a CrossFitter and a Physiotherapist I am a huge advocate for the sport when the correct fundamental steps are taken to performing certain skills. Often, I am one of the girls in my group who is scaling back the workout to better my technique as I understand the risks of injury all too well! To perform these complex and compound movements you must have the fundamentals of strength and mobility, and none of us are perfect!

So, my advice to you as a physio is to prioritise your bodies safety and health more than anything else, including winning the WOD! More specifically, it is about finding that sweet balance between correct technique/form and gradually progressing when you’re ready so that you can be competing within yourself and with those around you in a safe and pain free state.

If you are wanting to join a CrossFit gym or if you are struggling with mobility, strength, or pain with your workout, come and see us at Elite Physiotherapy for a functional movement assessment and help prevent future injuries.

Train hard to build yourself up, not to break yourself down.

Call 89418555 to book your functional movement assessment

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