How CrossFit Causes Injuries

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by EMMA GATMAN

How CrossFit Causes Injuries
There’s a worrying trend among CrossFit participants, one that consists of frequent visits to the Physiotherapist, niggly shoulders, aching backs and even the odd orthopedic surgery.

Does CrossFit cause damage to the human body directly? Or is it our modern, inactive lives causing the damage to our bodies long before we step into a CrossFit gym?

“Functional Movements Performed at High Intensity…”

To understand how CrossFit participants get injured, we need to take this right back to the start and look at one element of CrossFit’s definition – Functional Movements. Functional exercises are one (or a combination of) the basic human movement patterns of pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, rotating and gait.

For the majority of people starting out at CrossFit, they will discover quickly a movement dysfunction of some sort they were previously unaware of.
The thing about training with functional movements is that they immediately bring attention to any dysfunction present in the body. Let’s assume you have chronically tight hips from sitting for extended periods of time. This dysfunction may not affect you since you experience no pain and are capable of performing everyday tasks. Then one day you go to your first CrossFit class and are taught how to squat. Suddenly we have a problem: those tight hips are stopping you from squatting. This phenomenon is what Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD calls “making the invisible visible.” Functional movement is not only a way to exercise, but also a way to diagnose mobility or strength issues that may be inhibiting your human movement patterns.

For the majority of people starting out at CrossFit, they will discover quickly a movement dysfunction of some sort they were previously unaware of. For many of us, our modern lives don’t require us to have fully functional bodies since we can drive to work, sit at a desk, drive home, and then sit on the couch for the evening. There is very little need for us to lift heavy stuff, control our own bodyweight, or work physically hard enough to break into a sweat.

A coach‘s job is to teach exercise technique and eliminate any movement dysfunction in the body to create a stronger athlete. But a coach also needs to expose his athletes to another important element of the CrossFit equation — “high intensity” — so they don’t miss out on improving other equally important aspects of the 10 components of fitness such as endurance, stamina and speed.

This is when the art of coaching comes into play: an educated and experienced coach can use scaling to find an athlete’s unique sweet spot, where these two aspects of the CrossFit equation meet perfectly in the middle. A place where functional movements don’t deteriorate into dysfunctional movements and high intensity is not sacrificed.

The magic of CrossFit happens when you can perform functional movements at high intensity. Of course, every athlete’s version of high intensity will fall into a different part of the scaling spectrum. It is worth finding a coach who is able to teach technique well and who’s also skilled at finding that sweet spot of the CrossFit equation.

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