One reason CrossFit is growing in popularity is that it is more "functional" and fun than sitting on a weight machine in a gym. In CrossFit workouts you use your whole body doing multi-joint movements including squats, lunges, pull-ups, pushups, and burpees. These movements are much better for us than the single joint weight machines because they ask our muscles and joints to work with each other all while maintaining balance, stability, and coordination. CrossFit workouts develop strength, power, endurance, agility, balance, speed, and proprioception which will help you at any sport you play and help you not get injured while gardening, moving boxes, or cleaning out the garage.
But there is another statistic related to CrossFit that has been growing rapidly at the same time as participation: the number of injuries sustained and number of participants who drop out because of injuries like torn rotator cuffs, herniated discs, knee injuries and "rhabdomyolysis" - where your muscles basically explode from extreme overworking.
Everyone who has tried CrossFit knows most Workout of the Day (WODs) routines are intense, demanding, exhausting, and often puke inducing. But every CrossFitter has also probably either been injured themselves or seen someone else get injured pushing their body too hard. Statistics have claimed upwards of 16% of participants get injured.
How could the "functional" exercises used in CrossFit be both good for us and be so dangerous at the same time?
It comes down to how each CrossFitter is doing each exercise. Yes, CrossFit trainers stress "good form" and stopping an exercise if you are not able to maintain good form. But what is good form? And is good form really all that is needed?
Let's take a look at the man in the photo doing the "thruster" again. Most people will say he has good form. Which I guess you could say he does. But he is not maintaining postural balance which I, as a certified Postural Alignment Specialist and Advanced Exercise Therapist, know is the most important factor in injury prevention.
But he looks like he has good form right? Nice and low with his hips, chest up, back straight. But posturally he is a mess! I have no idea his injury history but if he has survived so far without injury he has been lucky and his luck will eventually run out. He is asking for a knee injury on his left side from overloading it in a faulty position. He could easily have a disc and nerve compression in the right lumbar spine from the hip and spine imbalances. Back spasms, upper trapezius pull, hip flexor injury, foot pain. The list could go on and on.
Will he come down with all these injuries? No. His body will continue to compensate, finding ways to adjust to the imbalances altering his alignment to continue to CrossFit. But eventually he will get an ache, a pain, a chronic soreness, or a big blowout. The body can only handle the stress for so long. Something will give way. It could be career ending and life altering. Let's hope it's not.
Let's hope he, and every other CrossFitter in the world, reads this and realizes that you can only push a dysfunctional and posturally imbalanced body so far. Let's hope they slow down, find an certified Postural Alignment Specialist and Advanced Exercise Specialist with a degree in Exercise Science and experience working with athletes who can do a complete postural assessment and functional analysis on them. Their exercise therapist can then give them simple corrective exercises in a E-cise menu that will balances their posture, restore function and allow them to return to full training and all-out competition without fear of injury. Let's hope enough CrossFitters get balanced before CrossFit's reputation gets further damaged and participation falls and "boxes" have to close.
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