In my first full year as a personal trainer in 2009, the same gym member at the Laguna Hills 24 Hour Fitness in Laguna Hills, CA, would ask me every week if I heard of CrossFit. My same answer was no, I wasn’t negative, I really had no idea. Fast forward through the next 10 years and the marketing machine CrossFit is gained massive ground throughout the United States. With it, orthopedic surgeons nationwide saw a surge in profits from CrossFit related injuries by deconditioned people attempting lifts and workouts their bodies were not prepared for.
Yes, this blog will be controversial because like politics, there is a distinct line between religious CrossFit box members, and the rest of America’s gym population. Olympic lifts like the deadlift, clean, and snatch, are the foundation of CrossFit. There is nothing wrong with doing those lifts in good form and technique. All advanced gym goers need to incorporate them as part of an all-around fitness program. Read that last sentence again and let it sink in.
Olympic lifts require joint mobility of the shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles, all working in unison to generate power for the speed necessary to complete them. Any miscue from improper form can result in anything from a torn rotator cuff, to torn knee tendons and ligaments. Let’s add the basic coordination needed to maneuver a loaded bar from the ground to shoulder height and above.
Three reasons why the sedentary executive and office worker make orthopedic surgeons rich:
- Lack of ankle mobility: What do ankle joints have to do with anything? Tight calf muscles and weak shin muscles lack the flexibility for a person to use their glutes for generating power. A person leans forward because they can’t keep their heels flat on the ground when squatting. This puts excessive force on the knees and hips, while also limiting balance capabilities because the person’s body weight and loaded weight are moving forward instead of vertical.
- Weak glute muscles: Sitting for long periods of time weakens the glutes by overstretching them. This also pulls the hips out of alignment and doesn’t allow a person to stand up straight and support their upper body. The glutes are the largest muscles in the body and are essential for generating power in a deadlift, squat, and lunge. Corresponding tight quadriceps cannot do the lifting alone and open a person up for knee and low back injuries.
- Lack of shoulder mobility: A person sitting at their laptop and device all day has tight pectoral and latissimus dorsi muscles. These muscles help keep the shoulders stable and your arms pushing straight over your head. When your arms fall forward int an overhead squat, any load above your head is now moving forward and you’re going with it. Really, you can’t even bring it into proper position because your muscles won’t allow it. Torn rotator cuff, scapular injuries, and head injuries from dropping it can and do result.
CrossFit athletes experience injury rates to the shoulder that are comparable to Olympic weightlifting, rugby, football, gymnastics, or ice hockey (Klimek, Ashbeck, Brook, & Durall, 2018). In weightlifting, Olympic lifting, and CrossFit, risk factors for shoulder injuries include poor mobility and strength, lifting heavy loads overhead, quick and explosive movements like the snatch and jerk, and kipping pull-ups (Klimek et al., 2018).
These are just three of many potential injuries novice and beginners who start CrossFit programs experience. Orthopedic surgeons love being located in the same strip mall as a CrossFit box for this reason. Add to this, the fast pace of a CrossFit workout for someone that can’t run a mile without stopping at least once to walk or rest. Are you one of the unlucky ones who fit into everything I’ve mentioned so far?
Before you start any advanced type of fitness program, ensure your joints work in harmony. Investing into something fun and enjoyable doesn’t have to come at a high physical cost that jeopardizes your ability to perform your job. CrossFit has a place in the fitness world for those ready for the physical and mental challenge. Establish yourself first with someone like me to ensure you learn proper lifting techniques, have mobility in all of your joints, and can sustain higher intensity workouts.
To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com. I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies. Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know. Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!