Crossfit is HUGE. The sport has an amazing community, some of the most athletic people in the world, and incorporates a lot of great functional movements.
Like any other sport crossfit carries with it a risk of injury. Many people who are attracted to crossfit jump right into training without easing their way in which increases the risk of getting hurt.
If you watch Crossfit you’ll see people performing movements like cleans, kettlebell snatches, push press, and kipping pullups. All of which are fairly complex and are being performed at a high speed.
Bringing us to the first challenge and a common reason people get hurt doing Crossfit….
Challenge #1 – Movement Quality
Since Crossfit is typically done in a group setting it can be difficult to get individual attention. When you’re learning how to perform big compound movements that are explosive in nature, form is everything.
Being explosive means you can both push the gas pedal and pump the breaks. You have to be able to snatch that kettlebell swinging and slow it down as you press overhead. If you can’t controllably do both, your risk of injury increases.
Here’s what a kettlebell snatch looks like:
Getting these movements down takes time and too often people dive in and start moving heavy weight before their technique is up to par.
Your body needs time to learn how to move, recruit the right muscles for the job, and to build confidence in new positions.
If you’re already experienced with training and have poor movement patterns you run the risk of increasing your reliance on them. The body will always take the path of least resistance A.K.A the most familiar pattern.
For example, if someone squatting shifts into their right hip. Increasing their training volume and intensity aggressively could exaggerate this issue.
Here’s an example of a right hip shift in the bottom of a squat:
*A hip shift isn’t inherently a problem. We are all asymmetrically, but any pattern that is heavily exaggerated should probably be managed to avoid further compensation.
Challenge #2 – Volume Too Much Too Soon
When we’re talking about volume, we are talking about set x reps x weight lifted. As well as the total volume which is the sum of that formula across all the movements you trained. New and seasoned lifters can benefit and get more out of training by being mindful of their volume.
One factor that impacts volume is movement complexity or how technical an exercise is.
Crossfit has a lot of complex movements in it. The more complex the movement the lower the amount of volume it will occupy in a program.
Let’s take the snatch for example. The snatch is extremely technical and typically only performed for 1-6 repetitions. In a Crossfit workout, people maybe doing dozens of repetitions. This is problematic because form is highly likely to breakdown.
When it does breakdown, we are going to take path of least resistance which is creating more extension (a deeper curve) in our lower back. Too much extension limits our ability to breathe properly, move well, and feel great.
Too much volume too soon can lead to fatigue, overuse injuries, and a lack of progress in the future. Crossfit often assigns everyone the same workout or WOD (workout of the day).
Unfortunately, everyone coming at 10am to workout may not be at the same level and don’t need to be doing the same amount of volume.
Volume is best when it’s individualized.
How We Can Progress Volume
Whether you’re working with us in person at our gym in Portland or remotely, we start most people with something simple like 6 movements for 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
From there we can progress your volume by adding sets, reps, and/or adding weight to the exercises you’re already doing.
Consistency is key when it comes to volume.
Let’s go back to using the snatch as an example. If you’re in a Crossfit gym and you performed snatches with 45lbs x 25 repetitions x 4 sets/rounds. That’s 4500lbs of volume.
However, next week’s workout at a Crossfit gym maybe something like performing snatches with 65lbs x 15 repetitions x 3 sets/rounds. That’s 2925lbs of volume.
You can see your volume dropped almost 1500lbs between workouts. Spikes and dips it in volume create inconsistent results in the gym.
When someone starts at our gym, they’re typically performing 3 sets/rounds of 10 repetitions on most movements. On goblet squat someone’s volume in our gym could look like 35lbs x 10 repetitions x 3 sets/rounds. That’s 1050lbs of volume.
From there we can gradually pump up their volume over time and keep them progressing. As oppose to overloading them with work one week and dropping the work load the next.
Minimal effective dose for the win!
What Gets Measured Gets Managed
You come into your Crossfit gym, crush your workout, and leave.
That’s awesome! One problem you didn’t write anything down and next workout isn’t a progression of the last one.
So…you don’t have a consistent way to track your progress in the gym. That’s a problem when it comes to seeing long term results and progress.
Challenge #3 Recovery
You just crushed your workout, there’s chalk on the floor, sweat dripping down your brow, and unfortunately a bunch of weights you’ve got put away.
You go home, shower, get some work done, and sleep 3 hours before doing it all again tomorrow.
Crossfit is highly demanding and if you’re stressing your body you need to make sure you’re doing what it takes to recover.
The Big 3 – Nutrition, Sleep, and Steps
We all know we have to fuel our bodies so they can perform. This means all the Protein!
Protein is important, but it’s not everything when it comes to nutrition. You need protein to help rebuild muscles, carbs for energy, and fats for energy and hormonal support.
Water and salt also fall into this category. Hydration is huge if we want to avoid cramps and maintain endurance. The same goes for salt.
Isn’t Salt Bad
Too much salt is bad, but if your workouts are intense you’re going to need more salt. Salt helps our muscles be able to fully contract.
5 cups of coffee aren’t going to save you from 3 hours of sleep in the long run. Sleep is critical to our ability to perform in the gym.
It lets our body’s recover in a rest and digest state (parasympathetic) by releasing hormones, rebuilding tissues, and recording new skills/information we’ve learned (motor learning) like those new exercises in your program.
If you’re crushing 6-8 hours of sleep you’re in a great place. Not there yet?
Try to increase the amount of sleep you get each week.
8-10K Steps is the goal.
Low Hanging Fruit! That’s what steps are. A lot of us simply don’t move enough on a daily basis outside the gym.
It’s easy to understand why if you’re sitting at a desk 8 hours a day or doing work that is mainly sedentary.
Moving more throughout our day helps us recover better, allows us to eat more, improves our quality of sleep, improves body composition, and so much more.
Some ways to start getting more steps in is by adding in short walks into your routine, picking a new hobby, playing with your pets, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work.
A large group class isn’t the best place to learn how to do explosive compound movements. Especially, if you have little to none training experience.
Tracking your volume is critical to you seeing progress. Volume should be consistent and adjusted accordly when you’re crushing training. If your volume is constantly moving up and down it’s going to be hard to know what’s working.
- Poor recovery crushes your gains in the gym and how you feel outside of it. You need to prioritize recovery if you wanna stay healthy, perform your best, and feel good outside the gym.
- Eat a well balanced diet consisting of fats, carbs, and protein, get 8-10K steps a day, and sleep 6-8 hours each night.
- Crossfit is intense and it demands a lot of our bodies. Unfortunately, people dive in head first without having previous experience, proper technique, and ways to properly recover in place.
In my opinion, Crossfit isn’t the best place for most people to start. Instead, they could focus on learning the fundamentals of training like how to move well and recover properly. This would lead to more sustainable progress and a lower risk of injury if someone decided to do Crossfit down the road.