Let’s tackle this head on. Traver and I have been asked this question by pretty much everybody. This includes reporters, doctors, physical therapists, attorneys (yikes), police, fire department, professional athletes, and the list goes on. I think we’ve gotten pretty good at answering it, so here we go.
To start, I welcome this conversation as we have nothing to hide here at CPC. We put our clients’ safety first, always, and do our very best to provide world class instruction. We are constantly searching out new information, mentors, and furthered education. We sleep well at night.
Next, I will go ahead and say that, without a doubt, CrossFit can be dangerous. If you’ve done my intro session, you should remember my diatribe on intensity being a double-edged sword. The fact that we recognize this and don’t deny it is the same reason that our gym has a relatively low injury rate. There is no sugar coating here. There are stern warnings and constant reminders of the dangers of our methodology.
Once you have been training at Crossfit Pacific Coast through infancy and adolescence, taking the time required to learn the movements, and earn proficiency, you will understand that Crossfit is a full speed sport. Yes, I said SPORT. More specifically, CrossFit (as a sport) is includes the fundamentals of gymnastics, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, running, rowing, swimming, and many other functional disciplines. It will not be mastered overnight…if ever.
How many of us have played sports? How many of those have sustained injuries playing sports? How many of you have injured yourselves playing kickball? (I’m imagining a quiet, pensive audience with some timidly raised arms)
When an athlete is attempting to learn a new sport, there is a steep learning curve. This includes new stresses on every system of the body and an adaption to new motor patterns. If this athlete is realistic and conscientious, they will expect that injuries will most likely occur during this transition. The severity can range from some minor tendonitis to disc herniations to plantar fasciitis and, yes, even to the infamous rhabdomyolysis.
For example, the primary sport I played through and after college was water polo. After close to a quarter century of playing the sport, my shoulders had become fixed in a forward position (also known as “swimmer’s slouch”). During overhead movements like presses and handstand pushups, my rotator cuffs were forced into poor position causing impingements, weakness and pain. After 5 years, I’m still running into the occasional setback but major improvements have taken place that very well may have saved me from a lifetime of immobility.
Do I blame CrossFit for that? Nope. Do I blame Chris LaLanne because he was my first CrossFit coach? Absolutely not. The history I brought into this CrossFit game is what caused the injury alongside a healthy dose of ego. I take responsibility for my actions and realize nobody put a gun to my head and made me perform any of the WOD’s I have under my belt.
For those with little awareness of the body’s methods of communicating, the difference between good pain (stimulus) and bad pain (injury) may be a challenging distinction. That’s when a coach’s job gets much more hands-on as they guide you through this learning phase. Is there a chance of injury there? Yes, there definitely is but it’s our job is to minimize that with the occasional hand holding.
The dilution in the value of CrossFit dogma is something of great controversy nowadays. We’re fortunate that our little bubble in Santa Barbara seems to steer from the drama; let’s hope it stays that way. However, it’s important to be educated on the subject. CrossFit Headquarters is pumping out an average of 6 new affiliates per WEEK. If you check www.crossfit.com
Every Monday, you’ll get a good idea of the vast amount of CrossFit Level 1 coaches being certified every weekend. The certification itself is packed with great information and it’s an outstanding start or addition to a career in strength and conditioning. However, there is neither quality control nor are there any requirements for continued education. For those who inquire to me about coaching, I ask them what would happened if the CFL1 certification was discredited. What would they stand on? Experience? Certifications? Reputation? Track record?
Traver and I have been in this game for some time now (11 years combined…plus a lifetime of athletics). We are the first to admit that we are still the young generation in this world of fitness, which is easy to admit when we look up to the gold standards that we do (Lon Kilgore, James “OPT” Fitzgerald, Robb Wolff, Bill Starr, Mike Burgener, Bob Takano, Louie Simmons, etc.). The point I’m trying to make here is that there are very few new ideas in the world of strength and conditioning. CrossFit didn’t invent the overhead squat, box jump, or pull-up. Just because somebody has “CrossFit Level 1” under their name doesn’t mean you should forego the necessary background check to make sure they are worthy of your time, money, and health. Take responsibility for your training and those you seek to learn from.
…. I digress.
In my opinion, one of the most disconcerting qualities of CrossFit that can often lead to injury is the use of technical movements past the point of exhaustion and form degradation. I’m speaking mostly of the Olympic lifts, but there are many others including the controversial “kip.” The onus for this falls on the programmer and I’ll admit that I’ve learned a lot by trial and error. As a result, at CPC, you will very rarely see workouts with snatches, cleans and jerks at high repetitions without a set rest. (“Grace” being one exception). When those do come up, we make sure you are properly informed, cued and scaled.
If you ever seen a 5-year old child run, squat or jump, you may have noticed that their form is perfect. Over our lifetimes, we’ve unlearned these proper movement patterns. When CrossFit is coached well, it helps restore functional movement patterns that will prevent injuries over a lifetime and keep our quality of life high well into our later years.
It may be hard to imagine now, but good mobility after the age of 65 is something you will be extremely thankful for. One of the reasons we are so big on Dr. Goodman’s Foundations Training here at CPC is because it shortens the “re-learning” curve. Many injuries occur due to what I call “misuse” injuries such as hinging from lumbar vertebrae versus the hips or my aforementioned personal shoulder impingement issue. Every class that we coach is purposed to fix problems we see…not causing more.
My final point on this topic is that those who criticize what we do by blaming CrossFit for injuries are most likely missing something absolutely critical to our community. CROSSFIT IS TREMENDOUSLY FUN AND HIGHLY EFFECTIVE. We enjoy ourselves. We challenge ourselves. We cheer for each other to push past perceived limitations. We laugh together and we cry together. We educate ourselves. We push each other forward and pull one another up. It enriches our lives with a heavy, consistent dose of “F.U.” We don’t take ourselves that seriously. The community is the core of our four walls. There are no words to describe that and, to me, the minor injuries I overcome along the way are well worth the quality of life that CrossFit affords me.
- Eric Malzone
2 Deadlifts @ 75-85% 1RM
3rds for Reps:
1 Min ME Bench Press (50% 1RM)
2 Min rest