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What are the risks of crossfit

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Sep 13, 2015 12:44:33 PM

The risks of crossfit

What are the risks of crossfit ?

The most recent crossfit hype gets people into the gym in the US by the thousands. It created and still creates new standards and a growing community which fills stadiums. I personally welcome the spike in physical activity and feeling of being empowered when doing crossfit. But there are risks attached to it and the daily staff chat in the kitchen shows that the "not so fit" are prone to injury when joining a crossfit outfit. 

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Too many olympic lifts

If you skim and scan the literature on olympic weightlifting you will be hard pressed to find any professional trainer recommending doing these movements for 5+ repetitions. The technical training and templates are designed around 1 - 5 repetitions with high focus on perfect execution and incremental increase in load. If you want to double check this pick up a copy of Greg Everett's book on olympic weightlifting, which has not one template going beyond 5 repetitions per set.

The nature of the clean and jerk and the snatch are that they are highly complex, performed under high load and lethal when the athlete breaks down during the movement. Anything which weighs more than the participant themselves getting out of control is a possible lost tooth, broken ankle, jaw or elbow. All injuries with long recovery times (well lost teeth are permanent...).

These are movements which crossfitters are exposed to very very early (maybe even in their first session). The skyrocketing popularity of crossfit does not help to ensure quality, as high quality trainers are rare and it will be hard for any box owner to say no to someone with cash in hand who wants to start to jerk right now, when three other boxes are just mushrooming out of the ground only down the road. 

Olympic lifts have their place and if you are amongst the lucky few who can perform them with correct form under load you have managed a right of passage only few can manage. The challenge with crossfit is, that the likelihood that you will feck yourself up before even getting there is quite high, if you can not reflect critically on your programming and your personal trainer is a greedy bastard.

Too many box jumps

A 24 inch box jump is not child's play. In crossfit you do it for 10 - 30 repetitions in some WOD's. This is often underestimated by less experienced athletes "Yeah i'll just hop on that box thirty times, eeeeeeasy".

The challenge with doing this for repetitions is that it fries your nervous system. The more repetitions you do the more likely it will become that you miss. A miss means a 24 inch drop into the unknown as you are jumping 24 inch to hit a target you can barely stand on. This is a ripped tendon about to happen. You might call me out as a member of the p*ssy brigade, but a swollen ankle is a swollen ankle in my book and will stall your training a week to three months depending on the severity of the injury.

Professional basketball players incorporate box jumps in their training and it makes sense as they have to dunk over poeple. Now here the trainers also will not let their prized athletes do more death jumps than 1 - 5. There might be something to that if the poeple who need to jump high the most while a ton of money is involved are only willing to take the risk of 1 - 5 box jumps (well admittedly more than 24 inches) per session.

Too many new movements

The philosophy of crossfit is to expose you too as many various stresses as possible in a short amount of time. This makes the programming unpredictable and random with movements who are mostly new to the untrained person.

Wall balls, handstand push ups, Kipping pull ups, Muscle ups and double unders, only to name a few, are highly challenging and complex movements, which again are a great test of fitness and a great opportunity to hurt yourself bad. 

If you are already unfit, have mobility issues and no endurance, the last thing you want to do is to expose yourself to a flood of movements you have barely under control. This is like opting for driving in a Ferrari on a bumpy road with two hours of driving lessons at full speed. Accidents will occur.

Too much stress on yourself

Crossfit has been designed for top athletes, rangers, seals and other special operations teams in mind who have to survive in a war zone. Your office is NOT a war zone ( well maybe, but not in that sense). 

From the beginning you will strive towards standards you can barely manage and therefore feel like a failure. You will have to scale down most of the prescribed workouts to even barely meet the criteria or get them done. 

There is not one person in my gym who could do FRAN unscaled in less than 20 minutes and these people are definetly above average.

Of course, if you are a pro athlete, rugby player or footballer you might directly jump into it, but this is only 5% of the population. Also you will feel empowered when you hit your scaled WOD's. The thing is if you have to scale everything down, maybe you are not ready for crossfit yet. I personally came to relise this and I am working to get stronger to be able to move the prescribed weights with full control, once doing them for time or repetitions.

Too much emphasis on "Do or Die"

Training to failure in each session is just plain stupid and will make you stall. Your body will have no energy left to repair, rebuild and grow. To avoid this you have to have a very good feeling for your limits. 

I personally developed this after a year of lifting and three marathons and I am still not a 100% sure all the times. I definetly could not do that just walking into the gym for the first time. Burning lungs, ripped skin in your hands, which has to heal for two weeks, and dehydration to the point of fainting for nothing but a pat on the back are not smart, it is self harming in a professional manner.

All is not lost: Find a good trainer

All of the above can and will be avoided if you find a team of professionals who know their stuff and bring you to your goals in increments. Stay away from the "Do or Die" brigade when you are a beginner. This is for the crazy people who make money with sports or have to go to Afghanistan and dodge bullets (even if you would like to be one of these, most likely you are not). Approached with the right trainer, in the right settings, with the right mindset, crossfit is great to get the best out of you, as everything is measured against a standard and compared over time for imrovement. This for me is the single best thing crossfit has introduced into the fitness world, as it leaves little room for snake oil sales men and paddlers. With the right guidance crossfit can help you to reinvent yourself.

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