CrossFit has become incredibly popular in a short space of time, but with its growing popularity, the rates of injury have also increased.
What can you do to stay injury-free at CrossFit? Here are some tips I would recommend that you follow. [toc]
Common CrossFit Injuries
Amazingly one study found that 73.5% of participants had sustained an injury while undergoing CrossFit, with 9 requiring surgery from the injury sustained .
Common CrossFit injuries include :
- Shoulder problems; i.e. rotator cuff
- Lower back issues
- Knee pain and injury
- Elbow pain
- Damage to the Achilles tendon
It is thought that the high number of injuries sustained is due to inadequate rest periods, overtraining and poor form.
The movements performed are not considered dangerous. But when they are performed in quick succession with no recovery time this will increase the risk of injury.
Here are some tips to avoid injury at your CrossFit box:
Tip #1: Warm-Up
Before you start any physical activity you need to make sure that you perform a warm-up.
A warm-up will increase your body temperature, while also preparing your muscles and joints ready for the intense workout you are about to perform. It should also hopefully get you psychologically ready too.
Performing intense exercise without a warm-up will likely result in injury.
You should also be aware that your warm-up should be tailored to your individual needs. A 40-year-old office worker who sits all day will likely need more of a warm-up than a 20 year who works in a manual job.
Tip #2: Use Good Form
This tip applies to any physical activity, not just CrossFit, and is incredibly important to prevent injuries from occurring.
Your trainer should be able to help with your form, but it can be easy to get caught up in the competitiveness of CrossFit.
Sometimes it is better to reduce the weight if you are performing the exercise using poor form.
Tip #3: Find A Buddy
While you will be undergoing coaching during your workouts your trainer won’t be able to watch you during the entirety of the workout. They will have others in need of coaching too.
To ensure you are using good form throughout the workout you may want to consider finding a buddy to check that you are performing the exercises correctly.
Tip #4: Listen To Your Body
One of the philosophies of CrossFit is pushing yourself to the limit, but this can sometimes be the wrong mentality to have.
Sometimes to avoid injury you should listen to what your body is telling you.
Once you learn to listen you will start to understand your bodies strengths and weaknesses and will be able to learn when to push yourself or to pull back on your WODs.
It is perfectly ok to reduce the intensity of your workouts and to focus on perfecting your technique sometimes.
Of course, muscle soreness is something to be expected, but if you are suffering from intense and debilitating pain days after a workout then is it really worth it?
Tip #5: Strengthen Your Core
A weak core can leave you susceptible to lower back injuries, especially when performing some of the more intense CrossFit exercises.
CrossFit uses lots of overhead presses and exercises that involve lots of swinging and jerking weights around.
To strengthen your core you may want to start incorporating some of these exercises into your daily routine:
Tip #6: Create A Muscular Balance
If you have any muscle imbalances then they can become worse with high-intensity exercises.
Your body and its muscles need to work together in order to be able to compete in CrossFit, which will be impossible if you are suffering from muscle imbalances. They can also lead to issues such as rotator cuff injuries and shoulder instability.
Tip #7: Work On Your Mobility
Poor mobility in your joints can lead to injury, so it is worth performing some mobility exercises to improve flexibility and function.
In time this improved mobility will result in improved strength and performance during your workouts.
Tip #8: Perform Lifts Consistently
By performing lifts consistently (at least weekly) then you will become more proficient at them.
This makes sense as you will get used to the form needed to perform the lifts safely.
As you become more experienced, which may take months or even years, you should be able to perfect your form and reduce the risk of injury.
Tip #9: Don’t Skip What You Are Bad At
We all have at least one exercise we struggle to perform, so chances are you tend to avoid doing them.
This is a mistake and could potentially lead to injury.
You should instead try to work on this weakness to make it a strength. It may take a little time, but with perseverance, you may surprise yourself and learn to love the movement.
Tip #10: Slow Down
Your CrossFit box can sometimes be a very competitive environment and this can lead to you to push yourself harder than you should.
AMRAP workouts, where you have to perform as many reps or rounds as possible will leave you maxed out, and this fatigue can lead to poor form and potential injury.
While your instructor should be there to correct these mistakes, mistakes can happen. Sometimes you should take a little responsibility for your own actions and ease off a little to prevent injury.
Tip #11: Forget Kipping Until You Can Perform A Strict Pull-Up
A kipping pull-up is a staple of any CrossFit box but it is also one that people are likely to get injured performing.
It is a gymnastic movement that is performed using the momentum of your body to swing yourself high enough to get your chin over a pull-up bar.
If performed incorrectly then you run the risk of developing a shoulder injury.
What I would suggest would be to learn how to perform a strict pull-up using good from. This will ensure you develop good strength and mobility where it is needed before you attempt any kipping.
Tip #12: Watch Out For Preexisting Injuries
Many CrossFit exercises, such as sumo squats, deadlifts, plus the various plyometric movements can be a problem for those with preexisting knee injuries.
If you know about an injury or a potential issue then there are workarounds available for you.
I would suggest speaking to your trainer to see what they suggest. You should not work through the pain as this can potentially cause even more damage and an even longer recovery period.
Tip #13: Choose Your Box And Instructor Wisely
As CrossFit has become more popular you may have noticed that more and more boxes have started to pop up.
There may even be one close to where you live, but this may not be the best box to choose.
You should look for one that has educated and engaged instructors who are able to teach you proper form and are able to encourage you.
You should look for a box that has different WODs, for various skill levels, as this shows that the coach is able to provide and adjust for your individual needs.
We all have different skill levels so if you are a beginner there will be little point trying to perform some of the more advanced CrossFit exercises the first time you enter a box. Performing these advanced movements will likely result in injury.
Tip #14: Prehabilitation
Prehabilitation, otherwise known as prehab is a form of strength training designed to prevent injuries from occurring.
It does this by strengthening the muscles that surround vulnerable joints, such as your elbows and rotator cuff. These are both joints that are often injured by CrossFitters.
Tip #15: Post Workout Recovery
A warm-up prior to working out is important, but so is a cool-down period after the workout has concluded.
I would recommend spending around 10 minutes after your workout cooling down and stretching your muscles and joints.
To recover you should also ensure your diet is on point and that you are getting the right kinds of nutrients. Sleep is also incredibly important, and I would highly recommend aiming to get at least 8 hours every night.
Recovery From CrossFit Injuries
With sporting injuries, it can be difficult to diagnose online. Sometimes you will only have a slight sprain that can be treated at home using the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) method.
Often just a few days rest will suffice for recovery.
Other times your injury will be much more severe and may even require surgery. I would highly recommend speaking to your doctor if you have any injury concerns rather than trying to train through the pain.
While it is your coaches responsibility to teach the correct form when performing these exercises, you as an athlete should start to take a little bit of responsibility too.
You need to learn to listen to your own bodies and to understand that sometimes you will need to hold back a little when training. Eventually, you will learn your own strengths and weaknesses and be able to work on any limitations you may have.
At the end of the day, if you are pushing yourself to extremes trying to impress others then you are failing yourself.
CrossFit, when performed correctly, is a great way to build fitness, however, if performed incorrectly you could potentially end up injured. Stay safe everyone!