A Physical Therapist's Advice on How to Avoid Injuries in CrossFit

A Physical Therapist's Advice on How to Avoid Injuries in CrossFit

CrossFit has undoubtedly become a positive force of change in the lives of thousands of people. It has brought forth a new mindset to folks wanting to live life to the fullest. Much of the workouts in CrossFit are founded on techniques that build mobility, flexibility, and strength--helping to make and keep people strong enough to take on anything life throws.

And while doing CrossFit can make a big difference in the way we live, at its core, it's still a strenuous activity that might cause injuries--especially if not done properly.

Injuries can severely hamper progress, whether you're a beginner or a pro athlete. At the end of the day, we want to be able to unlock our full potential and injuring ourselves is in no way does this.

That's why we got some help from one of the leading minds in functional movement, founder of Functional Movement Systems, Gray Cook.

Gray Cook is a licensed physical therapist, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, Olympic-style weightlifting coach, lecturer/author/professor. He offers some great insights on how to avoid injuries in CrossFit and keep yourself healthy and strong.

Build an adequate base.

When asked why people tend to think that CrossFit is an injurious workout, Cook answered:

"CrossFit has accelerated our exposure to innovative bodyweight and Olympic-type lifting techniques. A lot of people learned about old and new school techniques through CrossFit.

The modern evolution of fitness has been on fast forward, causing some problems to quickly rise to the surface. But I don't think it's a CrossFit problem. The average consumer of fitness doesn't know how best to "consume" those sources of fitness."


So contrary to what some people might say and think, CrossFit can be beginner-friendly. It's only a matter of building an adequate base of mobility, stability, and skill before progressing to more advanced workouts or higher weights/reps at faster times.


"It would be very easy for people to assume that (CrossFit being injury-prone), just due to CrossFit's widespread popularity... I may be more concerned about youth sport development programming causing more injuries than CrossFit.

If an athlete doesn't have an adequate base of mobility, stability, and skill, the Olympic lifts with the straight bar can be potentially injurious. Having a technically sound deadlift before progressing into a movement like the clean makes a lot of sense."


Always mind your P's and Q's.

Movements in CrossFit typically involve weight loading and focus on speed and reps. These can be potentially dangerous types of movement but on the flip side, they're highly rewarding in terms of gains. So instead of focusing on doing more in less time (which can be REALLY inviting), focus on technically sound movement.


"If you want to do high reps to see how long your technique lasts, that's fine. But there literally needs to be someone standing there to monitor your technique. I'm only interested in how much you can do under good technique.

The coach should control the time based on technical sound movement mechanics, not the other way around where the athlete controls the time with poor technicality with big lifts. This will teach athletes to own their technique.

Lower backs, shoulders, and knees often take the brunt of the hit when talking about injury rates in CrossFit. But with good mobility, stability, and technique, many of these common injuries can be avoided."


When injured, focus on fully recovering first.

Injuries are a part of living the CrossFit lifestyle. When the body is pushed to the limit, some parts tend to break. Moreover, according to Gray Cook, the number one risk factor for sustaining a future injury is having had a previous injury.


"So many athletes are going back to training without having fully recovered from an injury, which is partly the fault of the athlete and partly the fault of the medical system.

It's hard to say that one type of injury happens more often in CrossFit, but rather, the metabolic environment and heavy loading schemes under huge amounts of stress tend to "wake up" old injuries that have been mismanaged in the past by the athlete, rehab specialist, or coach."


So when you get injured, don't try to outpace yourself. You need to go through the full cycle of recovery and rehab in order to keep yourself healthier for longer.

Know and embrace your limits.

While CrossFit does a good job in bringing all-inclusive workouts for beginners to advanced athletes, sustainability requires a much more focused and defined look at an individual.


"People don't know their own limitations, which sometimes gets them into problems that elevate the unnecessary risk of injury while training."


So whenever you participate in a WOD, don't jump on the deep end too early. Do some basic workouts properly first then dial up the difficulty little by little.


"A lot of people blindly shuffle into these challenging environments not really knowing what they're physically capable of without getting hurt. That needs to be addressed to protect the athletes, and offer some alternatives in programming to match their current functional status."


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