Crossfit – Here to Stay?

Cross Fit has been a major player in the fitness industry for about 15 years now, the press it receives is mixed as there are more google searches for Crossfit injuries then there are for Crossfit boxes. Regardless of the press it receives Crossfit has created a community, a sport, and a competitive internationally recognized arena that attracts major sponsorship, athlete participation and press coverage. So when I get asked the question “is Crossfit here to stay?” my answer is I hope so.

Crossfit’s strengths are many. Firstly the community created among participants is tight. Women account for around 25% and up to 40% of members in some areas, crossfit courses are at capacity months in advance and they promote a healthy lifestyle with the emphasis they have on participants to follow a Paleo diet.

My areas of concern for Crossfit is the focus on quantity over quality especially in complex lifts. AMRAP is a Crossfit workout that stands for ‘as many reps as possible’ which works great for low to medium intensity lifts and tasks that have a low degree of skill and complexity. However in my opinion when this formula includes Olympic lifts, high intensities and working with insufficient recovery time the incidence of injuries that Crossfitters experience is a case of simple mathematics, that is – High rep + medium to high intensities + an emphasis on quantity in a given time frame, at time using complex lifts such as Olympic lifts = a high likelihood of injury.

When viewed as a sport, which Crossfit is, as participants we accept the risks of our chosen sport that we are passionate about. That hands over an element of responsibility to the governing bodies that rule our favourite sports to modify rules to protect its participants/athletes. Examples such as those set in Cricket that have been introduced to limit fast bowler’s overs to lengthen career, or the high tackle rule in Rugby League and Union, and in Soccer (Football depending on where you are from) when tackling an opposition player the studs on the defending players boots are not permitted to be facing the player with possession of the ball. These are examples of governing bodies legislating rules to protect their athletes.

In Crossfit perhaps there could be a shift towards low rep Olympic lifts (1, 2 and 3s only). When workouts are programmed to failure, where form and injury resilience is compromised, make these tasks of a lower intensity and complexity, and coaches or even competition officials monitoring and driving quality lifts, and ensuring their athletes are getting sufficient recovery between sessions.

As with any sport or activity there is the good and bad in everything. Crossfit is a great force that has mobilized thousands of people across the globe, but when google searches for Crossfit injuries surpass all other crossfit related searches there is reason to look at optimizing this ‘good thing’ to ensure the athletes lifespan is increased and potential injury is decreased.

So if you want to get involved find a technically good Crossfit trainer and coach with depth in knowledge and application of that knowledge, realise that the road to mastery of technical lifts such as the Snatch, and Clean and Jerk from the Olympic lifts is an incremental process where you must first have adequate range of motion in the ankles, hips, shoulders and wrists, a technically great dead lift and front squat, and that poor quality, high quantity, reps to failure training rapidly erodes efficient and effective movement patterns, decreases performance in both the short and long term and is a major cause of injuries such as disc herniations in the spine or shoulder injuries such as to the rotator cuff.

To finalise and take this view full circle, we live in a world where sedentary living is more dangerous than any terrorist attack or virus, AMRAP, high intensity lift, etc, so to not engage in any activity be it Crossfit or any exercise/movement practice will rob you of years of vitality and health. Crossfit engages thousands and builds community that is producing athletes that have a broad range of competence in movement literacies, combined with promoting a healthy lifestyle out of the gym (Box). My wish for Crossfit is that the governing bodies make minor adjustments to ensure the continuous rise that Crossfit has experienced so far in this decade.