Crossfit gyms are springing up everywhere. Their growing popularity has even spawned an ESPN show "Crossfit Games," which displays gifted, attractive athletes competing in intense competitions. Unsurprisingly, I’ve received numerous emails, texts and questions about the new craze. After studying Crossfit, listening to CF podcasts, watching videos, and talking to former and current participants, I’ve formed my educated conclusion: Crossfit is too risky and too inefficient.
In an exercise program, one main goal should be enhancing movement capabilities. The better your movement, the more functional you become in sports and everyday life. You reduce your chance of injury, increase your range of motion, increase your strength and become more athletic. Crossfit doesn’t promote these traits. Crossfit promotes ass-kicking workouts that get you sore, burn calories, and might make you fit in your swimsuit better—but it’s not worth a lifelong dysfunctional shoulder, back or hip.
Crossfit’s too risky for a serious athlete, someone with an old injury, and anyone over 35 years old. CF’s random routine can exacerbate an injury or eventually cause a new one. There’s no progressive plan of action. Each workout is tailored to that day, without an overall fitness plan and long-term strategy in place. Today’s workout of the day (WOD) won’t help you next week. There’s no deep concentration on initial assessments, warm-up strategies, corrective exercise, and functional training.
Crossfit coaches provide little help. While some are pretty knowledgeable, very few actually have a broad understanding of biomechanics and human movement. Few coaches can teach clients about health or technique, and CF routines rarely employ proper workout progression. Additionally, coaches’ weekend certification process only provides the bare essentials to train people—they’re mostly “certified” to run clients through the WODs.
There are smarter ways to reach your goal.
Looking at recent WODs, I see high repetition workouts combining too many pull-ups with excessive amounts of jumps, dead lifts, and risky cleans and lifts—often with the goal of completing as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes. I’m already warming my X-ray machine up for the dislocated shoulders and thrown hips that will wind up in my office.
This routine may look intense and even fun to non-educated enthusiasts, but to the educated eye, this is a terribly designed program suffering from poor structure that neglects the functional elements good programs implement.
Some Crossfit exercises are unnecessarily risky, and can lead to serious injury due to improper form. One suspect exercise is the “Kipping" pull-up, where you kick your legs up before pulling yourself up to the bar. It’s a sure-fire way to ruin your gleno-humeral joint and wind up with a bum shoulder due to excessive friction, especially when done in high repetitions. CF trainers claim kipping pull-ups are great for explosiveness and power—they’re not!—and fail to mention the risk of injury from such a ballistic motion. Any other pull-up variation is much tougher and much more effective.
Another high-risk movement is the Olympic lift, which is actually a decent exercise when performed correctly. Unfortunately, bad form is very common, so beginners shouldn’t attempt it. For most people, the full range of motion required to perform this exercise properly is difficult or near-impossible to achieve, especially since many have restrictions in their knees, hips, lower back, and shoulders.
Additionally, Crossfit Endurance provides a very poor selection of strength work for endurance athletes, who should be focusing on clean and functional movements that will enhance balance, symmetry, stability and bio-mechanical movement in their specific sports. They already risk overtraining and CF’s high repetition workouts only exacerbate their muscles.
I won’t be surprised if the Crossfit craze fades in five years and people return to smarter, more functional methods. I advise any CF current members, or anyone interested in CF, to take a step back and think about the long haul of training. Performing a Crossfit workout once a week to help with metabolism or add some variety to your routine won’t hurt you, but doing it everyday will eventually hurt you—it may take days, may take months, but your chances of injury go through the roof with erratic exercise selection. You don’t want chronic pain to affect you and your lifestyle. A workout should leave you feeling better, opened up and your functional movement has been increased. Not sore and burdened with chronic pain.
Remember: Hard training doesn't mean smart training. Anyone can throw together a series of exercises and make someone sweat. It’s harder to develop a progressive program that actually helps athletes achieve their goals. Smart, consistent and functional training will improve your life and your performance and keep you injury free.
Stay healthy LA
Robert Pomahac, D.C.
Clinic Owner and Head Chiropractor
Clinic Owner and Head Chiropractor