Crossfit? Is it Crossfit or the coach?


Please read the commentary in the image. Then read this post from a very experienced Crossfit coach and athlete. You decide where you want to train and be coached. This applies to ALL training facilities, companies, trainers, coaches, not just Crossfit.

"Yesterday at the Gemini Game finals I saw behavior that made me incredibly sad. I saw a young girl, looking to be college age, who trains at CF Bel Air injure her shoulder to the point of tears during muscle up attempts. ( If she's reading this, she knows who I am, because I walked up to her after the event and gave her the same advice I'm writing about now).

The injury could not have been predicted, but what happened next was predictable, because of the culture these competitions promote. Injuries happen, but this particular one was made much worse through a personal choice.

After this initial injury, she made a personal decision to continue doing muscle ups, despite having an uninjured teammate to share work with. Each successive rep was visibly more painful than the last. And we know for a fact that each successive rep was doing more tissue damage than the last.

After the muscle ups came the snatches. Even more pain. More tears. Her face was knotted up in constant pain, but she kept going. At one point, an official got an ice pack DURING the event, and seemingly encouraged her to keep going.

Onto the overhead squats, and while her partner was doing sets, she was holding the ice pack on her shoulder, grimacing in intense pain. They got to the end, and despite the pain and injury, they finished the entire event in 2nd place.

Everyone celebrated. Except her. She was in tears. I was standing next to her immediate family and friends the entire event. Once she was hurt, no one suggested she stop. No official stopped the "play of the game" to send a doctor over to assess if it was safe for her to continue to play. In fact, I'm pretty sure there was no medical staff on the scene at all.

Instead of suggesting she stop, I only heard encouragement to continue from her family, friends, teammate, and judge. Screams of, "keep going, dig deep," and "get a good time", and "don't stop, you got this" were being shouted all around me. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Even her grandmother was supporting her continued participation.

The whole scene sickened me. What the hell are we all doing? This shit is for fun! Since when is it okay to sacrifice your health and quality of life for a stupid game? Especially a game that you paid a large chunk of money to participate in. We aren't getting paid thousands of dollars a game to take on such a risk!

At the end, after she was calmed down, I walked over to her and made sure her friends and family heard what I had to say. I told her, "I'm a stranger, and we don't know each other, but I've been coaching for 15 years. Remember why you are here in the first place. If you get hurt badly, you will not continue to do what you love to do. Your decision to keep going, despite intense pain and injury, has just caused you to sacrifice your longevity in this sport. You're young, but in a few years, the words of this stranger will ring more true than ever. Good luck on your recovery."

And with that I walked away with a clear conscience. Where was her coach in all this? He/she should have forced her to stop! Her family should value her health over her "time to complete the WOD." What the hell has our community created? This is the norm in CrossFit competitions. And why didn't officials stop the play of the game to determine whether she was safe to continue? Every single legitimate sport in the world, at every level of competition, values the safety of the athlete over everything else. CrossFit sport has apparently completely ignored this basic rule of human respect.

Things need to change. Older, wiser people need to get this message across. This can't continue this way...

Guaranteed this young woman woke up this morning unable to lift her arm. In trying, she's rewarded with agonizing pain. When she goes to get an X-ray or MRI, she will likely have caused labral tearing, frozen shoulder, bicep tendinitis, rotator cuff impingement, and any number of chronic stress injuries. She'll beat herself up over her decision, and ask herself was all the pain, injury, and rehab worth the podium placement. I hope her answer to her own question is "NO", and she moves forward wiser than she was the day before."

What's the bottom line?

  • Learn technique first!

  • Discover what you need to work on before you increase the load, the speed, the intensity/length of your workouts. Mobility, stability, balance, motor control. Do you have what you need for the exercise you want to perform?

  • Pay attention to pain! Don't power through the next workout before you heal.

  • Learn how to recover!

  • Don't perform the absurd "Glut-ham sit-up."

  • Failure means technique failure, not until you vomit.

More on Crossfit: From Doctor's View of Crossfit

Concept 1: Your anatomy

“The flexibility required in the hips and shoulders in many cases is a gift from your parents. No matter how much stretching is attempted, some will never have the hip and shoulder socket anatomy to deep squat and support a bar overhead. But they will try, and their compromised form will create substantial injury mechanisms. The majority I see are spine disc bulges and vertebral end plate fractures. Most of these fractures are undetected by radiologists reporting on MRI, CT, and x-ray scans.”

Concept 2: Motor patterns

“World-class Olympic lifters train with very few reps – usually just singles and doubles. They have also learned to never miss a lift, never lift when fatigued, and never compromise form.

They do not create muscle memory polluted with fatigued patterns. This approach creates faster gains in performance and less injury.”

Concept 3: Causes of Injury

“… high reps of these bending movements while under the high loads from the bar slowly delaminate the collagen fibers that form the outer rings of the disc.

Eventually the cumulative effect is the gel-like nucleus of the disc seeps through the delaminations causing a disc bulge. We have performed dozens of experiments over the years to prove this.”

“But CrossFit compounds the risk further. Olympic athletes toughen the collagen in their spine discs by only training mobility in the ball and socket joints.

CrossFit athletes must perform exercises like burpees. Performing ten burpees before ten snatches replaces disc toughness with flexibility and softness in the matrix holding the collagen fibres together, resulting in a more potent injury risk scenario.”

Concept 4: Technique

“While attending the CrossFit competition at the Arnold Classic, one thing really stood out: the lifting technique was just awful.

I did not see one competent lift. Not one! And things only got worse with each rep and set. (I will note that I have consulted before with some CrossFit gyms and there are some very competent lifters.)”

Concept 5: Programming

“The programming based on going to failure with speed and high load will shorten the athletic window of many of these people. The programming within CrossFit will only create a better CrossFit competitor.”

Concept 6: How hard one should train

“That is one of the biggest misconceptions I see all over the fitness industry: the assumption that overly hard training methodology that routinely puts an athlete into the ground will produce optimal results when compared to more intelligently and goal-oriented programming.

There's a big difference between programming a movement to be "hard" and programming to be "challenging."

Finally, read this interview of Emily Abbott from the 2015 Crossfit Games.

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