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Resilient’s View of CrossFit

Greg, Trevor, and I are fortunate to practice at Solace New York, a model Crossfit facility for performance minded physical therapists.  Prior to working out of Solace, I had not spent any appreciable time in a Crossfit facility.  Everything I knew about Crossfit came from the Internet, watching the games on ESPN, and treating a few Crossfitters.  Our experience thus far has been overwhelmingly positive, mainly because the sense of community at Solace is unlike anything I’ve experienced in fitness.  The people at Solace are truly passionate about their own training and more importantly, about creating an atmosphere that motivates their peers.  Even when people are attempting to break their own personal records, the team-first mentality remains pervasive.  The community here has embraced Greg, Trevor, and I with open arms and taken a legitimate interest in what we do.

The members at Solace are, in many ways, model “patients”.  If you can demonstrate how a particular exercise or technique modification will enhance their ability to move under load or mitigate fatigue, Crossfitters like those at Solace are refreshingly diligent and compliant relative to other populations.  The dirty secret in rehabilitation is that clinicians don’t make you better; they just create opportunities for you to fix yourself.  Crossfitters embrace this sense of accountability as well as anybody.

The coaches at Solace are constantly asking us how they can optimize technique cueing and programming for their members.  However, Crossfit is not a universal product; there is a great deal of variation from facility to facility.  Solace is a model box because its coaches utilize safe progressions and don’t compromise technique in pursuit of arbitrary numbers.  With that in mind, here are 5 things every Crossfit facility can do to maximize safety and longevity:

  1. Differentiate Crossfit the sport from Crossfit the general fitness program.  There is typically a tradeoff between performance at the highest level of sport and health.  Training to excel in Crossfit competitions is not the best way to improve fitness in the general population.  Facilities must create different programs for Crossfit competitors and those just interested in general fitness.
  2. Recognize that no exercise is particularly special and that every exercise is just a means to an end.  Not everybody needs to do muscle ups or squat snatches from the floor.  The objective of the exercise should be more important than the exercise itself.
  3. Make people earn the right to do certain exercises by utilizing the proper progressions.  People who can’t statically support themselves in the top or the bottom of a ring dip probably shouldn’t do muscle ups.  The brain will always find a solution to a movement “problems” even if it has to put joints at risk to do so.  People often injure themselves during the transition phases of an exercise by using momentum to get themselves into positions they couldn’t otherwise control.
  4. Recognize that joint position is the foundation of all other performance qualities.  If you don’t have full overhead shoulder motion on a treatment table, for example, it is highly unlikely that you can snatch or lock a weight out overhead without some kind of compensation.  The individual joints that comprise a complex movement need to be “competent”; otherwise the brain will make compromises to accomplish the task.  In other words, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  This is where working with a medical professional that understands Crossfit can be helpful.  Even the best coaches can’t cue people out of positional problems at the joint level.
  5. Vary the intensity and movement patterning from workout to workout.  Not every session needs to be an out of body experience.  The body’s stress reserve is like a bank account.  You can’t blow through money every day without replenishing the account from time to time.  Additionally, doing something like high repetition Olympic lifting and muscle ups on consecutive days may not allow the shoulder stabilizers sufficient time to recover, as an example.  Even the best movers break down under fatigue.