Wednesday 1th January
CrossFit is a type of fitness/sport that is becoming more popular within the UK, with new gyms opening all the time. The rise in popularity of CrossFit has meant a rise in critics, it is often viewed as a high-risk sport for injuries, form being substituted for more repetitions, more weight and quicker times. Like all popular sports, the injury rate is likely to increase as participation increases.
More people turning up at the Physiotherapy clinic does not mean there is a problem with the sport. In this blog I hope to introduce CrossFit as a sport but also give some useful tips on how to stay injury free whether you are just starting or have been doing it for a long time.
CrossFit is a huge sport in the US but is growing across the world, the pinnacle is the CrossFit Games which crowns one man and woman CrossFit Games Champions.
CrossFit officially takes place at registered gyms with a CrossFit coach taking each session. The training side of things is complimented by advice and education on nutrition.
The sessions are likely to include a warm up, strength and skill session, the workout of the day and then a cool down.
Strength and Skill Session
In this section you will have the opportunity to perfect technique, build weight and earn personal bests with certain exercises. There is huge variety in this section with many different skills and movements to learn. You will find your strengths and your weaknesses which you will grow to love equally.
Some key exercises:
Some of these movements may sound daunting but learning new skills is great fun and each exercise can be broken down and made easier/ lighter to suit your ability.
The Workout of the Day (WOD)
This part of the session is where you will push yourself to your limits in trying to complete the workout in the best time or post the most repetitions that you can. There is huge variation in what the workout will consist of but here are the most common types of workout.
As Many Repetitions As Possible’ (AMRAP)
This is a work out where the aim is to complete ‘As Many Repetitions As Possible’ within a set time for a set number of exercises
e.g. Fight Gone Bad (some workouts have a name)
Three rounds of:
This is a 15-minute workout, one minute on each exercise completing 3 rounds in total, your score is the number of repetitions (calories for the row) that you manage in total.
Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM)
‘Every Minute On the Minute’ is where each minute you will be completing a different exercise for a set number of repetitions. If you complete the number of repetitions within the minute then you can rest until the next minute starts.
e.g. 20-minute EMOM
Five rounds of:
Rounds for Time (RFT)
‘Rounds For Time’, is where you complete a set number of rounds of a circuit and try and complete it as quickly as possible. The time you complete it in is your score.
e.g. Three rounds of:
CrossFit challenges you to lift, jump, push, row, run at high intensities for sustained periods.
"This has the advantage of improving both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems."
The aerobic system is where energy is restored in the presence of oxygen, most often associated with longer, steady state exercise such as rowing or running and it can keep you going for hours. The anaerobic system is the restoration of energy in the absence of oxygen and is dominant during shorter more intense exercise bursts between approximately 10-120 seconds.
It improves your VO2Max which is the amount of oxygen your body can take in during exercise, this is a great indicator for cardiorespiratory fitness. Your strength and power will improve making everyday life activities easier. You may lose weight, look leaner and feel better in yourself. Resistance training helps keep your muscles healthy which are huge organs for your bodies metabolism which can help protect against diabetes.
Pushing yourself to do more when your body and mind are telling you to stop builds mental resilience. We naturally avoid suffering in our day to day lives but a small amount can help build up our tolerance to it and make us more resilient people. Working in a team where people help motivate each other can give you a sense of belonging and identity. Achieving personal bests, or the high you get when you manage your first pull up will give you enormous satisfaction. You will feel great after each session with a release of endorphins giving you that happy feeling.
Pushing the boundaries
CrossFit pushes you physically and mentally to the extreme of your capabilities, this will always carry a risk of injury, but this is not unique to CrossFit, all sports do this to some degree. The problem here is when you try to do too much, too soon and do not allow the body the time it needs to adapt to these new movements and training.
CrossFit may take months to get used to, going twice a week should be enough to start with to allow plenty of recovery time in between sessions. Consistency is key, turning up week in week out will allow you to get used to the movements and build up the strength and technique that will help protect against injuries. Know your limits, especially in the workouts where your adrenaline will be pumping, keep to a sensible weight factoring in the volume within each workout. Compete with yourself, you are likely to be in sessions with people far more experienced than yourself. Don’t be tempted to match them for weight or time, keep a record of your personal bests and aim to better them.
When starting CrossFit, you will be introduced to new movements that stress the body in ways you won’t be used to. Some movements may feel uncomfortable and unnatural, pushing through this initial discomfort may overload certain structures in your body and cause irritation and pain.
The body can adapt to these new movements over time, but you need to know when to ease back to avoid irritating things. Break movements down or scale them back to make them easier and practice them regularly. For some, certain positions may always be restricted in some way, making the movement less efficient and uncomfortable. This may be due to the actual shape, size and angles of your joints. Don’t be afraid to know your limits with certain movements that may just not suit your body. Pushing through may cause injury and pain, adapt these movements to avoid this happening.
Harder movements such as pull ups, Olympic lifting, hand stand push ups, may take weeks and months to get used to, be patient with this process. These types of exercise could cause aches and pains but don’t allow this to progress to pain that lasts and interferes with your ability turn up and train. You can’t progress if you can’t train, always have the bigger picture in your mind, train at a sustainable level for you.
Lay the foundations, perfect your technique and be strict with yourself to maintaining good form during all workouts. Getting into good habits will help protect against injury and good form should make you more efficient with your movements, improving performance.
The push for flexibility
Embedded into the CrossFit culture is a range of ‘mobility’ exercises such as static stretching using body weight or bands and self-pressure point work using hard balls to roll on. There is nothing harmful about static stretching but as the research dictates the benefits are limited and the desired outcome may not be achieved. Stretching in very extreme positions into discomfort is unlikely to have any benefit or carryover and can cause irritation to joints, tendons and other soft tissues.
Increasing joint mobility to help with certain movements is more likely to be improved through practicing the actual movements. When stretching avoid anything that doesn’t feel like a stretch, and do not feel the need to hold the stretch for prolonged periods in very extreme positions as the benefits may be limited anyway. There is also very limited benefit in rolling on very hard balls so don’t feel the need to buy into this approach. Sensible recovery strategies include a good diet, sleep and enough time to allow your body to repair.
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