If you want to get shredded and build muscle, CrossFit is where it’s at. CrossFit is a high-intensity fitness program that combines strength training with aerobic exercise. CrossFit is often criticized as leading to a range of injuries because it promotes bad form.
The main reason for bad form is the lack of coaching or education about what good form is. Many of us don’t know what it looks like, so we don’t know if we are doing it correctly.
Why does CrossFit have a bad reputation?
While plenty of people regularly does CrossFit, it can be a dangerous choice for beginners or those with pre-existing injuries. With that in mind, here are some of the main reasons why CrossFit has a bad reputation:
High injury rate
According to research, cross-fit training injuries occur at 3.24 per 1000 hours. While injuries incurred from cross-fit training are similar to rugby and track racing, this lack of a coach or supervisor leads to an increased injury rate amongst cross-fit trainers. The most common type of injury is strains and sprains, causing joint pain in many cases.
While CrossFit can provide plenty of benefits for experienced athletes, it’s not designed for beginners. High-intensity workouts are safer for people who have already built enough strength to handle them properly. If you’re new to exercise, your best bet is to start with something less intense, like running.
The Good: When ‘Bad Form’ is a Good Thing.
If you’ve been working out for any length of time, there is a good chance that you have encountered the term “form.” You may have even been told to “check your form” by a coach. What does this mean?
Form is the series of movements that make up a workout. For example, if lunges are a part of your workout, checking your form means making sure you’re doing them correctly.
If you’re not used to lifting weights or trying CrossFit, you might scoff at the idea that a lousy form could be good for someone.
But the truth is, it can help build muscle and keep your muscles from getting too tight or too sore. Listed below are four reasons why bad form might be good for CrossFitters!
Fine-tunes how your body moves
Correcting bad form can take time away from your workout–time spent on other exercises. By allowing yourself some time to adjust and get in tune with how your body moves during exercise, you’ll end up saving time in the long run by not wasting energy correcting yourself over and over again throughout the workout.
It makes it easier to build muscles.
The correct form is vital when it comes to strength and muscle building. Yet, many people need a little help figuring out how to do squats correctly or complete a deadlift without hurting themselves. In some cases, using bad form can promote more muscle building.
For example, if the person doing a squat is bent over too far, they might work their glutes more in the correct form. This could end up helping them build stronger glutes or bigger muscles in that area.
Less risk of injury
CrossFit athletes are much less likely to experience injuries because of their high level of flexibility. Flexibility is key to keeping muscles and joints healthy.
And the high level of stretching that CrossFit workouts require helps with range of motion. These things help prevent injury by creating a stable environment for muscle use.
CrossFit exercises also help people increase bone density, which reduces the risk of fractures. Once you have achieved flexibility and stability, it will be easier to create good form.
The Bad – When Bad Form Can Cause Actual Injury
As well as the good, we’ve got to tell you about the bad – when form can cause actual physical injury. Sweaty palms, broken wrists, pulled hamstrings, and slipped disks are all possible when things go wrong. Let’s look at some of the causes of bad form (and how to avoid them).
Not getting enough rest between workouts and recovery time.
Unfortunately, many cross-fitters are too caught up in their workouts to pay attention to the recovery process. They push themselves so hard that they end up with sore muscles and injuries.
A good rule of thumb is to wait at least 48 hours before exercising the same muscle group to give your muscles time to recover and repair. If you exercise a muscle group before it has had time to recover, you run the risk of injuring yourself.
Listen to your body. This may sound like common sense, but most CrossFitters let their egos get in the way. The idea of resting instead of pushing yourself seems counterintuitive — after all, isn’t the goal to get better? But if you’re not recovering properly between workouts and taking enough time off for rest days, you could be doing more harm than good.
Weights too heavy
If you’re trying to go heavy, then you need a spotter because it’s challenging to do a max lift by yourself. You’ve got to have somebody to help you safely get the weight up and down. Unfortunately, when most people do this, they don’t use a spotter to help them with the lift; instead, they use the spotter to help them get the weight back on the rack.
You need to have a spotter who’s actively helping you during every rep of every set so that he can keep an eye on your form and help you get through those demanding reps when your muscles are starting to fail.
One of the most common mistakes people make when working out with heavier weights is not keeping their core tight. If your core isn’t tight, and you try to lift something heavy, then it’s likely that your back will arch and put pressure on your spine.
This can lead to pain in the lower back area and an increased chance of an injury. It is better to exercise with good form at a lighter weight than to do it with bad form at a heavier weight.
Not enough experience/technique
Some CrossFit routines involve hundreds or thousands of repetitions throughout a workout. If you’re not used to that kind of workload, it’s easy to strain muscles or tendons from overuse. Injuries from CrossFit are usually minor and include sprains, strains, and fractures from accidents or overuse.
When you’re performing a new movement for the first time, be sure to ask for help from a trainer or more experienced athlete in your gym. Also, don’t be afraid to tell your coach if your form starts to suffer as fatigue sets in — it’s far better to stop early than end up with an injury.
Not enough mobility
The most common cause of bad form is that you don’t have enough mobility to get into position. This is generally true for any squat. Spend some time stretching. In particular, make sure you’re improving your ankle flexibility and hip mobility. You should also maintain a neutral spine throughout the entire range of motion for the exercise.
The Ugly – Bad Coaches and Bad Cultures
There’s a big difference between a coach who has his athletes perform the same workout for six months straight and a coach who has different training every other day.
The former is a novice in sports science, while the latter understands that variety is key to creating an overall fit athlete. Something as simple as changing the number of reps, sets, or exercises to keep your body guessing.
Not scaling a workout.
A coach should understand how to scale workouts to each individual. If you’ve never lifted weights before, you shouldn’t be expected to perform all of the same workouts as someone who’s been lifting for years. A good coach will modify an exercise to be challenging yet doable for all fitness levels.
Scaling isn’t reserved just for newbies. CrossFitters usually try to throw weights up as fast as possible instead of practicing the movement repeatedly until they get it right (this is why we have scaled workouts).
When the weight gets heavier, the athlete doesn’t know how to handle it because they haven’t practiced enough with lighter weights.
Coaches that push you too hard
It’s not unusual for coaches to push you too hard. CrossFit is a demanding sport, and you’ll be encouraged to push your limits.
But the coach must push you just enough. Too much pressure can lead to injury, and a coach who ignores your limitations isn’t helping you improve. If a coach is too aggressive, it may be time to consider joining a different gym.
Some coaches are also more focused on getting their clients into better shape than safety. It’s one thing to work past the point of exhaustion or muscle strain, but it’s another thing entirely when that leads to injury.
A good coach understands the importance of rest days and will allow you to take time off if needed.
Lifting with your ego
Most people who are into CrossFit are competitive by nature; they enjoy pushing themselves and testing their limits. One of the reasons people get into CrossFit is because they want to see how hard they can push themselves without monitoring their workouts.
The problem arises when ego overrides good sense, leading to injuries and burnout. Don’t let your ego push you beyond your limits at the gym. There’s this stigma that you’re not an actual cross fitter if you don’t lift heavyweights.
If a workout has lightweights in it, people will be complaining that it’s too light, and they’ll just be trying to go faster so they can finish first. This attitude isn’t conducive to learning, and the person who is always trying to lift the heaviest weight will never get better at anything but lifting heavyweights.
Five Tips to Keep Your Form in Check
Here are five tips to help keep your form in check as a CrossFit trainer and to make sure you don’t end up hurting yourself or others.
Warm-up before your cross-fit workout
CrossFitters make one of the most common mistakes to rush straight into their workout without stretching or warming up. According to Mayo Clinic, it’s essential to stretch before and after a heavy workout, so your muscles don’t stiffen up, which lessens your chances of injury.
Always have a spotter, especially when you’re at the gym.
Having a spotter is essential when you’re doing lifts or using heavyweights. It may be tempting to try and lift something too heavy for you, and having a spotter there can help prevent injury. Not only is a spotter ideal for injury prevention, but the motivation they provide increases your performance levels.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you don’t feel comfortable with an exercise or aren’t sure how to do something correctly, ask someone who knows what they’re doing to show you proper form before starting in on your routine.
It’s easy to forget about drinking water during workouts because we focus on lifting heavy weights at the gym or running upstairs for cardio training sessions. Keeping yourself hydrated will ensure your energy levels stay high throughout each workout session, which means less fatigue later on.
Use the proper form for your squats.
Not using the proper form puts you at risk of injury, not only from the exercise itself but from other exercises as well. The squat is one of the most used movements in CrossFit, and if you don’t do it properly, you’ll injure yourself somewhere else down the line.
In the end, form is a significant issue in Crossfit because it is so versatile. The power and variety of movements to be performed means there are dozens of ways to go about achieving each one.
No matter how experienced you are, it’s important to reinforce good form in every exercise. Bad habits take too long to undo and can lead to injuries that seem impossible to recover from.