CrossFit Workouts: What You Need To Know Before You Start
CrossFit offers an intense and advanced workout that is sure to provide muscle-building and fat-burning results without the risk of injury when simple preventative steps are taken. Be sure to warm-up and thoroughly stretch before and after each CrossFit workout. Focus on proper form, not speed when you’re just starting out. We strongly recommend asking a trainer to help correct your technique until you’re confident to do it on your own and getting an SFMA evaluation from a certified provider to ensure proper range of motion and form can be achieved. Proper nutrition and rest are essential for avoiding Cross Fit injuries. Sleep eight hours each night and eat a well-balanced diet of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Avoid overtraining by taking two or three days per week to rest.
Top 15 CrossFit Injuries and How to Avoid Them
CrossFit gets plenty of attention for its unorthodox and intense training methods for both positive and negative reasons. CrossFit workouts can help you to build muscle, increase strength, and lose weight, but this type of training can also place you at a high risk for injury when performed incorrectly.
Spine, shoulder, and knee injuries are the most common CrossFit injuries with one study finding that there were 2 to 3 injuries occurring for every thousand hours of training. Despite the negative publicity, CrossFit can be an effective way to achieve your fitness goals if safe and preventative measures are taken.
Here are the 15 most common CrossFit injuries and how to prevent them.
Lower Back Strain and Pain
Given the fast-paced nature of a CrossFit workout combined with Olympic-based weightlifting, the lower back is the number one area cited for injury.
Many CrossFitters complain of straining their lower back and the resulting pain that follows. Lower back pain can be caused from lifting too much, improper form while lifting, or overcompensating muscles such as the upper back or hamstrings that are pulling on lower back muscles.
How to Prevent Lower Back Strain: Stretch before your workout but focus on muscles that could be doing too much of the work such as your calves, hamstrings, and latissimus dorsi (middle back). Use lightweight and have a trainer check your technique frequently.
Your spine is a long stack of vertebrae and in between each one, you’ll find jelly doughnut-like discs that cushion and protect. Trauma or excessive stress can cause the insides of these discs to bulge out and push on surrounding nerves, triggering pain. This is called a herniated disc.
A herniated disc can result from snap-based exercises such as the clean and jerk as well as using too much weight. CrossFit tends to combine both snap-based movements with heavy weight.
How to Prevent a Herniated Disc: Having perfect form is your best method of prevention with a herniated disc. Never overload a barbell and perform snap-based exercises until you’ve perfected the technique. We recommend working with a trainer for at least a month to master the form of the most high-risk CrossFit exercises.
Neck Injury (Cervical Spine)
CrossFit workouts utilize exercises that require pushing a barbell above the head such as the military press, and placing a barbell across your back such as the squat. If you drop the weight on your neck, you could suffer from a cervical spine injury that results in severe pain or paralysis.
How to Prevent a Neck Injury: Never use too weight much when a barbell will be elevated above your head. As above, be sure you know how to properly execute these types of exercises. You should also consider using an adjustable lifting rack to protect you from the chance of weights falling.
The wrist is essential for performing a snap or jerk-based movement in CrossFit exercises. Given its involvement in most exercises, the wrist is at a high risk for strain and injury. Dropping a weight on your wrist is possible, but in CrossFit, you’re more likely to overuse or hyperextend your wrist.
How to Prevent Wrist Strain: Prevention begins with strengthening the surrounding muscles, especially your forearms and your grip. Before every workout, be sure to focus on stretching the wrist and forearms to alleviate tightness.
Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
Tennis elbow is the result of overuse of the tendons that connect your forearm and elbow joint, and the pain you feel is primarily from inflammation. The Olympic-style lifts that are popular in CrossFit rely on the wrist, forearm, and shoulders, setting you for the chance to overuse these muscles.
How to Prevent Tennis Elbow: Take at least ten minutes to warm-up and thoroughly stretch from your fingertips to the top of your shoulder. Post-workout, consider placing ice at the elbow to lower any potential inflammation.
Another overuse injury, Achilles tendonitis is caused by over-flexing and overusing the tendon found on the back of the ankle. The wrong footwear can also place a great deal of strain on the tendon.
How to Prevent Achilles Tendonitis: We recommend visiting your chiropractor to get recommendations on proper footwear. When at your CrossFit gym, be sure to properly warm up and stretch with ankle rolls and static holds.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
There is a long band of connective tissue that connects from your hip to your knee; this is known as the iliotibial band or IT band. IT band syndrome occurs from overtraining this tissue or when it repeatedly rubs against the thigh bone. Inflammation and pain on the side of the knee are the result in both cases.
How to Prevent Iliotibial Band Syndrome: Focus on a full set of stretches for the lower body; this must include the hip flexors and the sides of your thighs. Talk with your trainer to ensure that your CrossFit workout includes exercises that activate both the abductors (outside the thigh) and adductors (inside the thigh) as this will help to avoid overcompensation.
CrossFit uses many plyometrics-based or jumping exercises. High impact movements like this put a lot of stress and strain on the bottom part of your knee, resulting in a painful condition called patellar tendonitis.
How to Prevent Patellar Tendonitis: Strengthening the lower body and slowly adjusting to high impact exercises is the best method for prevention. After every workout, be sure to fully stretch the lower body. You may also want to place ice on the knee for 15 minutes post-workout.
SLAP Tear (Labrum Tear)
The labrum forms a protective lining along the shoulder socket, and it’s essential in all of the overhead lifting exercises that are popular in CrossFit. When you overuse this piece of cartilage or when you lift too much weight overhead, you can tear the labrum. Dropping a weight on the shoulder is also a cause for a labrum tear.
How to Prevent a SLAP Tear: Stretch the entire shoulder – front, side, and back – before every workout. Also, don’t focus on one shoulder exercise. Be sure to strengthen the anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear) deltoids with exercises such as the front raise, lateral raise, and rear fly.
Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
Your shoulder is a complex network of tendons and connective tissue. If you overuse the shoulder, especially with overhead lifting or snap-based exercises, you risk inflaming these tendons. The result is the inability to lift anything above shoulder height without pain.
How to Prevent Shoulder Impingement Syndrome: This injury typically happens when a person lifts too much too quickly. When beginning with CrossFit, use light weight and don’t push yourself to the point of pain. Also, strengthening the surrounding shoulder musculature is an excellent preventative measure.
Shoulder Rotator Cuff Tear
The rotator cuff holds your upper arm bone in place with a series of thick tendons. Since the shoulder is a ball and socket joint, it’s at a higher risk of injury because it’s involved in all arm-based movements. Rotator cuffs are subjected to normal wear and tear over time, but CrossFit exercises can speed up the chance for a partial or total tear.
How to Prevent a Rotator Cuff Tear: Strengthening the rotator cuff is the best way to avoid injury. Use light weight and target each deltoid or part of the shoulder. Never skip stretching and if you are sore post-workout, apply ice for 15-minute intervals.
Straining too much to complete a repetition can stress your abdominal musculature to the point where a piece of your intestine pushes its way past the muscle tissue. Many Olympic-based exercises such as the deadlift and the clean and press are associated with hernias.
How to Prevent a Hernia: A weak core puts you at a higher risk for developing a hernia. We recommend a total core strengthening workout that focuses on the front, side, and back of your torso. Also, be sure to actively stretch so you avoid tightness in the core muscles.
Quadricep, Hamstring, or Calf Strain or Tear
From high impact exercises to sprinting, CrossFit workouts can quickly lead to overuse in the leg muscles. An overworked quadricep, hamstring, or calf can result in a strain or tear. Also, if one of these muscles is weak, another part of the leg may overcompensate, and this stress can also cause a strain or tear.
How to Prevent a Quadricep, Hamstring, or Calf Strain or Tear: Stretch each part of the leg with a series of dynamic stretches before a workout and static stretches after the workout. During leg day workouts, assign an equal workload to quadriceps and hamstrings as they are the biggest muscles of the lower body.
Hip Flexor Strain or Tear
An injury in the hip flexor is usually the result of poor pre-workout preparation followed by attempting to lift too much. Working out with tight hip flexors can result in a strain or tear, especially during hip hinge movements such as the deadlift.
How to Prevent a Hip Flexor Strain or Tear: Prevention lies in stretching the flexors and targeting them equally during workouts. For every hip adductor exercise, perform a hip abduction exercise. For example, standing side leg raise can be paired with the clam exercise.
While not as common as the other injuries on this list, rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition that comes as a result of overtraining with too much intensity. When you push the muscle far past its ability to perform an extremely intense workout – a level of intensity you aren’t accustomed – then you can develop rhabdomyolysis. This is when the muscle tissue experiences trauma as a result of the exercise, is broken down and processed by the kidneys, resulting in hospitalization.
How to Prevent Rhabdomyolysis: Do not overdo it during your CrossFit workout. If you feel that the intensity level is far greater than you can handle, stop, and rest.
Have You Sustained One of these CrossFit Injuries?
Is your elbow inflamed? Are you not able to lift your arms above your head? Ravenswood Chiropractic specializes in treating CrossFit injuries. Give us a call today at 773-878-7330 to schedule a consultation. We’ll be happy to help you recover quickly and get back to your CrossFit gym.
Dr. DeFabio is a highly regarded chiropractor in Chicago who focuses on helping his patients achieve optimal health and wellness. He takes a holistic approach to care, treating symptoms and addressing underlying issues to promote long-term healing. Dr. DeFabio is passionate about empowering his patients to take control of their health and live their best lives. You can find him surfing, skateboarding, and volunteering at the Lakeview Food Pantry when he’s not in the office.