12 Idiot Proof Principles to Crossfit Performance and Injury Prevention: Part 1.

The largest criticism I hear about crossfit is about how dangerous it is and how many people get hurt doing it, blah, blah, blah.  Maybe we should all just hide in a closet and pray for muscles and a six pack?  That’s probably safer then trying something challenging like a snatch.  Of course its not great to plow through random exercises with terrible technique for hundreds of reps.  But if that’s what you believe crossfit is then my friend you need to find a better gym……

Crossfit can be done poorly and can be done correctly, just like any other fitness system.  Instead of condemning crossfit as some sort of fitness fad that’s sure to blow up your rotator cuff let’s try to figure out a way to make it better shall we?

1. Get Your Mind Right

“Whether you believe you can, or you believe you can’t, you’re right”

– Henry Ford

What’s the difference between you and an olympic gold medalist?  Genetics? Coaching?  Programming? Great Facilities?  Training partners?  Well for one I bet you 100% that the olympic athlete has a very specific way of thinking.  Their mental game is iron clad.  They believe in themselves.

However, I will say that we all put our pants on one leg at a time.  These individuals may seem like it, but they aren’t superhuman.  Laird Hamilton (Professional Big Wave Surfer) has an awesome quote that helps to point out the difference between normal individuals and those who have achieved greatness.

“We are our own worst inhibitors”

If we could stop making excuses for our goals and dreams we’d be that much closer to actually attaining them.  Humans are capable of tremendous things.  Having the right mindset is definitely at the foundation.

Want some inspiration?  Take some from Dan Gable.  I’m a huge fan of being inspired and inspiring others and have written about it quite a bit in the past.  Want to get charged up?  Read this.  If that didn’t do the trick then give this a read.  If that didn’t work, you may already be dead and I feel badly for you.

Making the commitment to excellence isn’t easy.  It’s a lonely road, set apart from status quo and away from “normal” by society’s standards.  Sitting on the couch is easy.  Eating doritos for lunch is easy.  Staying up late and sleeping in is easy.  However, is this the way you want people to think of you? Or the way you want to be remembered once you’re dead and gone?  For me, hell no!

Every action you take in your life is either a step toward the person you aspire to become or a step in the opposite direction.  The power is yours (Captain Planet reference).

On top of that your way of thinking has an incredible influence on whether or not we get injured and also how we recover from injury.

  • Fear about your current injury decreases your ability to recover
  • Stress and an introverted personality can increase your risk of injury
  • Having competitive anxiety increases your risk for injury.  Believing you are more prone to injury or ill-health can be a self-fulfilling prophecy!

2. Don’t Put Fitness on Dysfunction

I stole this directly from Gray Cook.  It means that we shouldn’t be using complex exercises to develop fitness without having taught proper technique and mastery of these exercises first.  Crossfit is large group of skills that require disciplined practice to master.  To me this is part of what makes crossfit so enjoyable and challenging.

As fitness professionals and enthusiasts we’re so caught up in the more reps, more weight, beat the clock mentality we forget that we’re trying to actually get better at moving properly.

Squats are a skill, pullups are a skill, olympic lifts are a skill, running is a skill, jumping and landing are skills.  What happens when we just throw complicated movements together and tell you to perform them as fast as possible without getting your technique together first?  Torn meniscus, rotator cuff tears, disc herniations, volcanoes erupt, planets colide, etc etc.  You get the point?

Using crossfit properly involves teaching how to do these movements correctly and then practicing, practicing, practicing.

3. Perfect Technique Always

This is a bonehead rule and an extension of the above principle.  Do you want a surefire way to get better, stronger, faster and more efficient while decreasing the likelihood of getting hurt?  Stop using crappy technique.

Want to know what happens when your form breaks down?  You get less efficient, you get weaker, you get hurt.  I’ve written about this extensively in the past.  Ever wonder why when someone breaks a world record in a given sport it looks so effortless and perfect?  That’s because if their technique broke down they wouldn’t have set a world record.  It’s that important.

Poor technique is also going to decrease your efficiency.  Remember the old saying that practice makes perfect?  Well perfect practice makes perfect. Practice just makes permanent.  When we practice poor technique we get better and better at doing poor technique. We want to get better not worse right?

On top of that crappy technique makes you look like a tired and mortally wounded animal flopping around in the gym.  It curdles my blood.  It’s like someone scraping their nails against a blackboard to me.  This is probably the biggest reason why so many crossfit haters exist.

4. Find a Good Gym and a Good Coach

There are good and bad doctors right?  Unfortunately I can tell you the local surgeons who have a bad track record for their patients getting infections after surgery. That’s a bad thing.

What’s the difference between becoming a surgeon and a crossfit trainer?  Becoming a surgeon takes hundreds of thousands of dollars and up to 15 years of school and training just to start practicing.  On top of that you still get bad surgeons.

Becoming crossfit certified means $1000 and a weekend course.  Do you think everyone out there teaching crossfit is competent?  Unfortunately with crossfit gyms popping up around every corner not every gym will be created equal.  Here are a few tips when choosing a gym.

  • Established gyms are usually better then new gyms
  • Coaches should practice what they preach.  (Nothing is worse then a trainer who’s out of shape *vomit*)
  • Credentials count – Coaches who go out of their way to learn olympic lifting through USAW are a plus.  I’ve seen a recent trend in physical therapists and chiropractors becoming coaches and I’ve got to say, that’s awesome.
  • Assessments and Introductory classes – Many programs have introductory classes (on-ramp) but not too many offer assessments.

Having a good coach will ensure that your programming isn’t stupid and leading you to a romantic date with an orthopedic surgeon.  On top of that good coaching is pivotal to success.  If you want to actually be good at this stuff the right coach is going to help tremendously.

Next week we’ll go over some more fancy things such as assessment, nutrition and warming up.  Hurray!

I just did 5 Frans in a row,

-Dan Pope

Fitness Pain Free


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