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11 Strategies to Become an Injury Free CrossFitter

Anything we do in life has some degree of risk. The challenge lies in weighing up this risk against the potential rewards.

On a basic level, if the risk of a task is greater than the reward, avoid it, if the reward is greater than the risk, do it. Simple hey? Not so much. The choices and decisions we make aren’t so clear cut, and our actions can modify the risk to reward ratio and tip it in our favour.

CrossFit has risks, like everything else. One of these risks is the risk of injury. And like everything else, our behaviours can increase or decrease this injury risk.

And that’s the purpose of this article, to give you strategies to modify controllable behaviours to reduce your chances of suffering from injuries in CrossFit.

These are the top 11 strategies to become an injury free CrossFitter:

  1. Prioritise Mechanics.
  2. Pre- Exercise Routines.
  3. Post- Exercise Nutrition.
  4. Post- Exercise Movement Therapy.
  5. Post- Exercise Recovery.
  6. Deload Weeks.
  7. Midweek Deload Days.
  8. Modify Training Around Injury.
  9. Follow Balanced Programming.
  10. Get Enough Sleep.
  11. Correct Nutrition.

Prioritise Mechanics:

So this one is obvious, but the list wouldn’t be complete without it. If you’re making a concerted effort to move better, you’re also avoiding the positions that will predispose you to acute (one time) or chronic (long term overuse) injuries. An obstacle to this is culture within some CrossFit circles to count reps based on their start and end-points. A squat beings with hip and knee extension, the hip passes below the knee, and it ends with hip and knee extension. Sometimes not enough emphasis is placed on what actually happens between these points.

Read Reps for Quality where we discuss a model for counting reps based on quality of movement, not just completion of movement.

Have the discipline to implement this is every piece of your training.

Pre- Exercise Routines:

A warm up should not be generic, but rather, specific to the movement being performed in the workout.

Aside from the injury prevention benefits of a warm-up, the efficiency of movement can be drastically improved, leading to greater power output and increased work capacity. This is achieved by activating structures that are otherwise inhibited, and releasing structures that are otherwise tight.

For every degree of freedom for each movement in your session (eg: a squat would be hip hip and knee flexion and extension), an active and dynamic warm-up should be completed. By covering all degrees of freedom, every joint involved in the movement is moved through the same ranges as will occur during the exercise.

Following a dynamic pre- exercise routine, begin to progressively add load to the movements you’re completing in your session, ensuring correct mechanics and bracing strategies (neutral spine and correct muscle activation patterns).

Resources:

  • Our full library of clinic based exercises is here.

Post- Exercise Nutrition.

Within 10 minutes of finishing a training session, do exactly this:

Consume an easily digestible protein that won’t take a huge amount of blood away from the skeletal muscles to digest. An unflavoured whey protein mixed in water. Easily digestible with a high bioavailability.

This should be mixed with very high Glycaemic Index carbohydrates. Maldextrose (glucose) is the best you can get. The aim is to replenish the stores of glycogen in the muscles and in the liver. Glucose is the best method for achieving this. Hepatic (in the liver) glycogen is responsible for keeping blood sugar at a constant level. These extra stores of glycogen are invaluable to prevent periodic crashes in blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day. We want to give our body all the tools to manage our energy requirement ultra-precisely. This is the only time where high GI carbohydrates are a good thing.

Consume 30g of whey protein and 60g of carbohydrates immediately after training.

Read: Post Workout Nutrition – Literature Review, Post Workout Nutrition and Fuelling Your Body on Competition Day.

Post- Exercise Movement Therapy.

Identify the major movement dysfunction for each exercise in your session. We can use these movement faults as symptoms tools to diagnose and underlying musculo-skeletal imbalance that may predispose you to injury.

Exercises should be completed to correct the underlying causes of these symptoms. Work to release restricting structures (primarily through PNF) and activate inhibited structures to solve any musculo-skeletal imbalance which causes lack of technique and efficiency.

Every time you complete a certain movement, follow it with the movement therapy for your most common faults for that movement. In this way, every time you complete a movement that has the potential to cause injury, you’re also completing the movement therapy to ward off the injury.

Movement therapy is a highly effective strategy for long term chronic injury prevention, as it corrects the faulty movement patterns that predispose you to injury.

Resources:

  • You can find specific movement therapy exercises here.
  • Our full library of clinic based exercises is here.

Post- Exercise Recovery.

In addition to specific movement therapy, you should undertake strategies for shorter term recovery. Complete soft and deep tissue release techniques (massage, foam rolling, trigger point ball work) to maximise the speed of recovery and optimise future training.

Read: Roll Playing – Reviewing the Effectiveness of Myofascial Release

Resources:

  • Our full library of clinic based exercises is here.

Deload Weeks.

A deload week is a week of reduced training stimulus that allows your body to recover from an extended period of hard training. Even though certain systems in your body can adapt on a day to day basis, others need a helping hand. While your muscles may recover in a couple of days, your connective tissue (ligament, cartilage, tendon) and nervous system occasionally needs longer. Basically a deload week is giving you body time to catch up and recover from the stress you’ve been placing on it. This reduced stimulus may take the form of reduced intensity, volume, or a combination.

Read: Deload Weeks

Midweek Deload Days.

For athletes training with high volume and high intensity, a mid week (or whatever the length of your normal micro training cycle) deload day can be a smart strategy to still elicit the benefits of training while minimising the negatives. This is not a rest day. That’s not to say that a rest day isn’t important (it is). Your deload day should still see you train, but reduce the intensity (volume/weight/rate of perceived exertion etc) to allow recovery while still experiencing the benefits of training.

Read: Midweek Deload Days, A Programming Template to Increase Training Volume While Minimising Overtraining.

Modify Training Around Injury.

When injuries do occur, you should immediately modify your training to avoid aggravation and enable the recovery process to begin.

Rather than completely changing your programming, you should aim to retain as close as possible to the desired stimulus your training intends. You should use injury alternatives which allow you to maintain the required stimulus of a movement without aggravating the injury. For any movement that aggravates an injury, find the closest alternative you can that doesn’t aggravate the injury.

Resources:

  • Range of Motion provides a guide to exercising with an injury, where injury alternatives are listed for a range of exercises and injuries.

Follow Balanced Programming.

Follow the programming of someone who knows what they’re doing. Programming should have long (months) and short term (within the session) balance to prevent overuse injuries and undue fatigue. If your programmer can’t tell you what you’ll be doing in a month (either the exact session or at least the plan) your recovery is being compromised. Don’t follow a program that has been written for someone else and their recovery profile – follow a plan for you.

Resources:

  1. Range of Motion has developed My Fitness File, programming software unique for the individual.

Get Enough Sleep.

Sleep normalises hormone levels required for recovery, with growth hormone and the sex hormones optimised – aiding in muscle repair. Sleep plays a role in ‘resetting’ insulin resistance, aids the immune system and reduces inflammation.

High intensity training and lack of sleep skyrocket your cortisol levels (the same stress hormone released in long slow duration exercise), leading to overtraining and possible adrenal fatigue (bad).

Get eight hours of sleep.

Read: The Effects of Exercise on Sleep, All About Sleep, Sleep Apnoea and Sleeping Posture.

Correct Nutrition.

Eat the closest modern equivelent possible to “animals caught via hunting, and unculivated plant foods from gathering”. PROTEIN (lean and unmodified animal protein – Fish, red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs. High bioavailability varieties are preferable.), CARBOHYDRATES (unprocessed and uncultivated – Lots of vegetables. Some fruit and berries. Low Glycaemic Index varieties of each are preferrable) and FAT (minimally refined sources of animal and plant fat – naturally occurring fat in meat, nuts, seeds, avocado, extra virgin olive oil).

This way of eating will best maximise muscle and nervous system recovery, and encourage the maintenance of a favourable omega 3:6 profile.

Read: Range of Motion’s Official Position on Nutrition

Dan Williams

Dan Williams

Founder/Director

Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.