Crossfit – effective training or an injury waiting to happen?

I recently spent some time in Melbourne and went along to the Australian Fitness Expo which incorporated a high level Australian Crossfit competition. A few people has asked me my impressions of the sport as it has certainly gained traction over the past couple of years and has quite a strong following.

From what I have seen crossfit has a number of different formats but involves doing a series of exercises for a fixed period of time. The winner is essentially the person who completes the greatest number of repetitions of the exercises of circuits in a time frame eg. 6 minutes. An example might be doing as many chinups as you can, walking a 60kg weight over 10m and then rowing 300m and repeating this as many times as possible in the time frame.

The event was an amazing one to watch – these guys and girls are hard units and seriously know how to push themselves! I could see how this sort of short but incredibly intense exercise would be fantastic to improve fitness, strength and even assist with weight loss for our typically time poor population. There has been a heap of research in recent times about the value of high intensity exercise and crossfit is certainly intense!

After watching this event I can also see why crossfit has got a name for people injuring themselves! The highly intense nature of the sport makes it really difficult (impossible!) for participants to maintain good exercise ‘form’ to guard their spine, shoulders and other parts of the body from injury. I suspect this would not be as big an issue in training but in the heat of competition you can imagine people doing whatever it takes to win. Crossfit also utilises a number of quite technical techniques such as Olympic lifts. While these are great exercises in their own right, they do also carry a reasonable amount of risk so need to be done with care – difficult to execute well when your heart is jumping out of your mouth!

All in all, an amazing sport to watch but not something I’d recommend on the basis of the high risk of injury to all that participate.

-Kristin Lewis

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