Why I like Crossfit – A Sports Chiropractor’s Perspective

As a sports chiropractor and mobility specialist the exponential rise in Crossfit has not only given me numerous patients (when they don’t listen to their bodies OR preferably when they want to optimise their bodies) but more importantly dedicated patients who are willing to learn and improve in order to achieve their goals. What is life if one has no goals? Aimless, uninspired and dull…..so a sport and movement that provides goals, competition, inspiration, movement and community I fully support and think more people should get up and get moving. Crossfit also provides a framework for competition that can be scaled to be accessible to absolutely anyone from the 20 year old elite, 50 year old weekend warrior to the 75 year old wanting to simply move. Competition is that thing that after being an varsity athlete, marathoner and Ironman triathlete was missing and CrossFit not only allows you to compete and better yourself but you can also compete against likeminded other matched Crossfitters.

All sport is repetitive so why do so many ‘bash’ Crossfit – what is running, cycling or football if not the same repetitive movements over and over again. No sport is all good or all bad it all depends on the player/athlete/individual and how they listen to their body.  In a society that is suffering from severe inactivity and sedentism – why would we bad mouth something that not only gets us moving but offers a wide variation in movements, exercise types and mobility.

Here are what I think are the keys to pain-free enjoyable Crossfit? Ask yourself 3 questions?

  1. Do I have the range of motion to perform the tasks at hand?
  2. Do I know how to listen to my body? When it says back off this might hurt or I need rest? Do you LISTEN?
  3. Do I have the skills to analyse and improve my mobility?

So lets go through the 3 questions one by one and explain what I mean. Do you have the range of motion? So for example if you want to be able to do a full Snatch Olympic lift do you have the required pre-requisite range of motion to do this? What do you need?

  • Full ankle mobility (knee past your toes)
  • Full knee flexion
  • Full hip flexion and range
  • Full shoulder extension
  • Full wrist extension
  • Mobile Spine that can absorb impact

If you do not have the full ankle, knee, hip, spine, wrist and shoulder range what happens every time you lift?

Well lets say you don’t have the hip range to get into a full squat that would mean that you are bending forward rather than being upright – this causes imbalance in the lift (drop the bar), increased strain on the shoulders and spine to compensate for the lack of hip range and more unbalanced load through the ankles and knees to complete the lift. This leads to potential injury – every persons body will compensate differently so one person might hurt their knees, injure a disc or cause a rotator cuff strain.

Take a look at the 2 lifters below who do you think is going to get injured first? Lifter one is in a full squat with full ankle, knee and hip range is straight up in the spine and shoulders and balanced. Lifter 2 is of course working on her lift but if you added a fully loaded barbell what do think would happen – loading of the spine, hips and possible hyper-extension of the shoulders?

Do you listen to your body?

Listening to your body is not simply done when exercising listening when your tired or pushing too hard but also are you listening when your body says you are NOT recovered, you might need some rest?

Did you know sleep is the most ANABOLIC (muscle building) thing you can do! If you lack sleep then lifting weights is not going to get you anywhere you need proper recovery, rest, fuelling and the exercise stimulus to grow muscle.

If you commit to listening carefully we all can become highly tuned athletes who listen to our bodies – when we haven’t slept well, ate well or are stressed from work and life then this is the time to LISTEN to your body; keep moving but maybe don’t push yourself to your absolute limit. This does not mean that you don’t ever do that – the only way to get better is to run faster, lift more and work harder but it needs to be followed by proper rest and recovery. Personally, I use OURA a sleep tracker and smart ring that also measures heart rate variability and tells me in the morning if I am recovered, rested and ready to push myself or when I might need to have a more gentle day.

Do you have the knowledge to analyse and improve your mobility?

We all start Crossfit with a steep learning curve – learning how to do pullups, kipping, handstands, Olympic lifts all tests our nervous system, strength and motor control. With all the new learning going on often we forget our mobility or lack there of and when your coaches say you need to work on those shoulders or hips its not because they like badgering you its because they know if you improve them you will improve at Crossfit.

Coaches are wealth of knowledge and experience and are there for you – so if your unsure if you can do something, have the right range or need to improve mobility – Ask Ask Ask they are more than willing to help when they can. If you have an injury, restriction or just want to know what your full mobility is like then I can help – having a full Functional Range Assessment (FRA) will tell you all the areas that need work from your big toe to your shoulders.

As a sports chiro, mobility specialist and Crossfitter myself I can honestly say – EVERYONE yes EVERYONE (including me) can improve their mobility. We all lead sedentary lives where we sit, rely on casts (props that remove movement from our lives – shoes, chairs etc), lack movement in nature and are imbalanced with our hunter gatherer genetics (10-15,000 years ago).

So ask yourself do I have the correct range of motion to perform the movements of Crossfit? Do I listen to my body and do I know how to analyse and improve my mobility. Crossfit is a varied, fun, community based collection of movements that if you follow the above simple rules can be exponentially rewarding not only physically, mentally and spiritually.