Is CrossFit safe?
CrossFit has become a very popular exercise program known for its intense “no pain, no gain” attitude in getting people in shape. It combines plyometrics, Olympic style weight training, speed training, strength training, kettle bells, body weight exercises, and endurance exercises. Studios are popping up on every corner and competitions are being aired on television. (To learn more about crossfit http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/what-is-crossfit.html) There is both positive and negative press about the exercise program I am regularly being asked by patients “Is CrossFit safe?”
That answer is not black and white. CrossFit, like any cross-training exercise program, has many exercises and who are taught by many trainers. There are likely CrossFit gyms that are lead by well-educated trainers who focus on proper form, rather than breaking records. This includes a trainer who will assess your ability to functionally move properly and will tailor exercises for your individual level. These gyms can be a great way for you to get in shape. This is not just my rule for CrossFit, but for all trainers and coaches in all gyms and across all sports.
One of my biggest concerns with CrossFit is that it only takes a weekend to become certified as a trainer, and then you can open your own gym. It is impossible, in my opinion, to learn how the human body should move properly in just one weekend. Another concern I have is the weight loss and diet expertise that these trainers believe they have obtained in that weekend. It is possible to find trainers that, in fact, are specialists, but no other training is required to run a gym. This physical therapist gets asked the same question and has similar findings. http://breakingmuscle.com/crossfit/a-physical-therapists-viewpoint-on-the-safety-of-crossfit
How do I know if I have picked a CrossFit gym or trainer of a different workout program that is safe?
1) Did they do some form of screening your fitness level before you begin working out with them? My favorite screen is the Functional Movement Screen which quickly and effectively determines if you can do the correct movements with the correct muscles. (Learn more about the Functional Movement Screen http://www.functionalmovement.com/)
2) Do they offer the different levels of the exercise to multiple people? This allows athletes to continue to use proper form while improving their ability and building to the next level.
3) Will they push you to use heavier weights or continue the exercise after you have gotten too tired to maintain proper form? That is dangerous and will lead to injury.
4) Does your gym require your trainers take continuing education classes to continue learning? I am regularly invited to gyms to teach trainers about injury prevention for their trainers.
5) Are other people regularly getting injured in your program? If so, that is a red flag to find a new gym.