Is CrossFit Detrimental to Your Joints?
CrossFit is transforming how many people train, which is why Men's Journal reports that it has developed a cult-like following. It is, according to CrossFit coach Kevin Hughes, mainly due to its "Jack of all trades, master of none" approach to fitness. He elaborates, "CrossFit has challenged specificity, or training according to your goal. The workout’s not based on any goal other than to get better in a general way.” Then there is the day-to-day variety of workouts, their focus on functionality, and their intensity. There is even a social aspect to CrossFit, with CrossFitters creating a community with one another, all while getting fit.
The joints controversy
But with popularity comes controversy. In this case CrossFit is purported to be detrimental to your joints. The reason for this is that CrossFit puts a tremendous load on all your major joints (and muscles), which means they are left vulnerable to injury. It also encourages exercises that can put extra strain on the joints like the Olympic clean and snatch and kipping pull ups. The issue here is that proper form and technique are either compromised or neglected in CrossFit, all for the sake of reps or training until failure. Olympic lifts, in particular, should not be performed without the proper form as this can put a lot of pressure on your back. Shoulder and injury prevention expert Eric Cressey explains in 'The Controversy Behind CrossFit' that training to exhaustion, as is popular in CrossFit, makes it seem as if the workout is extremely effective. But again technique is often sacrificed, and this increases the risk not only of joint injuries, but other types of injuries, too, like muscle strains and tears.
"When you see a 20-minute circuit of really ugly cleans and ring dips, those are exercises that don't jive well," Cressey points out. You likely won't feel any pain while in the middle of your workout, but that is due to your endorphins and your adrenaline kicking in. Let it go on for a few more sessions and the likelihood is that you will injure yourself.
Is CrossFit the culprit?
So, is CrossFit, indeed, the culprit for joint injuries? Technically, the answer is no. The same 'The Controversy Behind CrossFit' article notes that when done correctly, "CrossFit is not inherently bad or ineffective." In fact, it is an "efficient model of exercise that has helped many people lose weight while improving strength and endurance." The caveat here is performing each rep of each exercise correctly, with proper form and correct technique. Otherwise you will be vulnerable to injury.
Digging deeper the real problem is actually the lack of knowledgeable and experienced CrossFit trainers. In essence the movement has been diluted by inexperienced coaches setting up their own gyms. This is dangerous, as it can result in CrossFitters without the technical proficiency to reap (and actually maximize) the benefits of CrossFit. This inability to properly perform CrossFit exercises also increases their risk of injury.
The case for CrossFit
However the case can be made that CrossFit is good for your joints. In a Very Well Health list on how to keep joints healthy, the first recommendation is to keep moving. Movement based exercises have been shown to strengthen the muscles around the joints (thereby protecting them in the process), decrease joint stiffness, and reduce joint pain. Any exercise or physical activity would do just fine in this regard. Nonetheless do consider that CrossFit emphasizes movement, and involves the entire body. It is, therefore, a worthwhile option if you are looking for an all-body exercise program.
In case you need further convincing that CrossFit can be good for your joints, take the case of Lauren Bruzzon. She is a CrossFitter, but only took to the exercising regime as a senior. Bruzzone started CrossFit at the age 60 and has continued to practice the sport at 72. She uploads on her Instagram page photos and videos of her doing CrossFit exercises. Bruzzone has been active most of her life and was a ballerina in her younger years. She also joined various fitness classes, before ultimately taking to CrossFit on the recommendation of friends. Talk show host Trevor Noah, who reposted on Instagram a video of Bruzzone doing atomic sit-ups, described her as "amazing," and an inspiration. Her case, incidentally, happens to be a ringing endorsement for CrossFit as well. As people get older their joints often become arthritic, making physical activity difficult. Yet Bruzzone has been doing CrossFit for well over a decade now. She is proof that proper form and training means that CrossFit won’t have a negative impact on a person’s joints. Even if they are in their later years.
The bottom line is that CrossFit is not detrimental to your joints. That is, of course, if you do everything correctly. With that being said you, too, might want to give CrossFit a shot. And if you do make sure you get the right attire. A headband is an excellent accessory for CrossFitters, as it helps prevent sweat from getting into the eyes. But you will need to choose the right CrossFit headband. It must be able to absorb sweat, first and foremost. It also has to fit comfortably, and look aesthetically pleasing.
But headbands aside it is crucial that you keep in mind a few important considerations should you choose CrossFit. The most important involves form and technique. Simply good form and proper technique will allow you to maximize every workout. More important they will keep you from getting injured. It is also important to not tough it out. Stop whenever you feel any pain. Remember that trying to fight through pain is a precursor to injury. Finally, prepare your body for CrossFit. You can do that by working out the traditional way (as in the case of Bruzzone). Doing so will give you the necessary strength and conditioning to do CrossFit the correct way.
Written by Rainy Jolmes