The common perception among those who do not understand CrossFit is that CrossFit is the cause of all kinds of injuries from Rhabdo to sub acromial bursitis. It is not the movements that CrossFit employ that cause injury, it’s the lack of range of motion or abnormal bio-mechanics of the individual. For example the majority of the population spend up to 16 hours sitting per day. Think for a moment when your sitting what joints are stiff and tight and what shape your body is in for long periods throughout the day. Head and shoulders round forward, overly kyphotic thoracic spine, short tight hip ankles at 90 degrees.
How does this seated posture in front of a computer translate into an overhead squat? It doesn’t. That is why the two of the most common joints to be injured by someone crossfitting is the shoulder and the hip. They lack of ankle range of motion, which has a cumulative effect on the kinetic chain of the lower limb forcing joints above it to compensate resulting in overuse, wear and tear causing injuries, this is compounded by the fact that the hip joint gets tight. Same with the shoulder, having a stiff and restricted thoracic spine forces the shoulder into positions that it cannot tolerate for lots of volume, which is when all these issues arise, not after one or two WODs, after months of training and neglect to properly prepare and recover from training. So how do we go about fixing this problem and make changes to our bio-mechanics to best translate to the rigours of CrossFit? Improve ankle hip and thoracic spine mobility. Improve knee lumbar spine and shoulder stability.
Things that you can do on a day to day basis to help to improve these problem areas are a few basic stretches to assist in changing tissue tension and improve joint mobility.
For those desk bound athletes out there, my top three stretches to improve hip mobility are the couch stretch for those that follow Mobility WOD would be very well acquainted with, and for those that get around ROMWOD, the pigeon stretch and low dragon are very effective in reclaiming lost hip range. The important thing to remember; to create lasting deformational change to ligaments requires a minimum of 12 minutes of continuous stress, therefore when Kelly Starrett says that a minimum does of 2 minutes per stretch is no joke, so settle in get comfortable and relax into the stretch.
For the thoracic spine, the best advice I can give is to become very conscious of your posture. Imagine a hook underneath the base of your skull pulling your whole body skywards. This will encourage good head position on top of your shoulders forcing them back and down. I also recommend actively extending over a foam roller to reclaim lost range. Start with a foam roller perpendicular to your spine, work from your neck down to the base of your rib cage, crossing your arms across your chest can help to get your shoulder blades out of the way so you can effectively work thoracic musculature.
Passively stretching anterior musculature that gets tight across the front of your body in particular deep neck flexors, pecs and anterior delts is very easy to do and super effective in calming your nervous system. Simply take the foam roller that you’ve been smashing your thoracic spine with and turn 90 degrees to run along the whole length of your spine, so your sacrum and the base of your skull rest on the roller, rest your arms at the 5 and 7 o’clock position with palms facing up. As you get better you can have your arms at 3 and 9 o’clock. This stretches all the tight muscles on the front of your body passively.
Dr Michael Eid
Mike is an avid CrossFitter, has a degree in Exercise Science, is a qualified Chiropractor which gives him a different insight and perspective in helping the CrossFit community.