CROSSFIT: A Therapists Perspective

Not a day goes by in my clinic where I don’t see clients presenting with pain or injury which is caused by an imbalance in their body.  Whether that be from sitting all day, repetitive daily activities or the demands of their sport.  We work together to relieve the symptoms but with a longer term view to resolving the imbalance at the root cause.  This is all well and good and generally with the right corrective exercise we can get them back to the best.  Alas, there are a set of clients where the demands for their activity or sport will be one sided or imbalanced (think golfer, tennis player etc.) which means that as their activity level increases their problem will ultimately return.


Two General Types of Imbalance:

  1.  A client with imbalance that comes from poor technique, poor desk set up, injury etc.  Once technique/set up corrected and with the right corrective exercises their problem generally goes away as we have addressed the problem that was causing the imbalance.
  2. The second scenario I see is where a client has an imbalance but where it is not because of poor posture, function or technique, its due to the one sided demands of their job or sport.  Again we can tame the problem or injury into submission with treatment and corrective exercise.  They feel well, they return to their activities and it is only a matter of time before the imbalance returns and we are back at square one.  If someone is training for hours and hours a week, or doing a job that requires one sided bias for hours and hours, then short of doing equal amounts of clams, hip extensions, or whatever the corrective exercise prescription is the problem will return.  Balanced strength and conditioning is needed.

This latter scenario is so common and something I myself suffer from with playing on average 15 hours of one sided sports per week.  My left glutes are barely functioning and I have suffered with Sciatica almost constantly for most of the last 5 years.  When it flares up lots of treatment and strength work on my glutes gets it back in control but it inevitably returns.  What we need is something that we can add to our weekly sporting routine that is intense yet balanced to work our bodies holistically in a balanced way to encourage equilibrium.  This leads me to the world of Crossfit.

I had heard of Crossfit through the Golfing world of all things.  A desire in the community for explosive power led to discussion and articles on the benefits of Olympic lifting but with flexibility being equally key in golf Crossfit was coming to the forefront of discussion.  A combination of lifting and gymnastic moves that encourage flexibility and balance with your new found strength.  This certainly sounded to me like the perfect answer to the cross training needed to balance us out.  I posed the question on how effective people had found Crossfit as an integral part of the strength and conditioning plan for athletes (pro or recreational) to my therapist community and garnered little response.  I was not taking that as defeat on the subject so the only answer was for me to find a local Crossfit box and use my case of extreme imbalance as a case study.

 Investigating local classes I found The Only Way is Crossfit ( TOWIC http://www.theonlywayiscrossfit.com/) in Woodford, East London.  I won’t lie, the name conjured up pictures of very dolled up ladies and strapping lads doing more posing than working out but I am glad to say that this was not the case.  The box, is literally that.  A room with some basic fixtures to allow pull ups and the like, all the weights and kettlebells we would ever need and a rower and treadmill for fun.  I was greeted with the warmest welcome by everyone in the class and immediately felt at home.  Now, fluffy stuff aside lets get down to the nitty gritty, what exactly did we do?  Everything was the answer.  From squats, to deadlifts, head stands, handstands, press ups, pull ups and lots in between.  I walked away thinking that yes indeed Crossfit does exactly what it says on the tin.  Strength and conditioning in the extreme with cardio and balance to boot.  I would love to see any of my weightlifting clients who stick to lifting alone have the flexibility to get into, let alone hold, a 3 minute handstand.

 I now train at the box 3 hours a week and have found that incorporating this into my training plan has made phenomenal gains.  I am stronger, faster and fitter on the court.  Not only that but six months have since passed and I can say hand on heart by Sciatica has never been better.  So is Crossfit the answer?  Well, my view… Crossfit with the right Coach is the answer.  Shaun Samonini, our coach at TOWIC doesn’t just motivate us through each workout, he is constantly analysing and correcting our form to ensure we are lifting properly and keeping injury free.   The reason why I think you read quite a bit of negative review on Crossfit (causing injuries etc) is down the coach.  As with most things in the health and fitness industry there is such a wide gap in terms of education levels.  You can become a Crossfit coach in a weekend (and of course there are those who have studies it more in depth) so I can imagine there is a huge range in skills and ability across the fleet of coaches.  From those with degree level qualifications to those with shorter less in depth qualifications, or without the drive to keep up to date or focused on biomechanics.

 My advice, find the right coach and the right box and Crossfit will undoubtedly enhance your performance and even help you get pain free.  If you are in east London I can certainly say that if you want to improve your performance, your fitness or your overall strength then TOWIC is a must!

 

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