The Basics of Injury Free Fitness


The Basics of Injury Free Fitness

By Brant McAdams

Turn on the television at the right time this last week and you might have seen some amazing athletes competing in some very intense workouts at the 2014 Crossfit Games. You might have seen them pushing their bodies to the brink of exhaustion and after a workout, dropping their limp bodies on the ground with a slight yet concerning quiver.

It doesn’t look all that fun really, but maybe you want to know more about the fitness program that is producing 8-pack abs on your television (and those abs are still part of your new year’s resolution) so you start looking into Crossfit.

Unfortunately, you come across some horrifying and incomplete articles by people in other specialties within the fitness industry who preach the fear of injury as the reason that Crossfit is bad for everyone. If they were really worried about people getting injured during the pursuit of fitness, they would also denounce activities as basic and leisurely as cycling or running. In the case of running, a yearly study has shown that running related injuries can be anywhere from 37-56%! (van Mechelen, 1992)  More specifically, a study on an 8-week training program for a 4 mile recreational race yielded 25.9% participants sustaining a running related injury! (Buist, 2010)  Why else would Kelly Starrett and Brian Mackenzie be publishing necessary texts like Ready to Run and Unbreakable Runner?


Crossfit, the company, is very particular about protecting its brand name, but up until this point (Link breaking muscle article on Certification levels), it has not been meticulous about protecting the quality of product that clients pay affiliates for on a monthly basis.  Otherwise, you would not have been bombarded with the anti-Crossfit text and opinion that overwhelmed you in your research. Instead, Crossfit lets the free market manage the quality of the product.  If you like your Crossfit box and you’re getting more fit, you’ll keep going.  If you don’t, you’ll find another or give up on Crossfit altogether.

What I saved to mention to you regarding those running related injuries is that the most important risk factor was no previous running experience.  They had never run before.  They started running with no guidance and consequently they injured themselves.  Similarily, for people who have never done Crossfit before, if they start Crossfit with poor guidance, most likely they will injure themselves. This is true of the guidance you receive anywhere in life.  Finance, nutrition, driver’s education, middle school, etc.

Here’s a bold statement; both literally and figuratively: The majority of Crossfit injuries did not occur doing Crossfit.

The only requirement that Crossfit places on an affiliate in order to open its doors is for the owner to have taken and passed the Level 1 Crossfit Trainers Course. So obviously there is some valuable information in that course that justifies allowing that person to begin training other people in this regimen.  The one thing that stands out among all of the technical knowledge that someone picks up at the Level 1 Course is an emphasis on Mechanics-Consistency-Intensity.  In. That. Order.  This is where trainers fall short.  This is where boxes need to quality control.  This is why people get injured working out in some Crossfit affiliates.

If gyms and coaches are putting an athlete with poor or inconsistent mechanics under heavy load or pushing a high intensity, then they are not doing Crossfit.  At least not the way that Crossfit was meant to be performed.

“Intensity is defined exactly as power, and intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing favorable adaptation to exercise.” (Glassman, 2010)

High intensity training reaps fitness and aesthetic results.  There is no denying that.  (Just look at world class sprinters). But in order to ensure that a person’s fitness is sustained for a lifetime, we must build up to it properly.  That is where a coach intervenes to ensure safe, functional movement and consistency.  Whether you are a beginner to Crossfit or a veteran who has slipped through the cracks of Crossfit’s (previous) free market quality control and has sustained poor movement patterns, you must step back and reestablish the fundamentals of the functional movements properly.

The gym that is providing the highest quality product to their athletes has coaches that are preaching the fundamentals of every movement.  Every. Single. Class.  And when an athlete starts to understand and demonstrate those fundamental movements, the coach then makes it a priority to address the athlete’s movement consistency. This gives the coach an idea of how they should advise scaling (see Coach Jenny’s scaling article) for that athlete. Only after that self-awareness and confidence is established in the athlete by the coach, should they push their intensity within a workout without the athlete worrying about getting injured.

Mechanics (Safe Movement). Consistency (Proficient Movement).  Intensity.

Just because the building says Crossfit on it doesn’t mean that they are always following the fundamental principles on which the fitness program was founded.




van Mechelen, W. (Nov 1992). Running injuries. A review of the epidemiological literature.            14(5):320-35. Review. PMID:1439399 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]. Retrieved from  

Buist I, Bredeweg SW, Bessem B, van Mechelen W, Lemmink KA, Diercks RL. (Jun 2010). Incidence and risk factors of running-related injuries during preparation for a 4-mile recreational running event. 44(8):598-604. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2007.044677. Epub 2008 May 16. PubMed PMID: 18487252.          Retrieved from

Glassman, G. The Crossfit Training Guide. Retrieved from