CrossFit can be a dangerous sport, that is a fact. We may be used to working out at high intensity and be comfortable with doing all sorts of movements, so we can forget about basic safety rules. I was recently reminded of this, when I was careless about my surroundings and tried to move too quickly, which resulted in an injury that will be painful and annoying for quite a while.
This experience inspired me to write this article to remind me and other people about basic safety rules while working out. In CrossFit, we try to do work as fast as possible, we can easilly get caught up in the process and forget to pay attention to “what if” scenarios. Injuries can happen any time and it can just be a coincidence, but let’s talk about ways, how to minimize the risks.
We talk about proper scaling a lot. It does not have to be with weights, but also with movements. We try to stress the proper form before loading weight on the bar. Safety, however, means little bit more than using moderate weights and avoiding ring muscle-ups when technique is sketchy.
Paying attention to your surroundings is important everywhere, but at the gym during a workout when gymnastic movements or heavy weights are used, it is crucial. Make sure that you know where you stand, who is behind/in front of/next to you. Put your equipment where you can see it, leaving your kettlebell behind your or close to your legs while you are doing burpees or dropping barbell might prove as a bad idea.
Clear your stations. I cannot stress this enough, especially when lifting heavy, either from the floor or from the rack. Make sure there are no plates lying around you, no water bottles, boxes or anything you could drop the barbell on to. There have been numerous nasty injuries from bouncy barbells, including the well known case of Kevin Ogarr, a CrossFitter who was left paralyzed from a rebound of a barbell from spare plates he had left behind him.
Using boxes and plates for a boost. When using boxes or plates to get a better reach to a pull-up bar, make sure you put it to the sides and never underneath or behind you. I can tell you that a bad landing on a plate can be quite painful and it is not very good for your ankles.:) Also, when you do any gymnastic movement on the pull-up bar that involves kipping, always think about the “what if” and set your stations accordingly.
Lifting weights is fun, but also needs to be approached seriously due to certain risks that it brings. Recently, we have been squatting heavy, so many of you have had the chance to experience what it feels like to fail a heavy lift, or be close to a failure. For situations like these, it is important to use a spotter, a friend, who will help you in case the load gets too heavy. Communication is a key here, make sure your spotter is ready and expects you to fail, so he or she can be there to help. Always set rules with your partner, how is he or she going to help you, so you both know what to expect.
Proper form and warm up
Sound technique and form are essential to stay healthy. Never sacrifice form for reps or time, poor form leads to injuries as easily as falling on a box. Make sure your back is tight, flat and never rounded. Work on mobility, warm up properly, so you can achieve the position you should be in. Do not jump to heavy weights too quickly, always take couple warm up sets, get used to the movements and then go heavier/faster.
Majority of injuries are caused by the lack of focus. Always think about what are you doing right now, focus on the key points of the movements. I know, it is difficult to focus when we are tired and when we want to move as fast as possible. However, if you are too tired or too fast to think about proper technique, take a breath and slow down. Also, if you are lifting heavy or doing a technically difficult movement, you should be 100% focused on it. Take a deep breath, focus, perform the lift, rack the weight and then you can chat with your buddy.
I am not a big fan of using belts, weightlifting shoes, wraps, straps and all the stuff every time you touch a barbell, but when attempting a PR, or going really heavy, the use of a belt or wrist wraps can be actually a good idea. You should be honest with yourself… is your back tight from yesterday’s workout, have your wrists been bothering you for a while, did your knee feel funny during the last rep… if you feel like it, use belts, wraps and other gear for extra support to stay safe. Gear should not be an answer to a problem, but it can work as a prevention tool or a help in a current situation. Personally, I use belt and knee sleeves regularly when I go past 85-90% of my 1RM.
These points are some of the essentials for staying safe in the gym. I hope this article served as a good reminder and a prevention for a potential injuries. It is always beneficial to go through the basics again and safety should be one of them. As Pat Sherwood says, the goal is to get fit, keep that in mind and stay safe while achieving that goal. 🙂