Most in the fitness field would agree that CrossFit provides a unique combination of strength, stamina and endurance training, and that use of it will help you to look, feel, and perform better. However, a stigma exists among many both inside and outside of the sport – a belief that CrossFit training is dangerous for the lower back. The causes may have initially grown out of hatred for the sport, as it did encroach on some long-held training philosophies. However, given the explosive nature of CrossFit training, there are times when improper preparation or training can lead to low back injuries. Let’s check out some tips for protecting the lower back from injury when training CrossFit style!
Before you even get to the box, you should have done everything possible to keep your body active and limber all day. If you were cooped up in a cubicle for 9 hours, immediately followed by a 40 minute stint in traffic, then your body is looking at almost ten hours of inactivity. Suddenly you’re supposed to push yourself to a new personal best involving very heavy weight? Think again! Rather, you should stretch the back (and the rest of the body) throughout the day. Take the long way around the office whenever possible. Jump and stretch on your lunch break. Take any liberties throughout the day to stay employed while staying warm and limber as well.
Warm it up
First off, ANY training style is capable of leading one to a damaged lower back, if no warm up steps are conducted prior to heavy lifts. The lower back isn’t just utilized on targeted movements such as deadlifts or good mornings. The low back is used in a support role for most major lifts, and as a primary muscle group in many twisting movements. You should thoroughly warm up the lower back with 5 minutes of stretching before training. Additionally, 5 to 10 minutes on the elliptical for a slow warm-up will get blood flowing to all areas of your body and help to avoid cold muscle shock injuries.
Going too heavy
Reaching your personal best in any lift is a great feeling, and one that trainers will seek on a regular basis. However, new gains should be achieved gradually. Never should you suddenly add 50 pounds to your box squat and “go for it”. Rather, you should have been adding 2, 5, and 7 pounds to the bar slowly over your previous weeks of workouts, to ensure your thighs, knees, and yes, lower back, are properly acclimated for the enormous new workload.
Keep good form
Part of keeping the weight at a safe and manageable level is related to the importance of always keeping good form. When movements are conducted correctly, the muscles of the body are recruited to complete lifts. When movements are completed with “Body English” – the swinging of the weight to complete a repetition that is too heavy – the hips, joints, and tendons do most of the work. The goal is to grow stronger and more capable, not to move some arbitrary number through joint abuse. Lift safe and the low back muscles do work. Train recklessly and you’re signing up for an injury.
Recognize the signs
Speaking of injury… There are always going to be small tweaks that take place in the lower back, even with safe lifting practices. The smart trainer is the one who recognizes these small pockets of soreness or irritation and either stop training, massages the area of concern, or modifies their workout to protect a potentially weakened area. The lifter who is intent upon “training through” an injury will be the one missing six weeks while recovering from back surgery.
Check your ego at the door. Stay active and train wise. CrossFit is a remarkably effective training protocol for advancing your progress in strength, stamina and performance in many areas, as long as you’re willing to train the right way. Good luck!