View Full Version : CrossFit's Dirty Little Secret

09-23-2013, 06:29 AM
I shouldn't do CrossFit, as the movements are asking for an injury for me. I saw this article (https://medium.com/health-fitness-1/97bcce70356d) floating around FB that I found interesting.

I don't know much about the Rhabdo phenomenon. This article states that it's rare outside of CF and a few other specific places, but most of the CFer's responding to this say that it can happen in any form of training. Out of curiosity, does anyone know (with stats) how common it is when CF isn't in any way involved?

09-23-2013, 06:37 AM
I know there was a large number of women on one of our college teams who got it a year or two ago. I don't remember what sport, except that it was some kind of stick and ball sport, not weightlifting. As far as statistics, I have no idea. When I encountered it with my clients, it had to do with body chemistry, often chronic alcoholism, not with exertion.

09-24-2013, 07:07 AM
Here's a comment from a friend of a FB friend:

Yes, and... while this extreme complication of overtraining is comparitively rare, CrossFit's dirty *big* secret is simply that they're encouraging *ghastly* technique in lifts that are unsuitable and dangerous for many of their clients. Like almost all trainers, under the guise of "changing things up" they manage to avoid establishing baselines in standard exercises -- which in turn prevents their customers from realizing that they've actually plateaued out, or are getting weaker, in spite of the fact that they feel beat to ratshit every morning. Having been a competitive power- and Olympic lifter, I see CrossFit-influenced people in the gym every day, deadlifting with rounded backs and doing knock-kneed power cleans; doing all kinds of partial range bullshit, desperate to use a heavy weight they're nowhere near strong enough to lift properly or completely. If I could send one message to these people, it would be this: Every world class athlete trains at the same basic exercises for their sport, every day or two, for their entire careers. If they mix things up, it's for a tiny percentage of their workout. If your trainer is contantly changing things up, no matter what they tell you, you're not training "like the pros". Every world class athlete trains with strict, perfect form. Adding 10 pounds or getting another few reps doesn't count if you have to throw form out to do it. Get on YouTube and watch Olympic weightlifters -- even setting WRs, their form is perfect. Message: It's not "practice makes perfect", it's "perfect practice makes perfect". Next rant will be, trainers on steroids training customers who aren't...

BTW, it was members of the women's lacrosse team who got rhabdomyolysis last year, and several members of another college team the year before.

09-24-2013, 07:40 AM
Form and the movements are the reason I would never do CF, so I completely understand that.

Was the lacrosse team doing any other muscle conditioning? I know one high school in the area was using CF for their BAND (really?). I would hope that at the high school level, CrossFit is toned down.

One thing you said had me looking yesterday, and what the article doesn't mention is the effect of body chemistry on someone's susceptibility to rhabdo. It would seem that overexertion plus drinking the night before or overworking in nasty hot temps without properly hydrating would increase the incidence of it. But that's a not very educated opinion based only on a little internet research.

09-24-2013, 07:43 AM
Here's the complete report (http://www.dispatch.com/content/downloads/2013/03/OhioStateReport.pdf/) on what happened with the lacrosse team. It seems it kind of snuck up on them.

09-24-2013, 09:42 PM
Oak, when I followed the link I got "page not found".

Exertional rhabdo symptoms aren't limited to activities like Crossfit or other extreme HIIT programs. They are pretty common in marathoning and ultrarunning. Fortunately, with ultras, you generally have early warning signs and it is pretty easy to turn it around (unless you choose not to--and that happens more frequently than it should, and it is usually men). I had mild symptoms during and after one of my 50 milers earlier this year, probably mostly due to heat stress. After the race, I went to the doc and had her run the battery of tests. Kidneys were fine, but she agreed that I should come in for tests after every 50+ mile race so we can keep track of general kidney health. You can do all the right things and still have symptoms. I have had other incidents of symptoms (but never anything more, thankfully) over the ears. For some unknown reason, I seem to be susceptible. I remember a blood test long ago that I had to re-take because I had high levels of myoglobin; at the time the doc asked me to not work out for a couple of days beforehand. It was several years later that I finally figured out what was going on.

Moderation is a good thing (exercise AND cookies). I keep telling myself that. :rolleyes:

09-24-2013, 09:49 PM
I've gone on some rants here and there about CrossFit.

I agree 100% with the form going out the window issue with CFers. I get patients all the time that have gone to CF and hurt themselves, sometimes very seriously. Having said that there are 3 CF gyms in my area and there is a huge difference in quality of trainers from one gym to the other. There is one gym in my area that is excellent. One that is very suspect and the other, I'm still undecided. And, I know of a couple of endurance racers that have had this same problem, no CF, just overtraining on the bike. So I want people to be aware, I want people to make good decisions and self monitor, but I don't think that CF is always a bad thing.

09-25-2013, 05:06 AM
Yeah, I was thinking on my run yesterday, there's nothing in that friend-of-a-friend's rant that doesn't apply to group fitness generally, and it's really why I have no interest in going back to that world even if I do eventually get my shoulders back healthy. Any time something gets big enough for certification to be profitable, they're not going to adequately skills-test the instructors. It takes a TON of skill to watch even a small group and notice and correct subtle form deficiencies. It takes even more skill, never mind the time, to be an evaluator and see whether the instructor candidate is getting all of that. And even if you've got a stellar instructor, you have to have participants who WANT to do the move correctly, which IME is the minority. It all adds up to pretty much a guarantee of people not getting stronger, at best, and getting overuse injuries WAY more often than they should with the supervision they claim to be paying for.

As far as the OSU report, try this link (http://search.yahoo.com/r/_ylt=A0oG7lZiz0JSWXQA1IrBGOd_;_ylu=X3oDMTE1cGxmbWJrBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMgRjb2xvA2FjMgR2dGlkA1RBVVMwMTBfNzY-/SIG=12p7iu4gp/EXP=1380138978/**http%3a//www.dispatch.com/content/downloads/2013/03/OhioStateReport.pdf).

09-25-2013, 05:30 AM
...And even if you've got a stellar instructor, you have to have participants who WANT to do the move correctly, which IME is the minority. It all adds up to pretty much a guarantee of people not getting stronger, at best, and getting overuse injuries WAY more often than they should with the supervision they claim to be paying for.

As far as the OSU report, try this link (http://search.yahoo.com/r/_ylt=A0oG7lZiz0JSWXQA1IrBGOd_;_ylu=X3oDMTE1cGxmbWJrBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMgRjb2xvA2FjMgR2dGlkA1RBVVMwMTBfNzY-/SIG=12p7iu4gp/EXP=1380138978/**http%3a//www.dispatch.com/content/downloads/2013/03/OhioStateReport.pdf).

Oak nailed it. It is always interesting to me how some appear to think that all Crossfit instructors/coaches are equally bad and unqualified when that is FAR from the case. There are a range of skills among them just as among any other fitness activity. In my area we have quite a few Crossfit gyms and the coaches range from recently qualified to highly educated/experienced strength and conditioning coaches who teach Crossfit because that is what their people want - the latter strongly insists on proper form and scaling to the individuals skill level and if one in particular feels someone just will not use proper form, especially due to ego, that individual leaves the workout. Just as in other types of fitness, research should be done before joining any fitness facility - they all differ.

While my own strength and conditioning coach uses a lot of the CF methodology, we do not "Crossfit". We do a good number of the Crossfit workouts (a couple of which he changes), but we do so much more than that.

There is a local CF gym that I would love to try out someday but unless my shoulder improves that isn't going to happen. That's ok, and I like my coach and his style of training so much I don't know what I would really move if I could. An indication of his skill is indicated by the fact I've been with him for over a year now and I've no over-use injuries and I am SO good at those...and none can say our workouts aren't intense!

09-25-2013, 06:44 AM
The classes I go to at my gym are sort of like Catrin's, in that we do a lot of the same things as Crossfit, but it's not the same. However, the one instructor I refer to as evil, well, she is of the more is better variety. The only way I can maintain good form is to use lighter weights, which I do. She questioned me last week on this, and I just gave her a look. She mostly stays away from me, as she knows I have a fitness background.
I find that I need more rest now that I am doing these types of classes, as opposed to when I am just cycling, running, or nordic skiing. There's a good reason for this, I guess!

Sky King
09-25-2013, 07:24 AM
My "gym" is quasi crossfit as well and I have no qualms telling the trainer "no". I do worry about people who aren't assertive enough to trust their own bodies.
To give the owner credit he will have us take an entire week and have us use very light weights to focus on form, usually once every 3 months.
The people I worry about are 1. my friends who use CD's and work out at home - no one is watching their form and 2. just heard of new gym in town where they make their own kettle bells using duct tape and sand bags and finally 3. the non trainer who shares their exercises with their friends - again one of my bike buddies is telling me about a kettle bell exercise where you swing the ball up and over your head - yikes.

09-25-2013, 10:01 AM
I do worry about people who aren't assertive enough to trust their own bodies.

Ultimately, that's what it comes down to - with both diet and exercise. Either that, or someone has been conditioned to think that their bodies are always lying to them.

09-25-2013, 10:15 AM
conditioned to think that their bodies are always lying to them.

considering that's like 99% of everyone in the developed world ... between Big Medicine and Big Food, we're told from infancy that our bodies are lying to us. It's a difficult process learning to listen to your body in adulthood, and it has to start with choosing a different way of eating and living BEFORE a person is able to sense how their body is reacting to it. They have to really, really, really, really want to.

09-25-2013, 12:14 PM
I don't have any stats, but the cases of rhabdo I have seen in the hospital have generally been older people who have fallen, been unable to get up and have been on the floor for a long period (sometimes a few days) without moving. Basically, the muscles in areas they have been lying on have not been getting blood flow and so there is muscle tissue damage from the ischemia. I have also seen milder cases in patients who have had multiple seizures. I'm not sure how the incidence of these kinds of cases compares to that of exertional rhabdo as described in the above articles, but in any case it sounds like there's a problem with the way some people are doing Crossfit.

09-25-2013, 01:54 PM
From some of the articles I have been reading/googling it looks like there can be multiple reasons as it can occur doing different sports or activities.

This link http://www.joe-cannon.com/rhabdomyolysis-personal-trainers-exercise-review-symptoms-negatives-eccentric-fitness-bootcamp/

It even goes as far as spinning can cause rhabdo. Albeit I have not tried Crossfit myself but hope to one day in the future (I like variation in my fitness), I think circumstances will cause this rare ailment that can happen across many planes