Why CrossFit Athletes Need a Corrective Exercise Plan

If you hang with me, you know I love CrossFit.  It is my personal workout of choice and a natural compliment and progression to Corrective ExerciseFoundation Training, and all hybrid Posture Alignment programming. 

The primary reason why I do CrossFit is simple.  It challenges me to constantly work outside of what I believe I am capable of athletically.  I can do things now at age 47 I couldn't even imagine doing when I was 30!  CrossFit has propelled me to becoming a better version of myself in mind, body and spirit, and it continues on the longer I'm involved in it.   For more about my journey see:  

As a CES, I apply an order of programming that helps my clients move out of chronic muscle and joint pain back to a pain-free status in activities of daily living and athletic performance.

That process includes, teaching people how to implement a preventative healthcare plan for their lives.  They learn how to perform self-myofascial release, stretch properly, and exercise programming to improve their posture alignment and function.  Programming moves a person from exercises that 

  • mitigates pain (movements that do not create/increase the symptom)
  • reduce rotation throughout the body
  • neutralize the pelvis and torso

to the next step in the healing path which is how to get straight (keep the muscles and joints in proper balance) THEN strengthen.  That's where we can begin to introduce athletic performance again.

When the body is balanced muscularly, fully functional in joint range of motion AND pain free - CrossFit is in my opinion perhaps one the best training programs around.  

There are 9 Foundational Movements found in CrossFit which include:

  1. Squat 
  2. Front Squat 
  3. Overhead Squat 
  4. Shoulder Press 
  5. Push Press 
  6. Push Jerk
  7. Deadlift
  8. Sumo Deadlift High Pull
  9. Medicine Ball Clean

Most people coming to the sport of CrossFit are just like me.  Everyday folks who have full time jobs, families and responsibilities.  They plunge themselves into CF programming, taking their daily habitual postures, previous exercise experience, habits and old injuries into these movements and find themselves surprised that it isn't every easy.  There's is a lot of mobility and strength restrictions that prevent progression, and if you are not working on changing your underlying function, you'll eventually suffer from repetitive stress, injury or just quit from frustration.

In addition to these 9 movements, CrossFit:

"is a strength and conditioning program designed to help people gain a broad and general fitness. CrossFit programming concentrates on constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity to achieve overall physical fitness, so people are prepared for any physical challenge.

One of the cornerstones of CrossFit is the idea of “functional movements.” Many of the movements that are prevalent in traditional gyms are non-functional. For instance, leg curls and leg extensions have no equivalent in nature.

Other exercises mimic movement patterns that are naturally found in everyday life. Squatting is standing from a seated position; dead lifting is picking any object off the ground. These are functional movements, using multiple joints for every activity.

CrossFit utilizes functional movements for a couple or reasons. First, these motions are mechanically sound. When done properly, they are safe and they deliver results. Second, they elicit a high neuroendocrine response. Put more simply, they’ll lead to quicker results due to the high intensity with which you’ll be doing them. If you’ve done some WODs, you already know this is true. If not, functional movements are about to change your world." ~ Reebok

As a CF-L1 and Certified Corrective Exercise SpecialistI deal with CrossFit athletes of every age and ability who are struggling with mobility problems, repetitive injury or chronic pain because they are taking imbalanced bodies into mechanically sound movements.  If chronic pain begins, or an acute injury occurs, it isn't the movement that caused the problem.

When they come to me for help, my response is always the same.  

It's not the movement (CrossFit) that's the problem.  It's the body and the muscular and joint imbalances going into the activity (dysfunctional and compensating movement patterns).  

There's a famous quote by Vince Lombardi that says "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect."

Pretty much everyone at my box knows what I do for a living, and I'm privileged to have the opportunity to work privately with many of our members.

I've also had the opportunity to present the information at a Pain Free Workshop at CrossFit Winnipeg.


So the word is slowly but surely getting around.  I was thrilled to find out others in the CrossFit community think so too.  Back in December 2010, The CrossFit Journal wrote about the benefits of corrective exercise programming for CrossFit athletes.

In the article Postural Alignment for the CrossFit Ahtlete, Peter A Chamis writes:

"Daily life can create imbalances in your body.  A few places you can start making corrections in your alignment. 

In the design of almost any musculoskeletal fitness program, elements such as strength training, flexibility and cardiovascular activity are universal. CrossFit is no exception. But when implementing any exercise program, it’s important to assure that the body has a correct structural foundation that’s balanced and aligned.

If this is not the case, strength gains will potentially enhance and further develop these areas that are misaligned and structurally lacking. Therefore, as CrossFit athletes (recreation or elite) strive to improve their overall fitness levels, it’s critical to break the cycle of poor posture and consider implementing postural-alignment exercises into their daily routine. Before this can be achieved, it’s important to understand how poor posture develops, what ideal posture is, and what can be done to correct misalignment."

And they're not the only ones. FallOut CrossFit also wrote a blog about the benefits of posture correction for CrossFit athletes shortly after. 

"So you want to improve more then you already have with CrossFit. 

It’s time you start listening to your mother now and sit up straight. Daily life can cause all sorts of problems and imbalances for your body. So how can you expect to have good form and posture in the gym if you have poor form and posture sitting in front of the computer at work. You need to make sure that you have proper posture and structural balance when using any fitness program. Any strengths gains that you achieve could further develop areas of poor posture. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has defined postural-distortion patterns “as predictable patterns of tissue overload and dysfunction that lead to decreased neuromuscular control, thus initiating the cumulative injury cycle.” Simple gravity stretches can be helpful in realigning posture and correcting forward shoulders and lower back pain. For more ideas read the CrossFit Journal article Postural Alignment for the CrossFit Athlete."

 So here's the deal.  

Of course CrossFit is in my opinion AWESOME, and I'm not going to lie.  It can hurt.....   BUT - hear me LOUD AND CLEAR, it shouldn't be racked with the "bad kind" of muscle and joint pain.  The only kind of hurt that CrossFit should elicit is the "okay kind" of delayed onset muscle soreness.  That is muscular in nature due to increased demand and NOT debilitating due to joint or muscle imbalance pain.

It shouldn't hurt your joints.  Period.  So here is the basic problem.  If you are a CrossFit athlete, and you are having problems or pain with any of the basic movements, trying harder isn't the best course of action.  What you need is to correct the movement patterns and re-train the brain not to go through dysfunctional movements to get the job done.  

If you love CrossFit, but you are constantly being sidelined by repetitive stress injuries, you have to STOP and LISTEN to your body.  Remember - you only have one body.  Take care of it since it's the only place you have to live (Jim Rohn).

Are you a CrossFit athlete and struggling with repetitive mobility/injury?  Want to bring in a portable obstacle course workout to your fitness facility or CrossFit box?  (We have one!)

A Corrective Exercise plan designed with your unique needs, posture, function and athletic goals is EXACTLY what you need to correct your muscle, joint and movement patterns.  

If you'd like to schedule a corrective exercise or Foundation Training private session, a Workshop, mobility or yoga for athletes programming for yourself or  CrossFit affiliate- please reach out!  

As I like to say "We're in this together, and I'm here to help!" 

If you enjoyed this article PLEASE comment and SHARE!

Stock Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Head Photo Credit:  Melissa Thome Photography

Author:  Deb Preachuk is a Certified Foundation Training & STOTT Pilates Instructor, Corrective Exercise & Posture Alignment Specialist, and the founder/owner of Pain Free Posture MN.   

You can follow Deb on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or subscribe to her YouTube, Pinterest or Instagram pages.


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