CrossFit and its subsidiaries have literally taken the world by storm. Since its initial establishment in 2000, CrossFit is now a global corporation that has over 9000 affiliate gyms, of which 124 are in South Africa alone.

The general methodology is used in military, firefighter and law enforcement training as well as school, university and league sports training.


Daily Workouts or WODs are published on the company’s blog ( These are structured work out programs that combine aspects of metabolic conditioning (cardio), gymnastic or bodyweight training and power-lifting or weight-lifting. These three together aim to condition the participant to improve body composition, strength and overall fitness.

The routine is performed at high intensity with minimal rest between sets and exercises.

The exercises include but are not limited to: Push-ups, Pull-ups, Lunges, Sit-ups, Squats, Clean & Jerks, Snatches, Deadlifts, Box Jumps, Burpees, Rope climbing, Muscle-ups, Kettle Bell Swings and Thrusters.



Apart from the physical effects of Crossfit, the spirit and enthusiasm that surrounds Crossfit workouts is the primary motivation for going. Participants are edged on and motivated by one another and their trainers.

The adrenaline rush coupled with pushing the human body to its limits can become a way of life almost to the point of obsession.



–          Improve body composition

–          Improved endurance and VO2max

–          Improved strength

–          Being involved in a team and developing friendships

–          An environment where fitness and not appearance is the goal

–          A trainer-led exercise regime



–          Short rests speed the onset of fatigue and exhaustion

–          Competitiveness promotes pushing the body beyond its capabilities and can result in injury

–          Not all trainers have the same abilities and skill

–          Existing or fatigue related poor biomechanics that aren’t corrected or managed can result in injury

–          Over-exercising can result in rhabdomyolysis (Break down of the muscle proteins that then leak into the blood stream  and can cause serious illness)


Crossfit is said to be for anyone and everyone as you do as much as you can at your own fitness and strength levels. However, if these are pushed to the limits injury can occur. A combination of poor biomechanics, poor guidance and instruction and poor body awareness can easily lead to numerous injuries.

In a survey on injury prevalence on Crossfit participants, it was found that the injury rate was approximately 20% with men sustaining more injuries than women. Injury was primarily as a result of lifting exercises and included lower back and shoulder injuries. The survey concluded that the effectiveness of the trainer maybe directly proportional to the injury rate.

The nature of Crossfit and extremist participants has resulted in the concept being negatively labelled. Many trainers focus on getting the workout done and in large classes it is difficult to pay attention to details such as posture and form.

Biomechanics are pivotal in preventing injury in any exercise program, especially when the exercises are weighted and require intense strain through joints and ligaments.

With adequate supervision and technique correction any exercise regime can be safe and beneficial.

Many patients that present at physiotherapy with ‘Crossfit related injuries’ also have inadequate joint range and/or soft tissue (muscle, ligaments and connective tissue) flexibility. These insufficiencies can lead to discomfort, pain and injury.

Physiotherapists are well trained to assess biomechanics and diagnose and treat these insufficiencies and any injury that may have resulted so that our patients can return to training and participate to their full potential.

In our following articles, we will be discussing upper and lower limb biomechanics, injury and management.

Ciccolella ME, Moore B, VanNess JM, Wyant J (2014) Exertional Rhabdomyolysis and the Law: A Brief Review. Journal of Exercise Physiology 17(1):19-26

Cooperman S (2005) Getting Fit, Even if it kills you. The New York Times [Online] 22nd December. Available from: [Accessed: 13th May 2014]

Glassman G (2003) A theoretical template for Crossfit’s programming. The CrossFit Journal Articles. 6:  1-5

Smith MM, Sommer AJ, Starkoff BE, Devor ST (2013) Crossfit-based high intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 27(11):3159-3172

Weisenthal BM, Beck CA, Maloney MD, DeHaven KE, Giordano BD (2014) Injury Rate and Patterns Among CrossFit Athletes. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine  2:1-7

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Ryan Hume BSc (Physio) SPT

Ryan qualified from Wits in 2009 and completed his community service in Kimberley Primary Health Clinics. He has since been working in private out-patient practice seeing predominantly orthopaedic, post-operative and sports patients.

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