Train the Capacity
Every time we workout we are at risk of getting injured. If we are always at risk, then how can we work to prevent injury. Most often times when I’m looking for an answer associated to CrossFit, I look to the definition. Increased work capacity across broad time, modal, and age domains. The prescription for this is constantly varied high intensity functional movements. That sounds cool, but where’s the correlation? It’s in the capacity. We have to increase the capacity associated with all types of movements: weightlifting, mono structural, and gymnastics.
Weightlifting is the easiest to understand, and there is a movement that is avoided because of the risk of injury. This movement is the deadlift, but really any weightlifting movement would fit into this scenario. At some point, the weight will become too heavy and form will break down. Using my own physical fitness as an example, my deadlift is in the upper 300s. What do I do if the workout has deadlifts that are prescribed at 335? That’s about 90%. That’s heavy. I have to then assess the volume. Let’s say the the volume would be 5-10 reps in ten minutes with intensity— not simply weightlifting. Could I do that? Possibly, it would still depend how I feel, but most likely. Now let’s say the volume would be 20+ reps, again, with intensity. Could I do that? No. I would have to choose a weight that was more appropriate like 275. Still super heavy, but the volume is more manageable. Over time, an athlete’s strength will increase with this movement, and this increase in strength will increase their ability to handle a load with intensity. It simply comes down to volume at that point. Unreasonable volume at a high percentage with intensity will put you at a higher risk for injury.
Mono structural is more about duration. Too long is probably too much depending on capacity. This is more for injured, elderly, or disabled. If grandma can’t run, she can walk. That fit bit needs some loving too. This activity will increase her capacity for those types of activities. There is still a risk for injury, but the greatest risk during mono structural movements presents itself during prolonged exposure, ex. marathon distance 2+hours.
Gymnastics is a little bit different because the injuries are not all analogous.The gymnastics movement that is presented with a high risk of injury and avoided is the box jump. The risk associated with this movement is to the achilles tendon. This could happen during wind sprints or other similar movements, but box jumps places an athlete at risk because it’s explosive from the ground. Again, I’ll use my own fitness as an example. My max height box jump is somewhere around 48-54” depending on the day. In the last thirty days, I have completed 120 box jumps during workouts. All time, of the workouts I’ve logged in Kilmodo, I have completed 1301 total box jumps, and it is the six highest gymnastics movement on my profile. It accounts for 13% of the top six total gymnastics reps. The highest gymnastics movement “the pull up” accounts for 20% of the top six total reps. What am I getting at? I train this movement a lot. My capacity is very high for this movement. The same thing applies to this movement as it did for weightlifting. Let’s say the workout has 38”-40” box jumps in it. The same scenario is true here. With intensity, I might be able to perform a low volume of reps in a workout without an issue. When you start upping the volume, I’m going to have an increased risk of injury to any movement.
We can look to a games athlete as an example for the box jump. Julie Foucher was the favorite going into her regional event in 2015. She tore her achilles tendon during a regionals event that had box jumps in it. If you do a google search for, “Julie Foucher injury” this will be the first article that comes up. “What Julie Foucher’s Training says about her achilles tendon injury?” by Anthony Roberts. The link is at the bottom of this blog post if you would like to read it. In the article, he focused on data pulled from Beyond the Whiteboard, similar to kilmodo, about Julie Foucher’s programming. Julie completed 815 workouts between January and May 2015 before regionals. 29% of her training was dedicated to gymnastics training, and box jumps were listed as the least practiced movement. Out of the 815 workouts, box jumps were present in 10 workouts. A mere 10 workouts out of 815. Without even knowing the number of reps, that’s 0.01% of her workouts included box jumps. It makes sense that she was injured during the games. She went into a workout that had 100 box jump overs at the end of a chipper. She was fatigued, and the intensity was also very high—it’s regionals. That’s a really high volume with intensity when she didn’t train the capacity. Julie’s trainers chose to leave out box jumps out of her training because, statistically, box jumps weren’t that significant in previous games events, but that’s not CrossFit. It’s training to win a competition not to increase total work capacity.
In closing, should an athlete be concerned about injury? Yes. By avoiding movements, athletes increase their risk for injury. If a movement causes concern, ask a coach. Workouts should be scaled to satisfy the athlete’s ability. If the weight is too heavy, scale the weight or the reps. If the box jump is too much, scale the height or the reps. In the warm up or skill portion, focus on the movement because this is the time to perfect it. During workouts, try to carry the skill work over into the workout, and keep the intensity high. Over time, that prescribed weight or gymnastics movement will be easy. This will in-turn lower the risk of injury.
By Coach Jon