Form fanatic rant: Crossfit push ups

I am a fanatic when it comes to form.  My clients all know this about me and that is why they keep coming back.  They know that if they are doing an exercise with poor form, I am going to stop them.  We will attempt to correct the form and try again.  If they still don’t get it after a couple of tries, we move on.  We do not try to “muscle through” an exercise with bad form.  Muscling through an exercise means using whatever is immediately available to do a movement, no matter the cost.  What is the point?  Why bother strengthening in a bad position that could possibly cause injury?  Do you really have to complete 250 pushups in a workout in 50 minutes?  Is maximum reps preformed more important than maintaining form that does not harm your joints?  I absolutely do not think it is.  If you must do a workout with 250 pushups, as we did this morning, maintaining a neutral spine plank position should be the most important part of the pushups.  It is also how you will build the most strength.  “Cheating” with poor form (snaking, sinking into gravity rather than supporting your skeleton), limited range of motion (not going all the way down or all the way up, only moving your chest) and doing the pushups on your knees just to get through the numbers is RIDICULOUS!  Do not sacrifice form for speed.  If you can’t get through all of the numbers with proper form, reduce your numbers.  That is the only way you will eventually be strong enough to make it all of the way through.  I joined a Crossfit gym when it opened, like myself many of the new members who join are brand new to Crossfit.  There is a clear progression that happens when people start doing Crossfit.  The athletes who get the strongest fastest and injure themselves the least are the ones who pay particular attention to proper form and stretching. The people who show up and “cheat” their way through the workouts are still doing the same cheats they were a year ago.  Our work out of the day today was a hero WOD, as it is every Saturday.  It was 5 rounds of 800 meter run, 5 rope climbs and 50 push ups.  It was a killer.  I made it through 3 rounds  + the run and 25 push ups before my arms gave out.  My focus was on maintaining my plank position.  I was not able to keep my elbows in.  But I saw 90 percent of the rest of the class doing the bad forms shown in this video.  Especially annoying were the fast chest only spinal extension push ups.  ARGH!  What is seen cannot be unseen unfortunately…

I have fallen victim to the “muscle through” technique in the WODs in the past and it has always lead to injuries.  I have herniated a disc in my cervical spine & dislocated a rib on several occasions.    I could have kept going today to finish all 5 rounds but after the third round of rope climbs I could feel a sharp shooting pain in my left sacroiliac joint from using the same foot to do the foot lock for each climb.  Ideally I should be alternating legs, meaning I would have to learn how to do the foot lock on the other foot.  I had a full day of walking around today and I felt my SI joint all day because of those damn rope climbs.  Lately I am more concerned with not being in pain as I move around, which I have to do most days, all day long.  Not being in pain is the reason I work out.  I want my muscles to support my joints.  I don’t want to be in pain from working out.

Crossfit isn’t the only culprit of the “muscle through” approach to working out.  I also tried SLT for the first time, and it was the intro class no less.  I could tell during the class that I was twisting into my lateral flexion and rotation (scoliosis) in a way that was not going to feel good the next day.  And it didn’t.  It is so hard in group classes to get the guidance most people need.  Even a fitness instructor with extensive anatomical knowledge can continually get hurt during exercise.  Anyone who is doing repetitive movements badly, quickly and not mindfully can get hurt.

To sum up this rant, here are my closing thoughts.  Always work to keep your form.  Through every rep!  Even 250.  Use your muscles to support your skeleton, don’t collapse into gravity and your joints.  Be mindful when exercising, don’t check out.  If something doesn’t feel right, stop and reset.  Exercise should not hurt in a bad way.  It should hurt so good.  Learn the difference.

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