CrossFit has been gaining popularity as an effective way to get fit in a team atmosphere. It’s a similar concept to taking classes at the gym and feeling camaraderie with other gym members — but CrossFit takes it to the extreme with intensity and competition. Supporters of the popular fitness craze say it focuses on form and safety. Critic claim that it causes injuries which sideline athletes instead of inspiring them.  As a physical therapist, it’s important to know how CrossFit works, its potential health risks, and what advice to give patients who ask about it.

CrossFit — What Is It?

Developed by Greg Glassman, CrossFit is a workout regimen that features a variety of high-intensity movements that work the entire body. CrossFit workouts are quick — usually lasting less than 20 minutes — and require a participant to travel through a circuit of workout stations, each featuring a different exercise.  The challenge is to complete as many repetitions at each station as possible within a time allotment. The reps of each participant are white-boarded, as everyone in the class competes against each other.

Because of the varied movements, CrossFit workouts are designed to be an effective way to dramatically increase physical fitness. And it may seem as though this has become part of our culture, since every sneaker company airs commercials featuring people pushing themselves to the limit, and fitness tracking devices encourage us to monitor every step and movement we make. But is CrossFit a great new way to get in a quick, effective workout, or just the latest fad that’s bound to cause an injury? The jury is still out.

Differing Opinions on Safety and Effectiveness

It would seem that, in light of our current obesity rate, anything that increases activity is good. And according to, “While CrossFit challenges the world’s fittest, the program is designed for universal scalability, making it the perfect application for any committed individual, regardless of experience,” so just about anyone can participate. But are CrossFit gyms a safe place to exercise?

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Reports of CrossFit-related injuries are becoming more and more common. An intense, “cult” mentality and the competitive nature of CrossFit training can cause participants to push themselves too hard, and ignore signs that their bodies have had enough. In extreme cases, a condition called rhabdomyolosis can occur, in which excessive muscle strain leads to the breakdown of muscle cells — and, even cause kidney failure and death. More commonly, CrossFitters can suffer from muscle strains and tears, or other sports-related injuries resulting from doing too much, too soon, in an intense workout environment.


What You Can Do

Like most other things in life, moderation and common sense are key to health. So when you get questions from your patients about CrossFit, remind them to be careful. If they choose to join a CrossFit gym (or “box,” as they are called), it’s important to learn the correct form for each movement to be sure they don’t add unnecessary strain to their bodies. And when completing a workout, it’s always a good idea to listen to their bodies and slow down when they’re fatigued — regardless of the number of reps they’re aiming for or the cheers from those around them. Workouts should be a personal challenge, not necessarily a group challenge, and everyone’s body is different.

For More Information

To learn more about this new trend, visit

And if you’re interested in learning about physical therapy jobs in your area, check out PT Solutions. We offer PTs a variety of placements in different settings across the country. To learn more, visit our job search page or contact one of our recruiters today!

CrossFit: Helpful or Hurtful? What’s Your Take? was last modified: by



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