Sunday 4.17.11

Risk vs. Reward
"Show me a program where form is controlled to the point of never failing and I’ll show you an athlete who a) will fall apart at output levels where CrossFitters are untaxed and moving with grace, and b) cannot match the work capacity of CrossFitters."

The above is a quote from Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit.  But what does it mean exactly?  To me it means that in CrossFit and at The Compound we engage in high intensity activities that can be dangerous if done incorrectly.  But a program that is completely 100% safe, will be completely 100% ineffective.  How can I make that claim you ask?  Allow me to explain.

Take the standard pull up.  What could go wrong there?  Done incorrectly you could injure your shoulders, your biceps tendons, your elbow joint, you could rip your hands open, and you could slip off the bar and tumble to floor and break your coccyx.  Compare that with a seated lat pull down, where your weight is supported on a bench, the handles are padded and nearly slip-proof, and you don't have to support your own body weight.  You could argue that the lat pull down is a 'safer" option, but I think we all would agree that the effectiveness of the movement pales in comparison to the pull up.  The same could be said for squats vs. leg press machines, deadlifts vs. leg curls, ring dips vs. tricep kick backs, and Olympic lifts vs. Body Pump Classes. 

To do The Compound workouts is to accept that this small element of danger exists and gladly accept that in favor of the far superior results possible, while under the watchful eye of a coach.  CrossFit and similar training philosophies have always gotten criticism from the naysayers who think it is dangerous.  I think not doing high intensity exercise is more dangerous than doing it.  In police work, it is usually the unfit officer who all of sudden must run and chase after a criminal, jump a fence, and fight the guy for a few minutes before taking him into custody who injures themselves on duty and has toe end up taking time off or worse.  Maybe if those officers were more conditioned from intense exercise, their bodies wouldn't crumble under intense real life scenarios.

The same could be said for any one of us in any walk of life.  We are all capable of having to encounter an intense physical situation in our lives.  I would much rather have tested myself in a controlled environment to handle that danger than to just wing it when it goes down.  The small risk we take in the gym is worth the fitness rewards we get from it.

Does this mean that injuries will never occur?  Of course not.  (You all signed waivers, right?)  Despite the best form, the best coach, and the best athlete injuries happen.  It happens in professional sports all the time.  You do what you can to prevent injuries, but sometimes stuff happens.

What we need to be careful about it taking unnecessary risks or doing things to make normal activities unnecessarily risky.  In the picture above, this guy is doing a normal thing for us at The Compound (back squats) but taking some unnecessary risks.  What are the rewards he could possibly be after here?  A bigger squat?  Nope.  You don't squat more without actually loading more on the bar.  Better balance?  Nope.  Studies have shown that crazy off-balance techniques do little to make your balance better in real world scenarios.  What are the risks?  I'll let you opine on that for yourselves.

The box jump and broad jump are other movements I have seen people increase the risk to.  Both are great movements to increase hip extension power and explosiveness.  I have seen athletes attempt to combine these two movements and do a broad jump onto a box.  Think about what kind of rewards they are getting from the increased risk that they wouldn't get doing the movements the traditional way.  You're still working hip extension and explosive power (no increased reward) but you're adding a potential fall from two feet or more off the ground, a sprained ankle from rolling off the box, or a gashed shin from coming up short.  Huge risk increase, no reward increase.

Finally, for some of us, typical movements we frequently prescribe at The Compound may contain an acceptable level of risk for some, but may be too risky for others.  Whether it be your level of skill, strength, or flexibility, or even an injury, some lifts and movements will present too much risk for the potential reward, and it is up to YOU to determine where the line is.  Coaches can help, of course, but if your back is injured, don't deadlift.  And better still, find out why your back is injured and fix it.  If your shoulder hurts going overhead, fix that issue before you push the weights overhead. 

One of the best ways to mitigate potential risks inherent with our programming is to not let your form suffer.  If you can't lift a weight without rounding your back, then you can't lift that weight.  Cut the set short, lower the amount of weight, do whatever you have to do to get your technique right, or find an acceptable work around.  Consistency in the movement comes before intensity in the movement.  Do things right, then do things fast.  If an injury still happens, and it still could, at least you've done all you can do to prevent it.  bc

1 comment:

  1. Strength WOD:
    - Power Snatch: 182x 3,3
    - Barbell Row: 280x4, 255x6
    - Ring Dips: +100x1, +75x2, +60x4, +50x5

    Finished up with a few high rep sets of back squats on the swiss ball as pictured above, because screw good judgment and common sense! Also, I was definitely feeling a little sluggish this morning after the nacho challenge last night.