The three most common injuries in CrossFitlumbar, shoulders, and knee — can be avoided and you can recover faster with strength exercises and compression.

IT’S JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER DAY: You walk into your box, complete a nice warm-up, and work hard for the next 30 to 60 minutes.

You get after it. You’re feeling strong, ready to beat your personal best, when you push yourself too hard and that’s when you feel it: an excruciating pain shooting down your body. And just like that, your workout is ruined.

Injuries happen, especially in CrossFit. It’s a demanding sport that puts a lot of stress on your body. Fatigue can cause poor posture or form and lead to injuries. In fact, about 20 percent of CrossFitters injure their lumbar, shoulders, or knee each year, according to Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. These injuries are mainly due to little recovery time, improper form, or lack of coaching.

“It’s not uncommon for an athlete to develop a chronic injury over a period of time,” explains Dawn Ferreira, senior product specialists at Zamst, a manufacturer of support products for athletes, “especially if you consider the amount of stress that can be placed on a joint such as the knee when lifting heavy weights. The athlete may not feel the pain at first but over time the pain will worsen to the point where their activity may be limited.”

Strength exercises and compression are two key elements that speed up recovery and prevent further injury because they increase oxygen to the muscles. “It’s believed that compression lessens the muscle oscillation (vibration) that occurs during activity,” Ferreira explains. “Reducing the vibration reduces unnecessary movement of the muscle and in turn delays the onset of muscle fatigue. If a brace can limit the movement that causes that stress, then the athlete can recover faster and remain active for longer.”

With the right support, you can strengthen the injured muscles with proper exercise.

Lumbar Spine

Philip Kavanagh, a coach at CrossFit Humanity in San Diego, explains, “While performing CrossFit workouts, your lumbar, which is your lower back, is used in a whole host of ways from bending and lifting to twisting while performing movements such as deadlifts, squats and Olympic lifting.

“Injury to the lumbar spine usually occurs when you move past your normal range of motion, whether it is through excessive hollowing of your lower back, hyper lordosis, or excessive rounding, hyper kyphosis, typically while under load,” continues Kavanagh.

CrossFitter Annie Thorisdottir is no stranger to demand on her body. Training twice a day, six times a week, led to a slipped disc in 2012. After lots of massages, rest, and chiropractic help, Thorisdottir recovered. “I always focus on maintaining good form and I do a lot of auxiliary exercises to strengthen the lower back and midline,” Thorisdottir says.

It may seem like an obvious injury prevention tip, but it’s important to remember: reduce weight. “It would be great to PR each and every day, but your body needs time to develop and adapt to the demands being placed on it,” Kavanagh says.

If you injure your back, Kavanagh suggests working on your stability (core strength). This will protect your back. “A better-developed core will go a long way to help with back pain,” says Kavanagh.

Technique and form play a vital role in preventing lumbar injury. Make sure your coach teaches you the right technique and watches your form, so you can recover properly and prevent further injury.

Core-strengthening moves Thorisdottir suggests are hollow rocks, arch rocks, and carries. Using a light back brace for lumbar spine stability can help you perform these moves without tweaking your back more. It will also help you to recover and prevent further strain.


Like any sport, CrossFit demands a great deal from your shoulders. Athletes hang from, push through, and sleep on them. “The shoulders are joints in the body with the greatest range of motion, which is one of the reasons they are so easily injured,” Kavanagh says. “They respond best to slower, more deliberate movements, which slower is not a word we throw around too often.”

To ease shoulder discomfort, the best recovery method is to work with lighter dumbbells or resistance bands to increase flexibility and stability. You should always use the R.I.C.E. method (rest, ice, compress, elevate) to speed up recovery.

Exercises that will help strengthen your shoulders:

  • Pull-downs
  • Standing rows
  • External rotations
  • Internal rotations
  • Standing hitchhikers (arm raises)

Remember, use a tube or very light weight to perform these moves five days per week, one to two times a day. Start with one set of 10 to 15 reps for the first three to four days. Then progress to two sets of 15 reps. After eight to 10 days, aim for three sets of 15 to 20 reps. It’s important to maintain good posture while performing these moves. So if you feel your shoulders slump forward, back off on the weight or reduce your reps.

To make the most of your recovery time, use a compression shoulder wrap to support your rotator cuff. “Providing stability to the joints — generally a brace — will add support to the joint to allow it to move in a proper range of motion,” explains Ferreira.



Whether you’re squatting and lunging or walking and jumping, the knees take on a great deal of stress. “One major factor that contributes to a knee injury is poor quality of movement. This can be caused by a whole host of reasons, from muscle imbalance and bad/blind coaching to tightness or overuse,” Kavanagh shares.

If you experience knee pain, stop immediately and begin R.I.C.E. Depending on the depth of your injury, you may need to seek medical attention to recover.

But, you can do some knee strengthening exercises that can keep the knee healthy. First and foremost, make sure you stretch. Quad, hamstring, and pigeon stretches help loosen the muscles surrounding your knee.

You can perform the following exercises with body weight and then progress to a band:

  • Hamstring curls
  • Leg extensions
  • Calf raises
  • Straight-leg raises (prone — on your stomach)
  • Straight-leg raises (supine — on your back)
  • Hip abduction and adduction
  • Leg presses

Just like the shoulder exercises, you should begin with one set of 15 reps for the first three to four days, then progress to two sets, and so on.

The type of support your knee needs when performing the above exercises will depend on the type of injury. A brace will keep the knee stabilized while you work on strength and flexibility.


One of the most important actions to take to recover from an injury, or to prevent pain, is rest. So many athletes forget to rest, and it’s so simple. Make sure you plan a rest day in your training plan. “I usually sleep in, get a light breakfast, and try to do something active outside of the gym,” says Thorisdottir.

Whether you’re battling an injury or looking for ways to prevent physi­cal setbacks, remember to perfect your form, stretch, and rest. If you experience any pain, don’t push through it. Stop and take a day off to give your body a break.

Fara Rosenzweig, fitness and healthy lifestyle writer, is a certified fitness instructor with a love for yoga and running. When she’s not at the gym or outside logging the miles, she’s planning boot camps with friends.

Twitter: @FJRose

Twitter: @TheChicAthlete


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