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CrossFit

Hi Chris and Sean,

I have a letter that I wrote to the WSJ about CrossShit I mean CrossFit. The Journal didn’t run it but I thought it might be something useful to post on the blog.

We could start a “CrossFit” stream and then include my letter with an intro like this:

CrossFit–a nationwide ‘chain’ of affiliated gyms advertising ‘elite fitness’–has gained popularity including several locations here in Westchester. But before you drink the CrossFit cool-aid, you might want to check out what NL Speed Master Trainer Chris Wade said in response to a recent Wall Street Journal article about the CrossFit craze:

Dear Editors:
The Wall Street Journal would never report on a new financial product by simply quoting the high returns of a single neophyte investor while suppressing reports of high loses and controversy. Yet, in a half-page, picture laden article of more than a thousand words that is what the Journal did for a new and controversial fitness product. Not a single expert was quoted in Jen Murphy’s January 4th “Special-Ops: Getting in Shape the Military Way.” (D3). Instead, readers were offered glowing descriptions of where to train, bold faced “Fitness Tips” and “Quick Fixes.” All this praise and advice came from a single unqualified source: a woman who has trained at a local CrossFit for one month.
CrossFit boasts that its program is “perfect” for “any committed individual regardless of experience,” from “elderly individuals with heart disease” to “cage fighters.” Ms. Murphy’s article essentially endorses this view by describing “instant results” and “defined abs” without ever discussing the risks associated with these intense, boot camp style classes. As a former Marine infantry officer and an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, I’ve often been asked to lead ‘boot-camp’ classes and have been happy to do so for clients who were apprised of the risks and screened for the level of fitness and skills that I consider pre-requisites for such demanding work. But no-one told Ms. Murphy’s readers that boot-camps had higher risks of injury than traditional exercise regimens, or that these risks are raised still higher by the particularly intense style and culture of CrossFit. She failed to tell readers that CrossFit’s high risk training culture has made it an outlier in the world of fitness. In fact, the risks are so pronounced that CrossFit has been unable to buy insurance (CrossFit Inc. and its affiliates have been forced to self-insure by creating their own Risk Retention Group). Nor did Ms. Murphy see fit to mention that CrossFit training is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the U.S. military after a rash of CrossFit related injuries.
Rather than giving over the entire article unqualified praise of a recent CrossFit convert, your reporter should have found room to explain that the CrossFit location described in the article is part of a much larger CrossFit movement and that that fitness professionals have started to raise concerns about its grassroots driven model. To be clear, CrossFit is a rapidly growing international business that markets its vision of “elite fitness” through a variety of licensed affiliates, media outlets, and proprietary certification courses. These businesses exist within a larger “virtual community” of locations and individuals who use an ‘open source’ communication style. All members of the community are encouraged to post their fitness results online and to develop and share new CrossFit training ideas and workouts that idiosyncratically borrow and take out of context just about every conceivable form human exercise. These borrowed exercises are then applied to what CrossFit founder Greg Glassman describes as the proto-typical CrossFit model: “mixing heavy fundamental movements with high intensity ‘cardio’ efforts.”
This open source model for developing intense forms of exercise is at the root of at least four issues that should concern your readers. First, there is an incredible problem of quality control. Though CrossFit licenses its affiliates, there are few coherent standards for what this affiliation implies or describes and the $3000 licensing cost is fairly low barrier for entry. Rather than building a defined curriculum, CrossFit describes its affiliates as unencumbered members of “an Internet-based grassroots movement” that encourages experimentation with “varied, intense, functional exercise.” Thus no one really knows what is going on at the 2,500 affiliates or the ever-growing legion of unauthorized locations that have stolen the CrossFit name. The anti-establishmentarian, grassroots ethos causes another serious issue that worries professionals like me: the use of exercises and volumes of exercise that may be counterproductive or unsafe. Consider, for example, the barbell snatch. The snatch is an extremely technical exercise in which a barbell is lifted from the floor to a position directly over the athlete’s head in single, swift and precise movement. Developing a good technique for the snatch takes years of training. As a USAW certified coach who teaches as well as performs the snatch in competition, I use the lift only after complete rest and in sets that never exceed six repetitions. These are standard protocols practiced throughout the sport of weightlifting and the professional strength and conditioning community where it is believed that exercises like snatch demand such rigorous, focused attention to form that it is unproductive and unsafe to perform them without rest or in high volume sets. But without regard to the wisdom of the athletes and professionals who specialize in this type of training, CrossFit workouts routinely include the barbell snatch in high repetition sets and as part of aerobically taxing circuits of multiple exercises performed consecutively without rest. The main CrossFit web site even offers ‘how to’ videos for those who hope to ‘teach’ the snatch and other complex exercises to themselves. Another egregious example of questionable CrossFit exercise advice comes directly from Ms. Murphy’s article where she reports on her subject’s abdominal training routine and all but suggests that readers perform the same high repetition sets of jack-knife crunches. As any professional active in the field today knows, these types of extreme, end-range hip flexion exercises put a tremendous stress on the soft tissues of the lower back and have little applicability to functional movements of life or even most sports. Indeed, Stuart McGill, the world’s foremost authority on the causes of back injury has described crunches as ‘back herniators’ and worked hard to have them removed from the lexicon of fitness because they so contribute to the growing epidemic of low back disorders. We can only hope that your uncontextualized, blind-leading-the-blind advice didn’t cause injury to one of your readers. But finally and most disturbing of all, is the manner in which CrossFit’s grass roots community celebrates excessive risk. Vomiting due to over-strenuous workouts—which most fitness professionals view as a sure sign of an excessive and counterproductive exercise load that puts the athlete’s health at risk—is considered a badge of honor in the CrossFit world. They even have a cartoon mascot of a vomiting clown named ‘Pukie.’ But Pukie isn’t nearly as bad as his mascot brother, a bleeding clown named ‘Uncle Rhabdo.’ He represents exertional rhabdomyolysis. A once obscure exercise injury, rhabdomyolysis is a potentially fatal condition in which the detritus of dead muscle cells enter the blood stream at a rate that damages and ultimately causes kidney failure. While CrossFit induced cases are hard to quantify they are not uncommon and, in at least one case, resulted in a large settlement being paid to a victim of a CrossFit induced rhabdomyolysis. Nor is this the work of a few bad apples: the web site for the Manhattan location that was so heavily praised in Ms. Murphy’s article, CrossFit NYC: The Black Box, has the co-owners and coaches of the facility joking about heart attacks and describing bouts of exertional rhabdomyolysis as the cathartic experience that sold them on CrossFit.
I don’t mean to denigrate or demonize everything about CrossFit. There are certainly many people who have enjoyed, even beniftted from participation in CrossFit. But if you are going to print praise for a radically different fitness facility whose owners make light of life threatening injuries that their practices can induce, I think you owe your readers a bit of that context. So, since you didn’t do it, I will conclude by advising your readers to seek the advice of both their physician and an experienced fitness professional to help them find an exercise regimen that is specific to their individual goals, commitment, physical readiness and tolerance for risk.
Regards,
Chris Wade,CSCS

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Pain Related to daily Activities

Our daily activities can actually cause muscle imbalances. No matter your line of work, you probably have some type of routine, repetitive activities. This can overwork some muscles and under-work others and is one reason many people often say, “I do not know how this happened. One day I felt pain but I’ve never had an injury.”

The body is a balanced system of levers and disrupting that balance can put joints at a mechanical disadvantage, causing unnatural and inefficient movements. The muscles that work harder tighten while the opposite weaker muscles lengthen causing impingement of joint spaces and other joint irregularities. This extra wear on the joints and ligaments can also cause arthritis, bulging disks and even tiny fractures in the spine. For example, an office worker who sits incorrectly all day with chin forward, shoulders rounded and leaning over toward the computer will likely have anterior shoulder, low back and neck pain. Think about the amount of times you get up and down in one day. If you are doing so incorrectly the force on your spine eventually will cause some type of break down. This postural distortion eventually can cause all sorts of problems such as pain, poor sleep, scar tissue build up and muscle atrophy, just to name a few. The problem is people go to the doctor and take medication for pain and are told to do routine, impersonal everyday exercises.

Unfortunately, medication can often be a mask that only exaggerates the problem and introduces new side effects. And general, routine exercises don’t fit every person. People have different lifestyles and do different things. One person may have back pain due to a hip dysfunction while another may have a thoracic issue so exercises need to be tailored to the individual.

An effective exercise prescription needs to not only consider your job but your daily activities and workout routine. Did you know stretching alone can alleviate most basic everyday complaints? Exercise and stretching related to daily activities can benefit any person because if you feel better at work you will perform better. If a job is stressful it can actually cause tension in the neck and back, and pain from tight muscles can trigger stress and thus the start of a cycle.
Charles DeFrancesco
www.fitandfunctional.com

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What Makes Up the Core

The foundation of your core is much more than just your abdominal muscles. It includes muscles that lie deep within your torso, right up to your neck, and your shoulders.  The core includes the following structures:

  •      Multifidus –A very deep muscle that runs from the neck (C3) to the lumbar spine (L5). Approximately two thirds of the static support in your back is produced through contraction of the Multifidus muscle.
  •      Interspinales, Intertransversarii, Rotatores – Deep structures that attach directly to the spinal column. These are very important for rotatory motion and lateral stability.
  •      Internal/External Obliques & Transversus Abdominis –These structures transmit a compressive force, and act to increase intra-abdominal pressure that stabilizes the lumbar spine.
  •      Erector Spinae – These muscles help to balance all the forces involved in spinal flexion.
  •      Quadratus Lumborum – This muscle stabilizes the  12th rib during respiration and laterally flexes the trunk.
  •      Thoracolumbar Fascia – This area supplies tensile support to the lumbar spine, and is used for load transfer throughout the lumbar region.

These muscles connect to the spine, pelvis, and shoulders to create a solid foundation of support.  When these core muscles are strong, flexible, and move freely, then the athlete is able to generate controlled, powerful movements in his/her arms and legs.

Imbalances Weaken Your Core

Training long hours does not guarantee that you have core stability.  In fact, spending too much time working within one plane of motion often creates core imbalances.  Add these imbalances to stresses caused by poor posture during running, and the repetitive motions of swimming, and you have an equation for the development of a weak core.

Often the athlete tries to correct these imbalances by heading to the gym to strengthen weakened areas.  Unfortunately, since many weight machines only work through one plane of motion (usually sagittal), these strengthening exercises only reinforce core instability.

Imbalances Affect Performance and Lead to Injury

Optimum posture is based on the attainment of a balance between primary muscle movers and their opposing muscles.  This is referred to as a force coupled relationship – when muscles act in opposition to each other to create a movement.  An imbalance is created when one muscle group is overworked in comparison to its opposing structure.

Most cyclists focus on their hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteals and forget about the importance of core stability.

Consider how many hours the triathelete spends bent over in a flexed position on the aero bars, with no rotational or side bending motions. A strong core is needed to counter-balance these forces.

With a focus on the core, a cyclist can generate more power and can sustain a higher level of intensity for longer periods.

A stronger core also means less stress on the primary muscle movers and a delay in the build up of lactic acid.

Even minor changes such as brake position can affect core stability.

  • If the brake handle position is too low, the cyclist is forced to reach too far forward with their forearms.
  • This reaching position forces the cyclist to raise their head forcing the pelvic girdle posterior. This position cause a restriction in several key muscles in the core, thus reducing performance.
  • The ideal position for the forearms is to have the elbows bent and the forearms flattened out. In this position, the cyclist head drops into a more comfortable aerodynamic position, and the pelvis tilts forward. In this position, the cyclist is able to use all the core muscles with improved efficiency

Following the Kinetic Chain

Consider how the chronic shortening of just one muscle can affect performance and cause injuries.  There are multitude of different muscle groups we could focus on, but for our example we will chose the rectus abdominus muscle.

rectus abdominus is often shortened by doing crunches, hanging leg raises, or by spending an excessive amount of time bent over the aero bars.

The rectus abdominus attaches from the fifth to the seventh ribs.  As this muscle shortens, it has the effect of:

  •  Pulling the chest down and moving the shoulders and head forward.
  •  As the shoulders move forward, the arms and hands move inward (also called medial rotation).

If we follow the kinetic chain, what started as a shortening of an abdominal structures ends up affecting posture, shoulder rotation, arm position, and even the positioning of the hands.

Running

Now consider how a shortened rectus abdominus affects a triatheletes performance during running. Although opinions about the ‘ideal running form’ vary greatly, most authorities will agree that the less energy you expend, the more effective your running style.

The following table illustrates how an imbalance in the rectus abdominus decreases the runners ability to run efficiently.

Common running recommendations
(Runners World Online)
How a shortened rectus abdominus affects your running
Run upright. Your back should be straight, roughly at a 90-degree angle to the ground.

Look straight ahead. Your eyes should be focused straight down the road on a point moving about 10 meters in front of you. This helps to keep you in a straight line.

Swing your arms naturally. The angle at the elbow between your upper and lower arms should be about 90 degrees. Your hands should be loosely cupped, about belly level.

A shortened rectus abdominus will pull the runners posture forward. This causes a braking action that reduces running economy.

As the rectus is shortened, it pulls the chest forward and pushes the head down.  In order to look straight ahead as instructed, the athlete wastes a considerable amount of force in trying to overcome the contracted rectus abdominus.

As the shoulders move forward, a shortened rectus abdominus causes the arms to rotate internally. This makes keeping your arms relaxed at the recommended 90-degree angle much more difficult, again reducing running economy.

This is only one example. When performing a biomechanical analysis, it is very common to see numerous imbalances of which the athlete is completely unaware.

 

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Protein in Your Diet

Proteins are complex organic compounds. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids.

Function
Every cell in the human body contains protein. It is a major part of the skin, muscles, organs, and glands. Protein is also found in all body fluids, except bile and urine.

You need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. Protein is also important for growth and development during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy.

Food Sources
Protein-containing foods are grouped as either complete or incomplete proteins.

Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids. Complete proteins are found in animal foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products such as yogurt and cheese. Soybeans are the only plant protein considered to be a complete protein.

Incomplete proteins lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Sources of incomplete protein include beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and grain. A small amount of incomplete protein is also found in vegetables.

Plant proteins can be combined to provide all of the essential amino acids and form a complete protein. Examples of combined, complete plant proteins are rice and beans, wheat cereal, and corn and beans.

Side Effects
A diet high in meat can contribute to high cholesterol levels or other diseases such as gout. A high-protein diet may also put a strain on the kidneys.

Recommendations
A nutritionally balanced diet provides adequate protein. Protein supplements are rarely needed by healthy people.

Vegetarians are able to get adequate amounts of essential amino by eating a variety of plant proteins.

The amount of recommended daily protein depends upon your age and health. Two to three servings of protein-rich food will meet the daily needs of most adults.

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Eating for Energy

By: Amy Bell

The foods we eat have a direct impact on our overall energy.

Think about how you feel after having certain foods.

A greasy fast food meal more than likely leaves you tired, sluggish, and possibly feeling guilty, while a meal full of complex carbohydrates, healthy protein and fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables leaves a person feeling satisfied and energized. Continue reading Eating for Energy

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Aging Well with Good Nutrition

PADMINI SHANKAR, Ph.D., RD
Assistant Professor
Department of Family & Consumer Sciences,

As we enter the 21st century, the life expectancy of older Americans continues to increase and by the year 2030, nearly one-fourth of the total population will be comprised of the elderly. To maintain an optimal quality of life, extended longevity in the elderly should be accompanied by good health, free from disease and disability. However, many of these in Continue reading Aging Well with Good Nutrition