HIIT, Crossfit, Grit: These types of workout are becoming more and more popular by the day. Men and women of all ages are sweating it out at the gym or Box (as known by Crossfitters); lifting weights, jumping, bear climbing, running up and down stairs, burpees and doing pull ups. These high intensity training methods are “functional” exercise that train the whole body: inside and out! Physically, they help to build muscle, tone and decrease overall body fat percentages. Internally dramatic changes to the cardiovascular, respiratory and neuroendocrine systems can be observed and measured.
These types of training methods don’t target one specific body part or area; it’s all about “functional’ fitness”. One of Crossfits’ philosophies is to train for the unexpected – to be physiologically capable and ready for anything. This means training to be cardiovascular fit, strong, flexible and adaptable.
But how safe are these high intensity workouts for regular people who seek to be ‘fit’ or sports weekend warriors? Can it be dangerous, and most importantly how can you prevent yourself from possible injuries? We addressed these questions to osteopath Lee Muddle, who practises in Canberra. Lee is also a director on the Osteopathy Australia board.
Question 1: Can Crossfit and other high intensity interval training methods be dangerous?
Lee Muddle: Like participation in any sport, Yes there is an element of risk of injury. For example Crossfit may be considered dangerous in a couple of ways. If participants aren’t coached by a qualified instructor, who is educated and skilled in using proper techniques; especially for Olympic lifts and gymnastic skills, then there is a chance for potential injury. Poor technique and/or haste in increasing weight or complexity of skills before suitably capable can be hazardous.
Question 2: What are the typical HIIT/Crossfit injuries?
Lee Muddle: Crossfit (and the HIIT method) don’t have ‘typical’ injuries per se. They utilise ‘the whole body’ when exercising and no one body part is targeted more specifically or more often than another. However, the causes of injuries from these types of training are ‘typical’. These include overuse, poor technique, lifting heavier weights than capable and attempting skills beyond skill level.
Question 3: Who should avoid any kind HIIT?
Lee Muddle: High intensity interval training is often introduced to participants who have been exercising regularly for a while. This is not a common form of ‘beginner or introduction’ type exercise. Although it can be effective and time efficient in regards to fat loss, it is also very demanding both physically and mentally. It’s not for the faint-hearted or beginner who may already have a dislike for physical exertion. The decision to utilise HIIT methods is not influenced by the age of the participants, but rather their sensibility and maturity to train within their physical limitations and to not push themselves senselessly beyond them. Similarly, the same guidelines apply to Crossfit participation, regardless of age, gender or even being pregnant; everything can be scaled as required.
Question 4: How to minimise the risk of injuries, and can an osteopath treat the injury?
Lee Muddle: The best way to avoid injuries is to train under a qualified coach. Training sessions should be programmed to have incremental increases in skills, weight, flexibility and mobility as experience is gained. Warm ups should be specific to the ensuing activity, cool downs may include stretching. Adequate hydration is also important, throughout and post, training sessions.
- Should you injure yourself during a workout, cease the painful activity promptly and notify the coach.
- Apply a compression bandage (if available) to assist with any swelling, and use ice if pain management is required.
- Elevation (raising the injured area to improve drainage) may be tempting, but gentle movement of the injured area (within your pain tolerance) is likely to improve your recovery time and overall outcomes more
Osteopaths are fully qualified to treat and manage musculoskeletal complaints including those commonly experienced from participating in Crossfit and training methods utilising HIIT. Osteopathic treatment involves safe, gentle and effective manual techniques, including soft tissue stretching, mobilisation, inhibition and manipulation. These techniques assist in improving elasticity, strength, endurance, mobility and performance.
By Lee Muddle, Osteopath, www.osteopathy.org.au