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Is CrossFit bad? Understand the benefits and risks of the modality

You’ve probably heard about CrossFit or read about people who are fans of the sport on social media. In Brazil, according to Google Trends, searches for the term began to rise in 2013, reached their peak in August 2018 and remain relevant until now.

But, after all, what is CrossFit? The modality of physical activity was created in 2000 by the American Greg Glassman to be a philosophy of physical exercise that intersperses and brings together elements from several other modalities, such as running, weight lifting, gymnastics, rowing and calisthenics.

Graph shows searches for the term "CrossFit" on Google

The practice was born in Santa Cruz, California, linked to a brand, which functions as a large global network of franchises with members in several countries and a certification system for physical education professionals who wanted to become physical education instructors. The chain even sued and managed to block the use of its name without authorization by other gyms.

Glassman suffered from infantile paralysis and developed CrossFit out of dissatisfaction with gymnastics because he wanted a holistic modality that worked the entire body and was adaptable to any body.

To answer the main questions about CrossFit, CNN heard from Dr. Julio Cesar Nardelli, orthopedist and sports doctor at Hospital Sírio Libanês, and Fábio Dominski, doctor in human movement sciences from the State University of Santa Catarina (Udesc). See below:

What is CrossFit?

Dominski and other researchers who looked into the subject proposed the adoption of the term functional fitness to name the sport of CrossFit, which is a brand. The proposal is to bring different elements from other modalities together in a high-intensity training session.

“It is a modality that involves the work of several physical fitness components because it mixes many modalities: there’s running, strength training, Olympic lifting, calisthenics, rowing. There is a variety of activities within the proposal”, explains Dominski.

This combination of elements, according to Nardelli, who is also a doctor for the Brazilian Women’s Volleyball Team, can improve cardiorespiratory and pulmonary capacity, in addition to increasing resistance and muscle mass.

Who can practice CrossFit? Are there any restrictions?

One of the main characteristics of CrossFit is its adaptability to different bodies and people. According to Dominski, this is due to the scalability that is at the heart of the modality. In other words, the proposal is precisely to work with progression of load and training intensity according to the body of the individual practicing.

“This feature allows us to place exercises at different levels of execution. Even someone who is practically physically inactive, or who sits for a long time during the day, can go to a CrossFit box, to a place that offers this modality, and still do several of the exercises in an adapted way with lower difficulty and relative to the its capacity”, explains the researcher.

He argues that the modality can accommodate people with different bodies and restrictions such as illnesses and physical limitations in the same training, all together.

“Over time, some studies have been carried out that show that there are no limitations to practicing CrossFit, in relation to age or gender. You have to create a model that has safety, efficiency and effectiveness and crossfit fits into this, which is why it has gained this popularity”, argues Nardelli.

For the doctor, it is important that the practitioner looks for certified instructors capable of monitoring their development in CrossFit and adapting the activities to their limits and needs.

“Everyone can do it, but it has to be individualized training according to your limitations, it has to be individualized training according to the previous injuries you have”, he explains.

What are the most common injuries caused by practicing CrossFit?

According to Dominski, the most injured areas during CrossFit are the shoulders, lumbar spine and knees.

In the case of shoulders, injuries are usually caused by repetitions of overhead barbell lifting exercises; In the case of the lower back, the biggest villain is the squat, as Nardelli explains.

The doctor recommends that practitioners carry out, in addition to an initial assessment, biannual checks with a cardiologist, an orthopedist and a nutritionist to monitor the risk of injuries and ensure practice.

“Identifying these risk factors is very important. Know the main injuries and do this reassessment every 6 months so that there is no overload and you don’t get hurt.”

He also warns of the risk of rhabdomyolysis, the “black urine disease”, which is the rupture of muscle fibers due to intense fatigue that can cause kidney failure. As it is a very intense physical activity, Nardelli recommends that CrossFit practitioners include rest in their routines so that the body can rest between sessions.

How does a CrossFit class work?

The CrossFit class is divided into three stages: warm up, skill It is WOD.

  • Warm up: As Dominski explains, first the practitioner warms up the body considering what will be worked on in that session.
  • Skill: Afterwards, he trains specific skills and develops aspects such as strength and power depending on the day’s schedule.
  • WOD: The end of the training session is Workout of the day, that is, I train the day. It is a part of high-intensity metabolic conditioning in which the participant completes the day’s exercises.

What generates motivation in CrossFit?

According to Dominski, there are studies that indicate that CrossFit practitioners have good quality motivation due to the social and structural environment of the modality. He cites the sport’s own rituals as important elements for building a sense of community in the pits, places where the sport is practiced. Among them, the battle cry, the universe of words and the photo at the end of the training stand out.

“It’s a freer environment for exercising compared to a traditional gym, which is more closed in terms of the social aspect. At CrossFit, people also feel constantly challenged. There are new exercises in practically every workout or more difficult ways to do it. Scalability itself challenges the practitioner to increase levels, going from the easiest to the most difficult level”, explains the researcher.

This sense of community is intentionally promoted by the sport, as Dominski argues. The fact that the modality brings together people with different bodies in the same group creates a vicarious experience, that is, when a practitioner sees someone performing a function and, therefore, begins to believe that they can do it too.

“Often you break a personal record and people are happy with it. This increases the perception of competence, which is a basic psychological need,” she said.

Dominski’s research also discovered that CrossFit causes an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF), an element responsible for the regeneration and formation of new neurons and plasticity of synapses made in the brain.

He explains that, as it is a high-intensity modality, CrossFit causes an increase in the concentration of blood lactate (a substance responsible for warning that the body is under physical stress and preparing it for intense activity), which, through the blood-brain barrier (which is a messenger for the brain), intensifies BNDF.

Source: CNN Brasil

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