Is CrossFit safe?

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says Andy McTaggart, health and fitness manager at Fitness First, Tottenham Court Road, London

I joined a CrossFit box this year because I was no longer playing rugby and wanted something that would challenge me. It’s been fun and at times addictive. I’m naturally competitive and found that it drives me to train harder and lift heavier, but also to do it faster. And that’s the problem.

Any physical activity poses an injury risk when it’s not done correctly. If poor technique isn’t corrected, you will get injured. And with CrossFit, which encourages you to complete strength or endurance exercises as fast as possible, it’s too easy to sacrifice form in order to finish quicker. 

Injuries will happen if you don’t have a decent coach ensuring you’re doing the exercises safely. Also, the programming for CrossFit can be complicated and if it’s not well thought out you can develop injuries by straining muscles through overtraining.

Moves such as box jumps, kipping pull-ups and Olympic lifts carry an increased risk of injury when they’re done for time or at high speed. If you overtrain them you could end up with a strained rotator cuff or torn achilles tendon.

I’ve done classes where the coach is good at motivating people but isn’t actually coaching – there’s no correcting poor technique or helping people understand moves. This happens in regular gyms too, but CrossFit’s emphasis on powering through workouts means it can be a recipe for disaster. I’ve met some great CrossFit coaches, but some are only good at geeing people up. Boxes need to be run by experienced coaches. A lot are, but there are too many that aren’t. 


says Jonny Landels, a level 2 CrossFit trainer at Reebok CrossFit Thames in London’s Canary Wharf

First things first: any sport or exercise programme carries a risk of injury. Good CrossFit classes teach proper movement patterns to ensure your safety, and while there’s a chance you could get hurt, it’s less dangerous than sports such as football or rugby. At its core, CrossFit is about making you fitter, stronger and healthier. And it works – we have the data to prove it. Ask to see any CrossFit member’s workout journal and you’ll see their workout times go down and strength numbers rise. 

It’s the job of every coach to educate themselves on human movement. CrossFit involves loads of different exercises and it’s vital that you’re taught how to do each correctly. As a company, CrossFit offers coaching courses to equip trainers with the skills they need to run classes safely. Some coaches may not be as good as others, but if you feel you’re in danger of injuring yourself, raise it with the staff or find another box to train at.

Good CrossFit gyms offer programming that’s been planned carefully by the head coach, and sessions are overseen by trainers to ensure people learn new movements and develop existing ones. Other gyms simply don’t offer this level of instruction and care, unless you pay for PT sessions.

Yes, it can be easy to get caught up in a WOD, go all out and throw proper technique out of the window, but it’s your responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen. If you’re injured doing CrossFit it’s likely to be your fault for getting sloppy or not listening to your body. Blame the practitioner, not the practice.

Coach Staff

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