How CrossFit Can Benefit Triathletes

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These days CrossFit has gained national attention with its explosive growth of affiliate gyms, the members who attend them, and the recent exposure of the CrossFit games on ESPN. With this attention comes both the enthusiast who praises the program and the skeptic who questions its safety and efficacy.

When done correctly, CrossFit can be a fun, invigorating, and intelligent strength and conditioning program that can help get athletes over a frustrating plateau of persistent injury and stale performance, and onto a new upward athletic trajectory.

Here are five things a good CrossFit program can add to your triathlon training to help make you a stronger, faster and healthier athlete.

1. CrossFit teaches proper body mechanics.

Most endurance athletes look for either a decrease in injury or an increase in performance when heading to the gym.

CrossFit programs start with an intensive series of sessions that teach you how to do basic movements like the squat, deadlift, press, jump/land, and Olympic lift effectively. These movements are all very technical and, while there is a learning curve, they challenge the athlete's coordination and motor control.

With feedback from the coach, these technical movements teach athletes how to move better and improve shoulder, hip, and knee mechanics.   

2. Crossfit identifies athletic weakness and imbalance, and provides tools to address them.

If you struggle with basic swim, bike, and run mechanics chances are you also struggle to maintain good posture in CrossFit's basic movements: the squat, the deadlift, and the pushup. A knowledgeable coach can watch the movements you perform and use them as a screening tools to assess your strength, muscle flexibility and joint mobility.

For example, if your knees collapse forward and inward during a squat you probably lack good mobility in the hips and ankles, along with the motor control to protect your knees. This can lead to poor knee tracking and potentially to knee injury. It also demonstrates inflexibility in the calves, the groin, and the hamstrings, which can limit performance.

If your elbows flare out in the push-up or you have difficulty maintaining a strong neutral plank position, the coach knows you lack mid line stability (core strength) and shoulder stability.

Potential injury aside, racing down the road with your wheels out of alignment, is not the most efficient way to move. By identifying and addressing these weaknesses at the root, you have the opportunity to turn yourself into a better athlete from the ground up and reach higher levels of performance. Without meeting these basic demands, you will struggle to reach your full potential.