When it comes to Crossfit, nothing is more frustrating and disheartening than an injury. One day you’re making progress, reaching and surpassing goals, and enjoying your WODS. The next, you’re stuck on the couch, watching the Crossfit games on TV with a serious case of FOMO.

The last thing you want is to derail your efforts with an injury, and perhaps one of the worst injuries you can sustain is a knee one. You use your knees for almost every workout, so brings your routine to a screeching halt if your knees call it quits. This means that it’s especially important to know how to prevent injury, and what to do in the event that it occurs anyway.

Since protecting those knees is so critical, we here at Emerge have put together a comprehensive list of dos and don'ts. Here are the 5 ways to save your knees during Crossfit.

1. Know and Practice Proper Form

One of the best things you can do to Prevent injury or knee pain is to know what you’re doing in the first place. Crossfit is extremely effective, and one of the reasons for this is that it pushes you to your limits. With such highly intense training comes the danger of injury if you’re getting it wrong. To protect your knees, know how to do the following correctly:

Squats

This is probably the move that is most likely to result in knee pain if you don’t do it correctly. The best way to think of doing a proper squat is to act as though you’re moving to sit down on a chair, and then dip lower than that.


Lunges

When doing a proper lunge, the most important thing to concentrate on is not extending your knee of your front leg beyond your toes.


Squat Cleans

Make sure you aren’t asking your knees to do what your shoulders and arms should be doing in this move.


Rowing

You might think of rowing as fairly straightforward, but it’s easy put undue pressure on knees or back when using a rowing machine. Make sure you’ve extended your knees all the way before rowing your arms back.


Snatches

Make sure you’re not adding weight before you’re ready, and get plenty of help making sure you’ve got the form of this move down.


Box Jumps

As with rowing, box jumps don’t seem to require a lot of focus on form, but you still need to be sure you are getting enough momentum with your arms and upper body so that the entire movement of your jump is not dependent on your legs.


2. Listen to Your Body

Another important way to prevent injury is to make sure you listen to your body. In attempting to achieve your PRs in Crossfit, it can be tempting to push yourself beyond your limits. Don’t do this!

There is soreness and then there is pain. When you feel even the hint of pain, stop what you are doing and take it down a notch. Just because you can’t do it now, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to later.

Here are some basic dos and don’ts when discerning what your body needs.

3. Stretch!

As great as that WOD feels, it is often a shock to your muscles, especially if you work a desk job, where your muscles basically sleep all day. Stretching seems to be such an obvious thing, and yet many people fail to do so as they work out.

Your knees themselves cannot be stretched, but all of the muscles and joints of the legs impact our knees, so any leg stretch is going to help prevent knee pain. Some great stretches that will protect your knees include:

  • Figure Four Stretch

Lay on your back and pull your legs up to a 90 degree angle, calves parallel with the ground. Place your right ankle against your left leg, directly above your knee. Grab your left leg, linking your fingers against the back of that leg and gently pulling toward you. Repeat with other leg.

  • Calf Stretch

Standing on a step, pace one foot on the edge, slowly lowering the heel so that it stretches the calf muscle. Hold for several beats and stretch the other leg.

  • Hamstring Stretch

There are many ways to stretch your hamstring, but the easiest is to sit on the floor with legs extended in front of you, heels together. Lean toward your toes, stretching your hands toward your toes. Only go as far as is comfortable without pain, and hold.
You can also perform this stretch standing and reaching down to touch your toes.

  • Quad Stretch

In a standing position, grab your right ankle with your left hand behind you. Pull the leg up until you feel the stretch. Hold for several beats, then repeat with the other leg.

  • Hip Flexors

A pigeon stretch is one of the best ways to loosen hips. To perform this stretch, lay on your stomach, and bring your torso up off the ground by pushing up with your hands. Pull your right leg up and under your torso, bending your knee. Keep the left leg straight behind you. Keep this position for several beats, and then switch legs.

4. Supplements

Another way to save your knees is to make sure you are getting the right nutrition to keep your muscles healthy and strong. This, of course, includes a healthy and balanced diet, full of protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.

It may also include certain supplements, which can serve to keep those knees healthy and strong during those intense WODs. Certain supplements have long proven to aid in keeping joints in tip top shape. Here are 5 of the best supplements for healthy knee joints.

  • Anti-Inflammatories

Your immediate thought when you hear this word might be the average painkiller, such as Tylenol or Aleve. But there are actually some plant extracts that can serve this purpose as well. Two of these are pomegranate fruit extract and green tea extract (look for EGCG). 50-55 mg of each of these daily may serve to lessen inflammation in joints.

  • Boswellia Serrata

This is also an anti-inflammatory, and can serve to protect against damage by inhibiting chemicals that might harm the joints. 100 mg daily is the recommended dose for this herb, which is sold under the name ApresFlex.

  • Chondroitin

The fluid that lubricates joints and absorbs shock contains this component, which can be taken as a supplement. A recommended dose is 100 mg daily.

  • Digestive Enzymes

Healthy digestion is crucial for the normal function of every part of the body, including joints. These can be found in plenty of foods, or you can purchase supplements to add them to your diet. Follow packaging directions.

  • Glucosamine

1500 mg daily of this supplement that can help build up and strengthen joint cartilage has been shown to relieve pain if taken regularly over a period of time.

  • Turmeric

Turmeric is one of those spices that is popping up all over the place due to it’s impressive medicinal benefit (as well as its delicious taste!). One of those benefits may be relief of joint inflammation and pain. While you can find this in the spice aisle of your grocery store, you can also purchase an extract and take 100 mg a day.

5. Knee Sleeves

Last, but not least, a great way to protect your knees during Crossfit is to wear gear that has been specifically engineered to provide support and ease stress during high intensity workouts.

Knee sleeve compression supports are an investment, but for most people its worth the bit of extra money, on top of the other costs of Crossfit, to add some protection during their workout.

There are a few different types of knee sleeves.

  • Cloth sleeves provide compression and some warmth

  • Neoprene sleeves provide some injury prevention, warmth, and mild compression.

  • Knee wraps provide extreme compression. These are best for performance, and not everyday use.


Neoprene sleeves are most often used for everyday Crossfit. Try these 5MM compression sleeves, or 7MM compression sleeves, from Emerge Fitness, which provide great support and comfort.

Conclusion

As you can see, saving your knees while doing Crossfit has more to do with prevention than remediation. Through healthy diet, proper form, appropriate stretches, and utilizing knee sleeves, you can keep your knees healthy as you improve your box jumps and squat cleans.

Of course injury is not always avoidable, so don’t forget that you should deal with knee pain right away when you experience it. With the right response, you’ll be back on your feet - and knees! - in no time.


Anne Ramos
Anne Ramos


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