How Olympic Weightlifting changed my philosophy
September 12, 2014
By: Bardia Shemirani
In retrospect, CrossFit has been perceived by many as the "reckless, dangerous, deadly, life-threatening, and dubious" sport "trend." It seems like yesterday when I read the New York Times headlined "Getting Fit, Even If It Kills You." CrossFit is at a battle between its believers and critics. Interestingly enough, work requires me to help injured people regain mobility, strength, and functional status. I have treated many CrossFit, Yoga, Pilates, and Fitness participants during my career. As a rehabilitation practitioner and a squat expert, I have to calculate multiple factors into the equation when designing a plan-of-action. Furthermore, most medical and specialty practitioners would advise injured patrons to discontinue the activities mentioned above, especially CrossFit. Why? Well, because most people, even the highly research oriented individuals do not understand CrossFit. Surprisingly, there was a time where I was against CrossFit as well. I frequently urged my patients to discontinue membership. Since my experience and immaturity at the time left me no options and no satisfying answer, I assumed CrossFit to be everything I heard and read about from online "experts." Most people with the similar professional background in Houston, like my old self, find it easier to point out why you should not do something. The easiest advise anyone in my situation could give is, "it's dangerous, so just don't do it."
During graduate studies, my research thesis and focus was based on the squat sequence. I was fascinated by its superiority over any other movement. Initially, it was the Sit-to-Stand sequence, and how remarkably beneficial it could be when used in a rehabilitative setting (like after knee, hip, or back surgery). It was all about the SQUAT. The biomechanical behavior, the forces imposed on the joints, the musculoskeletal structures responsible for the movement, how muscles behaved and contracted under particular scenarios, the difference between stance and depth variations, why some folks squat better and others just can not, the effects of an improper sequence...and I could go on and on.
Towards the middle of my second masters, a respected friend turned me onto Olympic Weightlifting when he asked me to watch the world championship. I was hooked, so impressed and amazed at how these superhumans clean and jerked 3-3.5 x their own weight with pure elegance and biomechanical accuracy. I realized how functional and beautiful the movements were. Watching the likes of Lyu Xiaojun from China and Kim Kwang Song of North Korea had me astonished of their performance and how beautiful and correct it was. And all of a sudden it all came together. In essence, I have been analyzing and observing one of the most important movements in both sports for a greater part of my education, the Squat. Eureka, what we are missing in CrossFit is real systematic and biomechanical approach to understanding the sport and making it that much more corrective. The magic happened when I realized how to link the gap between rehab and WOD or Oly lifting by utilizing the mechanical principles of movement. The truth is, there are no "one-school-of-thought" but multiple ways of addressing a possible problem. From pro-athletes to the neighborhood mom who wants to be a bad-ass. Everyone should be able to participate in any form of physical activity their hearts desire, the key is to prep and prime the body before and after.
So, I decided to join the party. Do some more digging and understand exactly why you CrossFit, how you CrossFit, why you should participate, why resume participation after an injury, and how to make this life-changing sport sustainable for a long time without injury. Aside from analyzing data from well-respected researcher like Stuart McGill and Laboratório de Estudos Clínicos em Fisioterapia, I joined a Box and eventually obtained a CF-Lever 1 and USAW Performance Certification.
You all know as well as I do the staggering amount of inaccurate information reaching online readers. For every one positive article, we have two negatives - most are not even stated with much accuracy. Even some supporters (participant, coaches, and owners) have misconceptions and inaccurate information, which (more often than not) translates to injury, and the cycle continues. After all, word of the mouth is the most powerful source of advertisement. I found myself silently criticizing some of the movements and coachings I witnessed at different boxes. I began to see both sides of the spectrum. Why people love it and why people get injured. And yes, every sport has the potential for injury. However, we cannot ignore the white elephant in the room, CrossFit has a higher potential, and it truly is avoidable.
I guess I'm chasing a rabbit to say I feel different now, strongly different. I now encourage people to do their part and educate themselves (as we should for every new fitness program). Since most folks will not take the time to do the research, I figured why not just show them. A recent Survey suggested 1 out of 4 peoples are interested in CrossFit but are scared or don't know enough about its programming. That is a whopping number to consider. My journey has taught me a lot, and I feel obligated to pass the light to anyone willing to listen. My goal is to educate not only coaches and athletes but to encourage people, particularly the ones new to CrossFit, to WOD correctly. For me, the squat is the most functional and paramount movement in a human's life cycle.
I believe by moving efficiently, both the recreational and the competing athletes can achieve and maintain optimal status. My mission is to make injury easy to understand and preventable for a lifetime.