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“Don’t take your guns to town son.”
Wow my man Coach Nick makes some great points for CrossFitters, general strength athletes, and the weekend warriors out there. If you are masking pain and dysfunction with wraps, shoes, and other items, you might want to handle the pain and dysfunction before moving on. If you are not in this thing to compete or be a world champion, I hope that your main goal is health and wellness. If health and wellness is your top priority, then alleviating pain and eliminating dysfunction should be your priority.
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Now enjoy the article!
As I sit here and listen to my Johnny Cash, watching all these athletes, I notice something. An overwhelming amount of them are strapped, knee sleeves, knee wraps, wrist wraps, belts, Olympic shoes, etc. Another thing I notice, a lot of them move poorly….and I think there might be a connection here. Most of these athletes aren’t competitors; they are just training for life, health, and fitness.
So I say to myself, you should leave your guns at home son! Let’s think about this for a moment.
If you’re just the average CrossFit box goer, why on earth are you all decked out like a competitive weightlifter or Rich Froning?
All of these items are useful in the right circumstances. Knee sleeves or wraps make sense if you have a previous injury, or if you’re maxing your clean or squat, or if you’re 8 weeks or so out from a powerlifting/weightlifting competition and are really in the training grind. But, they do not make sense if you’re doing weights at 80% of your max or below, nor if you’re doing a metcon. If your knees are so banged up that you need wraps or sleeves every day, on every movement regardless of weight, then you have a problem.
You have a big problem. You are either grossly over-trained beyond your body’s ability to recover, or your movement/mobility/form is so bad that your body is about to explode. If this is the case, the answer is simple. STOP! Go back and fix your technique, improve your mobility, or simply drop the volume! The human body should not be so broken all the time, and you should be able to do most of your training without assistance.
Olympic shoes make sense if you’re doing an Olympic program, but if you can’t complete the movements at below 80% of your max without them…. then there’s a problem. You likely don’t have good enough mobility to get into position properly without the assistance the shoes give you. Now let’s think about that for a second. If you literally can’t do the movement properly without a specially designed shoe, don’t you think that at some point, something is going to give? Your body is telling you that you have a serious issue that needs to be addressed before you go down this road. Putting a band aid on it isn’t the way to go, it’ll just lead to a major failure down the road. That’s the opposite of health and wellness.
Having to wear wrist wraps every time you go overhead to alleviate pain is a no go as well. Unless you have a preexisting injury, this means your wrists are too weak. If that’s the case, how do you ever expect them to get stronger if you’re constantly supporting them artificially?
Weight belts are amazing, they can be a crutch as well. My rule for my athletes is no belt unless it’s over 80%. I do this because if you cannot confidently get under a bar at 80% or less for a couple of reps without it, then that means you probably have a midline weakness or imbalance. Putting a belt on will surely help you lift more weight, but when you take it off, are you really any stronger? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
My advice is for the average gym goer, the non-competitor. However, if you are a competitor who has no previous knee/wrist/back problems you probably shouldn’t need this stuff either. At least not on a daily basis, if you’re 8 weeks or so out from a competition that’s another matter entirely.
The fittest man alive, Rich Froning, was once interviewed and stated that when he was the “fittest” he was also the unhealthiest he’d ever been. Everything hurt, tons of nagging injuries, etc. That’s the price you pay to play the game. When it’s game time, it’s PAIN TIME baby!!!
But normal everyday training volume should not leave you in this state. Even as a competitor. A competitor understands that competing will hurt, and acknowledges that they will pay a price in the long term. For those who are gifted, they will end up reaching a level that makes a life of aches and pains worth it.
For most of us, however, that’s just not reality. Everyone must decide for themselves ultimately how much they are willing to accept for where they are as an athlete. I’m not going to preach to anyone about what I think they should do with their lives. Just remember that in today’s day and age, life is likely to be very long. Before my grandad passed on he told me “Nick, if I had known I’d have live so damn long, I would’ve taken better care of myself!” I’ll always remember this, it taught me to think more about what I’m doing, what I’m sacrificing, and where that might leave me down the road. For myself, I try to balance my life and training as much as possible.
If you have to go into the gym strapped like old Billy Joe in the song, maybe stop to think about what and why you need all this stuff to become fitter. Try to fix the issues, and leave your guns at home!
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