One of my favorite parts about CrossFit is that I can discuss it with my parents and they have a precise understanding of what it feels like to lift a heavy barbell and feel exhausted after a tough workout. Both my mom and my dad have been CrossFitting for a couple years now and they love it.
Whenever I can, I go with my parents to their gym CrossFit Lifeworx and coach them. It’s so awesome to see them train together – loading up the bar on strength days and going all-out on their metcons at the end of class.
They are two of the people I love most in the world and I want them moving well in and out of the gym for many years to come. As I have repeatedly stated (and they whole-heartedly agree) they cannot become immobile, inactive, and incapable in their older years – I want them strong and able as long as possible!
On days when I’m not around, I feel comfortable knowing they are getting daily instruction and cues from their coaches on proper movement. Additionally, unlike training at a commercial gym, the atmosphere of a CrossFit gym is one that breed’s intensity and that very intensity is what leads to results. So I know that they are pushing themselves and working hard every day that they’re in the gym.
In CrossFit, you work to highest intensity that you can handle, not someone else. This may be adjusted based on the difficulty of the exercise, the weight that you use, the speed at which you’re moving, the amount of repetitions you complete – it can be scaled to fit your level of intensity.
This universal scalability is also part of what makes CrossFit safe. When training my parents I make sure to scale things down as needed to prevent injuries and to improve their overall movement. For me, it’s a matter of getting them to understand the correct way to move before they increase the intensity.
One of the most important things for me when training my parents (or anyone for that matter) is helping them to find and keep good positions when they move. As a trainer this is my main focus, mostly because athletes don’t always seem to care about this when the clock is running or the barbell is loaded up with a new Personal Best.
Showing my mom and dad that they don’t need to be a CrossFit Games athlete to get their body into the perfect position, has been invaluable. The more I’ve worked with them on their lifts, the more they’ve realized about keeping proper body mechanics and where they may be lacking in strength or range of motion. Now, with my nagging voice in their heads, they are striving for virtuosity in their movements rather than just getting through the workout – or at least that’s my hope.
For my mom and dad I have put the biggest emphasis on mobility. Both of my parents have developed some poor posture over the years and as a result of sitting at a desk or in a car for most of the day, they have their mobilizing work cut out for themselves.
Here are some common issues I see in my parents (and yours):
Tight hips – we’ve all got them; you have to stretch them out if you expect to use them in CrossFit and for the rest of your life. I like to use a band distraction to hold them in the right position and get them to drive the hip forward to stretch while having them activate their glutes to create more range of motion. I’ve found that their poor squatting positions with severely inclined torsos are due to their tight hips.
Low back pain or tightness – there are numerous causes for this but I look at how they stand and walk. If they are in hyperextension, with pelvis tilted back, then their low back is getting way over-worked. This is sometimes related to hip tightness, but I’ll move to the hamstrings and quads as well to get them looser and able to release that tension and keep a neutral position.
“Quad-mashing” is everyone best friend – we just don’t want to admit it. Getting my parents away from rolling up and down on a foam roller like a rolling pin, I have them stay on one spot and rock side to side. Waaaaay worse that way and you’re actually getting somewhere with all that angry tissue. When they’re extra brave/trusting, then I do it with a barbell on top of the quad.
Knees collapsing in – here I will have them mash on their glutes with a foam roller or softball to break-up anything getting in the way. Then it’s a matter of activating and strengthening their “side butt.” Being able to create torque and drive their knees out is critical in building strength and stability as well as avoiding knee and hip pain.
Whether they’re squatting, deadlifting, pressing, box jumping, kettlebell swinging – I want them rooted in their heels and driving their knees out. A great way to practice this is holding in a good position in the bottom of the squat. I’ll help stabilize them or have them hold onto a pole and sit in the bottom of the squat driving their knees out until they can feel their “side butt” starting to work.
Rolled shoulders/forward head – this position can be a tough habit to break. Lying on a foam roller that is across the upper back and letting the weight of their torso open up their thoracic spine is a start. From there, it’s working on regaining external rotation of the shoulders. I’ll put a lacrosse ball underneath the scapula or across the front of the shoulder and break-up some of the tightness in there, but ultimately posture throughout the day needs to be corrected.
The one-hour a day that they spend in the gym can’t compete with the 12 hours spent sitting or walking in a bad position. Pulling my dad’s shoulders back and putting his head in a neutral position, he can feel the difference – even if he can’t maintain it just yet.
Just because the sport is up and coming, doesn’t mean that CrossFit has lost it’s power to help everyone. CrossFit is a universally adaptable strength and conditioning program, which means anyone (who’s willing to work hard) can do it. No excuses!