Why So Many Cross-Fit Athletes Are Getting Back Pain – And What To Do About It…

I had a Cross-fit athlete in the studio recently for a Discovery Session and after spending about 30 minutes together, she was ready for a huge mind shift into mindful movement compared to her aggressive cross-fit mentality to movement. She showed up for shoulder pain, but also had low back pain, knee pain, heel pain which were all lower on the priority list than her shoulder. On her first full PT session, we released her hip flexors and started her on some basic core stabilization. After assessing her breathing and ability to contract certain muscles, it was apparent that she fit in a category that I have seen often in the athlete, particularly the cross-fit athlete.

The muscles that were tight and overactive?

  • Hip Flexors (in particularly the Psoas Major)
  • Quads (typically the outer portion, Vastus Lateralis)
  • Six pack (Rectus Abdominis)


This led to a severe weakness and disconnect from the:

  • Deep Spinal Stabilizers (Lumbar Multifidus)
  • Glutes (yeah the buttocks)
  • Deep Abdominals (Transverse Abdominis)

This combination led to her performing her entire Cross-fit exercise routine in a poor and vulnerable spinal position. She had trained for years with aggressive work which led to increased strength, but in the superficial big muscles, not the small and deep ones that count when it comes to solving back pain.

So after learning how to isolate the weak muscles, the next trick is to progress from the basic core strength to sitting, standing, kneeling and dynamic core strength in a slow and mindful way. Which is the exact opposite of her last decade of cross-fit. She understands that once she learns how to use her deep core properly, she can return to most of her cross-fit routine with caution initially and then more aggressively as she gets stronger, in the little muscles.

Are you a Cross-fit Athlete struggling with your WOD?

Is your back pain related to your shoulder pain?

Is your heel pain related to your back pain?

Curious to find out if your core is weak and needs some strengthening?

Give us a call at 512-215-4227

Curious as to how Pilates can help your Cross-fit WOD?

Here is a picture of Cheryl Dunn demonstrating proper spinal position with standing extension using the Gyrotonic Tower. Notice the lower back is not over arched or swayed!