Scott Panchik's Unlikely CrossFit Journey

While recovering from knee surgery in 2009, former Mount Union gridiron champion Scott Panchik discovered CrossFit. He turned out to be pretty good at it.

Scott Panchik is no stranger to pain. The 26-year-old athlete has suffered more than his fair share of it. During his college career at Mount Union—where he started at slot receiver and tailback as the storied Division III program racked up two more national championships—he underwent three reconstructive knee surgeries, two to repair torn ACLs and one to fix a torn PCL.

While Panchik was recovering from one such operation, his father introduced him to CrossFit, an intense style of training then gaining popularity on the national scene.

"I came home [to Natonya Heights, Pa.] for Easter Break, and [my dad] put me through a workout," Scott says. "That workout put me on my back. I've been hooked ever since."

Panchik incorporated CrossFit into his recovery from surgery, and he says it helped him return to health. "I've built up my quads and hamstrings, and my knees don't bother me at all anymore," he says. "CrossFit's emphasis on flexibility, mobility and movement helped me get back into being an athlete."

CrossFit also gave Panchik an entirely new avenue for athletic competition. After graduating from Mount Union and taking a job as a teacher and coach for Mentor (Ohio) High School, he put himself through CrossFit workouts that he found online. Eventually, he signed up for the CrossFit Games Open in 2012. He placed 4th in the world. "Turns out, I was pretty good," Panchik says.

Not that the Games were easy for Panchik. The event requires competitors to run through obstacle courses, perform heavy Olympic lifts, and power through intense exercise circuits. Panchik calls competing in the nationally televised Games "amazing" and "humbling," but he also says, "it was a beating. Words cannot describe how my body and mind felt during those five days of competition."

After coming in 4th again in the 2013 Games, Panchick opened a gym of his own—CrossFit Mentality in Mentor—leaving his teaching job to focus on training himself and others full-time.

"Everybody has something that they're great at," Panchik says. "But a lot of people settle for being good. I wanted to go out there and find out what I was great at, and I think CrossFit is what I was made to do."

Swing Away

Kettlebell exercises are prominent in CrossFit workouts. For any athlete with a history of knee injuries, the Kettlebell Swing is excellent, because it develops hip strength and glute power without stressing the knees. In fact, when the exercise is performed correctly, the knees are not involved at all. Here's how to do the move properly:

  • Hold the kettlebell between your legs in an athletic quarter-squat stance.
  • With straight arms, thrust your hips forward to swing the weight up to chin height.
Kettlebell Swing

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