Cross These 3 Exercises Off Your CrossFit WOD: Part Two

STACK Expert Joe Giandonato offers effective substitutions for three CrossFit exercises that can do more harm than good.

In tandem with its precipitous growth, CrossFit has ignited a controversy among fitness professionals. Those staking the greatest claim—experienced coaches and trainers—take the most umbrage with CrossFit—which is understandable since many CrossFit coaches and affiliates lack the necessary foundational knowledge and technical acumen to design and implement programming that is fundamentally safe and sound.

Many a CrossFit WOD (workout of the day) would not qualify as sound—and, more disparagingly, would not be deemed safe for most participants. Remember, most CrossFitters are desk jockeys, not pro jocks, and as such, have inferior strength, mobility and tissue quality compared to professional athletes.

In 2014, I identified three movements that should potentially be excluded from WODs. Now I'm back, following up with another three exercises you should avoid.

Let me preface this by saying I am not anti-CrossFit. Those who are tend to exhibit the same dogmatism and ignorance they accuse CrossFitters of exhibiting.

Fitness professionals, coaches, enthusiasts and CrossFitters should work collectively and collaboratively to reduce participants' injury rates, which have been reported to be approximately 20 percent.

RELATED: CrossFit's Injury Rates Revealed

1. Hand Release Push-Up

Hand Release Push-Up

Why complicate one of the simplest and most effective movements for the sake of sexiness? Push-Ups of this variety offer no discernible benefit, unless you consider shoulder impingement a plus.

The movement involves lying prone with your torso keeping contact with the floor and propelling yourself from the floor by hyperextending your shoulders to stretch the muscles of the deltoids and rotator cuff. The problem is that this movement is done independent of the scapulae and core, which is why traditional Push-Ups are lauded. Also, attempting to flex the shoulder from a hyperextended position is a common mechanism for pectoralis strains, which is precisely why coaches advocate keeping the shoulder blades squeezed together during the descent on the Bench Press. Doing so prevents the shoulder from moving past the body. Over time, allowing the shoulder to travel behind the body can create instability and eventually impingement.

Suggested substitutions: Push-Ups, both long- and short-levered

RELATED: What Happened When a 300-Pound Chain-Smoker Tried CrossFit

2. Medicine Ball Clean

Medicine Ball Clean

Barbell Cleans rock. When performed properly, they summon a lot of force and help athletes and lifters get more explosive. But Medicine Ball Cleans? Not so much. For starters, the movement doesn't safely offer lifters the ability to use challenging loads. Secondly, the movement, especially the catch, can become quite awkward. And lastly, it may muddle motor learning for novice lifters who may have just been introduced to the Barbell Clean.

Suggested substitutions: Barbell Cleans, Vertical Jumps, Vertical Medicine Ball Throws

3. Box Jumps

Box Jump

Like Cleans, Box Jumps train triple extension. However, when they are performed with many repetitions, form deteriorates, leading to increased injury risk.

Scraped shins may be viewed as medals of valor within the CrossFit community, but missing a box because of fatigue can cause people to end up with broken bones and missing teeth. The accrual of byproducts from anaerobic exercise can blunt neuromuscular functioning, meaning that there is no benefit to doing high-rep Box Jumps. Instead, consider performing movements with lesser margin of error, especially those that mitigate impact.

Suggested substitutions: Jump Rope, Battle Rope, Kettlebell Swings.

RELATED: 4 Lessons From a CrossFit Master


Weisenthal, B.M., Beck, C.A., Maloney, M.D., DeHaven, K.E., & Giordano, B.D. (2014). "Injury rate and patterns among CrossFit athletes." Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 2, (4). doi:1177/2325967114531177

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