February 21, 2020

3 Simple Tips to Reduce Shoulder Injuries in CrossFit


CrossFit has become an extremely popular fitness regimen in recent years, and with the snow starting to melt and the hope of warmer days, you may be thinking it is just the thing to get you active again and prep that Summer body. As you’re getting started, however, we want you to beware of shoulder injuries.

Without proper training or preparation, you could easily be one of many who have suffered from CrossFit shoulder injuries. Thankfully, one of our PTs, Rebecca Buresh, has put time and thought into creating this list of 3 tips which, when followed, will reduce your chance of shoulder injury from your workouts!

Snatches, handstand push-ups, ring dips… all movements in CrossFit that require adequate shoulder mobility, scapular strength, and dynamic control to perform correctly.  I say this not only as a physical therapist, but as someone who does CrossFit.  

CrossFit has gained more interest in recent years in the workout realm. With the rising interest, there also comes questions regarding the safety for the people participating in it.  CrossFit incorporates all aspects of fitness; including gymnastics, weightlifting, and activities demanding a high level of cardiovascular fitness. Due to these high demands, many people can experience injuries while doing CrossFit. 

Research has shown that the rate of injury for CrossFit participants was determined to be 20-26%, with the most frequently injured body parts being the shoulder, low back, and knee.  Although this may sound like a large percentage, the injury rates were comparable to incidence of injury in powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, and gymnasts. 

The most frequent body part I have seen in the clinic that’s injured while doing CrossFit is the shoulder.  The shoulder itself is a complex joint and with the added demands of movements in CrossFit, it can be more susceptible to injury. 

Here are a few simple steps to reduce your risk for shoulder injury from a CrossFit workout: 

Tip #1

Focus on perfecting strict movements before adding a kip. Being able to perform a strict pull up demonstrates that you have the necessary strength to progress to a kip.  

Tip #2

When performing overhead movements, such as the snatch, proper mobility is crucial. Without good shoulder flexion and external rotation (to name a couple), the movement becomes more stressful on the shoulder complex, increasing risk for injury.  My favorite assessment for shoulder mobility is the Functional Movement Screen, but you can also do the quick assessment shown in this video.

Tip #3

Don’t skip out on the scapular strength work. In conjunction with the mobility requirements that CrossFit movements demand, they also demand as much stability as possible to keep our shoulders in a good position. Scapular strength is part of this foundation and should never be overlooked.  My go to choices are prone Ts and Ys, reverse T’s with a band, and wall slides – all pictured below.


If you or someone you know has a shoulder injury preventing them from participating in their CrossFit WODs, have them get in touch with me or set an appointment with one of our physical therapists. We understand the demands of CrossFit and can help you get back to your normal workouts as well as help prevent further injury. 

Montalvo, A. M., Shaefer, H., Rodriguez, B., Li, T., Epnere, K., & Myer, G. D. (2017).  Retrospective Injury Epidemiology and Risk Factors for Injury in CrossFit. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 16, 53-59.

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