3 Mistakes CrossFitters Commonly Make

A woman lifting a barbell in a gym.

Notes from a Doctor of Physical Therapy who is also one of these CrossFitters.
We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.

Here are 3 mistakes you can pay attention to to help ensure you stay on the gym floor.
Solutions at the end.

1. We rarely intentionally strengthen our wrists.

You may have boulders for shoulders and biceps for days, but if you don’t have wrists to match them, you may find yourself in pain.


Are we saying that the wrist is more than just an attachment point for the hand? Yep.

We see patients all the time who say:

“I can’t get into the front rack without wrist pain!”
“I have to do burpees slowly because it hurts to drop down on my wrist!”
(Ok, that may also just be an excuse to do less burpees, but hang with me).

Your shoulders and elbows are often incredibly resilient and strong relative to your wrists. When our shoulders and elbows are throwing around big weights or doing some sweet gymnastics, our wrists are often getting whipped around for a wild ride. They need to be able to match the strength and stability of what the other joints are doing.

Another important thing to note is that if your upper back and shoulders are tight, then any movement that isn’t happening at the shoulders and upper back is GOING to get picked up at the wrist. This is just like during group projects in school when your partners goofed off for two weeks and you had to write up that whole research paper by yourself! Your wrist is the ticked-off team member picking up the slack!

2. We rarely practice shoulder stability.

Imagine 2 remote control cars.


You bet a friend your lunch money that your remote control car can beat his in a race.
You know yours is bigger and faster.
The problem?
The remote for your car only has a joystick that goes forward and backward.
The remote for your buddy’s car has a joystick for forward/backward AND another one for right/left.
Guess who wins unless the track is PERFECTLY straight and level?
Bye bye, lunch money.

Now let’s look at two CrossFitters.
Athlete 1 has been training shoulder strength.
Athlete 2 has trained strength & multi-directional shoulder stability.
They both attempt to split jerk the same heavy weight, and guess what?
If they both execute it absolutely flawlessly, they both can hit it.
The likelihood of that? Pretty slim.

Should the press off of the shoulders be just the slightest degree off, Athlete B is not only less likely to get injured, but more likely to recover the lift. Even though a split jerk may seem very one dimensional (up & down), athletes need 360 degree stability to manage all the other factors that affect the lift.

The same truth goes for pull-ups, bench press, handstand walking, and the bicep curl you do to get that protein shake up to your nasty gullet. Shoulders need stability.


3. We poorly organize our rest days.

(5 days on, 2 days off just isn’t it).

Look, I don’t make the rules about our bodies’ physiology, I’m just here to teach you about it.
CrossFit HQ recommends a work/rest day strategy to maximize recovery and adaptation – and it’s a pretty good strategy:

3 days on/1 day off.


More rest isn’t always better. Well-timed rest is better.
More rest isn’t always better. Well-timed rest is better.
More rest isn’t always better. Well-timed rest is better.

5 days straight of any working out, let alone at high intensity, will catch up with you.

The hard part of the “3 on/1 off” schedule is that what you do on certain days of the week (squat, press, endurance, oly, etc…) will change week-to-week since this pattern doesn’t occur on a 7 day schedule.

We understand the plight of the parent who works 8a-5p during the week and wants the weekend with the family and away from the gym. All we can say is that the “3 on/1 off” schedule is more likely to maximize potential to reach fitness goals and longevity in the gym.

A 5k row is not a rest day. Rest ≠ Cardio.

Glad that’s off our chest.

We hope this article was helpful. Below are three youtube links to:

One of our favorite wrist strengthening exercises
One of our favorite shoulder stability exercises
And a good example of how to take a rest day. You’re welcome.

If you’re in Nashville and looking for help managing pain, injuries, or mobility, feel free to sign up for a FREE 15 minute consult call with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy HERE.

Get after it,


Ross Gentry
Doctor of Physical Therapy
CrossFit Level 2 Trainer
Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Nashville, TN

And remember, THIS is Physical Therapy for Athletes.


A man in a green t - shirt smiles in front of a gym.

Dr. Ross Gentry


"This is Physical Therapy for Athletes. We relieve pain and ensure you're ready to do what you love"

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