Top 5 Mistakes Made by CrossFitters

We’re starting a new feature on the website…guest posts!  If you have a relevant CrossFit topic that you’d like to write about for the website, see Matt and we’ll see about profiling it right here!  We’ll start with a little something about CrossFit Mistakes….

DSC_8091No matter what improvements we see in ourselves, we all go through the same CrossFit journey.  We discover it by talking to a friend or seeing a video on the internet, ultimately thinking that the methods and science of CrossFit simply do not make sense and that we would never try it.    We give in and try a class, which checks our ego like nothing we’ve tried before, forcing us to second guess everything that we have ever known about fitness.   We go again and become part of the machine, evangelizing everything that we know to everyone that we know at every single opportunity.

But why do some people fair better in the long run than others?  Why can’t some people make the gains that they want and what holds us back?

In looking back at my experiences with CrossFit and my interactions with a myriad of athletes at differing skill levels, I thought I’d put together a quick listing of five mistakes that CrossFitters make in their training and approach to the sport…do any of these apply to you?


When we find a movement or a skill where we excel, we get excited and naturally gravitate towards that movement before and after classes.  We may even find ourselves avoiding workouts that have the movements that we do not do well.

We call this specialization and specializing in our better movements takes our time away from training the weaker ones.

CrossFit has a concept Hoppercalled the “Hopper Model,” whereas you could place an infinite number of tasks and an infinite number of time domains into a large Hopper and simply select a few random tasks from that hopper in order to create your workout.   If done a number of times with a number of athletes, you would find that the best athletes would have a better overall performance in the workouts because they have trained for everything.

In this approach, the items in the hopper that make you cringe and run screaming into the Newtown night become the movements that you should train.

Train…don’t specialize.  Once a week, you should ask yourself what you need to do to get better in the gym.  If you hate heavy power cleans, do some heavy power cleans.  If you can’t figure out how to kip your pull-ups, talk to a coach and practice.

Come in for that night of running and burpees, even when you know it’s going to hurt, because those movements that you hate will move the needle for you more than others and you won’t become efficient at any movement without training that movement.

Sacrificing Form for Intensity

Everyone loves a sexy workout and quite frankly, a workout with sweat puddles around the gym and lots of heavy breathing makes us feel like we did something.  But, some people make poor decisions about how hard and how heavy to get after a WOD, which stunts progress.

Don’t let the allure of intensity, sweat and a purple face get in the way of your ability to improve.

Every workout should push you to a specific and manageable intensity level, but not at the behest of your form.  Sometimes it may make more sense to dial back the reps or the lower weight, if you can’t express full range of motion or proper technique because higher intensity with poor form will increase the chances of injury.

Ultimately, your CrossFit performance will improve more rapidly with better form and function, not by doing every workout as prescribed.   Avoid the shiny RX next to your name and do the proper movement, for the proper amount of time, with the proper weight.

Not Developing Their Squat

The air squat represents the most fundamental of all CrossFit movements and just about every WOD has some variation of a squat.  Wall Balls, Snatches, Pistols and Cleans all base themselves in our ability to squat properly.  Without that ability, one can’t expect to improve their performance in any advanced squatting movement.

Luckily, we can easily address this by simply doing more squatting.   Not Front Squatting, not Back Squatting…just squatting.  Standing alone, arms extended, back straight, squatting below parallel.  By training this standard movement as much as possible, with a real focus on form and function, every other squat movement will fall into place.  Wall balls become easier, squat snatching seems more natural and power cleans yield more power.

But, what’s proper form?  Ahhh….great question.  If you think you want to know about proper squat technique, talk to your coaches and we’ll show you what we mean.

Short Repping

We’ve all seen it and probably doDSC_9245ne it at some point in our CrossFit travels.  The workout calls for 12 swings and 12 push-ups and that last push-up shouldn’t have counted, but I count it anyway.  Or our toes didn’t really touch the bar at the same time on that last rep, but I really gave it the old college try, so I will count it anyway.  I did 11 reps this round instead of 12, but that’s enough, right?

Cheating sounds like such a dirty word, so we’ll go with the CF standard…short repping.  The tactic, while logical at the time, does nothing to make us better, unless our ego really just needs a little push.  It not only makes your friends in the gym second guess your workout legitimacy, but it also means that you worked a little bit less than you should have.  It means you did fewer reps than you should have and both of those mean that you’ve not pushed yourself according to the plan, which will slow your progress.

Don’t count reps that don’t count.  Not because it will give you a more accurate score but because you didn’t get through the workout as designed, because it was designed to make you a better CrossFitter.


Coaches can talk to athletes ad nauseum about their training plan and the need to incorporate rest periods into their weekly schedule.  But typically, athletes just fail to listen to their bodies.

Coming to the gym 5 or 6 days a week may sound like a great idea, but in the long run, your body needs a break.  Rest periods allow for muscle regeneration and taking time off from the gym now and then will keep that fire in your belly for the next workout.

Listen to your coaches and listen to your body.  Rest when needed.


CrossFit workouts, when done correctly, will improve your fitness.  But, as with most things in life, you need to have an awareness of the goal and what you want to ultimately accomplish in the gym.  By keeping an eye on the items above and training towards our goals, you should find that your gains improve in both the short and long term.

By: Mike Donofrio

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2 Comments on “Top 5 Mistakes Made by CrossFitters
  1. Great write-up!!!! The whole truth and nothing but the truth. I’m prouder of doing it properly than doing it more or heavier. With form comes function.

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