Rhabdo what?!

By Dave 0

This is going to be a short article, at least by my standards anyway. It was originally a long facebook post but I though damn it, I want a few hits to the website. ANYWAY…

Yea it’s about Rhabdomyolysis but I promise its short.

Some of you may have noticed that there has been a lot of mudslinging directed at Crossfit the past month or so (more than normal) – which I wasn’t a part of. Again, Crossfit has gotten me to where I am currently and I still acquire great information from a lot of solid Crossfit coaches. I defend Crossfit a lot but sometimes they really do some crazy shit that does make you step back and wonder what the fuck they were thinking. Anyway, that’s my view of Crossfit.

I was watching a UFC Heavyweight title fight over the weekend and I was amazed when I heard the commentator, Joe Rogan talking about the challenger and how his training camp was ‘state of the art’ because he was getting his bloods tested at the end of each day (which seems more than excessive and probably counter productive to me) and Joe was saying how during the last fight camp, the challenger’s muscles actually broke down and made his blood toxic due to the fact he was training so hard. At this point I was wondering if Joe was trying to explain Rhabdo and lo and behold, Mr. Rogan proceeds to take a stab at pronouncing the word (It took me about 5 years practice) and then mentioned Crossfit in the same sentence.


Not the best mascot in the world but one of the more moderate Crossfit PR disasters


At that point I actually thought wow, if I was a Crossfit coach and living in the States especially, I’d be pissed. The witch-hunt has gone main stream! The previous day I had re-read this article and would agree with pretty much all of it.

Crossfit does not cause Rhabdo. Inexperienced coaches and shit programming does (along with severe dehydration and being crushed in World War 2). Although not strictly inexperienced coaches, I know a few very good ones, although not in this country, so my clientele is still somewhat safe.

Back to Rhabdo, I have been training for about 20 years now at various levels and sports and haven’t managed to witness a single case of Rhabdo. I remember attending the Crossfit Football cert in Tampa a few years ago and John Welbourne (who played in the NFL) said the same thing, and he would have witnessed a couple of more slightly intensive sessions than myself.

But what the Rhabdo panic does highlight is the need for progressions and planning in coaching. There has to be some sort of progressive overload or time for a person to get accustomed to new movements. Ironically an old Crossfit mantra of Technique, Consistency, Intensity is a golden rule. It is so simple, yet so overlooked or at least forgotten about not long after the level 1 cert is hung up on the wall.

There should absolutely be no room for a movement in a conditioning block or metcon if the athlete in question has not demonstrated the ability to perform said movement consistently (or at all!).

Justin Lascek of 70sbig also speaks a tonne of sense in this article

Doing even a half-assed job at programming will net you almost zero injuries and progress if you adhere to two main ideas: 1) don’t do anything stupid and 2) condition the bodies of trainees and clients to their workouts via some sort of progression.

(If you are an aspiring coach, check out the book he was involved in writing).



Yep, and I would even take this one a little further, stop including complex movements in conditioning workouts. When you are fatigued, the last thing you need (or want) to be doing is something complex. This can be tricky to implement at first. As a coach you want to keep workouts fun and exciting (not to mention variability stops boredom and lack of boredom stops people leaving the gym). Lack of high rep complex shit stops people getting hurt too and that is Dan John’s number 1 rule of coaching ‘Do no harm’. This should be rules 2,3,4,5 as well. And these rules should be referred to often.

Just to underline this isn’t me blasting any single style or modality of training, it is more about looking at the coaching out there and having a look at what is going on. Entry points for beginners should be determined or at least the coach should be able to assess the ability of each person that comes through their doors to train and get better at what ever it is they want to improve. And once that assessment is made, their workouts should be structured accordingly, it just isn’t good enough to throw someone into the deep end at this stage and see if they sink or swim. Especially not if you’re a swimming coach.

Injuries happen but some programming, progressions and sensible use of intensity ensures that this is kept to a minimum. As a coach, randomly picking exercises and throwing them into workouts is not good enough.



author: Dave