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How To Not Break Your Neck During The CrossFit Open

crossfit dr. danny overtraining performance Jan 13, 2016

Hi, I’m Doc Danny Matta. I’m a physical therapist, strength coach and an instructor on the MobilityWOD team. I’ve worked with countless CrossFit athletes, soldiers and weekend warriors over the past 6 years as a physical therapist. These are just my views. If you don’t like them, stop reading and start your own blog.  

Last year during the 4th workout of CrossFit Open Week, I saw an epidemic. That epidemic was a ridiculous increase in acute neck injuries. I thought to myself, did everyone get in a car accident and sustain a whiplash injury in the same week? I quickly realized that it wasn’t car accidents crushing people’s necks, it was handstand push ups!

Don't be this guy!!


If you don’t remember the 4th workout last year it was as many rounds as possible in 8 minutes:
3 cleans (men use 185 pounds and women use 125 pounds)
3 handstand push ups
3 cleans
6 handstand push ups
3 cleans
9 handstand push ups and so on for the entire 8 minutes.

I actually really liked this workout when I saw it. It’s a nice push pull couplet. It’s moderately heavy but light enough where many people would be able to at least do a few rounds. What I didn’t expect was that I would see people pile driving themselves into the ground to get one extra hand stand push up!

Let’s be real with each other, if you’re reading this and you honestly have a shot to go to the CrossFit Regionals or Games I understand why you might sacrifice your neck to achieve a long term goal. Look, I’m as competitive as anyone. I once kicked a guy off an intramural flag football team I was on mid-game because he sucked. Do your thing, and I hope you achieve your goal.

​The rest of you, honestly probably 99% of you reading this need to look at this from another perspective. You are not going to the CrossFit Regionals, let alone Games. You are doing CrossFit because you’re trying to be healthy, look good and have a supportive community to keep you motivated. You need to look at the Open as a way to test yourself, try new things, have fun and compete with your friends/family.

I only have one person that I compete against when I do the CrossFit open- my brother. I bet you thought I was going to say myself. Sorry but that’s cliche bullshit! You need to compete against another human being if you really want some competition. In my case it’s my older brother and I look forward to crushing him again this year because I know he and his wife just had a baby and he’s going to be in less than ideal shape!

So, for those of us falling into the non-CrossFit Games/Regionals category here’s my advice: Do not do something that subjects you to injury that can limit your ability to function at work or with your family. Get with your coach and get a game plan for the workouts. Maybe you do your best with the RX weight but don’t do something stupid. You still get a score. After you do that, scale what you need to scale and then get a good solid workout in.

Go to your gym’s Friday Night Lights workouts. Get involved in the fun of the Open and enjoy it. Have a fun 5 weeks, this is your season. You’ve been training all year for this. Once it’s over, get back in the gym and work on your weaknesses. Follow my advice and you’ll get to that point without breaking your neck!

​-Dr. Danny, PT, DPT

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