Stop Taping It and Fix It: The Need for Assistance Work in CrossFit

I believe it was some time in 2010 when I started seeing pro beach volleyball players wearing a bunch of tape on their shoulders and backs. By the the 2012 Olympics almost all of the athletes had something taped up in crazy tribal tattoo patterns. Now, it has infected CrossFit to the extent that spectators at competitions are wearing some form of kinesiology tape while watching other people work out. That’s just too elite for me.

The difference between the pro beach volleyball player, or the Olympic competitor wearing tape, and you is that they are competing at the highest possible level and that is how they make their living. So, if they need a little bit of assistance in-season to cope with an injury, that makes sense. But for the weekend warrior or the casual CrossFitter, I think we need to pump the brakes.

Let’s take a giant step back for a second and think about what is going on here. If you feel the need to wear tape that means you’re lacking some sort of stability in your muscles and joints. That should be a red flag right there. It means you need to fix the problem, not throw a band aid on it. I understand that the tape may allow you to train while you recover, but I think it’s becoming a crutch that some people will never move past.

Instead of spending hours watching YouTube videos on how to apply the tape, which colored tape goes where, and what precise angle and amount of stretch you need to go run 400 meters, I think that time would be better spent finding the root cause of the problem, addressing it and rebuilding yourself. In CrossFit, we spend a lot of time on getting our athletes to activate the big movers in whatever movement it may be and have neglected all of the little muscles that play a supporting role.

Hips, knees and shoulders are popular injury spots in any sport. With the prevalence of shoulder injuries in CrossFit, everyone should be doing some variation of the Throwers 10 and this band pull apart series at least once per week. To create more stability in the hips and knees, add in some some single leg work in the form of step ups and rear foot elevated split squats.

Do you have tight achilles, plantar fasciatis, shin splints or something else going on in the shin/ankle/foot area? First, look at your feet. Did you go from a big squishy sneaker to a minimalist sneaker without any transition time to adapt? That could be the source of the problem. Your feet, ankles and calves didn’t have time to adjust and get stronger. You also might be running hard and heavy. Start here to rebuild your feet. Next, roll/smash your calves and stretch your heel cords. Then, find someone to teach you how to run softly (POSE Method) and add in some single-leg calf raises to get your feet, ankles and calves stronger.

Lastly, do biceps curls. Barbell, dumbbell, 12 ounce, whatever. Just do them. The strongest people in the world do curls and so should you.

Like Kelly Starrett says, 10 minutes a day of routine maintenance is all you need. Just remember that with any assistance work the focus should be on quality movement, not doing something for time. Everything in exercise is dangerous when done incorrectly. Learn to do things right and strive for beautiful movement. All the tape in the world isn’t going to correct your bad mechanics.

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