Pec Tears in CrossFit Regionals : Lessons on Training Volume & Injury Prevention - The Barbell Physio

Pec Tears in CrossFit Regionals : Lessons on Training Volume & Injury Prevention

pec tear crossfit

Pec Tears in CrossFit Regionals : Lessons on Training Volume & Injury Prevention

After the first two weekends of the 2017 CrossFit Regionals there have been SEVEN pec tears and/or strains during the second of six planned workouts for the competition. While we can’t say for sure why these have happened, I have my theory which I’ll share as it is a good example for coaches and athletes on the need to monitor training volume.

On the surface, Event Two does not seem like an abnormal workout with DB snatches paired with ring dips (the ring dips being the exercise where these injuries seem to be occurring).


21-15-9 reps for time of:
Dumbbell snatches
Ring dips


But let’s consider what the ring dip is….an upper body pushing movement that begins with the shoulder in an extreme amount of extension. In fact, the ring dip (and muscle up) is the ONLY exercise performed in CrossFit with that much shoulder extension.

Now consider the average Regional level competitors training schedule with dips. While a staple CrossFit movement, it is probably only trained once per week on average and is usually also going to be done within the muscle-up more commonly than as a stand alone exercise (at least when you are a regional level athlete).

Then the athlete sees this workout prior to their regionals competition and practices it multiple times in the weeks prior to competition.

Note pointed out to me later: Event 5 also has muscle ups, meaning this movement pattern was practiced even more.

Compare this to a shoulder press for example. I understand that the strict shoulder press may only be trained at the same frequency as dips BUT there are many other exercises train the shoulders through the same range of motion (HSPU, push press, etc) therefore the body is more accustomed to training this movement pattern.

Again, the dip places the shoulder in a position where it must work extremely hard AND we don’t see this position replicated in any other CrossFit skills.

Now consider the ring set up at regionals with much longer straps decreasing the stability of the set up. This will force the athlete to keep increased tension throughout the body to stabilize, something that becomes even more difficult with speed and the stress of competition is added to the equation.

Then add in a large increase in training volume and we have a recipe for injury.


Acute : Chronic Workload Ratios

Let’s dive into some research for support of this theory. Researchers have spent significant amounts of time looking at preparedness levels and correlations with injury risk. This is something all coaches and athletes should be aware of if wanting to keep their athletes healthy!

“Banister et al proposed that the performance of an athlete in response to training can be estimated from the difference between a negative function (‘fatigue’) and a positive function (‘fitness’). The ideal training stimulus ‘sweet spot’ is the one that maximises net performance potential by having an appropriate training load while limiting the negative consequences of training (ie, injury, illness, fatigue and overtraining).” -Gabbet

The comparison of acute training loads to chronic loads can provide a great measure of preparedness. When acute training is low but chronic training loads have been high, then an athlete should be adequately prepared. If we were to make a ratio of acute:chronic load then in this situation the load would be 1 or less.

When acute loading is high but chronic is low, the ration would be greater than 1 and the athlete would be in a state of fatigue (as discussed in the CrossFit example above).

“In terms of injury risk, acute:chronic workload ratios within the range of 0.8–1.3 could be considered the training ‘sweet spot’, while acute:chronic workload ratios ≥1.5 represent the ‘danger zone’. To minimise injury risk, practitioners should aim to maintain the acute:chronic workload ratio within a range of approximately 0.8–1.3 (Gabbett)”.

“Excessive and rapid increases in training loads are likely responsible for a large proportion of non-contact, soft-tissue injuries. (Gabbett)”


Tim J Gabbett “The training—injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder?”