CrossFit has been a boon to the Olympic Lifting community. There is no question that the number of people who are training the lifts and are competing has exploded over the last few years due to the inclusion of the lifts in almost every CrossFit WOD. But is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Dr. Stuart McGill is the "go to guy" when it comes to understanding how the back works and how to keep it safe. In a recent interview posted on the T-Nation website Dr. McGill stated:
A major component of CrossFit is Olympic lifting. Olympic lifting must find the lifter. Not the other way around given the special anatomical gifts needed to lift with efficiency and injury resiliency.
The flexibility required in the hips and shoulders in many cases is a gift from your parents. No matter how much stretching is attempted, some will never have the hip and shoulder socket anatomy to deep squat and support a bar overhead. But they will try, and their compromised form will create substantial injury mechanisms.
What does the above statement mean? It means that a very small cross-section of the athletic community is going to be naturally gifted enough to be able to perform the lifts without exposing themselves to potential injury. This is something that I have found as well and the primary reason why we don't insist on our athletes doing a lot of Olympics Lifts with the bar; we use the Kettlebell instead in a unilateral as opposed to a bilateral method. Not to start too much of a ruckus but I can screen out over 85% of the athletes I train from Olympic Lifts because of poor posture, inadequate shoulder mobility, and insufficient strength. If you are training at a CrossFit gym, and everybody is doing Olympic Lifts, then you might want to question the safety and veracity of the program and its long-term effect it is going to have on the athletes.
I think the most significant points he made during the interview was in regards to learning how to lift properly, not lifting to fatigue, and that moderation actually leads to less injury in the long run. Check out the rest of Dr. McGill's interview on the T-Nation website.