In my 15+ years as strength and conditioning coach, I have found people who have the most consistent results (performance or aesthetics) are also the ones who do not skip the small things. They are typically the most disciplined, show up on time, stay later to finish, eat a balanced diet, and do not mind following the correct order of skill and strength improvement.
The answer to improvement isn’t just, “do it and do it more”. In the next four post, I am going to outline the process to improve at a skill or strength.
I’ll start this off with an analogy (imagine that). If M/C/I/V were a part of a meal they would have the following roles. Mechanics fruit, consistency veggies; intensity is the alcohol; volume is dessert.
Fruits and veggies sound great until we have to clean our plate. I don’t know anyone who turns down booze and brownies. 🙂
Mechanics, or technique, should be the focal point of everything we do in CrossFit. The steadfast attention to moving with the absolute best form (regardless of load, volume, or intensity) possible while striving towards the perfect position over time has to be our focus.
Early on this is most people’s goal because they want to avoid getting hurt. After only a few weeks, mechanics is moved to the back burner because of the damn (yes, damn) whiteboard. This feeling of being judged by others, fuels the desire to move past the mechanics, skip consistency and get straight to dessert with wine. When this happens, athletes usually travel down one of the following paths; 1). Injury 2.) Plateau. Both of these can be avoided if we don’t skip mechanics and consistency.
Working on mechanics demands daily attention for EVERYONE from a seasoned CF games competitor to you. Dynamic stretching, foam rolling, static stretching, and static position holds are some of the ways to work on mechanics. These improve your mobility which leads to better positions.
Let’s look at a front squat the help explain.
Mechanical: squat – depth, torso position. Front rack – keeping elbows up and bar on shoulders and be pain free.
Consistency: Demonstrating the mechanical needs in multiple movements and not changing after a couple reps. Squat, wall ball, thruster, front squat, clean, all look the same and stay the same with a non-elevated heart and be demonstrated for multiple reps for multiple sets and a sub maximal load/reps (less than 60% of max)
Intensity: The mechanics and consistency (90% perfect reps) are not compromised during loads of more than 60% or during a conditioning workout. Squat depth isn’t compromised, torso position (rounding of the upper back) isn’t compromised, no short cuts are taken for sake of time or load.
Volume: Now that an athlete has mastered the mechanical needs consistently and under intensity; volume can be added for additional benefits. If an athlete has skipped previous steps, volume will be crushing. Volume when added to poor technique will transfer stress to muscle groups or joints which aren’t designed to hand the given task. Due to the nature of volume, the side effects when applied correctly are fantastic, but when applied out of order it can be devastating. This step is reserved for the most seasoned CF athlete, who has mastered basic (air squat, wall ball, thrusters) and intermediate task (RX’d weights and reps for all workouts regardless of demand), and has movement proficiency in most advance movements (muscle-ups, handstand push-ups/walks, squat clean and jerk 1.5 body weight (body weight for women), snatch body weight (3/4 for women))
I dreaded October 31, 1992 for six months and still remember that day like it was yesterday. A long stroll from the parking lot to Dr. Morrow’s office to receive what I thought was a social death sentence as a sixth grader… braces.
For a year or so, I watched a fellow sixth graders be transformed into metal toothed social outcast and I had the same fate. I heard all the promises from the doctors and my parents but the social sting was looming. Three years of physical pain and be social outcast, could not out weight the presented benefits. These would be the longest three years of my life. Visions of head gear and the echoes of “brace face” were in my future!
The social insecurities of a 12 year-old coupled with how near sighted and immature my thinking was back then makes me laugh. Braces weren’t the worst thing to ever happen to me; heck they aren’t even in the top-20. But in the moment I couldn’t see that. I just didn’t want to be different from everyone else.
I believe that my view of braces is very similar to most athlete’s view of mechanics and consistency; “can’t we just skip this?”
Following the order of mechanics, consistency, intensity, and then volume will allow an athlete to properly progress to advance movements and decrease the risk of a performance injury.
As we wrap up part one, don’t be 12 year old David afraid of braces. Seek to improve your movement mechanics, to set yourself up for better long term results. Can we skip the attention to mechanics and consistency and have results? Yes, but are we sacrificing more in the long run? Yes. Master the boring stuff, so you can better enjoy the fun stuff.