They say that successful businesses fill a gap that was missing at the time of opening. When I opened Industrial Athletics in 2013, I was trying to fill the gap of a safe CrossFit in the city of Pittsburgh. I wanted to show the Pittsburgh community, and the CrossFit Pittsburgh community, that there was a smart and safe way to do CrossFit that would actually make you stronger and able to handle harder challenges for a longer period of time. Through Industrial Athletics, I was able to carry out the purpose of trying to make better Pittsburghers. At the time I opened, there was a gap in the rest of the CrossFit Pittsburgh community following the proper progression to teach CrossFit to the general public. It was frustrating for me because when one attends the basic CrossFit Trainer course, CrossFit actually teaches you the proper progression. It’s like coaches came back from the Level 1 Seminar, forgot what they were taught, and throw new members into CrossFit classes without bothering to teach anything from a basic air squat to a complex clean and jerk.
So, when I opened, I set a rule that no one was allowed to enter one of our CrossFit classes until he or she completed a proper CrossFit introduction course. We call ours the Fundamentals Program. In that Program, we follow the proper progression of Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity. To do CrossFit safely for a long time, you have to be taught the proper way to do the movement (mechanics); you have to be able to reproduce proper movement multiple times (consistency); and only then can you add weight, speed, time, etc. (Intensity).
Proper mechanics are exactly what they sound like, the proper way to do something like an air squat. Getting your feet in the correct position, shifting your weight to the correct area of your feet, driving back first with your hips, squatting to below parallel (or your end range), and standing to full extension. Even a basic air squat can become detrimental to your joints if it is done improperly. We start you with basic movements that almost anyone can do (without physical limitations). We require proficiency with those basic movements before moving onto more complex movements.
Proficiency may come in the form of Consistency. Consistency is the name of the game in just about anything you do. It isn’t helpful to get something right once. You have to be able to get it right over and over and over again. In CrossFit, we do a lot of different kinds of workouts. Once workout might require you to do a lot of repetitions of one movement. You need to be able to move the same on rep one as you do on rep twenty-one. After we teach you do the movement properly, we have to see you do it a few times to make sure it looks great every time. We even come back to review all of the movements multiple times in the Fundamentals Program.
Once you are able to perform a movement with consistent good mechanics, only then should you start to add intensity. Intensity is the secret sauce to CrossFit and comes in many different forms. You might start to speed up your pushups to do more in a shorter period of time. You may add reps to go for a longer period of time. You may even add weight to some of your lifts, like a deadlift. Good CrossFit Pittsburgh gyms will monitor athletes at all times to make sure that intensity doesn’t kill those consistent mechanics. We often stop our athletes and remind them how to move properly. We start this in the controlled Fundamentals Program environment and continue it into our regular CrossFit class. Those who get hurt in CrossFit, and give us a bad name, try to add this element of intensity before worrying about consistent proper movement.
When you are looking for a CrossFit Pittsburgh gym, be sure to ask them about teaching you the proper mechanics first, how that gym will make sure you are consistent, and when it is appropriate for you to add intensity. That is the recipe that makes CrossFit safe.