CrossFit

The Proper Path: Mechanics, Consistency, THEN Intensity

John_Bryon_Snatch

“Learn the mechanics of fundamental movements; establish a consistent pattern of practicing these same movements, and, only then, ratchet up the intensity of workouts incorporating these movements. ‘Mechanics,’ then ‘Consistency,’ and then ‘Intensity’– this is the key to effective implementation of CrossFit programming.”

-Coach Glassman

We, as athletes, all come to the box to see results.  Most of us get anxious and want these results overnight.  Sometimes we feel progress is too slow, or the results we are looking for are slower than we would like, which can lead to frustration.  Whether you have been doing CrossFit for years, or are new to the sport, it never hurts to go back to the basics and look at what is causing the delay in progress.  What can we do more efficiently?  First we have to look at the mechanics, then the consistency of the athlete.  Only then do we add back in the intensity.  

Mechanics

Mechanics refer to our technique or form.  This could be bar path for an olympic lift or body positioning of a kipping pullup or a basic air squat.  The main reason to look at mechanics is for safety.  If an athlete is not performing the movement safely, it is not going to be in their best interest to go up in weight or speed.  If a one rep max clean is 55 pounds, that athlete should not perform a WOD with 30 cleans at that weight because injury could result.  Moving a lighter weight properly is better than moving a heavier weight with bad form.

Poor mechanics are inefficient.  An athlete is wasting a lot of energy and accomplishing very little work with poor mechanics.  In CrossFit, we want to maximize work for our energy expenditure.  Effective movements with quality technique is pivotal to an athlete’s success.

Open Gym on Sunday mornings is the perfect time to work on the mechanics of a movement that might be causing you trouble.  We fail at the margins of our experience.  Becoming more proficient at something we are already good at does not expand our margins.    

Consistency

Consistent good form is much more important than the number on the bar or on the whiteboard.  Practice makes perfect.  Muscle memory comes from doing a movement properly over and over again and only then should the athlete add intensity. True consistency happens when we perform movements properly, even under extreme stress. When our heart rate is high and our muscles are fatigued, but we still have work to do, we have to rely on consistent mechanics to safely continue.  Proper consistent mechanics lead to proper neurological patterns which transfers to strength in all forms.

When talking about consistency we need to not only talk about consistently moving properly but also a consistent volume of workouts.  “Cherry Picking” workouts because we don’t like a particular movement makes it impossible to get better at that movement.  Inconsistency can also be the case of missing workouts because of a sickness or injury or just taking time off.  After even a short time away from the gym, it may be necessary to work the basics again, reduce the load, add a band, etc. before regaining the intensity.

Intensity

Finally, intensity in our workouts brings the good result.  The more intensity we can put toward a workout the quicker the result.  But, there is no significant intensity without technique.  A slight deviation from consistent perfect mechanics to keep up the intensity may be okay for some athletes as long as the movement continues to be done safely.  This is another reason we scale.  If we can’t continuously do a movement safely, we need to scale the movement or the load to safely keep up the intensity.

Load (weight) is one input to intensity, but does not equal intensity.  Too much load can actually blunt intensity and limit the results we want. We should bias on the side of speed (another form of intensity) and mechanics, not on load, to keep our intensity high.

Intensity is always going to be relative to each individual.  If the workout is Fran, (21, 15, 9 of thrusters and pull ups) the 86 year old grandmother’s intensity is going to be substantially different from the 26 year ex-athlete.  While I may be able to do the workout as prescribed, my grandmother is going to have to scale both the load and the pull ups.  At the end of the workout though, we will both receive the same benefit.

Above all, athletes need to remember that CrossFit is a process and there is no determined amount of time to achieve your goals.  Some movements may come quickly, while some may take years.  Be patient and enjoy the process.  

More efficient work = more power = high intensity = better results.  In that order. 

– Coach Jennifer Griener