Effort IS NOT the same as Intensity. Intensity is pushing through the pain to get those last few push presses before time is called. Intensity is pulling as hard as you can to pick up that deadlift PR. Intensity is the high level of drive needed to reach our desired results. You cannot try to be intense in your workouts: you are either attacking your workouts with full intensity, or you are not. But using intensity without maintaining proper form and range of motion leads to injuries. That is where Effort comes in.
If you have been around CrossFit for a while, you have likely heard the technical definition, “CrossFit is constantly varied, function movement, performed at high intensity.” We could spend an hour breaking down that definition, and maybe we will some day at a CFE. Before we get to high intensity, we have to start with proper mechanics. In order to avoid injury, progress faster, and be able to do CrossFit for a long time, you must follow “Mechanics, consistency, then Intensity” . . . in that order.
The concept behind “Mechanics” is nothing more than learning proper form and range of motion. This concept is what makes CrossFit so frustrating. Maintaining proper Mechanics is where the Effort is required. It is not enough to simply bend down and pick up a bar to do a deadlift. The athlete must engage a series of muscles and move his/her body into a proper position to allow the weight to be lifted while preventing injury. Coaches often cue the athlete through a deadlift with “knees out, chest up, flat back, pull with your hammie.” The athlete applies effort to the movement when he/she listens to these cues and “tries” to follow them. In other words, the athlete may not have the flexibility to maintain a flat back or slightly arched back while deadlifting. But if that athlete puts effort into trying to maintain a flat back, he/she will achieve proper internal mechanics. The same can be said for any movement we perform in CrossFit. During heavy back squats, knees tend to bow inward. Applying effort to drive those knees out and track them over the toes will result in maintaining proper mechanics and prevent the athlete from lifting a weight that is too heavy and will cause injury.
As an athlete makes a conscious decision to apply effort to everything they do in CrossFit, it is amazing how proper mechanics will eventually be achieved both internally and externally. In other words, actively trying to maintain a flat back throughout a deadlift will eventually lead to the strength and flexibility to actually maintain a flat back. Actively trying to drive your shoulders into your ears while holding a bar overhead will eventually lead to the strength necessary to stabilize a lot of weight while overhead squatting.
Being constantly reminded of the need for Effort is one reason your coach is there. Coaching cues might sound like we are constantly on top of you pointing out everything you are doing wrong. But in reality, a good coach is trying to drill in those proper mechanics until they become second nature. Then, and only then, can intensity be properly applied to your CrossFit workout.
— Matthew “CrimLaw” Becker