The great debate, as some would say, in the realm of CrossFit coaching and training, should an athlete develop skills and strength within the strict plane (i.e. strict pull ups, push ups, dips) of movements before progressing to the dynamic plane (i.e kipping, ring dips, muscle ups).
First, lets talk about Virtuosity within our training, what this means and how this concept applies. Virtuosity, simply put, means to do the common, uncommonly well. Or as defined in gymnastics: going above and beyond, exceptional movement, performance and position. To become a master at the fundamentals. This is so important in our sport and what we as coaches should be instilling within our athletes and striving for every day in our CrossFit Boxes. From the basic movement of a strict pull up all the way up to a more complex movement such as a muscle-up. This is also where the importance of understanding proper progressions within movements and scaling come into play, thus teaching our athletes correctly, safely and effectively.
“Virtuosity, simply put, means to do the common, uncommonly well.”
As a coach and as an athlete, I believe it is essential to focus on building a strong foundation for our athletes in the strict plane prior to allowing them to progress on to dynamic movements. This will allow time for proper body mechanics, position and kenesthetic awareness to be taught and solidified, thus allowing for a more efficient, effective and successful transfer into the dynamic movements for your athletes.
“We don’t rush these movements, we learn them.”
For example, lets talk about the pull-up and how this philosophy applies to such a basic functional movement, yet quite complex in the same sense. In my opinion, the strict pull up should be developed by the athlete prior to progressing to a kipping pull-up or other dynamic movement within the pull up. If an athlete does not have the strength to perform this movement strictly in the proper position, then they have no business performing a kipping pull-up. Shoulder injuries are some of the most common in CrossFit and are often preventable if we as coaches are aware of our athletes current ability and utilize the proper progressions to ensure they are not jumping the gun. We want to prepare our athletes by building strength within the stabilizing muscles, driving home proper mechanics and position, thus giving the athletes a comprehensive understand of their own body awareness and technique. We don’t rush these movements, we learn them.
The athletes must first understand the correct position of a pull up and become strong in that position to avoid improper movement or poor technique down the road and to prevent injury. If you’re training in a broken position, there is no room to progress or become stronger within that movement, we as coaches must understand this concept and strive for virtuosity within our training in order to achieve maximum efficacy for our athletes.
The first and most important component of beginning CrossFit is to follow the charter of Mechanics, Consistency, and then Intensity. These three aspects are intricately interrelated; CrossFit does not work to its potential unless you execute each one and understand how it is bound to the others.
We as CrossFit Coaches should all be following the charter of Mechanics, Consistency and Intensity, lets review:
Mechanics refers to technique—your ability to move properly through our core movements. For us, this means moving yourself and external objects in the most efficient, effective, and safest manner possible.
Consistency has a two-part application: 1) That your athletes are consistent in performing the correct mechanics of the movement; and 2) That your athletes are consistent in CrossFit workouts. Both are necessary.
Intensity, as we define it, is exactly equal to average power (force x distance / time). In other words, how much real work did you do and in what time period?
Tie the three principles together: Proper movements will allow you to lift more weight, perform more repetitions faster, or both. More work in less time means higher average power (force x distance / time = power). Higher average power means higher intensity. Higher intensity means better results. Therefore, proper mechanics are the ideal supports for the bridge to fitness.
Remember form follows function, you are the coach and you know best, never settle for what’s easiest. I know some newbies and seasoned athletes are going to walk into your CrossFit Box and see other athletes kipping, doing muscle ups, ring dips and all the other “sexy movements” and want to do them too, but we have to slow them down and instill the importance of basics first. Yes, you may lose a few athletes who are impatient and don’t want to wait; oh well, you are the coach and ultimately set the standards within your training. Will you settle for mediocrity? Or will you strive for Virtuosity?
Also, for the athletes reading this article you should be striving for the greatness in your performance as well and expecting the very best from your coaches, it’s not just about the clock on the wall or the weight on the bar. You want to get stronger? Then dial in your technique and you will progress. Every rep counts, perform each to the best of your ability. If you lack fundamentals then you will stop progressing, you will not reach your potential and may become injured.
So back to my original point….lol, I tend to get off on tangents, I’m so passionate about CrossFit and can’t help myself!!! Anyways, coaches and athletes, I challenge you to strive for virtuosity within your training and develop your fundamentals, learn and become strong in the gymnastic type movements within the strict plane before your advance to the dynamic plane. You will become a more effective, efficient and smarter athlete, not to mention wicked strong within all your movements due to your strong base of fundamentals and a core value of virtuosity within your training.