The world of CrossFit is a strange one in many ways and one phenomenon we have probably all experienced is that the longer you do CrossFit the longer and more detailed your list of things you want to learn or achieve grows. In the beginning life was simple; find the YouTube video and new rope that combined will finally get you your first double unders and a vague idea that it would be nice to be able to lift more. As time goes on our wish list needs several headings to cover all the gymnastics skills we hadn't realised existed at the beginning, we go from wondering if we have the mobility to snatch properly to specific weightlifting coaching, additional training and an obsession with percentage increases in weight. Squatting just used to mean we expected sore legs the next morning now we know who Jim Wendler is and have a spreadsheet for our lifts in his 5/3/1 programme and ponder the benefits of a 13 week Smolov cycle. In amongst all this two things remain that sum up what we are trying to achieve as athletes and what your coaches are focused on helping you with; get stronger and move better. Its that simple. Achieve these and everything else will follow.
Lets take a look at two training days this week and how those two factors affect them and what we should be focusing on during the session.
The first is on Thursday when for the third and final time (in 2014 anyway) we do the classic CrossFit WOD "Fran" 21-15-9 Thrusters and pull ups. Love it or hate it this is the WOD that everyone remembers and in many ways our Fran time can say a lot about our progress so far. A classic couple combining weightlifting and gymnastics (weightlifting in terms of exercise classification rather than the sport of weightlifting). The obvious factor in this is strength. As with all benchmark WODs there is an RX weight that does not change whether you are Rich Froning or brand new to CrossFit. This can of course be scaled down to allow everyone to take part but the RX weight of 95lbs (43kg) for men and 65lbs (30kg) for women is set and does not increase for stronger athletes. So if we could thruster 100kg then the RX weight would not be too much of a challenge. With the pull ups the better our strength to weight ratio is the easier it will be to get our chin over the bar on the 45 pull ups. So that leaves us with our aim of moving better. If you struggle getting into a good front rack position or you can't keep your chest up in a front squat then the thrusters are going to be hard work due to the inefficient position that will put you in. Which leads me to an often asked question "should we be focusing on form or time?". The answer is that in training we should always be focused on good form. Thats not to say that the time and intensity are not important but the CrossFit mantra of Mechanics - Consistency - Intensity is paramount. Get the movement right first, consistently perform the movement correctly, then increase intensity through additional load or speed.
If you get so hung up on the time being written on the whiteboard that you don't squat below parallel on the thrusters , have a terrible back position, rarely get your chin over the bar on the pull ups and think that your fast time means something you may be focusing on all the wrong things. In an ideal world every single rep performed by every athlete would look flawless. We could then all say that the reps have been completed correctly, safely, efficiently and that we have been able to get through them quicker because our training is paying off and we are improving.
On Friday its a retest day for our barbell complex: Clean - hang clean - front squat - shoulder to overhead. Here we combine strength, speed and skill to achieve the best result. We are back to our aims of getting stronger and moving well again. Strength will affect our ability to move a weight but also critical is technique. If we cannot move well then this will limit the amount of weight we can lift. Therefore spending time focusing on technique is always time well spent. After all practise does not make perfect, it makes permanent.