In “What is Fitness”, CrossFit defines fitness as one’s competency level in all of 10 general physical skills. These 10 general physical skills are: cardio/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. This is CrossFit’s First Fitness Standard and it was an important first step that many other fitness organizations had failed to do; define fitness.
The Journal article goes on to explain that the first 4 general physical skills are acquired by training, and training is defined as “activity that improves performance through a measurable organic change in the body.” Types of movements involved include squats, running, pushing, pulling, jumping, etc. The last 4 general physical skills are obtained through practice, and practice is defined as “activity that improves performance through changes in the nervous system.” Movements that create change in the nervous system include things like handstands, pistols, oly lifts, gymnastics, etc. Power and speed are improved through both. In the real world movements aren’t really black and white and to some degree all movements touch on a little bit of all the 10 general physical skills, but after so many air squats, we’re not really improving our coordination, agility and balance anymore.
For most of us, the majority of our time in the gym is probably spent on training and our strengths in the general physical skills reflects this. If we were to look at our abilities many of us would find that we’re strong and consistently working on our cardio/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, and flexibility, and comparatively we’re weaker and spending less time on our coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. More time practicing movements could bring a lot of balance to our training; I mean practice.
So what does practice look like? Our nervous system controls our movement. It connects our brain to our muscles to our skeleton, and the more control of a movement we ask of it, the more nervous connections it will build in order to adapt. We can vary the amounts and types of movements in a progressively more difficult manner, but one that’s ultimate goal is always quality. It was explained to me by John Sapinoso of the Ido Portal method as having a quality of reversibility. In other words, at any point in the movement I should be able to pause and reverse what I’ve done and it should look identical. In Coach Glassman’s terms it’s the ability to do the common uncommonly well, or virtuosity.
Practice also tends to be less structured than training. Lifting, for example, typically follows a certain amount of reps and sets at a prescribed weight and we know that if our sets and reps are increasing or the load we move is increasing, then we’re making progress. Handstand holds on the other hand, are not so linear in our progression towards them. For instance, one day I may be able to perform a 20 second handstand hold, but the very next day I may only be able to maintain a 5 second hold. Did I get worse at handstands? Not necessarily, but because the demand of a handstand is so much more demanding from my nervous system there are a lot more factors involved than just whether or not I have the strength to hold it. So practice programming may involve much more novel types of exercises that allow us to practice from all different angles of the movement, rather than just trying to do more sets, reps or load.
Ready to incorporate more practice into your training? The good news is that we’ve already done some of it for you by adding in skill work and even pvc drills to your group training at Roots. Those are times to put intensity aside and challenge yourself to find a better position and work harder to perfect the nuances of the movement. Outside of that, pick out a movement goal that you want to achieve. It doesn’t have to be an elite level skill, any movement will do. Now, what are you doing outside of class to pursue it? If you’re not sure what to do contact a Coach and setup a private session and get to practicing!