CrossFit is defined as constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. Constantly varied meaning any and all imaginable tasks, and the goal of that training method is to create a well-rounded and general fitness base. But “any and all imaginable tasks” covers a lot of things! And what about the tasks we can’t yet do? We scale of course, and over time we aim to scale less and less and less. We see examples of this every day at the shop as athletes use fewer bands, lift more load, and run faster. Over time, we will achieve more and more movements, loadings, and capacities; however, while taking the long approach is good for general fitness, it might not be the best way to address a specific weakness.
Let’s use the pull-up as an example. Instead of scaling with bands every time it comes up I could spend a little extra time before or after my WOD every week to target the specifics of the pull-up. Knowing our task, the pull-up, removes some of the variation in our training, because our top priority is no longer to perform well at any task imaginable, momentarily it’s to do a pull-up. If we want a pull-up we need to train a specific step in a progression towards a pull-up consistently. It’s not sexy work and it’s not always different and new. It looks like drilling the same fundamental pieces over and over until a new level of competency is reached, jumping up to the next progression and repeating. It’s a lot of hard work, so why do it?
It all comes back to general physical preparedness. When you get to the point where you can do pull-ups without bands in a workout (or any scaled movement), then the level of fitness that could be gained by doing that workout increases. More fitness, better health, sexy naked, etc. The strength and control you gain through your pull-up specific training will also have carry-over to other movements. All movements have some carry-over or transference to other movements. Lastly, it’s fun. Taking a step back and approaching one selected movement more thoroughly allows us to spend more time perfecting nuances of the movement. The little things that you may not be able to point out specifically but you notice the difference when they aren’t there. It’s what gets the “wow” comment.
Consistent and specific work is necessary to achieve a specific movement at a faster rate than
what is available through consistent class participation. In our previous example, if your goal is a pull-up and you currently use 4 bands, the time to move to no bands in regular group class may be 2 years, while with a bit of consistent extra effort before or after class, that time may be cut to one year, or less.
What does this look like exactly? The athlete will spend 5-15 minutes three or more days per week and before or after group class working through sets and reps of a specific program. The program will break down the designated movement into strength and/or technique components and work a very detailed segment of the movement. Some athletes are able to develop a structured plan on their own while others choose to meet with a coach once per month and then have a program designed for them until they meet again in four weeks.
Addressing one weakness will have benefits to your overall fitness, your GPP, in ways that you never expected. By learning to do a pull-up, the intensity you’re able to find in a class is higher, and that translates to more fitness. In addition, CrossFitters discovered long ago that the development of one movement has transference to other movements. For example, improving your ability to handstand hold and walk will improve your push jerk and overhead barbell movements. This tells us that we have to select just one weakness, destroy it, and our fitness will improve in areas with and without a pulling motion.
In the words of EC Synkowskiy, “don’t shortchange your fitness”. Devote some time to bringing up your weaknesses and you’ll increase your overall capacity and maybe even learn a few new cool tricks. Keep the focus on your journey and work on 1-2 weaknesses at a time. If you try to do everything at once you’ll be right back where you started!