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Slowing it Down to Get it Right.


Slowing it Down to Get it Right.

5 rope climbs
200m run
4 rope climbs
200m run
3 rope climbs
200m run
2 rope climbs
200m run
1 rope climb

Jake's set-up and execution during his warm-up sets.

Photo 1: Jake’s set-up and execution during his warm-up sets.

Slowing it Down to Get it Right.

Many people learn of CrossFit because a friend or co-worker told them about the intense or extreme thing called CrossFit.  Rarely does someone hear about CrossFit via “I found this great program and the mechanics are AMAZING!”

But it’s important to remember that CrossFit’s charter is mechanics, consistency, and then intensity.  This progression helps athletes find the healthy balance that is technique and intensity.  Mechanics is knowing what you’re doing when you’re doing it and why you’re doing it.  Consistency is being able to perform the correct mechanics over and over with a high percentage of good reps.  And finally, intensity is being able to perform the movement fast while maintaining proper mechanics and consistency.

Learning how to balance technique and intensity is a part of every CrossFit athletes upbringing and maturation.  An athlete might whole heartedly perform warm-up sets with a focus on mechanics and consistency, but come workout time, the wheels come off as the only metric in their site is intensity.  But it’s important to remember and to know that sometimes you sacrifice intensity in a workout to gain mechanics and consistency.  Most of the time we blend the two together in a workout, technique and intensity, but sometimes we have to focus on one a little bit more than the other.  Over time, training efficient, safe, and productive movement patterns becomes easier and faster and then all of the sudden, the intensity finds you.

On Monday, Jake found himself in the do it right or do it fast scenario.  In warm-up, Jake built up to the prescribed 35% of his 1 rep max.  He knocked out a warm-up set and he looked good, see Photo 1.  3-2-1 go, and his as he progressed with speed and fatigue increased, his back morphed to what you see in Photo 2.  Not good.

Photo 2: Jake's set-up and execution as he progressed through his first round of deadlifts in the workout.

Photo 2: Jake’s set-up and execution as he progressed through his first round of deadlifts in the workout.

A quick conversation with Jake presented two options, he could go down in weight or he could slow down.  In this instance, going down wasn’t going to solve the problem, he was already at 35% of his established good form 1 rep max, and he could consistently perform good deadlifts with that weight when doing them slowly.

The key was doing it right – and the only way for Jake to mentally start moving his body to do it right was to slow down – giving up a little intensity for technique.  This was the only way Jake was capable of performing the 90 deadlifts in the workout in a productive manner.

As Jake moved through the deadlifts in sets of five I could tell he was standing there a little awkward, his breathing not over the top, and his body not reaching the same fatigue as before, him being a little unsure that this was the right plan.  But as he grabbed the bar, the mental concentration to do it right had to skyrocket for those sets of 5.

Jake finished the workout having given up a bit of intensity but having gained a ton in progress by making a neurological connection to doing it right.  And that progress will undoubtably move him toward a higher level of intensity down the road.  Super proud of you Jake.

Does the internal technique/intensity battle rage within you during workouts?  Do you listen to one more than the other?  Post to comments.

2 Responses

  1. Awesome post! We need to be reminded constantly that because you CAN do something does not mean you SHOULD and certainly does not mean that you are GOOD at it. We all have room for improvement in every aspect of our movements. Better quality movement equals more efficiency, equals less work, equals more intensity.
    I’ve heard athletes say, after an extensive technique review of a movement before a WOD, “oh, I’ll practice that during open shop but for the wod I’m just going to keep doing it the way I always do.” There are several things wrong with this thought process. One, lets be honest, you’re not going to practice movements on your own, AND, if you did you still don’t have anyone there to coach you on whether or not you’re doing it properly. Two, practice?! What do you think the WOD is? There is no cash-prize or trophy for the best results on the whiteboard each day. Revisit your goals with CrossFit and whether they’re to be the next Rich Froning or overall health, you should see that everyday is practice for the next. Three, and finally, repetition after repetition of movements done improperly take time to overcome, so continuing to do them incorrectly through the WOD today only makes your journey to correct movement longer and more difficult tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day.
    We’re all human and we all have a little ego in us so I get why it can be difficult to slow down and do things properly but if you keep the big picture in mind, overall health, wellness and general badassery, there is no arguing that starting smart training today (not later) will get you there much quicker.
    Good job Jake!

  2. JakeDurling

    Agreed – these are great posts. I am very very guilty of the CrossFit “sins” highlighted in Nicole’s and Shane’s posts. (I may or may not have gotten this talk from Shane before. Several times before.) I’ve finished workouts with god awful form just to finish them or, probably worse, to finish them quickly in an effort to get a good time on the whiteboard. N and S are right: this has led to issues with form and ultimately injury. As frustrating as having my form fall apart in a WOD is, it’s far worse to lose all sense of muscle memory related to an exercise and have to rebuild it from the ground up. This happened to me with deadlifts and, recently, KB swings. (That’s right – KB swings. Stop judging.) And the deterioration of form inexorably leads to injury when I go heavy, fast, or in volume, no matter how much I use ice, heat, or ibuprofen. Shane’s right that powering through “because I can” shortcircuits the end goal of more efficiency, less work, more intensity (and better times/scores/etc.), and Nicole’s right that mechanics and consistency often follow decreased intensity. The more I listen to the coaches, pay attention to the details, and practice the more challenge movements like the Oly lifts in Ryan’s speciality classes or Oly Club, the less often I commit these sins. And that’s a good thing.