The nature of working out inevitably leads to competition. Any matter of bettering ones self will lead to attempts to “do better than last time,” an internal competition that drives progress. And when there is a group of people in the same boat as you, competition spreads. Whether it is our caveman urge to appear to be the dominant, bigger, faster specimen, or maybe just good natured trash talk between cohorts, it always seem to end the same way. CrossFit thrives on the competition, with televised CrossFit games on ESPN, to the white boards at CrossFit gyms that track top WOD performances.
In the traditional bro methods, the unofficial gym competition always seems to revolve around “how much can ya bench?” Plates get loaded on, grunts get louder, and form falls off a cliff. In our own minds, all that matters is that we get the bar returned to a locked out position. You’ll see some gym warriors fail to touch the chest, and others dropping it on the chest so hard hoping for a little springboard assistance. Some folks writhe under the bar, and others lift their butts and backs so high off the bench it starts looking like a decline press. And the end result is the same: missed reps, and a video compilation on YouTube, rightfully clowning all involved.
CrossFit is no stranger to this behavior, and in many cases it becomes worse. The nature of “varying exercises” results in bad form being spread over many more movements. While the motivation remains the same, outdoing your gym buddy, getting a “better” number written on the board, the results present two slightly different problems.
- Injury – Many CrossFit WODs utilize variants of Olympic movements. They require a lot more skill than ye olde fashioned bro movements. And while pushing the limits of effort, whether it is weight limit or fatigue, it is a lot easier to deviate from good form and a lot easier to see injury.
- Function – You came to a CrossFit workout likely because of its effectiveness in developing functional fitness capacity. And what is function other than effective execution of a motor pattern while utilizing the proper energy systems? You get stronger by building strength, and you build strength by making reps, not by missing reps. Doing a movement without using the proper motor units and proper motor pattern is a missed rep. Do you want to get better? Or do you just want to write a better number on the white board?
3 Tips to get the most from your workout
- Slow Down – Slow your tempo, not the movement. The clock is not your enemy. Injuries are. That moment you feel yourself pushing/pulling from a bad position, re-set yourself. Put the barbell (or kettlebell, or medicine ball, etc) down. Take a breather and approach the implement again with a proper set up. Avoid injury, and allow yourself the opportunity to execute the movement properly for maximal results.
- Lighten Up – I know the WOD may be written with a certain weight. But don’t be afraid to scale it to your actual ability. Human gym ego makes it tough to move in the downward direction when it comes to weight. But remember, you are here to build strength, and you build strength by making your reps, not missing them.
- Find Alternative Movements – If you are not coached up to a point where you can execute a certain movement properly, find a replacement. Do your homework as it pertains to human movement and the exercises that develop those movement patterns. Or just ask a coach what an adequate replacement would be. This is especially relevant to the Olympic based movements, as they are some of the most high skilled lifts one can do in a gym. There is a time and a place to develop the SKILL that is associated with some movements. And while experiencing high stress and fatigue is definitely not the place to practice.
Explosive Power Simplified “Olympic Lifting Alternatives” (from Brian Reynolds)
Safe Alternatives to Olympic Lifts (from STACK)