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Technique & CrossFit

Those who frequent the evening classes at Martin City CrossFit may have come to realize that I am quite the stickler when it comes to movement technique. You may have heard me utter the phrase “mechanics, consistency and then (and only then) intensity” a time or twenty. There are a few reasons for this relentless encouragement of athletes to employ proper form when performing maximal or sub-maximal lifts and in the beginning, middle and tail end of a METCON; none of which, I assure you, are to injure you or make you worse at CrossFit. I promise. Here is my attempt to convince you that sound technique is paramount in CrossFit, or any other athletic endeavor for that matter.

Longevity. If you love CrossFit as much as I do, then you probably also want to be able to participate in the sport as long as possible. Whether you are a young pup just getting started in CrossFit, in the Master’s division (like myself) or somewhere in between, nothing will derail your training efforts more swiftly than an injury. I kind of know a thing or two about being injured.

Good technique is an essential component of injury prevention. CrossFit is a demanding and dynamic sport consisting of a myriad of complex movements often performed repeatedly. Mastering the movements prior to adding load and/or intensity will minimize your risk of injury. Executing the movements with little or no regard for proficiency, especially when combined with load and/or intensity, will most certainly result in injury, eventually.

It is important to understand that not all injuries occur instantly. Often times, an injury is the result of a cumulative effect of utilizing poor mechanics for a given movement over and over and over and over again, possibly even with little or no discomfort, until seemingly all of a sudden, something hurts. Likewise, if you have suffered an injury in the past, one quick way to exacerbate that pain is a lack of adherence to good technique. And that nagging pain that just will not go away, again, poor mechanics is a likely culprit.

Setting our shared love for the sport of CrossFit aside, I think it’s safe to say that, for many of us, our overarching goal is to live long, healthy and fit lives. Good technique forces us to engage the appropriate muscles for the exercise being performed; which in turn helps us achieve our fitness goals. Being injured is a drag and assuredly doesn’t move us in the direction.

Outside the box. CrossFit utilizes functional compound movements, as opposed to non-functional isolation exercises, that carry over and transfer into our daily activities outside of the box. From playing with your children to picking up and hauling around groceries and luggage, knowing how to lift objects properly and hoist them overhead will make life a breeze and hopefully injury free. As a firefighter, the knowledge and consistent implementation of good technique has most certainly made a multitude of tasks on the fire ground much less challenging, if not effortless.

Efficiency. If you have ever witnessed someone on a Concept 2 Rower rowing frantically and with less than desirable technique, it may have struck you as being quite similar to watching a hamster running on a wheel. In either case, they get nowhere fast! The same can be said for many of the exercises performed in CrossFit.

Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains is the CrossFit mantra. If we buy in to this maxim, and I believe that continuing to pay your monthly dues at your box is literally doing just that, then we should be concerned with being more efficient with all movements.

Work capacity is the ability to accomplish real physical work as measured by force x distance/time, otherwise referred to as power production. It is possible to put forth an immense amount of effort and intensity and, without good technique (efficiency), accomplish very little work. Good technique is efficient and moving efficiently allows an athlete to do more work while expending less energy, delaying the onset of fatigue. Efficiency + intensity is a recipe for success. Remember, smooth is fast and fast is slow. And of course, smooth and fast is really fast.

Tips for improving your technique.

  • Listen to (and obey) your coaches. – We’ve already done the research for you. And we care about you!

  • Watch technique videos. - and

  • Mobility. Flexibility. Stability. – Work on all of them! Yes, they are three separate things we should all devote some time to. The inability to physically get your body into and maintain optimal positioning will hinder your ability to exhibit proper mechanics. The struggle is real, I know, but please don’t use a lack of ROM (range of motion) as an excuse to not move right. I get it, some folks have anatomical anomalies or previous injuries that inhibit normal ROM. Unless you are member of this category, identify, attack and eliminate your limitations.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! WOD on!

Sean Russell

CrossFit Level 1 Trainer

CrossFit Level 2 Trainer

CrossFit Weightlifting

Master Firefighter

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