For those of you who don’t know me, come to St. James in the basement…the little one. That’s where you are most likely to find me; I am there teaching beginners their very first CrossFit class. Because of this, I get to see a lot of people make a lot of mistakes. You can see people sag their hips in push ups, come up on their toes in a squat, and round their back every time they pick something up off the ground. It’s horrible. And I love it.
The reason why I love coaching beginner’s so much is for that “A-ha!” moment. The moment they realize that mechanics will outperform muscle capacity every time. The moment when it clicks, when they understand that they currently have poor movement habits and that working away from them can resolve their injuries. That’s the stuff that gets me out of bed in the morning.
And this is where things go wrong.
Since we, as humans, are designed to overreach, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen the following scenario: Someone performs their very first Double Under, and their eyes light up. You can almost read their thoughts: “I can do anything!” “If I can do this, a snatch-muscle-up-back-squat-PR can’t be that far away.”
We have all been there before, and we have all fallen prey to this. The fault is two-fold.
For starters, the novice is often quick to believe that they are ready to progress after gaining a rudimentary knowledge of the basics. They don’t fully realize how much strength is required to become “not a novice.” Secondly, the beginner will fool themselves into believing that they will not make improvements without practicing the more difficult things… i.e., “I know I can’t do a Strict Pull Up, but I sure as hell can’t continue if I don’t get this butterfly kipping thing down.”
For the first problem, I encourage you all to stick to the four primary basic movements: Air Squats, Sit Ups, Push Ups, and Pull-Ups…pretty much in that order. If your Air Squat is not on point(1), don’t be afraid to stay light for a while. This sentiment goes for both beginners and EVERYONE who thinks they have progressed beyond a beginner. From there, work that core to death, because it is involved in everything you will do and will often be the limiting factor in becoming stronger(2). Third, your incapacity to press yourself through the plane of the push up will affect all other pressing movements(3). Get this one down before you bother going upside down or jumping on the rings. Lastly, and most importantly, before you do all of the cool stuff that can happen on a bar/rings, I strongly encourage you to protect your shoulders by strengthening them(4). You are risking a potentially serious, nagging injury if you begin before you are ready.
The second problem AKA run-before-you-walk-itis, is not so quickly resolved. Optimism is contagious, and it’s fun to lift heavy things and do advanced movements. I get that, but before you start thinking about adding #cirquedusoleil to your Instagram posts, please remember that you are only as good as your fundamentals. All of the cool stuff you see done is just icing on top of a tough-as-nails cake. And if you don’t have enough ingredients, things aren’t going to come out right.
None of this is being said in order to scare you, but instead to prepare you.
Thanks for listening,
1) If, ten years in, I am still working on my Air Squat, then so should you.
2) I have moved on from the Sit Up, yes, but the core is still something you need to improve as your fitness levels rise.
3) Always go back to the Push-Up! You’d be surprised how quickly it can go away. #lostabet
4) There is no use in Kipping unless you can withstand the volume. Train smarter!