12 minutes to establish a 1RM Heaving Snatch Balance:

-then-

12 minute AMRAP of:

7 Strict Pullups
14 Pistols (alternating)
21 V-Ups

Movement Standards- Will

I was explaining to a class last week that they could be faster and more efficient on their burpees by consciously holding their abs tight the whole way through. For any of y’all who weren’t there: a stable midline is one of the major differences between someone who bounces up and down off the floor like the energiser bunny during a set of burpees and a guy who’s flopping up and down like a wounded fish.

Relaxed-midline guy is repeatedly hyper-extending his lower back every time he gets to the floor, cramping up his spinal erectors and loosing efficiency from all the unnecessary movement. Tight-midline guy bounces straight up because he isn’t wasting energy moving his back around that could be contributing to moving his centre of mass upwards instead.

The surprising thing for me though was that someone asked me afterwards if this meant we’d changed the “standards” for burpees, since their understanding was that all they had to do was get on the floor and get back up.

If one person is confused about this I’m guessing there are at least 70 more of you who also don’t understand it and are just keeping your mouths shut, so let’s lay this out. Broadly speaking, there are 3 groups of reasons why we will tell you to do a particular exercise a particular way. There are 1) rules that are in place to ensure full range of motion, 2) guidelines for efficient movement and 3) guidelines for safe movement.

So if we look at the burpee, the range of motion standards are that you get your chest fully on the floor, and you open your hips fully when you jump. If you don’t do those 2 things, you haven’t gone through the full range of motion and your rep doesn’t count. You big cheater.

Now, maintaining a stable midline the whole way through your burpees means that you’ll move faster and have a better safety margin. If you worm up and down off the floor, your rep still “counts”, it was just a shit rep. It wasn’t as efficient, and it exposed your back to some loading patterns that will set you up for long term problems. It goes without saying that you should be training yourself to move efficiently and safely, as I’m pretty sure you’re interested in 1) becoming more athletic and 2) not hospitalising yourself.

As another example, let’s look at the Snatch. If you go to an Olmypic lifting meet, the movement standards for the Snatch are that the bar begins on the floor, you lift it all the way over your head in one fluid motion and catch it with your arms straight. If you don’t get it all the way overhead, it’s red-lighted. If you catch it with bent arms and press it into place, it’s red-lighted.

The judges do not enforce efficient movement or safe movement, that’s your job. You can pull the thing overhead purely using your arms, you can round your back as you lift it off the floor and you can catch the bar with your knees touching each other if you so wish. Everyone will think you’re an idiot, but you’ll still get a white light as long as you meet the movement standards.

Now when you guys train in CFI, we DO enforce efficiency and safety in workouts. This is because you’re here to train and become better at this stuff. Rudy Neilson has a nice, succinct line on his blog where he calls CrossFit “a sport which rewards efficiency and punishes wasteful efforts”, so if you want to get anywhere at it, you’d better learn to move efficiently.

If you turn up at the European Regionals and start arm-pulling your snatches, no one is going to say boo to you. If you do that in training, I’m going to come over and tell you to stop, and teach you how to do it correctly instead. Arm-pulling a snatch isn’t dangerous, and would pass the range of motion requirements in a competition, but it’s really, really inefficient and wont lead to much development of your ability to explosively generate power from your hips and legs.

Likewise, if you’re at a CrossFit competition and you start pulling deadlifts off the floor with a rounded lower back, no one is going to stop you. It’s really unsafe, and you’re essentially rolling the dice to see if you get hurt each time you do it, but that’s your problem, not the judges. If you do that here in the gym, I’m going to scream at you to stop, have a long conversation with you about safety in training, and the pair of us will spend some time working through it to fix the problem.

So, some of the “rules” for exercises are in place to define the beginning and end point of a legal rep, some of them are there to make you more efficient at the movement, and some of them are there to keep you safe.

As a mental excercise for yourself, a have quick look over the workouts from this week, think through the pointers you got for each movement in that class and see if you can spot which category they fall into. You’ll quickly discover a lot of crossover between efficiency standards and safety standards, as one of the cool things about training is that the most efficient way to perform an exercise is also, in the long term, the safest.

Hopefully this should help drive home the major point of training: do everything with perfect technique. If you don’t, you wont move very fast, you’ll waste a pile of energy, and you’ll probably get hurt.