We always work on mechanics, then consistency, and only then, intensity.
You’ve undoubtedly heard a coach talking about this if you’re training in CrossFit. But what exactly does it look like in practice? How do we apply this to our training? Simple, we chase virtuosity.
Virtuosity: to perform the common uncommonly well.
Here is how we put this into action at our gym.
The first thing we do with any movement is a triage of the athletes mechanics. Working in order we first address anything that is detrimental to an athlete safety. Next, we search for low hanging fruit, the biggest “bang-for-buck” fixes. We want our athletes to feel as much progress as soon as it’s appropriate. Success is good for the mindset. This is our process for teaching mechanics. It’s also the reason you may see a coach correct one athlete on something, but not another. The other athlete may have bigger fish to fry and their focus needs to remain there.
Once we’ve identified a fault with an athlete’s mechanics and provided some corrective actions we’ll ask the athlete to demonstrate consistency. Does this mean we need to simply see a certain amount of reps before moving on? Not at all. What we’re looking for is confidence that the athlete has corrected the fault. Sometimes this takes weeks to correct and other times athletes are able to demonstrate sound mechanics immediately. The key is sound mechanics, that’s what we’re after.
Note for coaches: With some years of coaching experience it’s easier to see whether something has stuck or not. It’s a fun skill once you develop it. This will prove difficult for the less experienced eye, but that’s ok! If you’re a newer coach reading, keep in mind that you will have an athlete who seems to have something down…until you walkaway. Try watching their faces, most athlete’s have a tell.
Once the athlete demonstrates sound mechanics, we need to move on. It’s important to keep moving.
“If you’re not getting better you’re getting worse.” -Zach Evan Esh
If there’s another clear fault to address that’s the direction we’ll head. In the case where the movement looks good and we’re confident, our next step is to increase intensity. It’s important to acknowledge why we’re increasing intensity. It’s critical to avoid chasing numbers at this point. We’re not trying to hit a new record. The reason for the increased intensity is to expose the next fault or to challenge the most recent correction. Methods for making this happen are, and need to be, varied. Common strategies we utilize are the addition of reps, increase or add load, increase speed, have an athlete move while fatigued…the list goes on. The important thing is we expose and correct as many faults as possible. Finding weaknesses is a natural part of chasing virtuosity.
“Unlike risk and originality, virtuosity is elusive, supremely elusive. It is, however, readily recognized by audience as well as coach and athlete. There is a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art, whether learning to play the violin, write poetry, or compete in gymnastics, to quickly move past the fundamentals and on to more elaborate, more sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques.” -Greg Glassman
Try to be the best you, you can be, and everything will be ok.