The Crossfit Games – Watching with a Chiropractor’s Eyes
It’s one of my favorite athletic events of the year: The Reebok Crossfit Games.
For most people, the games are about watching their friends compete (Go Team Crossfit Hardcore!), getting motivated to achieve a chiseled physique, and of course there’s the sheer excitement and joy of watching someone do the same workouts you do, but perform them at truly elite levels.
Of course, most viewers will be paying attention to amount of weight the athletes can put up or the speed at which people can perform a grueling chipper. As for myself, I’m a junkie for observing adaptation and control.
When we take the time to really watch how the best in the world do work, they leave clues to their success.
The Rich Fronings and Julie Fouchers of the world don’t succeed by muscling through lifts or haphazardly stumble through movements.
When you see them tackling the Midline March, watch at how the athletes prepare to load their spine for endurance. You’re not going to see gross hyperextension of the lumbar spine to keep the weight over the shoulders. You will see the best athletes maintaining a straight, and upright position as they tackle the overhead lunges.
What the Average Gym Goer Can Take Away
We often look at Games Athletes and envy them for their strength, stamina, and body. Our first impulse is to imitate their programming and diet so you can be as strong and as fast as they are.
However, when we look up to these incredible athletes, it’s very important to watch them for HOW they move.
The training regiment and programming for these athletes is insane. For the average gym goer to start doing Games programming will inevitably lead to a litany of injuries. How does the elite Crossfit Athlete not just survive, but thrive with this kind of workload?
1. Impeccable Movement in Training = Great Movement in Competition – Rich Froning is far and away the most dominant athlete in the sport. When watching him compete, you notice that every rep looks crisp, efficient, and well executed. For people that watch his training videos, it’s not just like that in the Games, it’s like that in his training as well.
You don’t see Rich going into bad compensatory movements to get the last rep. In fact, his form still looks excellent as the workout nears completion. This allows for a couple of important things.
Rich is never injured. You never see him covered in Rock Tape, or limping off the arena floor.
Rich nevere wastes energy. You don’t see hyperextension on any lift. You don’t see his knees buckle in on squats. You don’t see him collapsing on his head during a hand stand pushup.
When many of us train, we are doing all kinds of crazy motions to get the last several reps. When we do, we are embedding bad habits into our nervous system and muscle memory. It’s also setting us up injury if we catch our selves on a day where we’ve had poor sleep or malnourished. It only takes a few bad reps to wreak havoc on a seemingly healthy body.
2. Fitness Includes Stability – One thing that the Crossfit Games did this year was expose people who don’t have great strategies for having a stable midline.
This year’s athletes needed to prove that they could do things like long handstand walks, do heavy overhead squats, and perform strict hand stand push ups.
It’s no longer good enough to simply move quickly. You also have to show an ability to move quickly with great control. Stability is about having greater ability to control your body through every phase of movement. The strongest and fastest athletes are also the ones that have the greatest control of their bodies in whatever movement is demanded of them.
Showing greater stability is also a sure fire way to keep the athlete safer during workouts. Crossfit is making a statement to the local competitions that new standards should include stability as a primary part of fitness, and therefore promote athletic safety.
3. There are Primal Rules for Adaptation
Every year, there’s some kind of crazy contraption that the athletes have never seen before. Whether it’s the Worm in the team event, or some kind of new sled contraption, the Games have a way of putting athletes into a situation they have never trained for.
However, the guys that are great at lifting barbells, doing pull ups, and climbing ropes are still the best people to figure out how to move a giant log on their shoulders.
Is it strictly a matter of strength? Sure, strength plays a big role.
But even more important is the fact that there are basic rules and archetypes for performing a certain activity. Picking up a barbell has many of the same basic rules as picking up a stone, or picking up an object that you’ve never seen before.
The best athletes understand this, and apply the same rules to make that motion happen. They understand that pushing or pulling a sled requires the effective use of leverage, and how to make their bodies use that leverage.
Neuromuscular Control = Movement Mastery
Before you decide to tackle the Super Duper Programming to get you to the games, I think it’s important to realize that having mastery over your body must precede a training program of outrageous volume
The more you develop your ability to control every part of an athletic movement, the easier it will be to push for those extra reps, get stronger, and take on more work.
Developing Neuromuscular Control requires 3 main things:
1. Feedback – you need someone telling you when you’re doing things poorly, and when you’re doing things right. Being used to doing something one way gives you a false impression of doing things correctly. Getting feedback to REINFORCE good pattern will help you develop the inner sense for what correct feels like
2. Practice – When you know what Correct feels like, then you have to practice until Correct feels normal. Then do THAT over and over again.
3. Getting rid of maladaptive compensations – When there is something dysfunctional happening in the body, the body begins to take on compensatory patterns. The only way you can make the body stop compensating is by addressing the primary dysfunction in someone’s body. Of course, this is where a good chiro or physio can come into play
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