CrossFit has a huge number of success stories. Its athletes have been compared to Gods in terms of physique and capacity to perform physical tasks. Box members all over the word have improved their general health due, in part, to the prescription delivered by CrossFit. However, from a purely exercise program perspective the sport does have limitations. Uncharted Performance caught up with Tom Rini of Black Flag Athletics to discuss how we can better develop athletes in the sport. The following are four key areas in which we can improve in and how we can as coaches and athletes address them.
Planes of Movement
CrossFit emphasizes balance within the frontal plane, citing an athlete's ability to move an object relative to the frontal plane determines an athlete's efficiency. This is true, however training in such a fashion on a continuous basis can get us accommodated to those movements, limiting our ability to increase performance and raising the potential for injury to occur. Consequently, imbalances can develop. The nature of all movement happens in three dimensions. To develop a big base and be better prepared for anything at any time, incorporate rotational, anti-rotational, unilateral, linear, lateral and multidirectional movements. These are not necessarily ideal for quick metcons where you want to “go hard & lift heavy” but can be incorporated to any other part of training or class – warm-up, skill, strength, or accessory work. Takeaway – Don’t limit yourself; become proficient in multi-directional movement.
As humans most of us had to learn to crawl before we could walk, before we could run. Think of crawling as performing some of the CrossFit movements like the pull-up in a strict fashion and walking and running as kipping and other explosive variations. Getting that first muscle up or handstand push-up is often celebrated but it can hide strength deficiencies in various parts of the body. Avoid using momentum until you are able to hit certain benchmarks in the exercise; no fewer than 10 to 15 strict before moving on. For example, one should be able to perform 10 strict pull-ups before kipping or 10 strict muscle ups before performing kipping muscle ups (either bar or on the rings). Your body will be much better prepared to take on the physical challenges of the more dynamic movements. Plus, the stronger you are the easier the movements will feel during the workout. Takeaway – Build a solid understanding and foundation for movement patterns to develop the appropriate firing mechanisms
If you are a beginner, the constant variety of CrossFit will provide a great amount of stimulus for both physiological and neurological adaptations and you will get in good shape fairly quickly. However, in order to continue seeing results and improvement you will have to specialize in that variation and concentrate on specific facets of CrossFit. If you want to improve weightlifting, you will need to spend more time on weightlifting, if you are failing in workouts that are geared for heavier loads, you might want to skew programming towards strength development, etc. Takeaway – Recognize weakness and plateaus and address them through dedicated effort and focus.
The exercises we perform are the tip of the iceberg. They should be the output of well thought-out programming that will provide stimulus in a number of ways-modality, domain, metabolic pathways, etc. The intention is to deliver a structure to the varied prescription in a coherent manner to drive adaptation. However, the body is immensely complex being made up of many systems including cardiovascular, endocrine, muscular, skeletal, and nervous. Having an understanding or being confident that your coach has an understanding of these interdependent parts will not only improve the program but also the adaptation, its extent, and the success of the athlete as the consequence. Digging deeper into the science of anatomy and physiology, Kinesiology, etc. and working to obtain a better understanding of it might not be sexy but it is invaluable and serves as a foundation that can address points 1 through 3 above. Takeaway – Understand why you do what you do.
To learn more from Tom Rini, watch his interview with Uncharted Performance:
If you prefer to listen, audio version is available here
Tom Rini (MEd., CSCS, USAW L1, CF L1) has been active Strength & Conditioning for over 15 years with an extensive background in performance enhancement emphasizing sports performance, injury prevention, athlete development, human movement and Olympic weightlifting training numerous state and national champions as well as Collegiate and Professional Athletes. His experiences include Director of Sports Performance at St. Ignatius High School, the International Performance Institute at the IMG Academies and Black Flag CrossFit.
Pawel Wencel is CrossFit Level 1 certified and the Co-Creator Of Uncharted Performance, a website and podcast dedicated to pushing the boundaries of performance inside and outside the gym. For more of Uncharted Performance check out www.unchartedperformance.com, YouTube and iTunes. Follow them on Facebook,Instagram and Twitter.