Timing is important in all movements, but especially so in movements that are performed in a wave of activity from the hips and legs to the upper body. Just like the thruster!
A common error in the thruster is initiating the press before the hips and legs extend. Remember, extension means straightening of the knees and hips, and in the thruster, it’s a powerful extension. Pressing before the legs and hips have extended places undue load on the arms, and being a much smaller muscle group, the arms generate a lot less power and fatigue faster. Not something you want on a movement that is already so demanding.
Common cues you’ll hear in class are “delay the press” and “keep the bar racked for longer.” When you’re next moving on a thruster, like today ;-), here’s what you need to focus on.
The thruster is a lower body dominant movement. The hips and legs should create upward momentum on the barbell, and the arms simply guide the bar to it’s end position before bringing it back to the front rack. When you stand out of the squat keep the heels grounded and stack the elbows, and stand as fast as you can. The faster you extend the legs the more power you put on the bar and the less work the upper body has to do.
Delay The Press
Keep your attention on what your lower body is doing. If you stand fast as noted above, when your hips and legs reach full extension the bar will “pop” off your shoulders and become weightless for a split second. This is your cue to press. Think of the squat and press as two separate movements, but the thruster should be performed as one movement.
It’s also important to get the bar back to the front rack position before descending into squat again. The longer the bar stays in contact with the shoulders, the less works the arm do and the less the thruster will suck. Kinda.
A threshold is a limit, a point that must be exceeded in order for favourable adaptations to occur. One of the thresholds to consider in fitness is the technique/intensity threshold. When you go beyond that threshold in training, technique diminishes at the expense of power output (intensity). Technique is essential to maximising power and therefore fitness, but good technique without optimal speed will in fact stunt fitness.
It’s like motor sports.The best drivers are the ones who find that balance between speed and accuracy. But they only find that balance by tempting speed and by learning to take the vehicle all the way to almost losing control before reigning it in.
That’s what you need to do in training. Just like we stress your cardiorespiratory system for endurance adaptations and your muscular system for strength gains, your “control” must be stressed for it to improve. Fortunately, in training, the consequences aren’t as severe as in motor sports!
Most of this practice refers to metabolic conditioning and not strength work, because in strength work time is generally not an essential factor. So to train your conditioning workouts, develop your control just as the race care driver.
Start off by ensuring you’ve scaled the loads, movements and volume appropriately. The programmed workouts you see on the board are a guideline. When the workout starts, work quickly to a pace you feel you’re able to maintain for the duration of that workout. Once you’ve settled in, up your speed – lower the time cycle of your reps.
Here is where your gray matter – your conscious brain – comes in. You have to be able to feel the difference between good and bad technique. If you haven’t felt your technique going with increased speed, you’ll soon find out. You’ll miss lifts and reps, lose control of your swing on the pull-up bar or rings, land up in the box instead of on top of it. It’s the tail of the race car going too wide for the driver to bring it back, leaving the car in a spin.
You’ve got to slow down before that happens. Regain traction to bring that tail back in, and then ease back on the gas again. This time, holding your speed just under the previous attempt.
As you develop this control your power output begins to increase, and that’s where the results lie.
Will it result in some less than optimal technique? Absolutely, but that’s how you find your control. Will that place you at risk of injury? Unless you keep moving at a speed that is uncontrollable, it shouldn’t. That control is a tricky thing to develop. It’s partly what we as coaches are there for. But it’s important for you to develop it on your own too.
Finding that threshold is also finding the point of most discomfort. Find it, and hang out there for as long as you can!
Among all the varying definitions and explanations of what CrossFit is, perhaps the most common is it’s the “sport of fitness.” It may have something to do with the competitive nature of the training environment in affiliates, a bit to do with all the fitness competitions using CrossFit-style workouts, and helluva lot to do with the Sport of Fitness™ being the official tagline for the CrossFit Games.
In fact, that trademarked tagline provides the distinction between CrossFit the training program and CrossFit as a sport.
CrossFit The Training Program
CrossFit the training program is what CrossFit was truly designed for. The overwhelming majority of people doing CrossFit are training for life. They want to be better cyclists, runners, hikers, parents, healthier grandparents, athletes – they want to be the healthiest and fittest they can possibly be. They use CrossFit to increase their level of general physical preparedness (GPP), and a better GPP correlates to better performance in life or sports.
People under this category are by no means lesser athletes than anyone else, they simply have different goals. Training once a day in class on three to five days a week is sufficient to realising some of those goals. With good and varied programming, training that way is sustainable for life and should see consistent improvements in most areas of fitness. Some might spend extra time working on weaknesses or preparing for an event such as a marathon, a triathlon or even an in-house throwdown like our event last week, but overall, the sacrifices here are minimal and training in class is more than enough preparation.
These are the people we exist to serve. You are the reason CFJ was opened, you are majority of our clientele, and that’s just how I like it!
CrossFit as a Sport
This is the other face of CrossFit, but even this face has two sides to it!
- CrossFit as a Recreational Sport
Many people training CrossFit grow to enjoy the competitive aspect of it. This competitive edge is typically fostered in training where you have your previous scores to beat, where you’re using the person beside you as motivation to keep moving, where the group environment itself drives you to work harder. These people grow to enjoy that competitive aspect so much that they regularly enter local competitions – it becomes their weekend sport.
Here, aside from a good base level of GPP, some specific goals are required to ensure safety and enjoyment in competition. The more serious recreational athlete may need individualised programming, will need to keep their nutrition dialled in, and will need to learn about managing themselves in competitions.
While people here make up a much smaller percent of our clientele, we have the systems and resources in place to support them.While some extra sacrifices are made here, the goal is still to chill out and have some fun. Performing well in an event isn’t the be all – like participating in a local club sport. Whereas playing sports professionally demands a vastly different commitment.
- The CrossFit Games
By this I am referring specifically to training towards competing at either Regional or Games levels of the CrossFit Games. While just about every Games athlete trains CrossFit to grow their base level of GPP, the Games have evolved to include a specific skill set. While aspiring Games athletes must still ensure a strong GPP (for life), they now also need to acquire the specific skills required to compete effectively at Games level.Specific skill training can be referred to developing ‘specific physical preparedness’ (SPP). Therein lies the difference between CrossFit and The CrossFit Games.
It’s the same in all sports. You can use the sport as way of keeping fit, but if you want to compete at a high level in that sport you need to be conditioned specifically for the demands of that sport.As with any sport, the sacrifices start mounting here. More specific programming is required along with a staunch dedication to keeping nutrition and other recovery practices dialled in. Athletes often have to train alone and may sometimes become alienated from the community. They’ll have to train through the aches and pains. But for them, it’s okay, because it’s what’s required to realise their goals.
Be it in our gym or the general CrossFit community, these athletes form a tiny percent and therefore form an even smaller percent of the general population.Just as we support recreational CrossFit athletes, we have always supported athletes with genuine aspirations to compete at this level. There are no quick routes for these athletes, and for most, it will take years to realise their goals.
Your goals ultimately dictate the face of CrossFit you choose to follow, so record some tangible goals. Set short term (3 month), mid-term (6 month) and long term (1 year) goals. Record why you have those goals. List how you’re going to achieve those goals.
We’re here to help you achieve those goals. You may just need more consistent training in class or a bit of extra flexibility work. Maybe you need some help in preparing for an event, or want to level out your fitness so you’re better prepared for CrossFit-style competitions. Or perhaps you’d like to take a good stab at getting to Regionals, in which case you’ll have to be prepared to prepare for many months.
Either way, you should always be having fun. Training should never feel like a chore, so if it ever gets there, sit down to re-evaluate those goals.
As our favourite Pat Sherwood quote goes, “The goal is just to get fit, make it the best hour of your day, stay safe, turn up the music, high five some people, and blow off some steam. So remember that. RELAX. HAVE FUN. WORKOUT.”