With the Open coming up and thanks to the billion local competitions happening, a question often asked in class is “what’s the standard for this movement?” In events, like the Open, movement standards are used to define the prescribed task and to standardise the tasks to ensure that all participants are subject to the same requirements. All sports have standards; out of bounds lines, scoring positions, infringements, etc. And it’s all for the same purpose–to create a level playing field.
What we do in class, however, is not a sport. It’s training. One of the reasons you participate in a sport, like the Open, is to test the fitness you’ve developed in training. Therefore, there are no standards in training.
Before you take that and run (a bigger) riot in class, that does not mean you’re free to do whatever floats your boat in training. We teach you particular positions in training because they are the safest positions that will also yield the best results quickly. We spend most of our time in those fundamental positions, such as feet shoulder width in the squat, and when we’ve developed consistently good mechanics with intensity we freestyle it by playing with positions to suit the workout while increasing our skill level. We also drill good range of motion (RoM) in training because it pertains to improving your fitness.
So if we had to use phrases to define the difference, there are competition standards versus movement in training. What you should recognise is that consistently good movement in training naturally gives you high competition standards.
To go back to what we do in training, testing forms a part of evaluating training progress. When we do fitness testing in sessions, we do use some standards to ensure that you have a consistent and measurable baseline to track changes against.
In training, focus on consistently good positions. If you enter a competition, adhere to the movement standards to avoid no-reps. In training, there are no no-reps (unless we’re testing fitness ;-)).
We’ve all had nights where we just can’t seem to fall asleep. You didn’t have caffeine, it was a busy day, you don’t have much on your mind at all, and you are ready to sleep. Yet you just can’t doze off. What do you do to help you fall asleep? In general, you try several things.
You might read, count your breaths, try to control your breathing or count sheep. Perhaps you have a glass of warm milk and some baked treats in the hope of inducing a carb coma. Or maybe you go looking for earplugs and eye patches? Whatever the approach/es, you tried hard but to no avail.
It was just sleep. Why are given so many approaches to make such a natural habit ‘work’?
It’s a common trait, though. You’ve got to work hard to get stuff done, yeah? Nah, not always.
Until you’ve acquired mastery, performing a movement requires a conscious effort. But more often than not, you try too hard to learn or improve a movement. You become so focused on getting it right that you almost freeze up. I call it paralysis by analysis. Your CNS either becomes so lit up that you become to rigid to move, or there are too many messages coming from the brain for the body to make sense and nothing happens when you try to.
That’s what happens in the moment. What follows is lots of ‘work’ to make you better. Learn more progressions, do more reps, watch more videos. You keep trying harder. Do you remember what eventually got you to sleep? Unlikely. What probably happened is that you gave up trying, and then fell asleep.
Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t try. In movement if you don’t try you won’t know. What I’m saying is that you should try differently. Think about it before you move, and when you do move, just move. Think about one to two things only. Ride the good and bad days. Accept the process for what it is–a process. Do less, it’s more. Chill out, the world will keep turning!
The images below are of a text message chat I had last year with one of our dear members, Dmtry The Russian. It was following a workout that involved three barbell movements and the
prescribedguideline load was your body weight. I trained in the class after Dmtry and when I got there he was still in the trenches, trying to complete the workout right at the time cap. I told him I’d kick his ass in the workout. I apologise for the poor quality of the image and my colourful language!
Dmtry did the maths. Although it’s not the most accurate calculation of power output, it shows that I had a far greater power output than him. I did kick his ass. He chose the guideline load of his body weight and that resulted in a time of 28 minutes. I went with 10kg under my bodyweight and finished in 17:50. Did he work hard? Absolutely. Was his workout effective? Not in the least. He didn’t get stronger (because it wasn’t designed to be a strength workout), nor did he increase his capacity (which was the primary goal of that workout).
He felt like he worked hard. But intensity isn’t a feeling. It’s based on how much work you do relative to the time you do it in. And the only way you’ll ever achieve the intended benefits of a workout is by modifying it to your abilities.
What you see on the whiteboard is a guideline, and along with the coach’s directions on the intended benefits of the workout, that gives you a template for that day’s session. You will almost always need to modify the session in some way. How do you do that? We use a simple guide:
- First reduce the technical demand of the movement/s. This is especially so for barbell and gymnastics movements.
- Reduce the load–put less kilograms on the bar. We can also reduce load on gymnastics movements.
- Reduce volume (reps/distance/sets/calories/etc.). This is probably done the least yet is so effective.
That order changes depending on the workout, but you should be doing some form of modification most of the time, regardless of your experience. Remember, the programming isn’t based on what you all used to be able to do. It’s based on where you could be.
When speaking to successful people–successful in business, sports, life, family, academia, getting out of bed daily–about their paths to success, there is a common trait. That the road to success wasn’t always that straight. It was characterised by bumps, detours, u-turns, dead stops and a lot of thick mud. If it was easy, everyone would be so successful, right?!
The health and fitness journey is much the same, especially because the overarching goal is lifelong fitness. Your PB graph is going to be far from linear. That’s how it goes naturally, but sometimes it’s good for you to consciously turn back with a view to better progress. Yes, go backwards in order to go forwards.
Consider the pull-up. You start with a simple ring row and end up with the technical butterfly chest-to-bar pull-up on the extreme opposite. If you end up stuck at one of the stages of progression for longer than you’d like to, you aren’t moving forward. The most common strategy is then to layer on more work, which can and does work at times. But try a regression.
If your kipping pull-up capacity just isn’t growing, go back to focusing more on your strict pull-up strength and use jumping pull-ups on a lower box in metcons. If you’re a handstand push-up ninja, increase the deficit by a lot and only work the eccentric until you can press out of the bottom–that’s regressing to turn a strength into new skill!
If your running capacity feels stuck, don’t just run more. Tweak your mechanics and use shorter runs and sprint work to dial it in. It will improve your running in the long term.
Taking a step back is also a lesson in enjoying and respecting the process, which is especially important in fitness because there is no end destination. So if you’re hesitant to hold or back for a bit, it’s just your ego getting in the way. Try it. Silence the ego, take a step back for a while, and take note of your progress. But don’t forget to enjoy the process!
There has been a trend across the industries, since forever, to reintroduce past approaches. The automotive industry has the modern classic–old aesthetics with modern technology. Clothing manufacturers are always bringing their old lines back. Architecture finds a way of holding on to both antique and modern elements.
Old school is cool, yeah? Aside from the sentiment there’s a lot of marketing behind it. That’s partly how existing customers are retained while attracting young blood. Old school also works, which is why there is a growing trend in the food industry to push ingredients and recipes that were found to be beneficial centuries ago. It’s a trend I’m picking to be the big new food/health/wellness trend of the year.
It’s because old school works, and now science is able to evaluate why certain ingredients were so prominent in diets from particular regions. However, it’s not changing the message. The message is still to eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and minimal sugar; keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat; use herbs and spices to flavour.
And that’s what you should be doing most of the time. Do not fall into the trap of purchasing products that contain these ingredients. Yes, turmeric is a wonderful anti-inflammatory spice that’s been used by populations of the subcontinent in their cooking for decades. But you don’t need a pill that contains turmeric. How about you find ways to cook with it?
Food and supplements are BIG industries and that means they’re in it to make money. Fair enough. Your nutrition, however, doesn’t rely on what most big food industries are peddling. You’ve just got to eat real food, the way your ancestors did. Do what your great grandmother did!
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