CrossFit: Coach thyself — 4 tips on how to build good form and improve technique
[We've declared it CrossFit week here at PT365, mostly because OFFduty staff writer Jon Anderson keeps writing CrossFit posts. It’s like an obsession. Here's his latest -- the second of three -- that we'll have this week:]
Not quite clear on the mechanics of a thruster? Need to improve your technique on those dead lifts?
You might expect one of the most veteran CrossFit coaches on the planet to tell you to find a good coach. But you’d be wrong. Former Navy SEAL Dave Werner opened the very first CrossFit affiliate more than a decade ago. With a stable of nine full-time trainers and more than 500 regular CrossFitters, Level 4 CrossFit Seattle is now one of the biggest boxes in the country.
Big gyms and good coaches are nice, Werner says, but you can do a lot to learn and refine basic technique on your on own, or with buddies in your unit.
“In the military especially, you typically have groups of guys working out together. They can do a very nice job of coaching each other. You don’t have to have an expert, outside coach,” he says. “Those are handy when you can get them, but not mandatory.”
Some of Werner’s tips to help you get started.
Train each other. “Use videos to see examples of good movement and then look at each other with a critical eye, with the intention of holding each other’s feet to the fire. Tell each other: Make me do this right; tell me when I’m doing it wrong.”
Film yourself. Smartphones make it too easy not to these days, Werner says. Film yourself doing a set of a particular exercise, then look at how you’re really doing things. “Compare what you’re doing to what you see in the how-to video. That’s how I started. It can be a very effective training tool.”
Pay attention to the details. Good form lives in the details. Consider the thruster, a CrossFit staple: “It’s often described as a front squat followed by a push press, but that’s an oversimplification. It’s not really either. It’s a hybrid that takes this transition in the middle where you basically have the bar on your shoulders and you’re jumping the bar up and driving with your hips as much as you can. It’s a faster movement than a front squat, and it’s more hip intensive than a push press.”
Listen to the warning signs – “If something doesn’t feel right, dig into it and figure out what’s going on,” Werner says. Maybe something just feels off on a particular day. “That’s not bad or good; it’s just the state of things on that day. It gives you an indication that maybe you shouldn’t tear into Fran that day. Maybe I should spend the next 20 minutes doing sets of 8 or 10 thrusters because that’s all you can hold together before you start to feel pretty lousy about your form.” Then spend the next 20 minutes working on your pullups and call it good: ‘So, I went into the gym with Fran in mind, but realized I’m not quite ready to tackle Fran as written, so I spent my time working on those movements. I worked hard, but I slowed down enough to focus on my technique and I put my technique first.’
CrossFit week part 1: American Council on Exercise study: CrossFit Works!
Jon R. Anderson is a staff writer for OFFduty. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.