Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Learning coordination: break it then fix it

Yesterday's WOD:

Ring dips - full range of motion negatives

then

3 power sprints

then

3 rounds for time of:

15 Pull-ups
15 Box jumps 20"
15 Push jerk 45-55#

My time: 10:44.

Then afterward I worked on box jump drills with 12 inch boxes. I made some good progress on it, was able to get the timing right on the bounce off the ground for the first time and could easily get ten in a row up and down by the end. A great breakthrough, now I just need to keep working on it and raising the box height. I think today I'll start with 12 inches and if it's easy, go to 16 inches. The work on ring dips was quite productive too. And those power sprints, yikes! They were kind of fun though because they took balance out of running and made it all about power generation. Makes me realize that a lot of why I suck at running is because I'm constantly correcting my balance, which takes a ton of energy.

Learning coordination

I've had a lot of blocks and plateaus over the last 6 months (or more), so I'm focusing on something new. I think what has happened is that over the last two years, I made progress on all the easy stuff, I learned all the basics, and often I learned a way to do a movement that is safe and correct but not necessarily the most efficient way to do that movement. Someone who is naturally athletic wouldn't have this problem because they have better body awareness, more experiences with movements, and for whatever reasons, they just get it. But I seem to have a special gift for finding the most inefficient way to do a movement. Because of my inefficiency, by round two of a workout, I am usually completely exhausted and break up the sets way too much because that's the only way I can physically get through it (yes, that happened again last night). My muscles very quickly get to failure, which makes for slow times, even when I take the weight way down.

To overcome this, I've decided to focus on coordination and body position - using the right muscles at the right time and making my movements more and more efficient.

I have some examples of ways I'm working on this.
  1. Box jumps. I lose momentum by landing dead instead of bouncing back off the floor and using my legs as a spring. I also don't use my arms to propel me up. After working on drills and getting the timing on the 12" jump to click (and it did, all of a sudden), I realized that I could do 10 or 15 jumps without getting nearly as tired as I get from 3 of my non-bouncy jumps. The difference in how I felt was staggering. I can't imagine the difference this would make in a workout. It's like the difference between a deadhang and a kipping pull-up. Plus I think it will translate into less painful double unders.
  2. Ring dips. I can technically do a ring dip. I get to parallel (elbow at 90 degrees) and back up, which would probably count in competition, but when I go below parallel (elbow less than 90 degrees) I can't get back up. When I did negatives last night, I realized that I was using totally different muscles to go below parallel - lats and delts. And guess what, I hardly ever use those muscles, which is why they're not strong enough to get me back up from the bottom of the dip. First learning how to engage those muscles and then strengthening them will help me with pull-ups, toes to bar, rowing, and all kinds of lifts, and it will set me up for that muscle-up I've had my eye on.
  3. Handstands. I learned how to do handstands by basically flinging my feet blindly at the wall and hoping for the best. The movement is not controlled at all, which means that while I'm getting inverted, I am not learning balance. So starting last week, I've been working on slower, more controlled kick-ups into the handstand and then trying to hold the handstand with my feet off the wall. This improved balance, control, body awareness, and core strength should translate to a lot of other movements, especially the gymnastic movements but also the Oly lifts.
I think the key in all this is not to focus on making the final movement perfect, but instead to break it down into simpler pieces, let myself fail a bit, and relearn the movement in a different way, based on feedback and direction from people who can do the movement efficiently. In other words, break it and then fix it! It's hard to relinquish that control and let myself fail, but I'm very encouraged by the insights and progress I've made already.

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