Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A small rant on form

Form

One thing that struck me when watching the CrossFit Games this year was the wide variety in form and movement quality, even at this very high level of competition. It was especially apparent in the masters divisions, but I even saw it in the men's and women's Open division final events, with people who had really inefficient rowing form.

Here is an illustration of what I mean (image from Flatirons):

Rosanne is in the blue shirt, showing great form at the top of the clean. Her posture is straight and stable, her elbows are out, allowing the bar to sit on her chest, and the bar is just resting in her hands. Now look at the woman in the back, in the green shirt. She is straining, leaning back, unstable, gripping the bar tightly in her hands, with her elbows directly below her hands, putting lots of pressure on the muscles of her arms and shoulders. These are both very strong, competitive athletes. But which position do you think is more efficient and safe?

It confuses and disappoints me to see athletes who are competing at such a high level not taking form seriously. Yes, it's a lot of work to get good form, especially on something difficult and complicated like Olympic lifts (I saw firsthand how hard Rosanne worked to improve her form on the lifts). But there are great experts out there to help you with any kind of movement - you don't have to figure it all out on your own.

I suspect that for some of these extremely strong and capable athletes, there is a bit of arrogance, a failure to recognize that they are not experts at sports-specific movements, and therefore a failure to seek help and work on those movements. When you're really fast and good and can beat everyone at your affiliate even with sloppy form, I could see how you would get drawn into just going hard every day and neglecting skill work. But training is more than just going hard. You need to be honest with yourself about where you can improve.

You might say that lots of people do just fine in these competitions despite iffy form. But I would argue that they could do even better with improved form. And on top of that, they would reduce their chances of injury by just moving in more efficient and natural ways. Remember the postural differences in the photo above - who is more likely to hurt her back? It's like the nutrition argument - sure, there are world-class athletes that run on pizza and beer, but couldn't they be even better eating grass-fed beef and coconut?

I didn't start with much talent or ability, but I've always tried to maximize my potential by paying close attention to and working hard at form (and nutrition too). I think this allowed me to make gains that I never could have made if I had just tried to blast mindlessly through every workout.

Okay, enough seriousness. If you'd like a humorous look at the "World Series of Exercise", check out the Twitter summary from Drywall.

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