These things we do – these lifts, these jumps, these pulls, these games – they're hard.
They're hard because we do them fast and heavy. And they're also hard because they're technically demanding.
One big reason that GloboGyms succeed? They water down exercise to its lowest common denominator. They remove the 'think about it' barrier. It's idiot-proof. It's Wonder Bread. It's vanilla. There's never a risk in choosing vanilla, because you always know what you're going to get.
Not so with a clean and jerk. Kids – little kids! – practice technique in these lifts for years before they ever touch a bar. They lift broomsticks and PVC pipe and aluminum lookalikes. Weightlifting is a sport, but it sits on the spectrum somewhere between gymnastics and martial arts and powerlifting. It's graceful and technical and nuanced and beautiful. And it requires coaching.
Under heavy load, it's hard to do a perfect clean. Full, triple-extension pulling power is nearly impossible on the second rep, let alone the thirteenth. And this is where the argument lies, both within the CrossFit community and without: at what point do you sacrifice technique for intensity? And when do you 'shut it down' to execute better technically?
In a famous speech, Coach (Greg Glassman) makes a few great points about Technique v. Intensity. The video is NOT workplace safe (f-bombs away!) but here are some highlights, edited for obscenity:
"The real risk lies in not learning the mechanics. Now, real world, can we learn the mechanics without ***ing up? No!" He's talking about operating in the margins: the farther you go from mediocrity, from vanilla, the more risk you're taking, and the more you have to be willing to err. That's a good thing.
"My best performers are moving through the workouts at what – I'd give them, like, a 92 on form." That's still really good, but maybe not realistic for the average CrossFitter. Heck, someday I'd LOVE to earn a 92 on form on a snatch, period. However: "There's efficiency in good mechanics. When we define 'strength' as the productive application of force, I -by necessity – introduce form and safety into the demands." Aha. "I'm not just looking at contractile force; I want…..productive work. I want functional movement accomplished."
Some classic Glassman illustrations: "No one ever won the Indy 500 where, in the last 5 miles, they were only running on two cylinders."
"(she) was a real connoisseur of good form. Never able to generate any intensity. What's going to happen is that if you say, I will not take my intensity past where the form goes bad, you'll never generate any intensity."
One more good one: "Do I want good technique, or high intensity? Yes. It's like asking, do you want me to meet you in the right place, or be on time? Yes. It's gotta be both."
One thought that's my own: it's one thing to have perfect execution in a perfect situation. It's quite another to focus enough to perform the movement under fatigue, or distraction, or haste, or duress. Practice in those situations is absolutely necessary. A trailer of firewood tips as you're pulling it home? Do you want to get it back on the trailer fast, or do you do one block at a time with a prescribed rest period between each? You're loading sandbags to stem a flood in your basement: do you change shoes, chalk up, and put your belt on? Your buddy calls you to help move his refrigerator: do you go looking for straps, and insist on a few reps with his little bar fridge first? No. Outside the gym, the setup will never be perfect, the load never balanced, the curveball never right across the plate. You MUST learn adaptation here; you must learn to deal with imperfection.