It’s easy to step into the gym and be overwhelmed with the endless options for challenging our bodies. For CrossFitters it generally comes in the form of endless movements to master. Weightlifting, gymnastics, cardio disciplines. Clean, snatch, deadlift, squat, pull up, muscle up, push up, handstand push up, rowing, running, double unders, kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, heavy, fast, short, long, strict, kipping, need I go on?
I’m going to let in a on a dirty little secret, and hopefully put your mind at ease. We claim our program is constantly varied, and while it’s true, much of the variation is simply applying the skill and strength we’re acquiring to similar tasks in varying time frames, load demands, and rep schemes. If you’re following our workout prescription, you’re practicing nearly every movement on a weekly basis.
But how? I’ve only seen rowing once this month, I can’t remember the last time we did kettlebell snatches, when are we going to work on handstand walking, and why don’t we do more core work? I have a competition coming up, what should I work on first?
I get it, in our practice we have a tendency to focus on what we can’t do, but I assure you, if you’re showing up and working hard you are working on it.
We do this through regularly practicing functional movement.
What is Functional Movement?
- Utilizes universal motor recruitment patterns
- they are performed in a wave of contraction from core to
- they are compound movements—i.e.,
they are multi-joint.
- They are natural and effective
- no aspect of functional movements is more important
than their capacity to move large loads over long
distances, and to do so quickly. (intensity)
You may not row everyday, or even every week, but deadlifting, sumo deadlift high pulls and kettlebell swings utilize the same motor recruitment patterns. Improving in deadlifts and sumo deadlift high pulls will help your rowing, and vice versa. Better technique on deadlifts will carry over to better rowing technique and a heavier deadlift will carry over to a stronger pull on the rower. Same works in reverse.
That’s just one example.
Still not convinced, here’s some more:
Pressing helps pressing
Getting better at any pressing is getting better at all pressing. A stronger shoulder press will help with handstand push ups. Better push ups will help with handstand push ups, push press, jerks, ring dips, etc. So you’re goal may not be to get better at shoulder press, but if your goal is to get a push up, shoulder pressing will help get you there.
Pulling helps pulling
Getting better at ring rows, pull ups, chin ups, will help you get or improve rope climbs, chest to bar pull ups, muscle ups, etc. And vice versa.
Cardio is simply anything that elevates your heart rate. Improved cardio is just being able to maintain an elevated heart rate for longer. Your bodies ability to utilize oxygen. Lifting, running, rowing, simply trying to knock out reps faster and faster IS improving your cardio. In fact it’s been proven short intense bouts of work are better at improving your cardio then long slow efforts. We do this almost daily. Need to improve your cardio, try to improve your WOD times.
We hammer legs, why? Squats are KING. Squatting can improve everything. Not just getting stronger, but our running, jumping, landing, biking, rowing, the list goes on. Improving your squat mechanics not only helps you squat more and safer, it trains good motor recruitment patterns in any activities that require your legs.
Learning to kip is learning to transfer force from your core to your extremities and to utilize your entire body to move larger loads. Whether your practicing kipping pull ups, toes to bar, handstand push ups, and even the olympic lifts, you’re learning to utilize good hip function and core to extremity (big muscles to little muscles) principles to do more work.
Great for getting strong? Yes. Great for biking, running, rowing, jumping? BIG YES. If squats are king, deadlifts are the prince. The hip, back, and hamstring strength gained from simply deadlifting will help with running, rowing, biking, jumping, olympic lifting, kettlebells, squats, and the list goes on.
Back to this whole “core to extremity” thing. The transfer of force from little muscles to big muscles. This requires constant core engagement to be effective. The core requirements to simply hold a heavy load over your head are immense. If you’re feeling deadlifts in your stomach, you’re doing them right.
I could literally go on all day, but hopefully I’ve made my point. The exercises we choose to use are chosen because they utilize universal motor recruitment patterns, they are performed in a wave of contraction from core to extremity, they are compound movements—i.e., they are multi-joint, they are natural and effective and no aspect of functional movements is more important than their capacity to move large loads over long distances, and to do so quickly.
Start looking for these intersections and you’ll realize that you’re working on it, even if you’re not necessarily “working on it”. Unless you’re cherry picking, that’s just wrong 🙂