Think back to when you were growing up, did your mum or dad ever tell you “don’t pull faces - if the wind changes then you’ll be stuck like that forever!”?
But why would I ask you to remember getting told off as a kid? Isn’t this a gym blog? Shouldn't I be writing about doing muscle ups, the intricacies of the second pull in weightlifting, or why you can have the best supplement regime in the world but it won’t help you if you stay up too late and eat too much crap?
If you’ve heard people talk about “10,000 hours” then they’re probably referring to the theory popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. Gladwell basically extrapolated the findings of Anders Ericsson’s work analysing young violinists in 1993 which can be found in the paper The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Other books such as The Talent Code by Coyle and Talent is Overrated by Colvin discuss a similar idea.
The basic premise is that absolute mastery of a given skill takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. 10,000 hours is equivalent to 59.5 weeks of continuous work!
Let’s imagine you were going to learn to play the guitar. If you dedicate 1 hour a day, every day of the year it’ll take you nearly 27 and a half years to accumulate your 10,000 hours! If that becomes 3 hours a day then you can get to 10,000 hours in just under 11 years.
So, how does this relate to CrossFit, and the fact that we seek to work towards a high level of competency in a broad range of skills and movements?
Firstly we can adopt the idea that for maximum progress we must concentrate on what we are doing and make our training more like deliberate practice. When it’s practice time, you need to focus. You are outside the gym for 23 hours of the day and potentially using poor movement patterns and posture, so the one hour that you are in the gym you need to focus totally on undoing a lot of those habits that are engrained (maybe you’ll even become mindful of how you’re moving, standing and sitting outside the gym…)
Secondly, we can make our movements complimentary. How many people have hours every day to dedicate to learning all the different movements commonly found in CrossFit? How much harder must it be if each movement is seen as a separate skill by the brain? How much progress are you missing out on simply because you’ve not had someone talk to you about how all your squats should look the same?
Rudy Nielsen (www.theoutlawway.com) has already written a superb article on the importance of Olympic weightlifting for the sport of CrossFit which I recommend you go read now. But how about we expand on that and take it further….
What if every time you did any form of squat, whether a back squat, a wall ball, a thruster, an overhead squat, a front squat or any other version you might come across, your feet were in a different position? Externally rotated in a narrow stance on your overhead squat, but super wide and more toes forward in your back squat? Do you think that the carryover between the skills would be as great as if the foot position was the same? Do you think that it’s okay to fold forwards when doing wall balls because it’s light might have something to do with why you always drop the bar forwards when you’re cleaning heavy?
What if your bench grip width matched your handstand (and handstand press up) width? Do you think that benching could be used as an accessory lift for handstand press ups? Do you think that in the archives of CrossFit.com you might find that bench press came up around 3-4 times a month in the WOD (see http://www.crossfit.com/mt-archive2/2001_03.html for evidence)? Maybe Greg Glassman (a former gymnast) was on to something…. Will your push press get stronger if the grip width (a vertical forearm allowing maximum force transfer) go up if matches your jerk width, your strict press width and your bench press width? I’d like to think so!
What about the face pulling? For those that have missed the analogy, it is simply this - if you constantly do something sub optimal in the gym to give yourself a shortcut, a better score or bigger weights, then all you’re doing is teaching your body is that that’s how it’s supposed to be done and you’ll make slower progress than the person who tries to find carryover between movements.
At Power Athlete and on CrossFit Football seminars the idea that it is impossible to rise to the level of the competition, all you can do is fall back on your level of preparation is hammered home. So why not make that preparation the best you can and become the best version of yourself that you can?