Speed or technique? I think that we can all agree that speed and technique are essential components of any athletic endeavor. We can probably also agree that in the spirit of safety, technique is more important than speed in the training environment. So why is there the tendency to forgo technique as soon as the clock starts ticking?
In my opinion, good technique is the ultimate mobilizer, a wonderful pain reducer, a PR increaser and a confidence builder. As a chiropractor, I am constantly addressing technique issues related to biomechanics. When a patient (and many coaches may notice this with athletes) comes to me with a painful condition, especially noticeable while lifting, the direct correlation between their pain and the exercise is usually quite obvious. It often has to do with poor biomechanics, and more specifically, the inability to sustain proper biomechanics through a sustained amount of time.
First, let us define a few terms:
Biomechanics - The study of the mechanics of a living body, especially of the forces exerted by muscles and gravity on the skeletal structure
Speed - The time taken to cover a fixed distance. ie. how fast an olympic lifter can get their elbow under the bar on a clean; or how quickly that athlete can drop their body to get beneath a jerk.
Speed in it’s own right is an important component of training and even more important in competing. Speed, when trained appropriately is a good thing. To a competitive CrossFit athlete, speed is the determining factor between winning and losing. I am referring to an instance in which an athlete disregards proper technique in an effort to move faster. Poor technique compounded with speed and/or heavy loads can result in injury. However, speed coupled with technique equals success. This takes time, patience and consistency. We must first establish proper body mechanics/technique. Once we have good mechanics, we need to train those mechanics consistently. Only when we are executing proper mechanics consistently, should we add intensity to that movement. When we start off with intensity and neglect consistent proper body mechanics, we are at our highest risk of injury.
Fatigue is respectably an important co-factor in this equation as well. Even when we are focused on good technique, there comes a time when fatigue sets in, making it difficult to sustain proper technique. Our default compensation patterns then take over and the often loaded movement we are performing becomes biomechanically unsafe.
In competitive/regional/games athletes, it is important to perform movements quickly. There may even be a moment(s) in competition that technique is imperfect. At maximal loads, proper mechanics are extremely difficult to achieve. The occasional lapse in technique at maximal loads is common, if not to be expected. However, consistent proper biomechanics during training is paramount. The damage is done when poor technique is used on a regular basis.
On rare occasion, you may witness an elite crossfitter performing an entire workout with less than stellar form. For example, you may see them rounding their back while performing muscle snatches in the CrossFit workout Randy (75 power snatches @ 75lbs/55lbs). They can get away with this because, through years of training, practice and experience, they have come to know and understand the capabilities and limitations of their bodies. The prescribed loads for Randy are such a small percentage of their 1RM, that it is highly unlikely they will injure themselves moving such a light load. The general CrossFit population is discouraged from this practice. Unless you are a member of this elite breed of crossfitters, continue to dot your I’s and cross your T’s when it comes to mechanics.
The majority of sports related injuries in competition occur in the second half of play. These injuries are in part due to fatigue. Proper biomechanics results in efficiency and efficiency allows us to do more work while expending less energy. The less energy we expend, the further an athlete can make it into the workout, delaying the onset of fatigue. This efficiency in biomechanics greatly reduces the risk of injury.
Here are a few tips:
LISTEN TO YOUR COACHES!! And don’t talk through instruction time. This is where you are going to get the tips and tricks that you need to help you through your lifts. Understand that they see things you can’t always feel while performing movements. Don’t be offended when they offer help and support. That is what they are there for.
Even if you “know” what you are doing, there is always something you can learn from another coach, OR the same coach who coaches you every class. There is only so much that the brain can take on at one time, so don’t assume you’ve absorbed all the information your coach has to offer. You just might learn the smallest tip that will help you build on better mechanics during your next class.
As you hit the fatigue wall, don’t just push through to push through. Focus on pushing through the wall with proper technique. I am not always suggesting to slow down, but to be mindful to remain stable through the end of the workout. If you always fail at fatigue, you will never get better with your technique.
Ask a professional who knows your sport to evaluate your biomechanics during the lift you have the most trouble with. This way you can work toward specific goals related to your own technique.
Be patient. This takes time. There is a season for going quickly (ramping up to competition season/the open/regionals/games), and there is a season to focus on bettering your technique and biomechanics; this is called practice. EVERY sport has an in-season and off-season. This really should not be any different for CrossFit. This does not mean we need to sandbag workouts in the off-season, but we need to maybe take our foot of the gas pedal for a second and build a stronger foundation to enter into the competition season.
Written by: Dr. Heather Bourdon/Russell
Edited by: L2 Coach and wordsmith/the best husband in the world Sean Russell.
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