Which movements in the gym inspire you? Scare you? Frustrate you? Have come easy? Seem elusive? The answers to these questions probably point you in the direction of your strong suits and weaker ones. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. They are apparent in all facets of our lives. In the CrossFit gym it is a more tangible concept to grasp. Early on in our fitness journey there are a laundry list of items that we can’t do at all. As your strength grows it becomes more of a list of exercises or skills that you aren’t as good at as other skills. When you get really strong and skilled, there are higher tiers of advanced movements that you can find challenge in.
Maybe you’ve seen the videos and instagram posts of athletes working out for endless hours in the gym, hitting metcons, heavy lifts, and “Attacking their weaknesses.” Most all of us do not have the time to prioritize that type of training. We have time to prioritize an hour or so, 3-6 times a week. So the question is, how do I attack my weaknesses with that time commitment? Here is my answer and I hope it helps.
First things first. You must understand that patience with yourself and the process is key. Without the attribute of patience you will get frustrated. True strength is built over long periods of time. With solid patience, the next steps will be easier to stick with. So this trait will be your foundation for doing things correctly moving forward.
Second. Quality(1) Slow things down. When a movement pops up that you identify as a weakness, opt to slow things down in your metcons, reduce loading in strength sessions, and scale in skill sessions. When the clock counts down 3…2…1…our tendencies are to run out of the gates. That’s fun and all but never let the clock, the people around you, or your ego dictate how you exercise. If you just spent 10 minutes honing in your bar path on a deadlift, don’t waste that effort by throwing it to the wind when the clock starts. Slow it down, do it right, get better.
Third. Quality(2) Focus on your stability through full range of motion. Many times we want to rush to the hardest possible movement. We do it in the name of challenge, fun, or maybe we aren’t aware or honest with ourselves with where we’re at? Choose options that allow you to control the entire range of motion. Range of motion is key, especially end range. The strength required to descend below parallel in a squat is not linear. It gets exponentially harder to stand up from a squatting motion as you go lower and lower. If squats are a weakness and as you add weight to the bar your depth decreases, stop adding weight to the bar. Focus on controlling yourself through end range. This will not only get you stronger faster, but your body will open itself up over time for even better squats!
Fourth. Quality(3) Choose the options that give you time under tension.Time under tension (TUT) is a key facet to results. You can visualize it as pausing at the bottom of a back squat or as your hands on the pullup bar repping out strict pullups. If you pick options that force you to single repetitions too early, then you don’t get the TUT you need to build endurance for your strength. You end up releasing tension too often. This may mean that you choose movement options that are a small stepback from what you are capable of. You will gain more strength from 10 seated strict pullups unbroken than you will from one strict pullup and then a second one with a miniature kip to it at the top.
This list is simple to understand but often hard to follow in the heat of the moment. Remember to be patient with yourself and the process. You will have more fun if you are. Then focus on your movement quality, in the form of slowing things down, achieving full ranges of motion, and increasing time under tension. Quality is the foundation of getting better. Once we establish it we can build consistency, then we can add intensity. Matt Fraser won the CrossFit Games 4 times in a row. Tia Toomey, 3X. They are pretty smart, they work hard. I’m not so certain they invest more time than others do. What I do see is that the QUALITY in the way they move is higher than everyone else. Quality is KING. It is the answer to your weaknesses.