Athletic Development is a Process

Just a cool little snippet that I came across that echos Vanessa Bennington and I’s views on the process of athletic development.

“I’m a professional STRENGTH and CONDITIONING coach. I’m here to get you stronger, faster, more athletic, that contract, or that 6 pack. I can’t do that very well just giving you some side plank clamshells, deadbugs and some dumbbell external rotations. I get you to your goals by making you squat heavy, picking heavy stuff up and moving fast and powerfully. This is the sexy stuff, but I wouldn’t be doing anyone any good if I skipped steps in the process and started to load dysfunction. If I did that, then injury likely can occur and then you miss more training, lose that contract, don’t get to compete, or just all around get bummed.” -James Fitzgerald of OPEX Fitness

overhead-squatAs far as an entire gym population goes, #teamseaward “gets it” better than 95% of the gym communities I’ve interacted with in the last 7 years. I just want to make sure that if anyone ever feels left out or held back by myself or one of the other coaches resetting something to a different scale or progression, you know it’s because we’re trying to take care of both your performance and safety in the best manner possible.

It can be frustrating and disheartening to:
Get pulled from a squat rack and asked to go goblet squat to a target with a band around the knees.
Taken off a pull-up bar and assigned some pause ring rows.
Stopped from doing push-ups on the floor and moved onto a box for torso elevation.
Prescribed hang power snatches when everyone else in the room is snatching to a full squat from the floor.

At Seaward CrossFit we educate constantly and talk about athletic development regularly, but sometimes we learning-to-walk-575x220all need reminders. We all innately understand the sequence of crawl, walk, run because there are no other options at that point in your movement development. However, compound and complex gymnastic and barbell movements can absolutely be cheated in the short run. You can absolutely snatch from the floor into a squat without having a soundly developed deadlift, squat, or overhead position. You can also certainly kip your way into sizable volumes of pull-ups and handstand push-ups without having built a foundation of strength through controlled, strict movements. But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should.

Credit-Card-Stress-325x222The comparison that I would encourage you to think about is buying something on credit that is way beyond your current financial means and with a steep interest rate. Sure, in the short term you can “have it”, but you certainly don’t “own it”. If the line of credit didn’t have a big downpayment (movement foundation) and didn’t get regular significant payments (skill and strength development, mobility/flexibility work) eventually the balance can become crushing. You can get away without proper physical preperation and movement development for a while, but eventually that balance needs to be dealt with. If you’re lucky, this “unpayed balance” results in an under-developed movement with holes in efficiency and efficacy. However, for many people the balance comes due in the form of injury.

I’ve found that it helps for people to relate learning movements in the gym to learning a non-gym related skillPiano keys with hand they are now very competent performing. An easy one for most people to wrap their heads around is playing an instrument. If you didn’t understand what the keys on a piano represented, didn’t know music notes, and had significant basic finger dexterity and coordination issues, than Chopsticks would still be way beyond your current state. We don’t even need to mention something like Mozart’s 5th Symphony.

Hopefully, as an athlete, you are thinking about health and fitness being a lifelong pursuit and not some shortsighted 60-day push for a school reunion or a beach vacation. If you don’t have a “stop date” for when you’re getting out of CrossFit, what’s the rush? Be okay enjoying the journey toward better quality movement, heavier weights, and higher level skills.

Athletic development is a process. The process is your progress.

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