For those of you who watched the CrossFit Games you may have noticed the movement patterns of the top athletes. Minus the sweat and heavy breathing, their first reps looked almost identical to their last reps, and for the top finishers they held that over the course of 4 days. There is a reason why they can do that- it’s called efficient movement. I’m sure you have heard our coaches say “Movement quality first, movement under load second, and speed of movement third.” The reason we say that is because speed plus poor movement equals injury. You may be asking yourself “How do I know if I am moving efficiently?” Your movement should look very similar to the top athletes you see at the Crossfit Games and feel as easy as they make it look when you are working with a load less than 50% of you max for that movement.
One limiting factor we see in movement quality is that it is a new movement and you just need time practicing the motor patterns of the movement. Another big limiting factor is mobility. Things like not being able to sit in a squat, always being in a slouched position with your upper back, and not being able to put your arms straight up over your head are big limiters in the way you will be able to perform a large amount of the movements we do in our metcons. I say metcons because the speed and detachment from what you are doing becomes a problem for people that have poor movement quality. It is very dangerous to “zone out” of the movement because you’re just trying to get through the “pain” of a metcon. Even Games athletes stay present in their movement patterns because one poorly performed rep on the fourth day of the Games can cause them to put the bar down more times than necessary or even worse: cause injury.
Movement patterns need to become second nature to a person in order to move up in weights and/or speed. Even then, you need to practice being under a heavier load before moving up in weight. If a person has a mobility issue then they have no business putting themselves under a heavy load. In such a case, they should definitely not add speed to the movement, and the reason being is that the person’s position in an unloaded state is sub-optimal. Performing that movement under load is going to put them at an even greater sub-optimal position risking injury. If you add speed, most times it’s a train wreck waiting to happen.
Things you can do to make your movement quality better are practice the movements under moderate to light loads. If you have mobility issues, fix them. I know neither one of these are fun and exciting but neither is sitting in a hospital bed. If you have mobility issues and you need help, ask a coach. We will gladly point you in the right direction in fixing you mobility issues. Do remember though- it probably didn’t take one week to develop your mobility issue so don’t expect it to be fixed within a month with the fifteen minutes you put in a week. It takes time and work. You need to be doing it everyday for at least two minutes per issue. So if you have tight ankles you would spend two minutes of sitting in the stretch for each ankle for a total of four minutes.
Teaching great movement quality is a coach’s art form. We love to see it because it reassures us that you are moving in an injury-free way. When your coaches see poor movement it hurts us. We cringe at the sight of it. I would go as far as to say that a little bit of us dies when we see it. If your coach makes you stop or tells you to fix your movement pattern it’s not because we hate you- it’s actually because we care. Our job is to make you better and there is no way to make you better while moving poorly.