If you are on any social media site there is a good chance you have seen fail videos of people in the gym. While amusing, you ask yourself how these people could have been allowed to conduct such an act without any regard to their own safety or attention to form. But it’s not always as obvious and definitely not amusing especially when it leads to injury. When we allow ourselves to let the number on the board be our only focus, it may lead us to cheat the movements, work the wrong muscles or in the worst case, injure ourselves.
Train within your capacity, not your goals
I am an extremely competitive person. For example, if you get on a a treadmill next to me whether you know it or not, we are racing. I will put one higher on incline and one faster on speed and go one more minute than my “competitor”. While a healthy competitive nature pushes us to go further, push harder, and do more, unrealistic competitive ventures can lead us down a risky road, setting us up for failure. Trying to keep up with someone who has been at the gym consistently and slowly building up their strength may push you past what you are ready for. Instead of trying to match their loads, match their dedication and commitment to coming in regularly.
It is important to remember this is a journey and while your goal may include a heavy one rep max, it does not happen in a day. Your goal should be to build muscle, not to appear strong. No one is going to be impressed if you are lifting heavy with uncontrolled swinging, jerky stops/starts or partial reps. Not to mention some of these put undo strain on ligaments and tendons and can result in an injury that will delay your progress even longer. During a WOD the goal should not just be to finish the workout, but to do it the best that you can and get the most out of it as you can.
Every Rep counts
It’s easy to start out and focus on form in those first few rounds where you are still increasing load and your muscles aren’t yet fatigued. More important, is the last rep you complete being as perfect as the first. Skip moving that weight if you can not complete it properly. Doing so could drastically effect the results you are hoping to achieve by upping the pounds. For example, when doing bicep curls, if you start to sacrifice form, you will more than likely engage your shoulders and actually have less gain in your biceps than if you stayed at the lower weight and focused on proper form, actually engaging the bicep completely throughout the movement. The last few repetitions are when the muscle recruitment is at its peak.
Another thing to remember is that rep counts are designed to be done unbroken. If you have to stop every rep or every other rep, your gains will also be halted. Choose a weight that is challenging, but that you are able to complete the whole set with little to no breaks. If you do have to break, take a breath, and do so without setting down the weight. Remember to breathe and not rush. When you start to tire, focus on the muscle group you are working as you release your contraction and prepare for that next rep.
Importance of a good spotter/coach
We all know Dave and Amanda don’t sugarcoat things. A good coach is encouraging, but isn’t hesitant to correct you if your form starts to waiver. Same goes with a spotter. When you are assisting someone, your job is not only to make sure they don’t drop the weight on themselves, but also to be a set of eyes for your partner. If you are the one being corrected or used as an example, don’t let it get to you. Their intent is not to embarrass or belittle you, but to improve the effectiveness of the WOD and possibly save you from injury. If you are working out on your own try videoing yourself and holding yourself accountable. As stated before, your last rep should look as good as your first.
No Rep Repetition
It is a well known fact that you compete like you train. This is no different in CrossFit as it is in any other sport. By going through the motions and rushing through WODs you may start to become complacent and lose track of your technique. If you decide to take part in the Open other competition, your form will be scrutinized. The judges will be looking not only for the completion of the movement, but that is done properly. There is nothing more defeating than wasting time/energy/effort on a movement that doesn’t count towards the total. Save yourself the embarrassment and improve your results by practicing and training how you will compete. This will prevent you from gaining a false sense of progress by being able to do more reps or lift more weight than you can do properly.
Don’t be a form Nazi
While you should be acutely aware of your own form and safety, remember that you may not have it all figured out. If you aren’t a certified trainer or being asked for help, don’t overstep and give advice to other people unless they are creating an unsafe environment and it is necessary. If you happen to see something that doesn’t look right, get the attention of a coach. Not all of us are created equal and there is no perfect form when it comes to how one person completes an exercise versus another in terms of distance, appearance or movement. Also, it’s possible what you think they are trying to achieve and what they are actually working on may be different. Injuries can also cause one to have to modify a movement while recovering. So, unless you are aware of all the situations of that person, it is better to leave it to the pros.
There is no shame in dropping weight and you just might find that in doing so you become stronger, better able to do the movements, and when you do move back up to that higher weight, it is easier than ever before. So take a bite of that humble pie and savor the flavor. Just remember that while you may not be putting up the same numbers as others in the gym, we are all on our own journey and the important thing to yours is to push yourself enough to make progress but not to the point of injury.