“Humility is not denying your strengths. Humility is being honest about your weaknesses.” – Rick Warren
Coaching athletes over a couple decades, you begin to see the same mistakes repeated over by different athletes. In pursuit of higher level skills athletes are prone to under-value and therefore neglect continued work on the basics, the fundamental skills upon which the more advanced skills are based. No one is immune to this tendency, myself included.
Maybe skipping was difficult for you to learn and it took a couple years to be able top consistently reproduce your double under. Then a couple more years to string them together in meaningful sets. And then you had to chase after triple unders. And when you finally got that, wouldn’t be cool if you could string those together the way you do double unders?
But in hot pursuit of sexy, next-level skills, the basics are forgotten and you end up ignoring the lowly single under until you have spectacular double unders but can’t perform singles to save your life. Happens to the best of us. True story!
Competitors are especially prone to falling into this trap. They’re so busy chasing excellence in the muscle ups, handstand push ups, handstand walks and so caught up in the technical minutiae of the Olympic lifts that they often lose sight of non-competition skills like plank holds, handstand holds, L-sits, strict pull ups, 5K runs, strict pull ups and all the other basics upon which the higher skills are built.
“There is a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art,
whether learning to play the violin, write poetry, or compete in gymnastics, to
quickly move past the fundamentals and on to more elaborate, more
sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques. This compulsion is the novice’s
curse—the rush to originality and risk.” – Greg Glassman
When CrossFit Games athlete Katrin Davidsdottir began working with coach Ben Bergeron, he spent the first month retraining her basic air squat. She went from failing to qualify for the Games to winning the Games in two consecutive years because excellence in the basics matters!
As tempting as it is to rush ahead, if you fail to continuously improve upon the fundamentals, the whole house of cards will eventually come tumbling down. You will never develop the movement excellence and efficiency required to perform at the highest level and your efforts are likely to be rewarded with injury.
Case in point: If you cannot hold a good plank position for a minute in the centre and a minute on each side for 2 or three continuous repetitions without your form falling apart, you simply do not yet possess the core strength and stability required to efficiently transfer force from your lower to upper body. This is going to make your thrusters inefficient, your deadlifts dangerous and severely limit the loads you can move with the Olympic lifts. It will also make it much more difficult to handstand walk or perform strict muscle ups. You’ll fatigue faster and fail earlier than your competitors. And that’s just the plank hold. Without the basics, you will never reach your performance potential.
Go back and re-read Coach Glassman’s Virtuosity. If you want to master the complexities of CrossFit, stop training like a novice, stop skipping over the single unders and SLIPS and boring old basics and rededicate yourself to mastering the fundamentals. Stop sleep walking through warm ups and tech and start using the time to really refine your understanding of and appreciation for movement. Use every opportunity available to improve your execution and you will move a step closer to mastery.
“Stick to the basics and when you feel you’ve mastered them it’s time to start all over again, begin anew – again with the basics – this time paying closer attention.” – Greg Glassman