When I was starting out I was guilty of programming variety for the sake of variety.  Maybe I was afraid clients would get bored with the basics.  Maybe I was bored coaching the basics.  More likely I was not a good enough coach to know how to make a lesson on air squats fill an hour of coaching.   Feet shoulder width apart, toes turned out 30 degrees, send your hips back, push your knees out, weight in the heels was the extent of my coaching knowledge.  These days an hour feels too short a time to properly coach the air squat fundamentals.  If we only spent 2 minutes on each of the 8 points of performance we’d have used up 16 minutes without addressing other key components like efficient breathing, bracing, pacing or tempo.  These days I recognize programming complexity as a sign of an inexperienced coach.  Most athletes do not need more complexity, they need more time spent on the universal fundamental movement patterns.


As Dan John points out a focus on fundamentals requires courage.  I’d add courage and conviction.  You have to recognize the critical importance of the basics and the long term damage that results from even the most micro deviations from correct movement patterns if the deviation is repeated over years.  Consistency is only a virtue if you’re not a screw up

A minor fault in squatting mechanics repeated work out after work out, year after year is just setting your athlete up for knee surgery somewhere down the road.  If you only plan to train them a couple years, chances are you can get away with it and their surgery will occur long after they have stopped working with you so they won’t ever connect it to your coaching oversight.  But if you plan to train them for 5 years, 10 years or a lifetime eventually you’ll be there to see them through the painful rehab.  Details matter! 

Lots of athletes are chasing the muscle up but how many are concentrating on making their air squat better?  Do your athletes even understand how excellence in the pull up and the ring dip is critical in allowing them to do muscle ups safely?  Sure, I’ve seen and even allowed, a few exceptional athletes to get their muscle up before they had completely mastered the beat swing pull up and the ring dip.  Each one of them injured their shoulders in the process.  None of them are CrossFitting today.  How were they to know?  They were chasing after the shiny prize as athletes are wont to do.  It was the responsibility of their coach to hold their feet on the ground and insist that they master the fundamentals first. 

Of course, most athletes won’t be chasing the muscle up right away but we’re all going to be squatting: back squat, front squat, overhead squat, wall ball, thruster, squat clean, squat snatch, med ball cleans, getting up off a chair or getting off the toilet.  Whether at the gym or at home, your athlete needs to squat and will squat hundreds of times a week whether you coach them how to do it properly or not.  This applies of course to deadlifts too.  And push ups.  And every other universal motor recruitment pattern.

New coaches, uncomfortable with the basics will naturally be tempted to offer up a lot of “cool” new and interesting exercises to keep the athlete’s attention and fill the hour.  But the real work is done with the basics repeated over and over unto excellence.  As each inefficiency is multiplied by the reps performed over time, details matter! 

Variety can spice things up from time to time.  I’m not against variety at all.  Like most people I enjoy it.  But be careful to use variety like the colourful sprinkles you use to decorate your cake, don’t try to bake the whole cake out of them.

Friday WOD
Don’t underestimate this one!  It is a fun, intense workout.  All you need are a couple kettlebells.  No kettlebells?  No problem.  A couple sturdy shoppinjg bags or backpacks will do the trick.

Equipment: kettle bells or alternative

Warm Up
1 min Full Body Rock
1 min Russian KB Swing
1 min Full Body Rock
1 min Alt KB Swing
1 min Full Body Rock
1 min CF KB Swings

Farmer’s Carry
KB Swings

3 5 min Rounds:
200m KB Farmer’s Carry
5 Burpees
10 KB Swings
2 min Rest

Cool Down
Shoulder Series