“Screw your feet into the ground, squeeze your butt, tighten up your stomach, pull your ribcage down….” No doubt, if you have been in one of our group classes, or spent any time with your Coach for Life you have heard us say these things, over, and over, and over again.
From time to time, I see a look flash across your face that says to me “Sweet Jesus, man…just let me do the damn lift, will ya…”
I can appreciate this sentiment, especially coming from our members that have been with us for a for a couple of years or more. It may seem that at times, we get bogged down in the details of even the most basic of movements.
One thing we impress upon members as they come through fundamentals is that we are more than just a gym that conducts group exercise classes. Yes, we do this (and I like to think we do this quite well), but we are also tasked as coaches to focus on putting each of our athletes in a position to maximize their potential over the long haul. Our ability to get you moving well, will help you achieve ALL of the goals you are trying to accomplish by being in the gym. This is why we don’t rush anyone through the process.
We have found, that it is equally important to teach someone how to care for their body, learn how to perform basic maintenance (mobility, nutrition, etc.) as it is to make sure they learn what a Snatch, or Hang Power Clean is.
In addition, we aren’t interested in having a room full of people in a group class setting performing these movements poorly, or in a way that could put themselves (and God forbid anyone else) in harms way.
So how do we endeavor to fill our gym with great moving athletes who are in the best position to maximize their potential? Enter Movement Hierarchies and the MadLab Movement System.
No doubt you’ve taken a look as you’ve walked by, or you have heard one of us describe how it is going to be implemented. Or, maybe you haven’t noticed it at all, but prominently displayed in the gym is this guy:
In a nutshell, each movement we perform in the gym is a part of a “family” of movements. For example, the Overhead Squat is the most difficult variation of the squatting family. Each family is arranged in order from least, to most difficult, the Squat Family looks like this:
Box Squat -> Air Squat -> Dumbbell Squat -> Back Squat -> Front Squat -> Overhead Squat
Being able to master one movement before moving on to the next ensures that you are building the proper mechanics and reinforces good movement patterns which not only reduces your risk of injury, but also maximizes the efficacy of the movement.
Each movement has a series of requirements that you, as the athlete, should master before moving down the path to a more complex movement. Understanding and accepting where you fall within these hierarchies is key to identifying your strengths and weaknesses.
There is no doubt, that going step by step, and movement by movement is a different approach for a gym like ours. It is one of the things that sets us apart in the marketplace, and one thing we are very proud of, as coaches. Most importantly, it is the best way to ensure that you are getting your money’s worth out of your training. Many gyms crash you through the basics and send you out on your way with a pat on the back and a “good luck” look in their eyes.
Further evidence of how detrimental that approach can be, can be seen by simply dropping in to another gym (CF or otherwise) on any given day, and you’ll see a whole host of folks moving poorly.
More concerning to me, than watching movements that aren’t aesthetically pleasing, has been the normalization of athlete injuries. I recently watched a video produced by a very well respected gym owner in our market, and he made reference to this by saying something like “…yeah, you know this whole thing isn’t completely safe, and you’re going to hurt some people from time to time, and you feel bad about that, but that’s the game…”
I found this simple comment to be more than a little disconcerting…as to him it was a throwaway line, in a longer presentation. He clearly had normalized the fact that at some point, his people may get hurt…and he’s a REALLY good coach! I can’t imagine what the attitude is at a gym that has subpar coaches, or LESS of a commitment to movement standards than his.
Those of you that have been with us for a couple of years, can remember what group class looked before we had a system like this in place, and the coaches able to communicate the details. Classes were a little haphazard, and we would spend an inordinate amount of time refreshing everyone’s memory as to what a movement was, and how to execute it. In addition, our clients had no idea how to scale movements to their ability, and were completely reliant up on the coach to do so, for them.
Combining our one on one fundamentals process, along with the MadLab Movement System allows everyone to come into a group setting feeling confident that they know what’s going on.
I guess the point i wanted to make in writing this, is that sometimes we may want to run before we can walk. It is fun to do things like Overhead squats, Kipping Pull-ups, Handstands, Snatches, etc. Doing these movements can be the reason some folks even embark on this journey, and derive a lot of personal pride in their ability to successfully complete the most difficult of movements. My question is…what is the value of doing it half-way just to say you got it done?
I would suggest that new and old members alike raise their own personal standards when it comes to some of the more complex movements, and take pride in not just getting them done, but doing them WELL!
The best way to do this is to master the simple stuff. We talk a lot about “Virtuosity” (Doing the common, uncommonly well). In my last career, I had a friend that was a chef, and he came to visit me at a hotel I was working at. This hotel had a great restaurant and he wanted to check it out to see what all the hubbub was about. We sat down to breakfast and he ordered Oatmeal, 2 eggs over easy, whole wheat toast, and 3 strips of bacon. I was shocked. I asked him why he had ordered something so simple. He said “If they can’t do this well, I’m not interested in anything else they have to say.” Fair enough….point taken.
So…whether you have been in the gym for a couple of years, or are brand new, some days it may seem insane to spend a few minutes drilling and practicing very basic positions as a group. But in the end, doing so is your “Bacon and Eggs”. Let’s make sure you are the BEST in the gym, if not the world, at the little things. You will increase your chances of success long term, and you will keep yourself safe as you attempt new, more complex movements.
So…in short…let’s slow down, take a deep breath, and enjoy the process, as this is where progress lives, and where the beauty of what we do exists.