July 11, 2016 by Bronson Dant
Technique: a skillful or efficient way of doing or achieving something.
In order to learn a technique, a goal or required result must be determined first. That is followed by learning the steps to accomplish that goal as efficiently as possible. In sports, at it’s very basic level, technique is the tool that enables performance. The better the technique, the better the performance. This is a very straightforward concept until you get humans involved. Humans have an un-measurable penchant for making things more difficult than they have to be.
We have all seen the Internet trolls , who do nothing all day but watch lifting videos and comment about how bad someone’s form was. Or the guy at your gym who says the coaches don’t know what they are talking about because he just watched a video by “so and so” and they said, “do it this way”
Technique vs. Technique
I do all my pull-up bar movements with an active shoulder and tight core, using my hips to generate power. This includes the toe-to-bar exercise. I have specific reasons why I do it this way and for the result I am looking for, the technique I use is the correct method.
There is another way to do the toe-to-bar exercise that uses less shoulder retraction and more flexion of the thoracic spine. This is used for a different reason and is also a perfectly good technique for the targeted result.
How is this possible? How is it that doing the same exercise two different ways is OK??!!
Person 1: “No, if you don’t do it like “this”, IT”S WRONG!!!”
Person 2: “What are you talking about, “this other way” is the ONLY WAY TO DO IT!”
LET IT GO
Get over the “how” and look at the “why”. We move our bodies for a reason. How we move is determined by that reason. Not everyone is working for the same reason. If you aren’t a power-lifter why do you want to use a power-lifting technique when you bench? If you are a competitive gymnast, why would you do bar work like a CrossFitter?
There are PRINCIPLES of movement, physics, and bio-mechanics that can be applied to every movement or exercise under the sun. That doesn’t mean the specifics of a technique carry the same transfer ability.
The most common reason for various techniques for the same movement is the difference between exercise for general fitness goals vs. competitive goals.
As a CrossFitter my goals are related to general fitness. I want to become more efficient in various exercises, work loads, and time domains. Think about that. I want to get better at a lot of things and be able to perform them my whole life.
How we define fitness
Just for working with the barbell, that’s a lot different exercises that I need to work on.
Bench Press + variations
Dead Lift + variations
Clean + variations
Snatch + variations
Press + variations
Squat + variations
If I’m smart I will look at the movement patterns across all of those and try to establish where I can get more efficiency in my training. If I have to perform a portion of a technique that’s the same across 3 movements, wouldn’t it make sense to use that in all my training?
How does this differ from a power-lifter? The power-lifter is focused on 3 primary movements. Bench, Squat, and Dead Lift. Unlike a CrossFitter, you won’t see many power-lifters doing gymnastics, plyo-metrics, or Olympic lifting. A power-lifter only has to do what is the most efficient for the specific movement at the absolute highest effort possible. A 1 Rep Max is the goal. Short time of maximum applied effort, limited number of exercises to perform. Different technique.
Efficient, High Risk, Not Transferable = Good technique for a power-lifting bench press
There is a lot more that could be discussed on this topic. We could get into movement standards in competition and between sports. For now just remember that along with different goals, comes different technical requirements. These factors can change the technique that is used in any given movement.
How do you choose?
When I look at the technique I want to use for an exercise I evaluate it by the following characteristics:
- Is the technique efficient? Will it allow me to complete the goal of my workouts with the best possible result? Will I be able to perform the exercise over a long period of time if needed?
- Is the movement pattern safe? Will it put me into an unstable, or compromised position? Taking into account my current skill level and conditioning will I be more likely to injure myself using this technique?
- Can I use any part of this technique in other movements or exercises? I want to get as much transferable movement training as possible.
Each of these come with a balance and have to be weighed together. Sometimes you may choose a movement that is less transferrable but more efficient. THAT”S YOUR CHOICE.
If you make that choice, be sure you understand why and how it will affect your training and long-term performance.
Any decision you make about what technique to use, could change as your fitness level, skill, and experience allow.
You have coaches available to you. It is their job to ensure you use the right technique for the goals you set and level of skill you have. You can always ask for guidance if you aren’t sure.
The techniques that we teach at CrossFit PCR start with long term fitness goals for the general population. Progression from there is the goal.
Unless a technique doesn’t meet the required task or is highly unsafe, it’s probably not “wrong”. Don’t assume to know the why behind someone’s use of a certain technique.
If you want to get better as an athlete or coach, learn the “why” behind as many different but similar movements as you can. Learn when and where to apply them. You will become a more effective athlete if you do.
Be understanding of other methods, but know why you follow yours. Your coaches know why they teach you a certain way. Do you?