Thursday, October 30, 2008
A great deal of the success of Crossfit is predicated upon the unique motor learning that it forces the athlete to perform. We consistently see skyrocketing athleticism occur in our athletes not only because they are stronger and more fit, but because of the constant movement/motor learning that they undergo. One of the central tenets of fitness in a 100 words or less is, "learn to play new sports". For nearly all of us without an olympic lifting, gymnastics background, Crossfit ends up feeling like a new sport.
Within the framework of a typical crossfit WOD, there is some interesting motor development facilitation built in. For example, having to change exercises often within a workout forces the athlete to develop and redevelop complex motor solutions in less than ideal conditions and often. A workout like nasty girls is much more difficult from a motor learning perspective than a workout like angie where all of the movement is blocked into repetitive chunks. It is much more difficult to perform a few reps of one movement and then switch to another movement than it is to complete many reps of a single exercise.
The research on blocked practice versus random practice (switching often) is that the athlete will make more errors up front with the random practice but will undergo deeper motor learning that will reflect in better performance at a later task.
Do we need to perform block practice? Yes, and all of our single effort or max effort lifts are block practice in which a single skill can be repeated to great effect. (Have you ever tried to learn a new skill between running and pullups? Not easy.)
Ok, so who cares about the "back of the house" crossfit motor learning theory?
Why are you showing the photos of Mike the Flabongo Master doing line touches?
Well, it turns out that we consciously try to make our athletes deviate away from the perfect movement they perform in the normal workouts. After a while, our advanced athletes can and do have beautiful "formal" movement. That is, Mike can squat, clean, pull, push, jump, etc with very good technique under very difficult conditions. Ask him to run line touches and smack the ground with his palms, and poof, he's doing some new motor learning. Mike can sprint, but sprinting after lowering himself to the ground to smack his palms, not so much.
Our goal is to keep stretching the capacities and abilities of our athletes. As people become more able within the context of our normal programming, it is vital that they be forced to continue to generate new and novel motor solutions. Gymnastics anyone? Hmmm, it's almost like crossfit had this figured out.
Go do something new.
at 6:28 AM