Virtuosity'Performing the common, uncommonly well'
The start of a new year seems like a good time to talk about a concept that has been a core part of CrossFit from the very beginning. It’s something that as a coach we get taught very early on in our training and in turn, is something that we aim to impart onto our members from an early stage in their learning. That concept is the idea of virtuosity.
Virtuosity has a long-standing background in gymnastics, hence its high degree of relevance to CrossFit. Gymnasts define it as doing the common uncommonly well, and it’s the only way to score maximum points in a routine along with showing both risk and originality. Two of these three are reasonably easy to achieve. You can guess which one isn’t.
So how does it relate to CrossFit?
It comes down to how we learn new skills. CrossFit is rammed with skills most of us have never been exposed to before – the snatch, clean, jerk, handstand walk, kipping and muscles-ups, to name a few – all very technical skills that don’t get mastered overnight. The trouble is it’s all too easy to get tempted into focusing our learning into these advanced movements before we’ve mastered, and I mean totally-f**king-nailed (T.F.N’d) the basics. Let’s apply that idea.
You’ve got 20 minutes before the session starts. You’re desperate to nail you’re first muscle-up so you hit the rings. You spend 15 minutes failing attempt after attempt but get pretty close. You’ll get it next time right? My question would be this. Have you T.F.N’d the dip or the kipping pull up yet? See any potential issues here?
Let’s apply the same idea to the snatch. Have you T.F.N’d your overhead squat? Wait, it goes even further than that…have you T.F.N’d your shoulder mobility yet? (I know…it always comes down to damn mobility!!). The answer to these questions should dictate and guide how you spend your free time before and after sessions.
Last example, and it’s a common one, the squat clean. How many of us pile weight onto the bar, pop up a power clean that we ride to the bottom, nod our heads and then pop a bit more weight on for the next set? Be honest with yourself. Lower the weight, get your hips fully open before you pull and catch the bar IN the squat position. And I don’t just mean once. We’re after consistency here.
The suggestion I’m making here is that you take time to make sure the focus of your learning is right. Neglecting to do so places a ceiling on your potential results. It takes a huge amount of discipline but taking any other route will only cause frustration further down the line. This is one of those situations where the quickest route isn’t the best OR the most satisfying.
January 2014 seems like the perfect time to take a moment and work out the gaps in your learning. Put it this way. Wait until you’ve T.F.N’d a minute hollow-hold before you start running up and down the box on your hands.