Movement Quality: Why We Care
by Erik Castiglione
Greetings Relentless Family! In last week’s post, we distinguished between movement quality and movement standards in competition. While it was a fun exercise to show the difference, many of you may be wondering, who really cares? If a workout is supposed to be “for time”, what difference does it make as long as I get the work done and meet competitive standards? Unfortunately, with the rise of CrossFit as a sport, this mindset has grown. Back in the early 2010’s, even CrossFit HQ was promoting something called “CrossFit Slop”, which encouraged form breakdown in exchange for faster times and higher scores. I’m pleased to say that this nonsense is no longer taught in certifications, and instead HQ has returned to focusing on CrossFit fundamentals. Movement quality is one of the big ones. In fact, Coach Glassman wrote a great article on it, which you can read here.
Besides the fact that it is part of the foundation of CrossFit, there are a number of other reasons to focus on movement quality. Most importantly, moving with solid mechanics is the safest way to train. If we focus on proper form, we ensure that we are protecting our spine and other joints. This minimizes our risk for injury. For all you competitors out there, staying healthy will ensure that you can keep training and improving. Getting hurt sucks and gets in the way of training. Focus on movement quality, and you’ll stay healthy in and out of the competitive season.
Focusing on movement quality also helps us build good habits. Many of the basic movements that we perform carryover into more advanced movements. For example, if I’m lazy during my air squat and repeatedly drop my chest, I’m making a habit of squatting with a relaxed back. If I’m doing a loaded squat, be it a front squat, catching a clean, back squat, wallball, goblet squat, or whatever, this puts my spine at risk and makes it more likely that I’m going to fail the movement. Be vigilant with the basics, and it will carry over to the more advanced movements.
If we revisit the air squat video from last week, you’ll see that in this case, doing quality squats is actually faster than doing poor squats. While there are a few instances where a less than perfect rep may allow for a faster cycle time, the vast majority of movements can be done more quickly with good form. This is because in most cases, perfect form allows us to use less energy. If we look at the clean or snatch, a properly executed movement has the most efficient bar path. However, if I pull the bar into my hips and swing the bar up to my shoulder, I end up using my lower back to lift instead of my legs, which is more tiring. Furthermore, this results in a bar path with an excessive arc, which is a longer path to follow. In other words, the bar must travel farther, which takes longer. This means that even if you are focused on getting the highest possible score or fastest time, you need to perform quality reps to have the fastest possible cycle time.
Courtesy of Character Strength and Conditioning
To conclude, we need to focus on movement quality because it allows for safe, fast, and efficient movement. It builds good habits, and will ensure that you can train day in and day out for years to come. It is for these good reasons that Coach Glassman wrote the article on virtuosity in the first place. When it comes to form, never compromise. Stay Relentless!