Not All Movement is Created Equal

Not All Movement is Created Equal
by Erik Castiglione

Why is it that some workouts leave you feeling like your heart and lungs are about to explode, while others don’t get you out of breath, but make you feel like your arms are going to fall off? Well, that’s because not all movement is created equal. We mean this in a couple of ways.

  1. It takes longer to master movements of higher skill
  2. Different movements affect the body differently

I think we can all agree on #1 and move on: it’s easier to learn a sit-up than it is a snatch. Okay, great, moving on to #2. We can classify the movements of CrossFit into 4 general groups: global, regional, local, and cyclical. Let’s define each, and then we can look at examples.

Global movement: A movement that involves full body musculature. Leads to increased heart rate and breathing, and breaks are necessary because of systemic fatigue – i.e. you’re winded, not failing muscularly.

Local movement: A movement that involves localized muscle groups (e.g. upper body, or legs only). Failure occurs due to muscular fatigue (e.g. push-ups).

Regional movement: A movement that involves more musculature than a local movement, but not quite full body like a global movement. These still lead to systemic fatigue but can also be hindered by muscular fatigue.

Cyclical movement: These are your straight up cardio movements. They lead to systemic fatigue based on duration and speed/intensity of the movement. Sprinting is draining, whereas a long, slow bike ride is great for promoting recovery. The effect is stimulus dependent.

Enough with the jargon, let’s look at some examples:

Not All Movement is Created Equal

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully you get the point. Why do we care? Well, if you can figure out what kind of movements make up the metcon, you’ll have a better understanding of the goal. Are we trying to push hard and leave you crumpled in a heap? Are we working on pacing? Are we building muscular stamina? Are we testing muscular stamina when you’re already winded? We can accomplish any and all of these goals by mixing different movements, manipulating rest times and time domains, and by adjusting weights and reps.

Additionally, if you can understand the goal of a workout, you can also figure out the most appropriate scaling options for it. Would a jumping pull-up make more sense than a band assisted strict pull-up? Generally speaking, we try to mimic the kinetics of a movement in addition to using the same muscle groups. It’s very difficult to recreate a regional or global movement by just focusing on muscle groups, so instead we come up with more creative options. Therefore, we encourage box push-ups for handstand push-ups rather than just pressing overhead. Similarly, we use muscle up transitions for ring muscle-ups and jumps to support or jumping muscle-ups for bar muscle-ups.

So, keep an eye on the whiteboard, and try to apply what you’ve learned. While scaling should be a conversation between you and the coach, if you can understand the goal of the day, you can have a little more input into your scaling decision. See you in the gym!


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