by Erik Castiglione
18.4 has come and gone, leaving many bro reps and bruised egos in its wake. This was a humbling workout for many people, scaled and Rx alike, and as a result, there have been many grumblings in our box. First off, if you have an issue, please come talk to me face to face so I don’t hear it second hand. I’m more than willing to talk to you about why you’re wrong. Poorly timed, facetious statements aside, PLEASE talk to me about your concerns. Now onto the grumblings.
The first complaint I heard after Friday Night Lights was that we don’t do enough gymnastics work, and our athletes were ill prepared for this workout. For those of you thinking this, I invite you to look at yourself and your attendance record over the last few months. From January 1st, 2018 until the announcement of 18.4 (~10.5 weeks), we had handstand push-ups programmed 10 times, or roughly once a week (we didn’t have them programmed the week of the announcement). In several of these instances, they were programmed as both strength work AND conditioning. We also had two days of Athlete’s choice for skill work, an hour of Open gym every Saturday, and basically any time before or after class for athletes to work on their HSPU. You were warned back in January that they were likely to make an appearance in the Open, and we programmed accordingly. If you ducked these opportunities, the fault lies with you and not the programming. Sorry, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
The second complaint I heard from those who were no-repped was that other people got away with reps that shouldn’t have counted. Yes, this is true, I noticed it as well. Judges, this falls on you. I know many of you feel guilty because your athlete is working so damn hard, and you want to give them credit. I understand this, believe me, I do. However, as a judge, your feelings have no place. You are an impartial arbiter; either they meet the standard, or they do not. It’s a black and white issue with no gray space. Furthermore, you’re not doing them any favors. You are not helping them master the movement, and if they are to go on to compete in another competition outside the gym, they’ll be at a disadvantage when held to rigorous standards. Do them a favor and prepare them properly. You wouldn’t do this to your kids in other walks of life, so don’t do it to your athletes here.
The final complaint, which is SLIGHTLY more valid is that we don’t hold our athletes to THIS TOUGH of a standard. This leads us to a discussion of the standards, so please bear with me as I deviate for a bit.
I’ve written in the past about CrossFit as a general fitness program vs. CrossFit as a sport. The TL;DR version of this is that as a training methodology, CrossFit is concerned with mastery of movement, and long-term progression. In other words, we modulate your intensity and focus heavily on achieving perfect, or near perfect form. The sport, on the other hand, is about maximizing your score by adhering to movement standards that were put in place for ease of judging. Depending on the robustness of the standard, this can lead to workarounds that make the movement easier for the athlete, but still count as reps.
When we coach the handstand push-up, we coach our athletes to keep a hollow body or tight core position, to point their toes (to keep tension through the whole body), and to actively push into the ground. I’m sure you’ve all heard us frequently yelling at athletes to avoid arching their backs. In other words, we’re pursuing movement mastery. As far as the handstand push-up standard is concerned for 18.4, it is probably one of my favorites, because of how robust it is. It is the first standard I’ve seen that encourages mastery of movement and punishes work arounds. Did you arch your back? Widen your hands? Fail to press into the floor? Then you probably got no-repped like crazy. (The Games site goes more in depth on this here.) The ONLY problem I have with the standard is that it encouraged athletes to flex their toes, rather than point them. Still, as far as standards go, 3 out of 4 points of performance is pretty darn good.
Now, back to the complaint. We don’t EXPLICITLY adhere to this HSPU standard in our regular classes. However, we implicitly get there by coaching mastery of movement. If you are one of our athletes who typically rocks HSPU, then it’s time to evaluate your form, determine which workaround you’re using, and eliminate it. Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. From there, you’ll need to hold yourself accountable, and only count your good reps. We encourage our athletes to do this all year long anyway, as I wrote about here. Want to get better for next year? Keep your line on the wall for the next year and work to it. I guarantee you’ll have no issues in the next Open. Otherwise, once again, the blame will fall on you.
Until next time, Stay Relentless!