PVC or Weight?

When we bring people through our on-ramp program, we start off teaching movements with a PVC pipe. We then progress to at least a 15 lbs training bar in the same session. Often, people do a little better with the slightly heavier weight, because they can “feel” the bar – especially when there is a hip drive involved (i.e., push press, snatch, clean, and jerk). A few weeks ago, the IG account Whiteboard Daily posted the following:

PVC or Weight?

Their contention is that you should be able to execute all movements with a PVC pipe, and only then progress to weight. Are they correct? As with everything in the fitness world, the answer is “it depends.” The short explanation: yes, EVENTUALLY you should be able to execute proper movement patterns with a PVC pipe, near maximal weight, and everything in between. When we’re learning how to move, especially at a young age, then a PVC pipe makes sense. Heck, USA Weightlifting teaches coaches to recruit potential lifters at a young age and teach them to lift with a broomstick.

The reality is, most people have some training experience when they come to us, so we’re able to start them in the middle of a movement progression, rather than at the beginning. And, when we show a movement pattern, they rely on their training experience as a reference point. But, when we introduce something completely foreign, like the snatch, they have no basis for comparison. But they have enough basic strength to perform the movement with a little of weight. And, since the goal of the hip drive is to create a moment of “weightlessness,” they need a little weight to be able to feel the difference between the correct movement pattern, and an incorrect one. From there, we can regress and work on more fundamental pieces of the movement, and progress as safety allows.

Additionally, many people coming to us have limited ranges of motion. Anyone who’s struggled with the front squat can attest to this. And yet, it’s one of the 9 foundational movements of CrossFit. First, we have the air squat, then the front squat. Are we supposed to avoid it entirely if we lack the shoulder mobility to keep a solid front rack? No, we can work on the position by performing the movement – within reason. High volume and heavy weights likely won’t happen, but we can still spend time practicing the front rack. And, when the workout calls for it, modify the movement.

PVC or Weight?

Yes, the end goal of CrossFit is virtuosity in every movement. And, if we had decades ahead of us to master them, that might be a realistic goal. For instance, young gymnasts spend an entire year building wrist, core, and shoulder strength, before even attempting a handstand. But the goal of most of our members is not to be a perfect gymnast, weightlifter, and runner. Most of our members are concerned with building lean muscle and burning fat, and we have limited time to train. So, we must do the best we can with what we have. As long as we can perform some variation of a movement safely, then we can get the benefit of that movement. We should always strive for perfect form, but we must also realize that it’s going to take time, and direct mobility work to master. In the interim, “good enough” applies. Thanks for reading.

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