Everyone likes to PR. (AKA: lifting to your max). It’s fun, and it helps build confidence. This said, when is a PR too much, and not a priority?
Working as a coach I see so many variables of good form everyday. It’s my job to advise, cue and suggest ways to perform movement in a safe and efficient manner, and to ultimately help people develop strength with good form and efficient functional movement. I will add that, as athletes, it is our responsibility to ourselves and our overall health, to strive to develop strength with good form, to make our everyday lives OUTSIDE the gym, safer and more enjoyable. A concept which gets forgotten all too often. A good example of this is, when you lift your grocery bags. Do you lift them with a straight back as you do your barbell? When you lift your kids up, do you stoop down with a rounded back. These are both good everyday examples brought to my attention in the recent Barbell Shrugged episode (no. 192). The link is attached below.
For me, when I am training as well as when I’m coaching, form comes before load, and a PR is a rare TREAT!
After this years CrossFit Open season (my 4th season), I chose to « go back to the drawing board », so to speak, to really study the technical side of Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics, and re-learn how to move efficiently. My lifestyle and life choices led me to develop movement patterns which have shaped and adapted my body to move in let’s say « less optimal » ways, which in turn resulted in some injuries along my CrossFit and Weightlifting path. None of us are getting any younger and, after the Open this year, I thought it was a good challenge to give myself, in preparation for the new season ahead to take the weight off and get back to the empty bar for a while. In the context of the « big picture », I said to myself, « if you want to keep lifting progressively heavier without repeatedly running into injury, this is a good route to take ».
For over 5 months now, the first two of which were working with a wooden stick and an empty barbell, my coach has shown me many variables for the the back squat and front squat, breaking down the movements into little « workable pieces », aimed at creating strength with good form, in each of these pieces of squat. When we started to put all these pieces back together again, my body was strong enough to move with good form, and more importantly, without compensation because of weaknesses in different parts of my body. Its hard to imagine, now, how I managed to pull off my lifts with the compensatory patterns I had before.
I won’t claim that I have perfect form all of the time, especially when lifting at my max weights. I will say that I have made a massive step towards developing my capacity to perform functional movement efficiently. I have created a solid foundation to now go and safely lift heavier than I did before.
Getting back to the subject of « form before load ».
In the context of a CrossFit gym, time is often a constraint and also the source of pressure on maintaining good form. The coach is there to guide you to lift safely and successfully, and to help you understand the mechanics of each movement. If you find yourself missing lifts or lifting with a rounded back repeatedly, I would consider trying out a different approach: take off some weight and give yourself the challenge, for example, of lifting with a straight back, or try a new movement pattern, or see if you can do a week of training without missing a lift because of bad form. If you have trouble achieving a straight back or lifted elbows in a front squat, look into what might be some of the causes of that with your coach. It might well be a mobility issue, caused by an old injury or bad posture. More often than not mobility is a key factor missing in the equasion and the cause of most compensations in movement patterns, which in turn then become your body’s « normal » way of moving.
I leave you with this thought: would you like to be able to lift well into your retirement, or do you really want to beat your peers today? Or put in another way, would you like to be able to lift your grand children off the floor when they come and visit?
Taking the time to learn good form and re-adapt your body to how it should be moving « naturally », pays off and helps prevent injuries further down the line. It may take you a few steps back today, but in years to come you will be well ahead of where you might have been with crooked form.
Lift heavy, long time. Lift with a straight back.