This is a very common talk I will have at each Elements class about the reason why we have coaches at each class and just don’t open the gym up in the traditional style. If you have been a member for 1 day or 1 year the concepts below are vital for you to move properly and safely with even the most advanced movement. This is why you need a coach: 1. mechanics/consistency/intensity, 2. functional movement key points, and 3. scaling/modification.
There is a proper way to perform each and every exercise per the textbook and then there is the way that each person will move. All of our bodies are different from arm-torso-leg lengths, to muscle size and insertion points, and leverages. We as coaches teach you the basic way to move properly and then have you repeat back to us what we just showed. We will commonly do this at the start of class to make sure you are going to have a good workout or not. We are testing your mechanics at this point and making sure that you are using your individual and unique levers correctly. Everyone will look a little different as they move but if the general mechanics are there then you will safely. However, when the clock beeps and it is time to move then things can get hairy. Your brain has many things to think about on top of good form. These all serve as distractions from your mechanics. A WOD is a test of your consistency. only when your mechanics are consistently performed should you add weight, or string reps together with competitor tweaks, or push into the pain cave. As coaches we encourage intensity only until your consistency stops because your mechanics have fallen apart. Then as coaches we will come up to you and provide verbal commands on how to fix it. If this does not work then we will tell you to stop so that we discuss what has to change. DO NOT take this the wrong way or shrug of your coach! Intensity is earned. Weight is earned. Nothing is given.
Functional Movement Key Points
In order for you to attain proper mechanics you must hold yourself up to the five key points of every safe functional movement: midline stability, posterior chain engagement, core to extremity, full range of motion, and active shoulder. Midline stability (most functional movement concepts lead back to this one) is a phrase we use to mean proper posture with your shoulders back as you stand up as tall as you can. When you do this you will be supporting and maintaining a 45 degree angle in your upper, middle, and lower back. You back is designed to be strong in this position. It is when you round your shoulders forward and let your low back move underneath you that midline stability is lost and injury is possible. Posterior chain engagement is a reminder to use your hamstrings, butt, and low back as you move. Your body has these muscles in order to support your midline stability so use them! Stick your butt out behind you, feel the tension in the back of your legs, and feel your low back tighten up in order to keep your back from rounding. Do this and you will have a wonderful butt. Core to Extremity builds on top of posterior chain but adds your abdominals into the picture. You must suck your stomach in as well as crunching it down. When you draw or suck your stomach in the small and deep muscles of the abdominals and spine activate and support your back. Think of someone with good posture and you will see someone who is drawing their stomach in. Full range of motion - just do the whole movement people. Active shoulders is a coaching command so that you will tighten your entire upper body. Your shoulder is not structurally sound and relies on the muscles and tendon/ligaments to keep it in place. When you squeeze your hands and press as hard as you can then you are engaging active shoulders. This is why your coaches give you over and over again some butt and shoulder activation work. We need to make your small muscles strong so that they can support your big muscles in these five key points of functional movements.
Scaling is when your coach will change the reps or rounds to suit your ability. Modification is when your coach will change the movement itself for another that will suit your ability. Your coach has no vested interest in your workout, unlike your EGO, so they will make a clear decision on what can be done so that you will move safely and confidently through a workout. The thing about making progress in the gym is your mastery of the mechanics/consistency/intensity with the functional movement key points. The more weight that goes on a bar or a tougher bodyweight element that is selected demands more of you mentally. If you cannot mentally focus on this harder element while still keeping your foundation solid then you will move wrong and injury can occur. We as coaches will make that call during the warm ups as impartial, un-egotistical judges.
Obey your coach but when you can prove them wrong. Show them that your mastery of the basics is above what they remember and therefore you have earned a tougher skill.