By Coach James Boatwright
Why are fundamentals important? Because this shit is difficult.
And no one joined CrossFit because they heard that it was easy.
So, now that we’ve established that, let’s break down WHY it’s so important to have solid fundamentals when you approach your training at CrossFit Full Circle. First, and most importantly, injury prevention (to keep you from f*****g yourself up); second is effectiveness and efficiency of training; third is progression; and finally, sustainability.
In this article, when I’m referring to Fundamentals, I am shamelessly self-promoting the program that I teach. Not just because I am an absolute joy to be around, and an endless source of wisdom (just ask my wife), but because I believe the program we have designed is the best way to introduce someone to CrossFit training at Full Circle and give them the tools and knowledge to be successful there. This works for both new students and folks who have been with us for a while but might need a little more focus on the fundamentals than might necessarily be provided in “all levels” classes.
For those who aren’t in the know, a quick introduction. The Fundamentals Program is something Jason, Matt, and myself put together and have constantly refined to give our students the best on ramp into standard classes possible. It currently consists of 12 classes, three per week, spread out across four weeks, that cover the core movements performed at CrossFit Full Circle. The exercises range in complexity from a standard lunge all the way to the Olympic Snatch, with A LOT of material in between, along with lectures on nutrition, dietary planning, and other services.
When it comes to any exercise program, whether it’s CrossFit, Zumba, or doing as many bicep curls and bench presses as you can to fill out your summer tank top, the overarching concept is safety and injury prevention. The purpose of an exercise program is to improve fitness and health. If you hurt yourself because you Zumba’d too hard (I bet you can), then it will obviously get in the way of further training. And life. And you’ll have a bad time.
Learning how to do these movements (of which, there is a seemingly endless variety) with solid mechanics under the guidance of a coach will ensure that the athlete is prepared to handle what’s being thrown at them in the WODs. If you’ve learned how to do a kettlebell swing correctly, for instance, then you’re going to use your posterior chain to drive the movement (protecting your back), rather than keeping your hips back away from the bell like an awkward middle-school dance, and cranking the bell up in the air with your arms and low back like you’re intentionally trying to hobble yourself.
The effectiveness of your program will be heavily dependent on not only the effort and consistency that you put into it, but also how well the movements are performed. For instance, in a squat or deadlift, it’s entirely possible to satisfy the requirements of a lift (i.e. rising to full hip and knee extension) with less than perfect (shitty) form. However, doing it incorrectly is going to train the structures (your quads, hamstrings, glutes, upper and lower back) differently than a properly executed movement would. This will eventually, if done for long enough, mean that you’re not getting everything you could out of those same repetitions because the movement quality isn’t there. The movement quality needs to come first, and within the fundamentals program students will have a chance to learn what a ‘heavy’ weight feels like for a given movement and what a ‘too heavy’ weight feels like that compromises technique.
Once proper fundamentals are established for a given lift, then we can look at progressing to more complicated movements and concepts. You need to learn to walk before you run (or do muscle-ups), and as sexy as Clean & Jerks and handstand push ups are, if someone can’t perform a proper front squat, deadlift, or standard push up, there’s no way in hell that they’re prepared to do the more complicated stuff.
Once we establish the fundamentals for each movement (proper mobility and stability of the major joints, strength requirements, etc.), then we can progress to more complicated movements. Trying to snatch before you can perform an overhead squat properly is like going to a lecture of Astrophysics and string theory before ever passing 11th grade physics; you’re not going to know what in the hell is going on and you might end up with a bad headache.
Lastly, and the thing I probably preach ALMOST as much as injury prevention, is sustainability. I love this shit. And I’m going to be doing it for the rest of my life. That would not be possible if I didn’t focus so heavily on the proper fundamentals when I first started lifting, but also constantly re-check them to make sure that they stay sharp.
It really doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you’re doing if you’re only doing it for two weeks. At that point it’s just going to make you tired, not better. Learning how to do the fundamentals correctly will ensure that you can train at Full Circle (or with whatever sport or competitive Zumba you’re into) for as long as you’d like because it will help prevent injury, make sure you’re ACTUALLY improving and progressing, and give you a platform to do so for as long as you’d like.
Please don’t make me say fundamentals again…