Gaining Skills and Making Progress

With the Open wrapping up everyone is excited about their fitness in a way many never have been before. Skills like muscle ups and handstand pushups are in the spotlight at the moment and folks are primed to get their first reps and make some new PR’s. It’s important at times like this to understand how skills develop and that there are correct ways to go about developing your physical abilities.

The first thing to remember is that capacity matters. If you are not strong enough to lift a weight, or if your lungs are not powerful enough to sustain intensity, you are going to need to fix these issues to achieve your goals. Many individuals had trouble with the thrusters of 16.5 simply because 95 lbs is over half of their best front squat. With this basic example it is easy to see that building your squat strength could significantly improve your capacity to handle this specific test.

Another good example is the kipping muscle up. While there were no muscle ups on rings this year, it is still a popular time to start looking up those two circles and imagining what the view is like from on top of them. The fastest way up on top is to kip and that’s what most folks set out to do, huck themselves upwards with all their effort  and hope for the best. The problem is most people don’t have the strength to even do a solid ring dip with full range of motion.

While the thrusters may have simply sucked for those who had to persevere through a challenging and relatively tough weight for them, the muscle up becomes incredibly dangerous at high speed without the required strength. Lifting a bunch of weights and practicing support positions on rings for several months is the best approach for developing the capacity to do a muscle up. Grow strong and things requiring strength work better. Simple.

Once you have the capacity to perform any skill you still have to learn to do the skill correctly. Fortunately, the two can be developed together. Pairing upper body strength development with ground based muscle up transition work will develop the motor patterning necessary and, as the strength reaches the required level, the only thing left is the application.

While the muscle up is flashy and has become a common benchmark for one’s efficacy as a fitness athlete, it is relatively easy compared to other exercises common to CrossFit. Learning Olympic weightlifting is an extremely intricate and time consuming process. From the basics of doing a consistent solid squat in training to nailing the classic lifts at heavy percentages, this is a process that can not be rushed. Spending hours, months, and years working the variations of snatch and clean and jerk along with supplementary exercises is how lifting is improved. Attempts can be made to rush or circumvent this process and achieve some level of success, but they will always pale in comparison to those who dedicate themselves to following a consistent program and putting in the hard work.

This year many individuals will build the ability to do amazing things. Many more can achieve those same skills and much more if they can commit to developing their capacity and honing their technique. Commit to working on the basics and developing sound strength and movement patterns and you will continue to grow towards your true potential.