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Performance, Standards, and Form
Lau at the correct bottom and top of a squat
Every so often it becomes necessary to step back and take a look around. Having done that in the last couple of weeks, I've noticed two extremely gratifying developments at CFO:
1. There are more and more people training at CFO every day.
2. The performance of CFOers is increasing at an impressive rate (across all levels of performance).
These two facts are important and the two of them are interdependent to a large degree (the larger the pool of athletes, the better the chance of seeing above-average performances--this is for several reasons, by the way, but that's the topic for another post).
But as performance increases (whether in a competitive sense or on an individual basis), the margin for improvement becomes smaller and smaller and improvement harder and harder to attain. This is known as the law of diminishing returns. And as such, if you're a competitive type, it gets harder and harder to beat Joe CFOer, even though you handily beat him a month ago. And if you're not the competitive type, you notice that it gets harder and harder to get a PR in the back squat, to shed that last pound, or do whatever it is you're trying to do in relation to your health and well-being.
So what does this have to do with the pictures of Lau above, or for that matter, standards? Well, quite simply, as it's gotten harder and harder to shave a second off of Fran or Michael, I've seen a diminution of movement standards. Understand first and foremost that this type of occurrence is my fault and not the fault of anyone who's cutting a squat short, or missing the touch of chest to bar on a pull-up. I haven't been as diligent of late in enforcing said standards and it's a disservice to all those who train (and especially those who fail to complete a movement through its full range of motion).
So it's come time to revisit movement standards, both here on the blog and on the training floor. Over the next few weeks, Nicole and I will be taking pictures of each of our trainers demonstrating our standard bevy of moves, illustrating a full range of motion, as well as a partial range of motion. We'll be discussing these photos in depth on the blog, and we'll be posting larger versions of these photos on the walls of CFO, so that everyone who walks in to train with us will have a clear picture of what a proper squat, pull-up, push-up, shoulder press, etc. looks like.
Why does this matter? It matters whether you care about competing or whether you don't.
If you care about competing, then you want to make sure that you're on a level playing field and that the competition is fair. If I were to challenge someone to a 400m run and then run 300m while my competitor runs 400m, then our performances aren't really comparable (to say nothing of the fact that I cheated). In the same vein, if I challenge someone to max number of push presses in one minute, and then proceed to do push jerks while my competitor does push presses, then once again, our performances are not comparable. It's apples and oranges. I wanna level the playing field.
If you don't care about competing, but you do care about making improvements in the movements we do, then you'll want to take note of our movement standards as well. If you have it as a goal to squat 250 lbs, you'll want to know what the correct bottom of a squat is so that you can get it. If you load 250 lbs on the bar and then go down into a half-squat and come back up, then you really haven't done a squat.
It's also easy to confuse standards with form, even though they are completely separate matters. One can have crappy form and still meet the standards for a given movement. Good form (not perfect) will often be the most efficient path toward meeting our standards, however (if you have to yank a deadlift off the floor 21 times using back and arms as your prime movers, you're gonna be a lot less efficient when it comes to finding the correct top position of a deadlift).
It's best to think of movement standards as being very similar to the strike zone in baseball. Assuming the batter doesn't swing and miss, the only way a pitcher can throw a strike is to get the ball within a specified area (over the plate, and somewhere roughly between the batter's knee and sternum). In the same way, there's a strike zone for every move we do in CF. For example, in order for a squat to be valid, we have to get down to a position just below parallel (where knee is just above the crease of the hip) and up to a position where leg, hip, and torso all form a straight line.
So over the next few weeks (it won't be every night on the blog--how boring is it to read about movement standards!), we'll be detailing a move or series of moves, discussing what constitutes a proper range of motion, talking about some tips on form that will lead you to some efficiencies in movement, and generally beating each of these moves to death.
In addition, look for the "Standards Police" or "Standards Refs" (we haven't yet decided on the proper attire) to be out in full force during this Saturday's FGB Fundraiser. Don't worry, it's just our attempt to inject a little humor into this otherwise dry topic.
The first move we'll be detailing (as previewed in the pictures of Lau above) is the squat. So stay tuned.
In the meantime, post to comments your top five list of moves you want to see explained, defined, and described.
Only two more days until our Fight Gone Bad Fundraiser Workout! If you haven't registered for Team CFO yet, get onto our page and do it now! And if you are registered, get out there and do your best to help us meet our $10,000 goal. Hit up friends, family, whoever and ask them to donate for this worthy cause! We've raised just a little over $8,000 thus far, and if we get 50 of you to jump on board, we only need each of you to raise $40 to get that additional $2,000. Totally doable!