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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 01-17-2005, 04:49 PM   #1
Ross Greenberg
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It seems to me there are two types of exercisers, grunts and ballerinas. Grunts are the type that don't necessarily have bad form, but they always look like they are exerting themselves immensely. You know the type, the runner who may be going fairly quickly but looks like he's going through absolute hell in order to do so with his face contorted, legs and arms flailing etc., or the weightlifter who in pulling a max deadlift, takes about 10 seconds, her face turns red, and she seems to be in a life or death struggle with the bar. Then there are the ballerinas. Even if they are working extremely hard, their motions are graceful, almost beautiful to watch. When they swim they look like fish, when they run they look like cheetahs, and when they pull max deadlifts their muscles powerfully, yet gracefully contract without a hitch. I was a complete grunt prior to this recent revelation; I judged fitness by numbers so what use did I have for beautiful movements? But then during today's run through the woods something occured to me. Nearly all of the best athletes move beautifully even when fully exerting themselves. From olympic weightlifters to basketball players to long distance runners, the best athletes almost always move like animals. Whenever you see a grunt-type exerciser, usually he or she is mediocre at best.

This raises some questions. Can tbis animal-like beauty of motion be trained? If so, is it possible to demonstrate this beauty in a wide range of activities, rather than specializing in just one? Something tells the answer to both questions is yes and that in aiming for this poetry of motion, it is possible to achieve a further level of efficiency in exercising and consequently an increased measurable quanity of fitness, not to mention it feels better to move more naturally. Consequently I am going to spend the next indeterminate amount of time aiming for perfection of form in my every exercise I perform even when I am working very hard. Any thoughts?

P.S. a loss of graceful form, IMHO can often be related to
1. overtraining, resulting in fatigue of the support musculature.
2. excessive load/ intensity in the particular exercise.
3. lack of focus on the task at hand
4. an increase in risk of injury
As most people would agree, these are things we want to avoid.
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Old 01-17-2005, 06:28 PM   #2
Barry Cooper
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I think people that are good at anything make it look easy, but I don't think you can start out by being good. Do the best you can, no matter what it looks like. That's my nickel.
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Old 01-17-2005, 07:13 PM   #3
Ross Greenberg
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It's not that I'm incapable of performing the exercises. My strength levels are sufficient but I just thought that perhaps by focusing on constantly perfect form I would be able to improve my function. We'll see how it works out. For all I know it will be a complete disaster, but it's a way to mix things up.
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Old 01-17-2005, 07:25 PM   #4
Larry Lindenman
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Ross, good thought. I remember watching the 1972 Olympics. This was prior to me starting my gymnastics career. I remember thinking, "that looks easy". . .then I tried it! It's not: "practice makes perfect," it's "perfect practice makes perfect." In martial arts the elite are seperated from the good by economy of motion. The punch gets from point a to point b with the least amount of extraneous motion. You should always strive for perfect form, but. . .sometimes you just have to grind it out if you want the training effect! You could practice in GTG fashion, numerous times a day or during warm-ups.
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Old 01-17-2005, 08:56 PM   #5
Paul Theodorescu
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I think the best athletes don't grunt because grunting simply isn't efficient biomechanically. When you watch a marathon or a bike race they move only as little as necessary.

Beginners (I'm guilty of this) are not used to reaching their physiological limits. I know sometimes during a run I will clench my fists and feel an extra surge of adrenaline. This will make me run faster. However, for an elite athlete, such gestures would merely be a waste of energy.
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Old 01-18-2005, 02:54 AM   #6
Peter Galloway
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Although I agree that perfect form is desirable, I don't think that imperfect, or even downright ungraceful form necessarily precludes athletic success. There are numerous examples in soccer of players who move like the proverbial "sack of spuds", but who are still extremely effective. I don't know too much about American sports, but I imagine that Basketball and Football have their share of such players.

However, the two best examples of "effective poor form" that spring to mind are from the world of track and field. Michael Johnson is, to my mind, the greatest sprinter of all time, and yet his running style flies in the face of conventional technique. I have to say, while no athlete has brought me more pleasure as a spectator, his style can only be described as awkward.

The other person is Paula Radcliffe, the British long-distance runner. When she runs her head lolls from side to side, her eyes blink alarmingly, and she basically give the impression that she is a couple of paces away from collapse, and yet she is, on her day, the greatest female marathon runner of all time.

I think for some athletes, what is considered "poor" form works extremely well. Imagine what would have been lost if Michael Johnson and Paula Radcliffe had had their "imperfections" coached out of them.

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Old 01-18-2005, 04:26 AM   #7
Michael Halbfish
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I've heard some lifting authorities comment that athletes should rarely exceed 60% of their max lift and most of those rare times shouldn't exceed 70%. After 60% form and technique are effected more and there is less carryover to life.
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Old 01-18-2005, 05:37 AM   #8
Larry Lindenman
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Michael, those lifting authorities are wrong! By no means was I implying form over function. For form we should strive for perfection, but it shouldn't be the be all end all. To derive strength adaptations we need to occasionally train in the 80 - 99 and even the 110% range.
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Old 01-18-2005, 10:34 AM   #9
Ross Hunt
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Also, the technique you use at 80+ can differ from the technique you use at 70%-.

This immediately becomes evident when you compare the form that you use with high-rep barbell snatches to the form you use for a max attempt: I, at least, make the motion more economical by slighting the second pull notably and using more back. Even at sets of 5, the snatch technique that allows me to go heaviest for five reps differs substantially from the technique that lets me get a max single.

So acheiving good form isn't always a matter of using lighter weight. It could just be a matter of proper focus.
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Old 01-18-2005, 02:25 PM   #10
Ross Greenberg
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Ross Hunt, exactly. I'm just going to focus much more intensely on my form, not use it as an excuse to use less weight or not work as hard.
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