While scanning over articles posted on the CrossFit Games website, one titled, Doug Chapman’s Thoughts on Virtuosity and Coaching, really caught my attention. Doug Chapman is a coach at CrossFit Ann Arbor and coach of CrossFit Games bound athlete Julie Foucher. He shares his experience coaching a Games level athlete as well as his observations while judging at the Regionals and Games levels. Throughout the article he tries to answer why a select few athletes have the work capacity and tools to be successful in any competition and why others fall short.
He first discusses virtuosity vs the no rep. He has seen that the top athletes complete each movement the exact same way every time, almost making it difficult to keep up with the rep count. These athletes train with “uncompromising attention to detail everyday.” Virtuosity is achieved through practically perfect movements even during practice so that great form becomes muscle memory, almost automatic. Athletes consistently getting no reps are a result of not meeting the standard for movements during training. If you do a movement wrong or don’t complete the movement on a regular basis, you sure aren’t going to do it correctly every time in competition.
He then moves on to movement standards. The first part of this segment I don’t entirely agree with. He believes that the low bar back squat does not serve the needs of the CrossFit athlete because it does not encourage complete range of motion and leaves the athlete leaning forward at the bottom of the squat. However, if you and your coach are diligent about getting to full depth using low bar back squat it is extremely useful for strengthening your posterior chain. Again, regardless of whether you do high bar or low bar back squat, it’s still about achieving full range of motion while maintaining the correct body position. However his point in all of this is a good one, push athletes to have good form and achieve full range of motion before adding weights and completing work outs “as RX’d.” This is something that the trainers here are very strict about, and obviously for good reason.
In the last section, coach Doug discusses programming. He has noticed that athletes at the top have no glaring weaknesses, they find themselves at the top of the leaderboard regardless of the type of work out (short, long, heavy, body weight focused, etc). It is the job of the trainers to come up with balanced programming to build athletes as evenly as possible in all areas (see Ruth’s post from earlier this week on this exact topic). It’s your job as an athlete to know where you are unbalanced and put in the effort to minimize your weaknesses and expand your strengths with the guidance of your coaches. Overall, an athlete who practices movements with full range of motion, good mechanics and is well rounded with no obvious weaknesses will come out on top.
Doug goes into a lot more detail in his article and has some great words of wisdom that can’t easily be paraphrased. While his advice in this article is primarily directed toward coaching in this article, it is easy to see where the responsibility for virtuosity in training also falls on the athlete. Also, take the time to re-read Ruth’s article on The Pursuit of Virtuosity. It’s an important topic that should be at the front of your mind when you come in to train everyday.