Remember your first month of CrossFit? You had to learn a million new things. Your brain has now adapted and needs to be continually stimulated in order for you to become a better athlete. Here’s how!
During your first month of CrossFit you probably had to learn the names of all the movements, remember how to properly brace your core and squeeze your glutes, and a million other things.
You’d see your classmates swing from the rings and pull-up bars — possibly fearing that you’d be asked to put yourself out there and try something totally foreign to you. Yep, we’ve all been there.
THE SAID PRINCIPLE
And now your brain and body have adapted to all these new things thanks to the “SAID” principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands). This principle states that when stress is placed on the human body both biomechanically and neurologically, it will find a way to adapt to it.
Basically, the more frequently we perform an exercise, the stronger our body will become and the faster it will recover from that given movement. That movement will become familiar.
HOW SKILL DEVELOPMENT WORKS
Let’s take the 10 general physical skills (or capacities) of the CrossFit methodology. All 10 skills are improved through training:
Group 1 – Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility (brought by physiological changes)
Group 2 – Power and Speed (brought by physiological and neurological changes)
Group 3 – Coordination, Agility, Balance, Accuracy (brought by neurological changes)
Improvement in the first four of these capacities (Endurance, Stamina, Strength and Flexibility) is given by measurable organic changes in the body, i.e. physiological changes.
Conversely, the final four capacities (Coordination, Agility, Balance, Accuracy) are largely neurological adaptations through continued practice. Improved performance is given by changes in the nervous system controlled by your brain.
It’s very common and easier to improve in the first 4 capacities as we’re always seeking heavier loads and quicker times in workouts.
However, it is less common, especially among more advanced CrossFit athletes, to also continue to practice and push the limits of skill development and neurological adaptations.
Our brain needs to be continually stimulated in order for us to become better athletes. If we keep performing only in ways that are already familiar to us, we are not developing our neurological capacities.
In order to reap the full benefit of CrossFit’s methodology, we need to challenge an existing level of skill with a new variation of a well-practiced movement or unique combination of movements.
The acquisition of a new skill is as objective and measurable as lifting a heavier load or achieving a faster time.
Learning a difficult new skill or a variation of an exisiting skill requires us to place ourselves back in the beginner phase. And many of us, especially experienced athletes, struggle in getting back to square one, feeling vulnerable again.
One of our rules of conduct at Andfit Auckland is about leaving your ego at the door and being humble and open to constantly learn new skills in order to pursue broad fitness.
Let’s take handstand push-ups as an example as this movement has a fantastic skill development potential. While it brings increased strength and flexibility (physiological changes), it requires a greater development of neurological capacities, such as coordination and balance.
At Andfit our coaches are skilled in making many difficult movements, such as handstand push-ups, accessible to everyone. Beginners will go through a progression of push-ups, dips, pike push-ups on a box and finally move to the wall.
We don’t stop there. We also try to stimulate intermediate and advanced athletes to constantly improve, for example with strict handstand push-ups, then deficit, and even freestanding.
HOW TO PRACTICE THE SKILLS
Learning a skill is not always optimally accomplished by simply doing more reps of the full movements. Therefore, the best starting point is skill practice without accumulating excessive volume or fatigue.
Even advanced athletes can benefit greatly from practicing (rather than training) a movement like the muscle-up, for example by starting with low rings to refine technique.
In weightlifting we do it all the time by simply adjusting the load. We don’t always lift at a high percentage of our 1-rep max to improve technique. So practicing more perfect reps before fatiguing helps refine the technique of gymnastic movements and wire them into our brain and nervous system.
NEED SOME HELP?
No matter where you fall along the spectrum of experience, you should always seek new additions to your skill set in order to develop as an athlete.
Commit to seeking out new ways to challenge yourself every day. Ask your coach for help!
While we can certainly learn high skill movements in a class setting — we see it as coaches every day! — if you’re struggling to master a new movement or just want to accelerate your progress, we suggest you consider personal training.
Working on high-skill movements in a one-on-one setting allows you to connect with your coach on a more intimate level. He or she is there to help JUST YOU achieve your goals and turn weaknesses into strengths.
Ready for your next step? Get in touch at [email protected] for a FREE athlete check-in or book your No Sweat Intro with us today.
Let’s get started!