Default Movement Patterns…6/19/13

Default: a preselected option adopted by a computer program or other mechanism when no alternative is specified by the user or programmer.
A few weeks ago, Mark G. asked me a question after one of Jay’s notorious 10am Saturday classes. In few words or less, he wondered why, when he got tired, that he felt himself roll forward to his toes during a set of front squats. He pointed out that when the WOD first started, he felt great sitting back on his heels, but that it was almost impossible to get back to that position later on. I told him simply: “That weight-on-toes position is your body’s default position.” He and I went over it in depth, but I’d like to do the same with all of you here.
The definition above, when read in the context of movement, looks like this: a preselected option adopted by your body, as a result of central nervous system motor learning, when no alternative is specified consciously by the individual.
In layman’s terms, your body expresses position that you’ve taught it through years of experience, unless you consciously tell it you want it to performa a movement a new way.
Your body comes hard-wired to do all sorts of basic human functions efficiently: crawl, walk, squat, pick up, throw, run, etc. With a 16-month old at home, I am fascinated to watch him move. Scratch that, I am obsessed…just ask Mandy. But what I find most incredible is that I have not taught him any of the things he can do – he learned to crawl, walk, and squat all on his own. When he squats, it’s picture perfect. He doesn’t need any cues from me to keep his knees out, chest up, or weight in his heels. And he can hang out there, all.day.long.
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Somewhere along our age progression, many of us “lose” the ability to do these fundamental movements efficiently. We start to bend over at the waist (with a rounded back) to pick stuff up, we squat down on our toes, etc. In short, we start to move like crap. And as we continue into our adult years, these new movement patterns start to replace the old, good ones. They become the default movement patterns that your body reverts to when tasked with accomplishing a goal repeated times, like picking something up off the ground.
Enter CrossFit For Glory.
Our goal in here is to get you as fit as possible, plain and simple. To do that, we ask three things: show up consistently, work hard, and eat well. But hidden in there is a huge part of that – we want you to move well. So, we hammer you on the basics. You hear this in the constant, almost annoying, corrections that Jay, Heather, and I make while you guys go through everything from your warm-up to skill work and finally the WOD. To get fit, you must be able to show consistently good mechanics before intensity can be added in.
Now, before I get off on a tangent, let’s circle back to the gist of this post: default movement patterns. Chances are pretty darn good that you came to CrossFit and had to re-learn how to squat. Unfortunately, five minutes (or even twenty) cannot undo all those years of poor habits. You’ve got to ingrain these new (well, old really) movement patterns into your central nervous system so that they become your default movement patterns. This way, when you’re under duress and your heart rate is sky high, your body reverts to what it knows best, its default.
But how?
Simple: pay attention to your warm-up. We squat every single day in the warm-up…how many chances is that to teach your body good position? If you just go through the motions because the movements are “familiar,” not giving any thought to your body position, you are missing a golden opportunity to teach your body that “hey, THIS is what I want you to do or feel when we’re tired.”
The warm-up is a great time for this because it’s non weight bearing.
Why does this matter?
If your squat sucks without any weight on you, then it’s only going to get worse as we add load. What is sucky? Knees collapsing in, chest forward, back rounded, toes turned way out, lack of depth, forward on toes. Get the picture?
If your arm swings or circles are characterized by bent elbows and internally rotated shoulders, then your overhead movements, pull-ups, presses, and push-ups probably look just as bad.
If your inch worms or straight leg march have knee bend in them, then I can almost guarantee that I will see a rounded back next time you go to deadlift/clean/snatch from the ground.
The road to good, efficient movement begins with the basics. Just don’t neglect to ALWAYS work on the basics.
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A. Skill:
Split Jerk – 7×2 @ 90% of 1RM from last week
 
B. MWOD:
Pause Split Jerk Practice
 
C. WOD:
5 RFT –
12 HR Push-Ups
12 Sit-Ups
12 Pull-Ups
 
 
 

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