It’s a new year —the most common time of the year when people set new goals they’d like to accomplish in the upcoming 12 months.
Often times, though, when it comes to fitness goals, people think that to improve at a specific movement they just need to keep practicing whatever movement it is they want to get better at.
Truth is, however, sometimes getting better at a specific movement means abandoning that movement for a while to work on other related—let’s call them building block movements—to lay a solid foundation.
Confused? Let me try to clarify:
If someone has a poor front squat position, chances are this person also struggles with cleans, wall balls and thrusters, yet time and time again people don’t recognize the link between those movements (i.e. they’re all front squats).
I had this conversation with a client last week:
Athlete: “I want to add 20 lb. to my clean this year. My best right now is 200 lb.”
Coach: “What’s your 1 rep max front squat?”
Athlete: “I think around 210 lb. Why does my front squat matter?” It’s my clean I want to get better at.”
My advice to this athlete would be to get him/her on a strength program to improve his front squat because it’s pretty hard to squat clean more than you can front squat. Time and time again, I have seen athletes squat five days a week for 12 weeks, then return to the clean and PR their first session because of the strength they gained.
The athlete with poor overhead positioning who wants to improve her snatch and thinks the answer is to spend an extra 20 minutes after class each day hammering away at snatches.
The better approach is to work with her coach, who can provide her homework—probably a bunch of tedious drills that make her wonder how this will translate to the snatch—to help her gain stability overhead, as opposed to just hitting snatches four days a week hoping something will eventually click.
But the most common conversation I have time and time again comes down to people wanting to get their first muscle-up. Just yesterday, this happened:
Athlete: “I want to get a muscle-up this year.”
Coach: “How many strict chest-to-bar pull-ups and ring dips can you do?”
Athlete: “1 or 2 ring dips and I don’t think I can do a strict chest-to-bar pull-up.”
Coach: “Well lets start by improving your strict pulling and pushing strength before we get thinking about a muscle-up.”
Athlete: Makes a sad face.
The point is simply to say that getting better at cleans or snatches or muscle-ups or toes-to-bar involves way more than just logging time flailing around on the rings or a bar. It involves diagnosing what’s preventing you from improving—it is strength, is it positioning, or is it just a small technical correction?—and then building the necessary strength, or gaining the necessary mobility, to help you achieve your ultimate goal.
So, if you have goals you want to achieve in 2017, talk to your coach and come up with a plan that will help you get there in the most effective way possible.