Carl Paoli: Getting Back to Basics with Free+Style

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by SOPHIA HERBST

Carl Paoli: Getting Back to Basics with Free+Style
This year an estimated twenty-five thousand CrossFit athletes, fans, and supporters descended upon the StubHub Center in California for the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games.

But while only a fraction of competitors could earn the title of “The Fittest on Earth,” elite CrossFit coach Carl Paoli wants you to know that everyone can move & train like a podium athlete. According to Paoli, “even the highest level athletes, what they need is not to perform the highest level movements, but the most basic movements.”

Keep It Simple and Scale Up

“The progressions I teach are designed to challenge the most advanced of people, but at the same time, ramp up the most novice,” he likes to repeat.
Paoli knows what he’s talking about. This ex-gymnast (and notably, a national Vault champion in Spain) has assistant-coached CrossFit Games Champion and 2-time “Fittest Woman on Earth” Annie Thorisdottir for the past three years.

His secret recipe is based around the simplest bodyweight movements that can be scaled up through easy, step-by-step progressions to achieve incredible feats of strength.

In fact, one of the biggest draws to Paoli’s drills is his “diagnostic” work: giving athletes small movement tests to isolate exactly how & why you are getting stuck on, say, that pistol squat or muscle-up. These progressions & drills are deceivingly easy… until you can’t do something and realize, ah-ha! This is the exact movement fault I struggle with, and now I know how to fix it.

Diagnostic work
“Annie is actually a huge part of developing those progressions,” he says of the movement tutorials found in his new book, Free+Style. “One of the things that makes Annie Thorisdottir special is that she has the highest ability to problem-solve with her body, more than I have ever seen in any athlete.”

You may be glad to hear that Paoli’s coaching style is, in some ways, the anti-CrossFit. As a company that’s come under fire by the mainstream media for being dangerous, intense, and somewhat cult-like, it is good too see big names such as Paoli focusing not necessarily on more, but on better. His mission is to “simply help people see that there is always more potential.”

Instead of going harder, faster, stronger, Paoli focuses on the underlying mechanics of how the human body is meant to move & stay fit. He works mainly with bodyweight movements, and extrapolates “rules” of basic human mechanics to apply to other areas of fitness, such as weightlifting and even break dancing.

“Freestyle is being able to see how those rules actually make sense in every aspect of life — not just in one lane.  That’s pretty much the essence of freestyle: Being able to take those rules and apply them to other movement patterns — and if they don’t fit, maybe the rules aren’t universal and we need to dig a little deeper.”

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