In Defense of “WOD-ing” Less

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When learning a new skill, we go through four distinct phases of competency:


Phase 1 (Unconscious Incompetence): An athlete cannot grasp the concept of a skill AND is unable to recognize its importance/their inability to execute it – Phase 2 (Conscious Incompetence): An athlete has recognized the importance of a particular skill and is aware of the error(s) in their technique but is unable/doesn’t know how to correct them – Phase 3 (Conscious Competence): an athlete can perform a particular skill with significant concentration and/or by breaking it down into steps so they athlete can focus on each piece separately – Phase 4 (Unconscious Competence): the skill becomes “second nature” as a result of extensive practice and an athlete can perform it easily as one fluid motion without the need to break it down.

4 Phases Which I Like to Think of in These Terms:

1. Introduction to New Skill: First time seeing a skill (e.g. a Snatch)

“WTF is this? Like this….? Do I really need this skill?”


You mean I’m supposed to actually hit the rock with the hammer??

2. Theoretical UnderstandingAbility to see how it works “in theory” but inability to replicate it correctly.

“Well it makes sense in theory, and when (s)he does it…”

3. Focused CompetenceAbility to do the skill with concentration and focus.

“I got this….just let me set up…hang on…”

4. Confidence/Proficiency Under PressureAbility to perform the skill well enough to do it safely in a WOD and meet the movement requirements.

“Well, it wasn’t pretty, but I got the lift…”

The thing is, once we learn a skill and are able to do it Rx in a WOD, we often consider it “mastered” and move onto bigger/more exciting things. Except that getting better isn’t always about learning new skills; it’s also a matter of improving/fixing the foundation.

For most of us, our CrossFit starts in some sort of an OnRamp or Foundations program during which we are introduced to the basic CrossFit movements. At this point it’s not so much about perfection as it is about the ability to replicate movements safely, and once we can demonstrate that, we are allowed to proceed to more advanced skill(s) e.g. move from the air squat to the wall ball, thruster or back squat.

However, even as we progress and become

  • stronger
  • fitter, and
  • more bodily aware,

it never hurts to go back to the basics and apply our increased knowledge and skill to become more efficient at them.

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