By Randy Hill | CPT, Coach
No. Please, no. While Gertrude has a hip and a knee (regardless if it’s made of organic matter or plastic), she is still quite a different person than, say, Kendrick Farris. She’s using her knees and hips to bend down and pick up her grandchild or to be able to squat down and check the oven to see if the cookies are done. She is not doing a 29551.7kg squat jerk. Obviously, we don’t need to train her exactly like an Olympian.
The Issue: Range of Motion vs. Quality of Movement
Range of motion standards are important; we can all agree on this point. How else can we quantify how much work an athlete has done? This scientific way of measuring an athlete’s output is a defining aspect of CrossFit, and it is a big reason why it is so effective. We’re all about numbers, and that’s part of the reason why our style works. How could you know if you got stronger during your last squat cycle if you cut your depth every time you add weight to the bar? Consistency of mechanics is part of the foundation of quantifying strength; thus if the weight has moved less distance than the standard of the movement, it would not equate to strength gain.
Are You Guilty of Applying “One Size Fits All” Standards?
Let’s walk through a hypothetical situation: today’s workout is 3×5 back squats, sets across. Your class has three athletes, two of whom are young, injury-free males who play football at the local community college, and the third is a 63-year-old grandmother who has what she describes as “achy knees” and a “pinch” in her lower back. During the warm-up, when they are using the bar only, the male athletes easily achieve a squat depth that is well below parallel, maintaining strong positioning, including good lumbar and thoracic extension. When Grandma is warming up, you notice that she is only squatting to about three inches above parallel. When you inform her that she should squat lower for the safety of her knees and for the proper completion of the movement, she almost bites the dust in the bottom position. Her lumbar rounds out and her knees cave in. Not to mention that she gets forward on her toes and lifts her hips too soon.
However, telling your third client — Grandma Gertrude — to “GET LOWER” is probably NOT the best thing to do right now. In fact, it’s downright dangerous and irresponsible.
Three bodies that technically function similarly, but require far different approaches to coaching. When they are all in the same class, coaches are responsible for providing the appropriate guidance and cues.
I’ll give you a hint on this one: Grandma needs to modify — not just use a lower box, but modify the entire exercise because not only is finding a max height box jump dangerous for her, but it is completely useless. This is not a metric that is going to be useful for her to have. She does not care, and the football players don’t want to get showed up, so let’s have Grandma work on some other form of the same type of movement. Have her do some hip bridges on the ground — we’ll tax similar muscles with a roughly similar movement, and everybody will end the day injury-free. Everyone is a winner.
Common Sense Should Conquer All
Obviously, these examples are extreme. It is up to the coach on the gym floor as well as the coach writing the programming for the gym to collectively understand the population that they are working with in each class, and plan accordingly. Yes, you can apply CrossFit’s principles and nine foundational movements anywhere, but be smart about it! Most of the preceding sounds like common sense, but please take the time to ask yourself if you and/or your gym’s coaches are getting too caught up with the CrossFit Games standards and neglecting what’s more important: the overall health and well-being of each individual member.