This is always a wonderfully hot topic and one that I am generally pretty happy to talk about. To my knowledge this never was really a topic until the birth of CrossFit and their use of intensity. Many argue vehemently against using intensity if it means a breakdown in form in anyway. CrossFit argues that form breakdown is inevitable, and that sacrificing intensity (the most important aspect to building fitness) is a waste of your time. I actually agree with CrossFit here. Intensity in your program is something that is very much needed almost 100% of the time, no matter what your goals. If you are exercising without intensity, you never challenge your systems (muscular, cardiovascular, neurological, etc) and you will most likely see minimal to no gains at all. And you see the proof of this is most workouts of people who mosey on into their globo gyms, hit the elliptical and then wander around the gym floor doing some work on the circuit machines. It just doesn’t work!
But there is way more to this topic than just claiming intensity is good. We all should be able to agree that good mechanics on your lifts or exercises are key to getting the greatest benefit from the movement. It also should go without saying that the better your mechanics, the less chance you have of injuring yourself. Strangely enough, there are some people out there who actually argue that it’s not form breakdown that leads to injury. They use arguments of professional athletes with bad form who seem to be getting better and better. I can think of athletes like Usain Bolt, who runs pretty sloppily in comparison to some other world-class sprinters yet is the best in the world. Or my always-used example of Cal Ripkin who had a horrendous swing yet is known as an athlete who never got injured. Well, I shouldn’t have to even explain this, but for the sake of some relative stupidity in the world I will: Using professional athletes as an example for non-professional athletes doing something makes ZERO sense. These people are the best of the best, the elite, the “better than the rest of us”. That is why they are making millions playing sports and we are not. I stick with baseball examples because it’s the sport that comes most naturally to my brain. If Tim Lincicum can throw 96 miles per hour as a 165-pound dude, than maybe we should all throw like him! I would put all my money on about 99% of the people who attempt to throw like him get some very serious shoulder damage, very quickly. There is a reason his nickname is “The Freak”. He’s a freak of nature. Seriously, LaBron James is a freak of a human, he’s 6’8”, weights 270 and has a 44” vertical and can run faster than most football players. So if I replicate him and everything he does I’ll be an incredibly successful basketball player? Nope, he’s insanely gifted and was born to be at the level he is.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that hard work can’t get you places. I am a perfect example of this. I was NOT a gifted baseball player like the pros out there now. I was pretty good sure, but I worked my ass off every single day to get to a damn low level of professional baseball. I found out the most efficient ways to move so that I could get the most out of my form, avoid injury so that I could always be at the top of my game, and perhaps I’d get somewhere with it. That worked for me. What I’m getting at here in my long-winded way is that neglecting mechanics because others have been successful while neglecting mechanics is horribly irresponsible. I know for a fact that there are way more incidences of people getting hurt (directly and indirectly) through bad form then there are of people getting lucky with their crap form.
Ok, Courage, so where’s your argument with form and intensity? Easy: choose exercises you can form intensely with less of a risk of injury when doing intense workouts. For example, perhaps doing an AMRAP of snatches, or Turkish Get Ups is not the smartest thing to do if your goal is general fitness. You can very easily get a wonderfully intense workout without having to program exercises that might rip your shoulder girdle apart or have you drop weight on your head. If you want to do something at a high intensity (in this example: get your heart rate up) and have it involve a bunch of hip extension and coordination, OK, then sprint, jump, KB swing, wall ball, ball throw, etc. Save programming super complex movements for those who are training to compete in CrossFit or who think it’s cool to rip their joints apart. It’ll happen either all of a sudden, or slowly, over a couple years. But it’ll almost surely happen.
Again, I am NOT saying you should not exercise with intensity. I am saying you should choose the right exercises to perform intensely as to decrease your risk of injury, while also making all your wonderful gains.
Crap form leads to injury. If you can’t do a workout while keeping respectable form, you should not be doing that workout (unless you don’t care about getting injured). If you have crap form and have no injuries at all, you are gifted.
OK, I think I got most of my point there. I actually have a couple really cool, detailed examples on all this, but I’ll save those for a more detailed post! It’s been increasingly difficult to write some of these posts without getting really sarcastic of insulting to the things that inspire them. If people just stopped doing really, really stupid things that would help. Or better yet, if the same group of people would stop doing some of the same stupid stuff over and over again, that would help. But I know that is always wishful thinking.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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