Another Point of View-One Well Worth Pondering…

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Dan MacDougald, owner and Coach extraordinaire of CrossFit Atlanta, has posted a rebuttal and very valid perspective to Jon Gilson’s dissertation "The Non Negotiability of Perfection", which we posted last weekend.  Read and comment…

The form nazis have an eloquent spokesman, Jon
Gilson, of Again Faster. Read his article, "The
Non Negotiability of Perfection.
" Gilson makes many good points. But I have
some areas of disagreement.

When the range of motion of an exercise is short changed, e.g., when a pushup
does not go all the way down or all the way up, or when a squat does not go
below parallel or to full extension at the top, then the reps should not count
and the times posted for the workout are not valid. In every case of shortened
range of motion, the amount of work done is reduced, and that is a cheat. The
workout times are not valid, and the athlete’s progress is hindered. In this
respect, Gilson & I are in perfect agreement.

Then there is the separate question of inefficient technique. A movement may
be done through full range of motion with improper technique, and Gilson is
right to say that bad technique not only hinders performance, it can be
dangerous. An example would be a deadlift with the back in flexion.

But much of Gilson’s article is directed to the issue of acceptable form for
a thruster during a Fran workout. Recall that he made a comment on the HQ site
that 2/3 to 3/4 of the thruster reps in the "Franlanta" video should not have
counted. Two photos accompany the article. In one the bar is over the heels, and
the head and torso are pushed forward into the classic overhead position that
would get the green light from Olympic lifting judges. In the other, the bar is
way out in front of the lifter’s center of gravity. I agree that the latter is
bad technique and that no one will achieve their true potential at Fran using
such technique. But the bar can be kept over the lifter’s center of gravity at
full elbow extension without the lifter getting his head and torso forward and
under the bar. See the photo below.

This is what I see in Mike G’s thruster reps, in Josh Everett’s 2:25 Fran, in
Greg Amundsen’s Fran, and in AFT’s 2:19 Fran. Gilson makes the argument that the
strict overhead position is stronger and more efficient for holding weight
overhead, and he is absolutely right about this. A heavy jerk, push press,
press, or snatch cannot be got up or held up any other way, and that is proof of
the efficiency of the technique. But with the light weight used in Fran is he
right to say that those who lock out elbows while laying the torso back slightly
and who don’t get their heads through and under the bar are cheating and are
also condemned by bad mechanics from ever reaching their true Fran potential?

I don’t think so.

First: I have yet to hear or read any persuasive argument that moving the bar
to full lockout of the elbows with the torso and head laid back a little is any
less work than moving the head and torso under the bar to the position of strict
overhead. Because the same amount of work is being done, it is not a cheat like
short stroking push ups and pull ups is.

Second: If moving to a strict overhead position is more efficient, then we
would see faster times using the allegedly more efficient technique. The test of
such a theory is results. And on that basis the theory fails. Every sub 3 minute
Fran video that I have seen has guys who do not move into the strict overhead
position that Gilson claims is essential to truly fast Fran times. In the fast
Fran videos I have seen the bar is moved to full elbow lockout with the bar over
the mid foot, so they are not cheating on the range of motion, and they are
doing the same amount of work as someone who moves the bar to a strict overhead
position. If Mr. Gilson’s theory were correct, they could all go even faster if
they used the more efficient technique. The problem with the theory is that as
far as I know of no one using the allegedly more efficient technique goes faster
than the guys using the allegedly inefficient technique. If they have, let’s see
the video.

In Fran the bar is not held overhead at full extension. It starts
down the instant after it hits full elbow extension. The faster and more
directly it can come down, the faster the movement can cycle. Moving the head
under the bar and then moving it back out of the way before the downward
movement begins is wasted motion, is unnecessary, and takes time, and that is
why no one doing thrusters the way Gilson insists will ever approach the times
put up by athletes who move like Josh, Greg, AFT, and Mike G.


Dan, well put. Unfortunately, his article makes a fatal assumption: That form
on a one rep "strength" move must ALWAYS be the same as form on a series of
"metabolic power" reps. Sure range of motion should be the same, and form should
not be sloppy in lieu of time. However, the reason crossfit leaders believe in
the kipping pullup rather than a pullup with "strict" form is you can elevate
your power consumption by kipping. This situation is no different for a thruster
where the bar is always moving (through the same range of vertical motion as a
strict overhead movement) and the small amount of horizontal motion, although
important for holding heavy weight above the head, is not contributing
significantly to power. In fact, as you point out, it slows time and does not
contribute significantly to gravitational work (the major component) so the net
effect is to reduce total power output. Moreover, the small muscles he claims
you will be tiring, do not enter into the picture if done correctly because the
bar should be near weightless at the top of the movement (and you do not hold it
there) due to the power created by the hip thrust.

I took some still shots out of the Franlanta video. I thought they
were interesting to look at. I put the first, middle, and last thruster of each
round in Flickr.

That is a well written response to Jon Gilson’s article.

It seems to me, that the thruster would be most efficient when the path of
the bar is straight up and down. When you start the second part of the thruster,
the bar is resting on the shoulder/deltoids and is over the midfoot. The bar
moves up in a straight line to full extension and is still over the midfoot. The
bar then drops back down in a straight line, back on top of the deltoids. Why
would you pull the bar back behind the head while at full extension? That seems
like wasted effort and time.

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