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Rest Day

Michael B (Turtle Monster) and Noah B (Silver Jumpsuit) Battle it Out For the Fate Of The Earth at Kaiju Big Battle 

Fundamentals, Virtuosity and Mastery

An Open Letter To CrossFit Trainers
By Greg Glassman, CrossFit Journal, August 2005

In gymnastics, completing a routine without error will not get you a perfect score, the 10.0—only a 9.7. To get the last three tenths of a point, you must demonstrate “risk, originality, and virtuosity” as well as make no mistakes in execution of the routine.

Risk is simply executing a movement that is likely to be missed or botched; originality is a movement or combination of movements unique to the athlete—a move or sequence not seen before. Understandably, novice gymnasts love to demonstrate risk and originality, for both are dramatic, fun, and awe inspiring— especially among the athletes themselves, although audiences are less likely to be aware when either is demonstrated.

Virtuosity, though, is a different beast altogether. Virtuosity is defined in gymnastics as “performing the common uncommonly well.” Unlike risk and originality, virtuosity is elusive, supremely elusive. It is, however, readily recognized by audience as well as coach and athlete. But more importantly, more to my point, virtuosity is more than the requirement for that last tenth of a point; it is always the mark of true mastery (and of genius and beauty).

There is a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art, whether learning to play the violin, write poetry, or compete in gymnastics, to quickly move past the fundamentals and on to more elaborate, more sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques. This compulsion is the novice’s curse—the rush to originality and risk.

The novice’s curse is manifested as excessive adornment, silly creativity, weak fundamentals and, ultimately, a marked lack of virtuosity and delayed mastery. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to be taught by the very best in any field you’ve likely been surprised at how simple, how fundamental, how basic the instruction was. The novice’s curse afflicts learner and teacher alike. Physical training is no different.

What will inevitably doom a physical training program and dilute a coach’s efficacy is a lack of commitment to fundamentals. We see this increasingly in both programming and supervising execution. Rarely now do we see prescribed the short, intense couplets or triplets that epitomize CrossFit programming. Rarely do trainers really nitpick the mechanics of fundamental movements.I understand how this occurs. It is natural to want to teach people advanced and fancy movements. The urge to quickly move away from the basics and toward advanced movements arises out of the natural desire to entertain your client and impress him with your skills and knowledge. But make no mistake: it is a sucker’s move. Teaching a snatch where there is not yet an overhead squat, teaching an overhead squat where there is not yet an air squat, is a colossal mistake. This rush to advancement increases the chance of injury, delays advancement and progress, and blunts the client’s rate of return on his efforts. In short, it retards his fitness.

If you insist on basics, really insist on them, your clients will immediately recognize that you are a master trainer. They will not be bored; they will be awed. I promise this. They will quickly come to recognize the potency of fundamentals. They will also advance in every measurable way past those not blessed to have a teacher so grounded and committed to basics.

Training will improve, clients will advance faster, and you will appear more experienced and professional and garner more respect, if you simply recommit to the basics.

There is plenty of time within an hour session to warm up, practice a basic movement or skill or pursue a new PR or max lift, discuss and critique the athletes’ efforts, and then pound out a tight little couplet or triplet utilizing these skills or just play. Play is important. Tire flipping, basketball, relay races, tag, Hooverball, and the like are essential to good programming, but they are seasoning—like salt, pepper, and oregano. They are not main courses.

CrossFit trainers have the tools to be the best trainers on earth. I really believe that. But good enough never is, and we want that last tenth of a point, the whole 10.0. We want virtuosity!!

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Why Your 20's Will Define You Greatist
Fleet Of Ambulances On Hand For 41-Year-Olds' Touch Football Game

Reader Comments (23)

Interesting article on the 20s. Got anything for the 40s? LOL making the turn this summer.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJR

6am with Coach Jess.

2k row: 6:56.1. Went out too fast and suffered mightily at the end. Legs are still wobbly. I think my first 500m split was 1:40 and the last was 1:48. I hit my sub-7 minute goal and, since this was my first time rowing a 2k (outside of Jerry), I hit a PR.

Lots of foam rolling and lax ball work. Finished up with 5 sets of 10 push-ups focusing on form.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

JR-- i think the third link is what you are looking for.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSameer

This Greg Glassman article is totally inspiring. I am the Teacher Training Coordinator at the Pilates studio that I work at, and it is my life's mission to impress this sentiment onto the apprentices who are learning how to teach. Mr Glassman has said it more eloquently than I ever could.

Actually, this is one of the reasons I love this gym in particular. From my first teaser class with David to my foundations with Shane to my first group class with Margie to every single trainer in between, you guys are AMAZING at the basics. It's because of excellent instruction from all the coaches that I can now squat, press, double under, do a push up, and swing a kettlebell. Every single time we repeat a movement, even something as basic as a squat, there is something new to learn about it, and you guys are there with awesome cues and encouragement.

PS - I am SO SORE from the Hammer yesterday. Traps, shoulders, and mid back, like WHOA. Love those front squats...

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKH

AAHH!! I don't know if I missed that or it was just added, but I haven't laughed that hard in a while. very, very funny ha ha ha!

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJR

A couple of random comments from the last few days:

1) I loved the Hammer. It might be my new favorite workout.

2) Are we going to be told what the scaling options are for Murph beforehand so I can think about how much pain I want to inflict on myself, I mean what the appropriate level is?

3) Greg Glassman article was really interesting. I remember in the beginning of my crossfit career, I definitely had this desire to learn more and more new things. But that's kind of gone away, now I just want to be better at the simple things. I wonder if that's a natural progression or it's just been beaten into my head by our awesome coaches.

May 22, 2012 | Registered CommenterChristine Naclerio

Christine, I haven't done Murph myself but I think common scaling options are to do 1/2 Murph or 1/4 Murph. And of course banding the pullups and/or elevating the pushups as necessary.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStella

1. Was Sunday's 2k part of Crush Week? I'm trying to figure out when Crush Week ends so I don't end up doing Crush WODs on Sat and Sun, then Murph on Monday. That might kill me.

2. I was digging around, looking for a previous 2k row time and I noticed that a sub 25 minute Jerry is listed as Level 5 Elite in Crossfit Levels. That seems drastically out of place, compared with the other stuff on that level. Running 2 8:20 miles around an 8:19 2k row doesn't seem on par with a sub 3:30 Fran.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBen W

Ben, shhhh! That's the only way I get to be Level 5 Elite in anything!

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra

Alright guys & gals seriously last chance at getting in on softball. you dont need any experience

contact me or Jess if you are interested. JR, if you join I'll let you pie me.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdh3

6:00 am with coach lady fox

pre wu
foam roll

kb swings
mountain climbers
hip openers
1min plank
pc, fsq, pj prep

pc, fsq, pj rx'd
pu's strict


pc - muscle cleans and /pj's - push press. all unbroken.
was not looking forward to the fsq. but they didn't feel as terrible as i thought they would.

forgot to mention the zen and the art of crush week piece is a good un. as is the piece from coach glassman today.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMcGrath

@Dh3, I would never accept a charity pie. Also no can do my man, already coaching two baseball teams and playing golf. Busy beaver. I love it though, it's an awesome game!

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJR

KBB FTW. That's an awesome video.

Christine N - Stella pretty much nailed it. 2/3, 1/2, 1/3, and 1/4 versions are the volume scales. Movement scales are ring rows and diy band for pull ups, knees for push ups. Eleveted push ups are available depending on class size/space so knees and/or volume are preferred as a scale there.

Ben W - Yes. Murph kicks off back off week.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFox

Can I put in a request for Nancy? Are requests allowed?

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJon Shea

"Murph kicks off back off week."

There is something wrong with this sentence!

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStella

Stella, you are right. There should be a hyphen in "back-off", right?

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra

So let me get this straight:

"Murph" can obviously kick chuck norris' ass.

CFSBKers do "murph" as part of back-off week.....then by default..

CFSBK can kick chuck norris' ass?


May 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdh3

Thanks Stella and Fox! That helps a lot.

May 22, 2012 | Registered CommenterChristine Naclerio


May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStella

Came in today to make up front squats (Saturday's heavy singles).

WU: 45x5, 95x3, 135x3, 185x1, 210x1,

Work: 230 (PR), 235 (PR), 240 (PR).

The 240 represents a 24lb gain over my old PR of 216 (with which I began this cycle). I'll take it.

Then some Wendler presses and deadlifts.

Awesome day of lifting. Great being with Earl on the platforms.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra

DH3: Only if "kicks ass" is a transitive relation.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra

This post got lost earlier

Day 2 back.


"Hammer" 23:17

Probably the closest ive come to tapping out on a WOD.

Started at 115 and quickly dropped to 95 after the 1st rd. Back-off week is not the funnest time to come back, but in some ways it throws you right back into the fire and thats good.Did 20 pullups in rd 1 and rd 5 and 15 in every other round.

Whats so tough is that its hard physically and mentally. Physically you cant do some of the things you were able to do a month ago, or a year ago, and everything is just harder when youre weaker. Mentally youre not used to teh work capacity and fighting through stuff.

thats been a recurring pattern of this past year for me. I'm trying to just scale appropriately and be patient because I will be in the gym more this summer once work slows down.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commentershawn$

Hammer @ 75 lbs.
5 cleans
7 front squats
5 push presses
10 pullups w/ a small green band


Scaled just right to work hard and not die. Maybe coulda done 80#.

May 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeter H.

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