The difference of half an inch one way or another can make a huge difference over the course of a workout. Case in point, during todays WOD (work : rest windows with DU, HR push ups, deadlifts and C2B) I was really focusing on the deadlift and keeping the bar a little tighter to the body. My deadlift technique isn’t terrible but I know when linking multiple reps, there’s a tendency to come to come slightly forward on decent.
High volume deadlifts light up my lower back so going in to the wod I knew it would get to be a thing with somewhere in the range of 100 to 120 reps of deadlift at 155 pounds for me. While coaching, I have noticed when athletes link their deadlift reps together, shins tend to come slightly more forward that usual in the decent of the movement. Fact is, its an “easier” range of motion to just relax the core, let the barbell fall straight down to the knees then continue on that path to the ground. But that’s not correct. Something I shared with my classes before the WOD today was the same way the hips and shoulders move together first until barbell is at the knee and then we thrust hips through; that needs to happen in reverse. This requires “moving with purpose”, equally so on the decent as on the ascent with the barbell. I practised what I preached and made sure to do the same thing when I was doing the wod. Guess what happened? I moved far better! I have pretty good awareness of my movement pattern and this cue allowed me to keep the barbell half an inch to an inch closer to my shin and improve my shin angle to ever so slightly more vertical on the decent. This loaded up my hamstrings and glutes and saved that stress on the back. That inch or so of difference in the movement made a world of difference over the entire workout.
I’ll share another quick example. I cued one of the 6am athletes (you know who you are, big guy) on wall balls the other day. He was holding the ball a little too low on his chest through the squat portion of the movement. This meant on each rep he had to do five or six inches of extra work. Not a big deal if we’re doing on set of wall balls. What happens to that six inches over the course of a workout though? If we do 100 wall balls in a workout, that is 50 feet of wasted vertical travel. If the ball actually starts to leave the chest at the six foot mark in relation to the wall and needs to make it to the ten foot mark; that’s 12 reps worth of distance wasted.
Anyways, the point of the two examples is that little changes in technique can make a big difference in movement. We often think about movements on the large scale; and we should. Sometimes though, just making a very small change in technique can make us far more efficient through range of motion. Our coaches do a great job of making sure every athlete in class gets personalized attention. If we throw out a small cue like one of the above examples, take it to heart. Maybe you are moving very well. I will be the first to say, that I can always move better! That barbell staying half an inch closer or that wall ball sitting a few inches higher just might be the movement hack you are looking for.
Be aware as you go through movement prep before a workout to recognize the subtle differences in a movement pattern. It may be something very small. Going through warm up and having you do deadlift with an empty barbell is not just to fill time. It’s your opportunity to improve on those small details. Get your body to move correctly without any weight on the bar and it will remember and know how to move when loaded up. Be mindful of positions and how “they feel” when they are right. Also be aware of how they feel when they are wrong so you can quickly make the changes to stay away from that movement pattern.
Pay attention to the very small differences in movement that make your body feel better at the end of a workout. These are the things that lead to longevity, improvement and success!