The Magical Elf is Dumb.


Learning weightlifting movements is like walking through a forest with a magical elf (how’s that for a sentence I never thought I’d say?? This’ll make sense later, I promise. 🙂 ) It pays to take the time to do it correctly from the get-go.

The appeal of CrossFit lies in its intensity. People love pushing themselves hard, lying on the floor gasping for breath at the end of a workout. They love competing with one another and themselves. Heck, we keep score of everything, and we write it on the board for all the world to see! BUT (and that’s a big but), you should never sacrifice form for speed.

With poor form comes a host of potential problems:


    Speeding through movements incorrectly or using a too-heavy weight that doesn’t allow you to maintain proper positioning can lead to injuries. Period. Any time you’re lifting any amount of weight, that weight should be respected. Just because Johnny-from-an-earlier-class got a fast time doesn’t mean you should throw technique out the window to try to beat him. The score on the whiteboard doesn’t matter in the grand-scheme of things. It will be erased at the end of the day. No one will remember. But an injury can last for months. The Rx is not that important. Don’t let your ego create a scenario where you’re in a compromised position. You should be keeping track of your scores so that you can measure your progress over time, but how Johnny-early-class performs should have no bearing on your workout.


    Even if you believe that injuries couldn’t possibly happen to you, you’ll still want to strive to perfect your lifting technique. Why? The best way to improve your workout times is actually to slow down and do the movements correctly. Proper technique isn’t done because it looks pretty. Proper technique is actually going to be the most efficient way to accomplish a task. This means you can do a lot more work because you’re using less energy with each rep. There’s no wasted effort. If you watch CrossFit Games athletes, you’ll see some pretty stellar technique for the most part. They know that any wasted movement is just going to slow them down, gas them out. Focusing on good form may make you slower in the short-term, but long-term you’ll be a better overall athlete. You’ll get stronger at the movements, and speed will come gradually as you become more proficient.


    Now let’s get back to talking about that magical elf. Elliott once wrote a blog post that included a scenario described by Bruce Holmes, certified USA Triathlon coach*, and the visual is super helpful:

    Imagine you’re going to be living in the middle of a forest, and in every direction you look it’s shrub and bramble. You’re going to have to be able to move about, but you don’t have a machete or anything to clear brush with. However, you do have a magical elf standing behind you, and you discover that as you push through the thicket he follows behind and does a quick cut or two to clear the path. So the next time you take that path you’ve created, it’s a little easier. By the hundredth time the “path” is now paved and ready for speed. The only drawback is that the elf is stupid. If you go in a direction you regret and announce, “Well, that was a bad idea.” The elf isn’t listening. He’s still going to improve the path. And the problem then is that the next time you’re out in the woods you’re liable to mistake that path for a good idea. And when you once again go down it, the elf will be right there with you, clearing even more of the brush. Making it even more inviting for the next walk.

    The idea behind this long, drawn-out story is that practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. The more you speed through workouts and throw technique out the window, the more your body will remember these bad motor patterns and recreate them exactly the same the next time you’re under stress. This can lead to even more injuries (#1 above) and inefficiencies (#2), this time with a more chronic outcome. Take the painstaking time now to slow it down and learn things the right way so that you don’t have to UNlearn bad habits later on.

Our goal in CrossFit is to give you a program of fitness that you can sustain for the rest of your life. We’re talking about longevity. Yes, we want intensity, but not at the expense of your overall health. Listen to your coaches. We’re not here just to be your cheerleader in a WOD; we’re also highly trained and focused on keeping you safe and moving well. Let us do our job. That’s what you pay us for! If we give you a tip, chances are it’s worth trying to incorporate. Ask questions, and really try to apply what you learn. Let’s make it a point to practice virtuosity of movement from here on out. Your 30-years-from-now body will thank you for taking the time now to get it right.

* for more info, click here:





The Magical Elf is Dumb.

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