For a long time I struggled with my overhead squat. I attacked it, I avoided it, I trash-talked it. Nothing helped. I asked my coach about it, and he recommended doing goblet squats to help develop my basic squat. “No, no, I mean the overhead squat…you know…holding the barbell over my head and stuff,” I reminded him. He stared at me. He didn’t even blink. “Well, a goblet squat just doesn’t seem like much fun,” I added. More staring, and I went back to work on my crappy overhead squat.
Not long after that, I cornered another coach. He recommended hip mobility. “Mobility? Gee, thanks.”
And my overhead squat continued to torment me.
Until, in total desperation, I decided to give the goblet squat a try. I started adding it to my daily warm-up. With the kettlebell I was able to get low in the bottom and maintain proper form. I felt more in control and this started to translate to my front and back squats. I also noticed a tightness in my right hip…
…and started working on my hip mobility. And my overhead squat improved. In fact, I can’t even call it much of a weakness anymore.
I try not to think about how much time and frustration I would have saved if I had taken my coaches’ advice right off the bat. But I learned a valuable lesson: That crappy, no fun suggestion your coach just made? It just might be effective.
Here are four coaches responding to common questions with the answers that we love to hate.
The Coach: Rob Vasels
The Question: How do I get better at pull ups?
The Answer: Do strict pull ups. Start staying after class, grab a band, and work your way up to five sets of five. Then get a smaller band and do it again. Eventually you won’t need the band.
Why We Love To Hate This: Most of us would prefer an answer that doesn’t involve our staying fifteen minutes after class. I mean, didn’t we just do some strength work and a WOD? “Accountability is critical to success,” says Coach Rob. “If you fully adhere to a program, you will get full results. Period. You have to have the drive to do the additional work. You have to ask yourself ‘How do I get better today?’ Choose one process. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be more elaborate than that.”
True Barbellion adds: I was obsessed with pull ups from the beginning, and I waited nine months before I started staying after class and working on my strict pull ups. I kept thinking it was too simple of a solution. But I was amazed at how quickly I improved.
The Coach: Tim Donegan
The Question: How do I improve my position in the bottom of a squat?
The Answer: Mobility.
Why We Love To Hate This: “Nobody looks at mobility and says ‘This will be so much fun,'” says Coach Tim, “but it is necessary in order to improve the positions in our lifts. Take the ankle for example: not many people will notice that poor ankle mobility leads to a forward back angle in the squat. This is why Olympic Weightlifters wear shoes with a raised heel, because it takes ankle mobility out of the picture for most athletes. Mobility is boring to most, therefore it gets neglected. Mobility is also not a quick fix and isn’t something people get excited about. I have never heard anyone say ‘I got a two inch PR on my hamstring flexibility today!’ Mobility is the most important thing that is most neglected by athletes.” Coach Tim recommends performing a banded ankle distraction.
True Barbellion adds: I think mobility is like coffee – an acquired taste. During my first year of CrossFit I avoided it like the plague, but now I have a few mobility exercises I do before my warm up. I don’t over do it, so it’s no longer a chore, and my overall movements have improved because of it.
The Coach: John Kennedy
The Question: How do I get better at movement in general?
The Answer: Slow down. Work on your technique. Work your mobility.
Why We Love To Hate This: But I can lift heavier! I’m stronger than this! “Our brains learn many ways, but one consistent method of learning is repetition,” says Coach John. “To achieve better movement, quicker, you want to spend a lot of time repeating good movement patterns over and over. Mobility allows you to perform a good movement. Too much weight can alter your movement. Use weight that will challenge you but not force your technique to suffer.”
True Barbellion Adds: Guess who recommended the goblet squats?
The Coach: Jamie Free
The Question: Why isn’t my diet working?
The Answer: You’re over-complicating things.
Why We Love To Hate This: “People like to do what other people are doing,” says Coach Jamie. “They like to be part of the current fad. They’ll start a program but they’ll stop before they start seeing results. Good nutrition is partly trial and error. You have to learn how your body reacts. It’s not a fast process. What works for your friend won’t necessarily work for you. Eat good food. Eat often enough to keep your metabolism going. Don’t over-complicate it.”
Adds Coach John: “As a whole, people tend to prefer to push themselves in physical exertion, but for anyone over 30, this won’t work. Food has such an emotional connection at this point that people refuse to address it. This is one of the reasons nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all.”
Commit. Mobilize. Re-evaluate. Simplify. Sometimes we need to take a step back and reconsider our path before we surge ahead. Next time your coach gives you advice you rather not follow, do it anyway. It may end up being the answer you needed to continue on your journey.
What are some answers you love to hate?