At CrossFit Prototype we believe in the phrase: “Form leads to function and function leads to Fitness”. The article below first appeared on the Tao Fit blog in July 2012.
The Importance of Good Form and Interval Training
by Jesse James Retherford
What is Form?
When it comes to movement patterns, including – but certainly not limited to – squatting, lunging, running, jumping, throwing, etc, form is paramount. Break down in form is what breaks the body.
Poor form is one of, if not the primary cause of, chronic pain and injury. This goes whether you are an elite level athlete, weekend warrior, or even a sedentary couch potato. The way you move has a direct and definite impact on how you feel. It has everything to do with your form, good or bad.
Form is the applied combination of technique and skill. Form is a learned behavior. It is built through repetition (aka practice), and is embedded in the nervous system. When you learn a new movement pattern, your nervous system creates a specific neural pathway for this new skill (the connection of one part of your nervous system with another).
At first this pathway is weak; the connection is poor. But the more often you repeat the movement pattern, the stronger the neural pathway becomes. Sustained consistency goes farther than sheer force of effort. It’s kind of like building a road. Over time, as more and more traffic uses the road, it is expanded. Over time, with enough use (i.e. traffic in this example), the road is slowly transformed into a highway.
Proper form takes the right movements and deeply hard wires them into a specialized skill through perfect repetition of movement patterns.
Poor form takes the wrong movements and deeply hard wires them into bad habits through the repetition of imperfect movement patterns.
Is inefficient, leaks energy, and makes tasks harder and more exhausting to perform.
Wears down the soft tissue of joints, leading to inflammation and damage.
Creates dysfunctional pain patterns throughout the body.
Increases your short and long term medical costs, by way of…
• visits to doctors
• pain medications
• hospital stays
Poor form, in short, shortens your life!
Increases efficiency – You move smoother and faster, jump higher, squat more weight, etc., all with less effort and strain.
Minimizes wear and tear on joints, ligaments, tendons, cartilage.
Allows you to do more with your body and your life.
Speeds recovery time.
Is preventative medicine.
Reduces short and long term health care costs.
Prevents living a life of pain and injury.
Proper form, in short, lengthens your life!
Form Must Come First
This is important. Proper form and poor form are both developed through repetition. The difference lies in the quality of the movement being repeated.
Why does this matter?
Because you cannot train form and conditioning at the same time.
You cannot learn a new movement pattern (form), and – at the same time – use that movement pattern to train for endurance, strength, power, or speed (conditioning).
For example, say you are recovering from a running injury. If you are training to improve your running gait (form), you cannot use running to improve your conditioning. The two – on a fundamental level – don’t work together!
Training to improve your form and training to improve conditioning are fundamentally incompatible.
To improve form, you need practice… perfect practice. You need to practice your form perfectly in order for it to stick. When you train for form you are allowing your neurological system to develop new bio-mechanical habits. Because it is so important to have flawless form, you must repeat the movement pattern flawlessly with every repetition.
At the beginning of form training, perfect form breaks down at the first sign of fatigue. Once fatigued, you will no longer be able to maintain perfect form.
Training with imperfect form reinforces the poor movement patterns that will ultimately lead to injury.