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Why Motor Control Makes You Stronger

“Mo·tor con·trol” (mō’tŏr kŏn-trōl’) is “the process of initiating, directing, and grading purposeful voluntary movement.”  From: Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012.  In lay terms, motor control is your mind and nervous system intentionally telling your muscles what to do.  The better you can control your body’s actions, the stronger and faster you can be.  We can further describe “motor control” as the product of four sub-elements:

  • Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.

  • Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.

  • Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

  • Balance – The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base.

Notice that Coordination, Agility & Accuracy all address what happens with the body while it is in motion.  Balance can be either holding still or moving, but has a dramatic impact whenever the body is moving.  If you lose your balance, it tells us that you did not have optimal control of the movement pattern you were executing.

CrossFit Slipstream Wall BallsCrossFit put motor control back into the workout because the “fitness” you acquire in isolation will not help you do the complex movements that real life requires.

The workout machines in most gyms are specifically designed to eliminate motor control as an element of your workout.  You sit on the machine and isolate whatever muscles you are trying to work.   CrossFit put motor control back into the workout because the “fitness” you acquire in isolation will not help you do the complex movements that real life requires.  You can get really strong biceps doing preacher curls, but they can’t move your sofa all by themselves.

Related: What Do You DO at a CrossFit Box?

Learning new movement patterns, how to combine movement patterns, establish and maintain balance while moving, and control the force applied during a movement are all challenged daily in CrossFit workouts.  Whether heavy lifting or a bodyweight “met-con”, CrossFit challenges you to move your body systematically and efficiently.  CrossFit does this by using movements that are what we call “functional” – movements that require us to move at multiple joints, with each applying the right amounts of force, in the right directions, at the right moments to complete the movement as a whole.

CrossFit challenges you to move your body systematically and efficiently. 

Motor control is a neurological element of your fitness.  As such, it requires practice to develop, establish, and maintain.  You have to try a pattern, receive feedback on how it went, and try it again.  As you improve, you’ll be stronger, faster, and more capable – with no increase in bulk or long delays while the training cycle takes its course.

Related: How Can ROM Make You Fitter?

At CrossFit Slipstream, we emphasize frequent practicing of movements, excellent form, and considered feedback to help you make maximum progress.  Some movements will seem natural and easy.  Others, less so.  But perseverance, dedication, hard work, and knowing when to put it down and try something else for a while are wonderful mental benefits of challenging yourself every time you walk into the gym.

Related: Bracing Sequence

-John Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer

john@crossfitslipstream.com