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Why Technique is the Foundation of a Training Philosophy

Traditional endurance training philosophies seek peak performance by focusing on the physical attributes needed to perform, like aerobic capacity and lactate threshold.  Dr. Nicholas Romanov, founder of the Pose Method®, argues in a recent blog post that this is incorrect, and that the foundation of peak performance is not gross physical attributes, but their manifestation in the form of technique.  Thus, technique should not just be an afterthought, but the foundation of training philosophy as well.

Improving your fitness without improving your technique is like putting a bigger engine in your car – you’ll be really fast until something breaks from the stress, but then you’ll be stuck on the side of the road.

Power sports like Olympic weightlifting consider this advice unremarkable.  Gymnasts consider it self-evident.  Endurance athletes and coaches, however, consider this a radical departure.  Surely, the difference maker in endurance sports is endurance, right?  Yes, of course.  But Dr. Romanov’s point is that excellent technique most efficiently turns your physical capabilities into forward movement, which is what most endurance sports are all about.

Pose Sequence

Starting with technique is a neurological approach to training – get the movement pattern as efficient as it can be, then focus on improving the underlying physiological factors, which do, of course, matter greatly.  But your hard-earned physiology just goes to waste when you apply it inefficiently.  Improving your fitness without improving your technique is like putting a bigger engine in your car – you’ll be really fast before something breaks from the stress, but then you’ll be stuck on the side of the road.

Related: Is This You? “Running Sucks!”

In the wake of the Rio Olympics, several organizations have revealed some of the strategies used to improve performance, which point to the importance of non-physiological factors in achieving success.

…excellent technique most efficiently turns your physical capabilities into forward movement…

Runner’s World Magazine reports that USA Track & Field reviewed the disappointing US distance event results in London in 2012, in which 10 US athletes finished between 4th and 8th in their events.  The improvement required to move up to a medal? 0.52%.  USA’s Galen Rupp finished third in the Rio men’s marathon.  If you watch him run, you’ll notice he whips his right arm around, wasting energy.  Fixing that might not have made the difference, but it was an opportunity for efficiency missed.

Related: Strength Training for Endurance Athletes – Videos & Guide

The British cycling team undertook a program in 2002 seeking what they called the aggregation of marginal gains.  The goal was to identify all the factors that create success and improve each by 1%.  At Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, Britain won 7 of 10 medals available in track cycling. They won 6 of 10 in Rio.

These tiny differences emphasize the importance of even small efficiencies.  Technique is not a small efficiency or improvements – it’s the starting point of all efficiencies.  It should be our primary focus.  At CrossFit Slipstream, we practice the progression: Mechanics —> Consistency —> Intensity.   It begins with learning a movement – the technique.  We practice being able to access that movement pattern consistently, like wearing a path in your nervous system, so that when your brain says “snatch!” one clear signal is sent to your body.  Then we can add intensity in the form of additional load, distance, speed, etc.  Adding intensity before your technique is consistent courts injury, and injury decreases performance.

Consistent technique grooves your nervous system, like always taking the same shortcut wears a path into grass.

Consistent technique grooves your nervous system, like always taking the same shortcut wears a path into grass.

Maximizing your performance is a matter of applying your fitness as efficiently as possible.  Emphasizing technique as the foundation of your athletic preparation for endurance sports sets you up for success and gives you the best chance to achieve your goals.  It also creates a naturally limiting element in your training – if you cannot maintain your technique, you are adding too much intensity and need to reduce intensity until form returns, or end your training session.  Developing the ability to remain efficient at higher power outputs will maximize your fitness results, while minimizing the chance of injury.

Send me a message with any questions you may have, I’m happy to help.

-John Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer

John@CrossFitSlipstream.com