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The Mindfulness of Movement

What do you think is harder? 10 quick squats or one 30 second squat? Instinctively you might look at the reps and say, “Jasmine the 10 quick squats are harder…that’s 10 to 1!” Lets put this to the test. Do 10 air squats; take a break, and then do one 30 second squat.  I want the entire down process to take 15 seconds and the up to take 15 seconds. I want SLOW. What did you feel? Was it hard for you to keep a neutral spine all the way down and up? Did your knees cave in? Did you struggle?

“We can get caught up in the number of reps or rounds for time and forget to slow things down.”

When we take the time to think about and breakdown our movements, we can begin to reveal our weaknesses. Oftentimes it is the end-range of motion where we are the weakest because we are less able to generate tension (think bottom of the squat or pull-up). These are the spots we tend to mask with speed by kipping our way through or bouncing out of the bottom.

Related: The Importance of Foundational Strength

Mindfulness during movement enables us to catch our movement faults and correct them. Let’s say during a squat my knees have the tendency to cave in and I continually feel low back pain after. I might take a mindful approach by removing the weight and practicing super slow squats with just the bar. Every time I feel my knees cave in or my upper back/shoulders dip forward I remember to squeeze the glutes, push the knees out, and stand up tall. Now I will be able to practice more efficient movement patterns that I can reinforce during the WOD.

By taking a slower, more mindful approach we can think about addressing some of the following questions:

  • Are your knees or ankles caving in during a squat or hinge movement like the deadlift, clean, box jump, or wall ball? That’s a great time to pull out the band and do some x-walks and practice the bracing sequence.

  • Are you able to maintain an upright neutral spine throughout the entire lift or movement? If not, consider breaking the movement up (i.e. hang clean) or shortening the movement (i.e. deadlift from plates).

  • Can you pause at various points during a movement and be stable? If not, take the time to pause at that sticking point and correct yourself.

  • Where do you feel tightness or looseness?

  • What movements do you speed through? Why are you speeding through them?

I’m not saying you need to start super-slow training every movement you come across, for that would be torturous and unpleasant. What I am saying is, when not doing a WOD, take the time to feel out your body and how you execute a particular movement. Mobility guru Kelly Starrett is a big proponent of “owning the position”:

“We need to learn not only how to move well through a movement but also be able to stop at any point during the movement, breathe and still be able to maintain a braced position.”

This is HARD. And I am not expecting you to be able to hold the bottom of a squat for a minute at your 3-rep max. But I want you to start being more present with your body as you tackle different movements. Coaches are a great resource and you should feel free to ask us for help to isolate weaknesses in your movements. Taking slow-mo videos or using apps like Technique, can also help you learn to identify when you are moving in a way that is 1) inefficient and 2) potentially leaving you susceptible to injury.

Related: What is the Functional Movement Screen and How Can it Help You?

So what’s our take away with all this?

“I challenge you to approach our warm-ups, practice reps, skill work, and strength work mindfully.”

Really pay attention to how your body is moving through a particular movement and if something doesn’t feel right, or if a coach tells you something is not right, pause and feel where your body is in space and then repeat until you can “own” that particular part in the movement.

Below are a list of great movements to begin this practice:

  • body squat

  • pull-up

  • push up

  • super light deadlift

  • back squat

  • overhead press

  • hang clean

  • end position of the squat clean

  • box jump (landing position)

  • hollow rock and back extension

If you would like individualized help in recognizing the spots in a movement that you need to work on, consider scheduling a personal training session with a coach or request a Functional Movement Screen with John.

Until next time, stay mindful!

–Jasmine Gerritsen