Another Point of View-One Well Worth Pondering...

Dan MacDougald, owner and Coach extraordinaire of CrossFit Atlanta, has posted a rebuttal and very valid perspective to Jon Gilson's dissertation "The Non Negotiability of Perfection", which we posted last weekend.  Read and comment...

The form nazis have an eloquent spokesman, Jon Gilson, of Again Faster. Read his article, "The Non Negotiability of Perfection." Gilson makes many good points. But I have some areas of disagreement.

When the range of motion of an exercise is short changed, e.g., when a pushup does not go all the way down or all the way up, or when a squat does not go below parallel or to full extension at the top, then the reps should not count and the times posted for the workout are not valid. In every case of shortened range of motion, the amount of work done is reduced, and that is a cheat. The workout times are not valid, and the athlete's progress is hindered. In this respect, Gilson & I are in perfect agreement.

Then there is the separate question of inefficient technique. A movement may be done through full range of motion with improper technique, and Gilson is right to say that bad technique not only hinders performance, it can be dangerous. An example would be a deadlift with the back in flexion.

But much of Gilson's article is directed to the issue of acceptable form for a thruster during a Fran workout. Recall that he made a comment on the HQ site that 2/3 to 3/4 of the thruster reps in the "Franlanta" video should not have counted. Two photos accompany the article. In one the bar is over the heels, and the head and torso are pushed forward into the classic overhead position that would get the green light from Olympic lifting judges. In the other, the bar is way out in front of the lifter's center of gravity. I agree that the latter is bad technique and that no one will achieve their true potential at Fran using such technique. But the bar can be kept over the lifter's center of gravity at full elbow extension without the lifter getting his head and torso forward and under the bar. See the photo below.

This is what I see in Mike G's thruster reps, in Josh Everett's 2:25 Fran, in Greg Amundsen's Fran, and in AFT's 2:19 Fran. Gilson makes the argument that the strict overhead position is stronger and more efficient for holding weight overhead, and he is absolutely right about this. A heavy jerk, push press, press, or snatch cannot be got up or held up any other way, and that is proof of the efficiency of the technique. But with the light weight used in Fran is he right to say that those who lock out elbows while laying the torso back slightly and who don't get their heads through and under the bar are cheating and are also condemned by bad mechanics from ever reaching their true Fran potential?

I don't think so.

First: I have yet to hear or read any persuasive argument that moving the bar to full lockout of the elbows with the torso and head laid back a little is any less work than moving the head and torso under the bar to the position of strict overhead. Because the same amount of work is being done, it is not a cheat like short stroking push ups and pull ups is.

Second: If moving to a strict overhead position is more efficient, then we would see faster times using the allegedly more efficient technique. The test of such a theory is results. And on that basis the theory fails. Every sub 3 minute Fran video that I have seen has guys who do not move into the strict overhead position that Gilson claims is essential to truly fast Fran times. In the fast Fran videos I have seen the bar is moved to full elbow lockout with the bar over the mid foot, so they are not cheating on the range of motion, and they are doing the same amount of work as someone who moves the bar to a strict overhead position. If Mr. Gilson's theory were correct, they could all go even faster if they used the more efficient technique. The problem with the theory is that as far as I know of no one using the allegedly more efficient technique goes faster than the guys using the allegedly inefficient technique. If they have, let's see the video.

In Fran the bar is not held overhead at full extension. It starts down the instant after it hits full elbow extension. The faster and more directly it can come down, the faster the movement can cycle. Moving the head under the bar and then moving it back out of the way before the downward movement begins is wasted motion, is unnecessary, and takes time, and that is why no one doing thrusters the way Gilson insists will ever approach the times put up by athletes who move like Josh, Greg, AFT, and Mike G.


Dan, well put. Unfortunately, his article makes a fatal assumption: That form on a one rep "strength" move must ALWAYS be the same as form on a series of "metabolic power" reps. Sure range of motion should be the same, and form should not be sloppy in lieu of time. However, the reason crossfit leaders believe in the kipping pullup rather than a pullup with "strict" form is you can elevate your power consumption by kipping. This situation is no different for a thruster where the bar is always moving (through the same range of vertical motion as a strict overhead movement) and the small amount of horizontal motion, although important for holding heavy weight above the head, is not contributing significantly to power. In fact, as you point out, it slows time and does not contribute significantly to gravitational work (the major component) so the net effect is to reduce total power output. Moreover, the small muscles he claims you will be tiring, do not enter into the picture if done correctly because the bar should be near weightless at the top of the movement (and you do not hold it there) due to the power created by the hip thrust.

I took some still shots out of the Franlanta video. I thought they were interesting to look at. I put the first, middle, and last thruster of each round in Flickr.

That is a well written response to Jon Gilson's article.

It seems to me, that the thruster would be most efficient when the path of the bar is straight up and down. When you start the second part of the thruster, the bar is resting on the shoulder/deltoids and is over the midfoot. The bar moves up in a straight line to full extension and is still over the midfoot. The bar then drops back down in a straight line, back on top of the deltoids. Why would you pull the bar back behind the head while at full extension? That seems like wasted effort and time.

Daily WODTara RossComment