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.