Today let’s take a 30,000 foot view of fitness. Our classes at MFF run on a four week cycle, and this week is “Week 4,” meaning that it’s our most challenging week on this class cycle before the entire Ninja Army learns some new moves. (Guys, I’ve seen what Coach Fury is planning for next time, and it’s awesome.)
I fielded the same question twice yesterday, in regards to a bodyweight exercise we’re calling the “squinge” in classes. It’s our name for the skater squat, as made popular by the MBSC crew.
In two classes yesterday, some badass Ninjas asked about how far they should descend while squinging. The technical answer came to me first. “As far as you feel comfortable,” I said. A moment after that, I answered more philosophically. It was along the lines of this:
We’re all about running our own race, and… it’s Week 4. This is about finding that balance between pushing how hard we go, while moving as well as possible. If you get one smooth rep of the squinge and then 4 or 5 tip-overs because depth becomes so important… how well does that honor Week 4?
As each class did our sets of squinges in the workout everyone worked through the range of motion that was comfortable. If the often quoted Gray Cook adage is, “Move well, then move often,” I’d like to add the stipulation, “Move well enough to move often enough to create a meaningful fitness outcome.”
Let me tell you another story: In a February class at MFF, Mike was setting up for his KB Goblet Squat. Mike picked up his kettlebell, he set his feet, he set his hips, he set his ribcage, he pulled his elbows in to his hips, he pulled his head high, he let out a full exhale to “set” this position… and our timer beeped to signify we were moving on to the next exercise. With a smile on his face, Mike turned to me and said, “Sometimes you forget that the point is to move.”
I couldn’t have been more proud of you, Mike. It was a beautiful moment of switching focus, from the intricacies and nuances of nailing every single repetition of squats, to the 30,000 foot view:
The point is to move.
The use of kettlebells, barbells, sandbags, cable machines, TRX suspension trainers, stability balls, and the like is all considered skill-based fitness. These are not self-explanatory devices, and they’re not ones that you can exactly go to auto-pilot while using. The first challenge of using this type of equipment is that it requires thought, far more than using an elliptical or indoor bike. For some people this is the draw to “functional” training, while for others it’s why they haven’t tried it yet.
Using this equipment requires a measure of technical proficiency, and how much practice you put into the form entirely up to you. No two reps will ever be the same, there will always be a rep-to-rep variety, known as movement variability. The range of that variability is in your hands: Do you want each rep to be as similar as possible to the previous one, or will you allow for more of these differences to show?
As an example, here’s a minute of the jump split burpee that’s currently in the beginning of Kickass Conditioning at MFF. There’s some variety between each burpee throughout the set, and that’s totally cool; I’m using these to work as hard as I can for a minute at a time:
Exercise technique is important, and… we won’t burn more fat, or build more muscle, or get stronger, by only focusing on technique. It’s certainly a piece in the puzzle, but the point is to move. Let’s honor Gray’s quote with a nuanced: “Move well enough to move often enough to create a meaningful fitness outcome.”
“Meaningful” is entirely up to you. Are you tracking specific body measurements? Are you following your heart rate while you exercise? Do your workouts reduce stress or improve sleep quality? Let’s move well enough and often enough to reap these rewards of exercise!