Movement Mastery

Zuzka Zavodnahealth, instructionLeave a Comment

In CrossFit, we specialize in not specializing. That’s something every member of the gym learns at their first introductory class. We strive to balance the 10 general physical skills: cardiovascular / respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy.

Coach Glassman, the founder of the CrossFit methodology, said in his article “What is fitness?”, that we should “practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.” (This article is considered as the foundation of CrossFit, if you haven’t read it, you definitely should.)

With CrossFit, we have a very powerful tool in our hands, with a lot of movements ranging from the most basic to extremely difficult. And just like with any other activity, we want to get to those fancy movements as fast as we can. Who likes doing air squats and kettlebell swings over and over again? Why don’t we do more muscle ups, butterfly pull ups or handstand walks? The compulsion to move forward too quickly is a curse that many new members have to face. But building a house on weak foundations will inevitably lead to injury. Spending enough time learning the progressions might be boring, but it’s necessary for your health and fitness in the long run. 

Movement mastery is a journey that never ends. If you looked at the programming of any of the top CrossFit Games athletes, you’d be amazed how many basic movements they do in their training. It’s not only the 150 kg snatch or presses to handstand that you see on their Instagram, it’s also hundreds of burpees, endless farmer carries and grueling rowing intervals. Even after 10 years of doing CrossFit, they’re still trying to perfect their deadlift technique. One theory behind the concept of mastery strikes me personally very much, and I think about it often in the training. Robert Greene in his book “Mastery” talks about the learning path of acquiring a new skill.

In the beginning, the apprentice is in the observation mode, the skill acquisition is slow. After that the apprentice moves to the deliberate practice mode, where he gets familiar with the movement and sees the biggest progress. In the end of the process is experimentation with the acquired skill, and the growth starts slowing down. In the end of the curve is mastery, a point attainable only to the most diligent ones. It is important to see this curve as one part of a never ending chart. In our fitness journey, there will always be times when we are in the observation mode, when we don’t see much progress in the gym and we get demotivated. But if we realize that this phase will necessarily be followed by a new skill acquisition and growth, it will make us more patient. This is something that people who have been with us for a longer time know very well. The PRs do not come every day any more. There are days when I cannot hit even 90 % on my snatch max, when I can’t string 10 double unders together, or days when I simply have to rapidly slow down while doing my burpees because my head is spinning like a helicopter. But in my head I know what I’m capable of, and I know that this downturn will be followed by another progress phase, soon.

Mastery can be divided into 3 aspects:

  1. Physical

Mastering each type of the 7 fundamental movement patterns and their progressions.

  1. Mental

Self-awareness of the movement and context of the workout of the day.

  1. Emotional

Consistent physical practice and dedication.

Our strength programs and skill sessions in the beginning of the class are there to review the technique of movements ranging from basic to advanced. Listen carefully to the coaches tips and apply them deliberately into your movement practice. And if you are hungry for more information, here’s where you can find great tips for mastery of various movements:

  • Chris Spealler and his #weeklygeek focuses on how details of the common CrossFit movements affect your efficiency

  • Carl Paoli and his Freestyle Connection gives you various progressions and complementary exercise for bodyweight movements

If you gave more tips for interesting websites and profiles, please share them in comments.


Greg Glassman: Fundamentals, Virtuosity, and Mastery

Greg Glassman: What is fitness?

Robert Greene: Mastery; available on Amazon

Kenny Kane: Thoughts on the School of Mastery
(post removed, originally from

The 7 Human Movement Patterns Simplified

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