This weekend, I met the coolest CrossFit chick ever. Even if she does bust on me for being skinny. Her name is Lu Crenshaw, and she owns CrossFit Allegiance, out of Oregon. She's been helping Tucker out at the gymnastics certs, so she came down to hit the Exercise Science lectures with him. We hit it off, like, immediately - and poor Tucker had to deal with the Syngergy of our Girly Awesomeness all weekend long.
We had the most fun screwing around at GSX on Saturday and Sunday nights. Instead of hitting a real workout, we just played with all the toys and had a mutual coaching show-off session. I helped Lu with Turkish get-ups and kettlebell windmills, and taught her the get-up sit-up and renegade rows. Lu showed me how to rock the GHD (I haven't done those before), helped me with skin the cats (stay tucked, tuck your knees, stay tucked... she is one patient beeyotch) and most importantly... fixed my low bar back squats.
The video coaching I've been getting on my squats has been good, but the angle from which I'm shooting makes it tough to see a few factors. One, the bar was VERY low on my back. I have crazy shoulder flexibility in certain aspects, so I just kept setting up with the bar lower and lower. I was off by, like, 3 inches. Now I can see how that contributed to my taco-ing. Two, my stance was VERY wide. Again, it felt okay to me, but I can see how that limited my depth, and propagated a forward tilt of the torso. Three, I was still looking up too far, which was killing hip drive.
Funny how that "looking up kills hip drive" thing just keeps coming back around. First, I used that as an example last week, when I was talking about exactly why I needed this Exercise Science cert. That day, I found an article in which Rip explains why looking up kills hip drive, which helped me understand the cue better. Then, at the cert, Rip specifically brought up that example during one of Kilgore's lectures, which reinforced the concept for me. THEN we get into GSX, and Lu demonstrates with me how much harder I'm making it on myself by looking up. She did the hand-on-the-ass drill... I got into the bottom of the squat, looked straight up and tried to drive up with my hips against her hand. It was slow going. We did it again, but this time I kept my head looking out and down. So much easier.
That drill really cemented the concept for me, and reminded me of an effective presentation strategy: (1) Tell them what you're going to tell them (2) Tell them (3) Tell them what you told them. In this instance, step 1 was Lu saying, "Looking up kills your squat... it changes the angle of the back and makes driving up with the hips much harder". Step 2 was "telling me"... in this case, physically putting me in the two positions (looking up and looking down) and letting me feel the difference for myself. Step 3 was when Lu wrapped it all up by saying, "Now which felt easier? Remember that when you get under the bar - don't make it any more difficult than it has to be".
That lesson clicked - and in a far more significant manner than just cementing my back squat form. What I realized was that in my quest to become a better coach, I'd been focusing on instructing others, and researching and learning more about exercise and fitness... but I also need to continue being coached myself.
The lessons I learned in the classroom this weekend help to round out my training and coaching vocabulary and comprehension. They make me a better coach and a better CrossFitter. And the lessons I learn while working with experienced coaches like Lu, Tucker and Jeff Martone do the exact same thing, from a different angle. It is learning that comes at me from all directions, through all my senses, using every available medium - a blitz attack on my education. Sound familiar? It is no different than the way CrossFit is a blitz attack on my physical conditioning. As a trainer, I'll need to incorporate the "hip drive" drill that Lu practiced with me, AND what Rip said during our lecture, AND everything I've read on the subject, AND the cues I've learned from my own experience teaching the squat. As a result, I'll be able to effectively and completely explain this concept to any client, regardless of what type of "learner" he may be, or how much experience she has.
Danny Vadala and I have had a few good talks on this subject, and I've asked him to write up a guest post on the subject of "coach and be coached". Look for that post in the next week or so, because this concept is worth exploring further, and Danny is one of the best coaches I've had the good fortune of working with.
Lu created a kick ass video montage below - my first set of squats (ick) and my last set (after her careful coaching and cues). It's clear which look better - and despite the fact that I was (a) not warmed up or stretched out, (b) kind of hung over and (c) wearing Pumas instead of my Oly shoes... I'm pretty sure that last set were the most decent low bar squats I've ever done. These were only with 100#, though... I did another 3x5 yesterday with at 120#. I've sent those off for review, we'll see if my hip drive action looks anywhere near as good with 20 more pounds on the bar.
Big thank you to Tucker for his hospitality, and to Lu for the stellar coaching and keeping me more than entertained all weekend long. For those of you in the Medford, OR area, you should really stop by and check out her new digs.