October 5, 2020

Keep Tension, Forget Position

Dear Tribe,

Most of you will know me as Coach Wouter. Your friendly neighborhood CrossFit coach, standing in front of the class with a big smile to push each and every one of you to your personal limit of that day. However, I am attempting something new to not only help you (our members) reach new heights, and better versions of yourself but I am also aiming to improve my own personal knowledge and growth myself. If all goes well this will be the first of many across the bar posts. This blog post will be about one of the most fundamental StrongFit principles and how this can help you reach new levels, both physically and mentally.

In my opinion it is possibly the most important fundamental for training and after spending time down the Strongfit rabbit hole as a team our (Crossfit Leiden’s) philosophy is ‘Tension over Position’. You’ve probably heard me or any of the other coaches say ‘’Squeeze your glutes’’ or ‘’brace your obliques’’ time and time again, simply hearing these ques can help you squeeze your glutes while carrying a sandbag or bracing your obliques while doing a back squat. But why do we uses these cues?,  what does it do for your movement through an exercise? And most importantly, How does it make you stronger?

Well in fact it is really simple and I will try to keep it that way.

We as humans are perfectly capable of putting ourselves in certain positions take for example the back squat and reaching below parallel, 90 degrees at the bottom of the movement. How many times have you gone below 90 degrees at the bottom of your squat and felt your lower back aching? Or had sharp pain through your knees?. You might ask yourself, how is that happening? You are doing what you are being told to do and still it feels like something is wrong. This is because you can physically put yourself in the position you have been told to do but not maintain the right tension whilst doing it. You could call it, ‘’Cheating the position’’ this means that you look quote on quote amazing performing the movement, but it feels horrible for your body.

This is a problem. Don’t get me wrong we all eventually want our squat to look like they do in  a textbook, but because we aren’t pro-athletes and have lived our life like normal people we have had injuries and build up imbalances because through previous sports etc.

How we see it is that we rather than making you put your body through these amazing good looking but uncomfortable positions we teach you to use the muscles that are supposed to do the work and carry the load. So we have you squat to depth you can achieve whilst maintaining oblique tension, or we have you focus on squeezing your glutes whilst deadlifting, or using your lats in your pull up. And this might mean that your squat looks like Quasimodo lifting weights, or you might not be able get your chin over the bar with your pull up, but at least you will be using the right muscles and not putting your body through pain with every single repition.

Following this philosophy might mean that certain movements need to be rebuild from the ground up. This can make you feel frustrated I’m sure of it, trust me I have been there. But by having patience and being aware of what we do and what muscles we use, we can build our bodies to be so much stronger than they currently are. It will not come over night and you may still use muscles that are not meant to be activated for that particular exercise and that’s okay. The point of us teaching you tension over position is that you become aware of what you are doing and that slowly but surely you start feeling the difference between a pull up where you yank yourself up using your traps (having that crazy neck pain after) verse a pull up coming straight from the lats. So that in the long run you know your own body so well, that no matter what you are doing you always have this strong and solid base where the risk of injury is minimal. This is our promise to you; Move better, Live healthy, Feel good.

Alright guys, that was all for today’s post, I really hope you enjoyed it. Please let me know what you thought below in the comments – or let me know when you see me in the box. I really enjoyed learning more about the Strongfit fundamentals and writing this for you all, there is definitely more coming soon! Enjoy your day and don’t forget, Keep tension over position!

Signing off,

Wouter Laurens