After mechanics, consistency is the next step in the process of athletic development. In this context, “consistency” has two important meanings that must be understood and applied before increasing intensity.
The first applies to consistency within single movements. Can an athlete perform a movement with the proper mechanics? Can they do it repeatedly, without losing their form? If the answer is no, then the next step is to practice that movement with reduced weight and speed until the mechanics are ingrained and the athlete can perform the movement consistently. Focusing on proper form and mechanics will reduce the risk for injury and eliminate poor movement patterns. This is why we stress the importance of squatting with good form, getting below parallel, locking your hips out on top, driving your knees out BEFORE adding weight. We want you to master the basics. This goes for all movements; presses, cleans, pull-ups, kipping, push-ups, snatches, lunges. If you are unable to perform the movement correctly, adding weight is just going to teach your body incorrect movement patterns and you will, most likely, be recruiting the wrong muscles to successfully finish the reps.
If the answer is yes, meaning that the athlete has no problem executing the movement, then they can move to the next step. This does not mean that they will not require coaching or occasional reminders, but they should have a strong foundation and good mechanics, most of the time. This is where we will begin to add weight or intensity and where we also need to check our egos. If we have the proper base, slight variations in equipment and load should NOT hinder our mechanics. When a coach tells you that you are losing your form, this usually means that the weight is too heavy or that we are not ready to add intensity to a specific movement. An example of this might be deadlifts in a workout. You have probably developed the proper movement mechanics and can most likely use a specific weight during the “strength’ portion of class, but adding volume will change the intensity. During a workout, with high reps, you will probably need to pick a lighter weight (hence, “checking the ego”) and really focus on form. Injury risk drastically increases when your ego meets intensity… You go to pick up a heavy barbell, with an increased heart rate, and end up tweaking your back. We see it more often than we would like and that is why we have coaches. They will help you pick the appropriate weights and correct you when your movement patterns start to get “off”.
Once it is clear that this level of consistency is present on a technical level, the next question to ask is: “How consistently is the athlete exposed to the stimulus?” Meaning, how often is the athlete working out (times per week) and how often are they exposed to specific movements.
If an athlete has not yet established a consistent training schedule, it will be hard to justify increasing intensity. This is why we start our members out with onboarding. This is a chance for new members to learn the basic movements and to drill the correct movement patterns BEFORE they attend class. This is also why we typically scale workouts for new members and/or have them use little to no weight. Once they develop a consistent workout routine, we will begin to increase the intensity and, eventually, add load.
The second part of the consistency question addresses exposure to movement. This is one of the reasons why coaches frown upon cherry-picking workouts. We know that everyone has their favorite movements and they hate others, but skipping out on things you're not good at will never allow you to get better at them. Also, the programming at the gym cycles movements so that everyone gets exposed to different movements each week. This is why we don’t deadlift every Monday or squat every Wednesday. Members who attend classes 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) need to be exposed to all movement patterns; squatting, hinging, pressing, pulling, lunging, core, and monostructural work. If you don’t like to squat and always skip those days, you may also have a greater risk for muscular imbalances and injuries over time. You want to balance hinging movements with squatting and pulling movements with pressing to create a balance within your body. It’s also important to work on single leg strength (lunges, step-ups) and single-arm strength (Z-presses, gorilla rows) too, to eliminate any imbalances from your left and right side.
Consistency in movement patterns and exposure to movements are so important. That is why we stress getting to the gym regularly and really focusing on form. We are in it for the long game and want you to be moving well far into your nineties. Each new skill will need to be evaluated on its own timeline; you may be consistent with one movement, but this by no means guarantees the same qualification for other movements. We also know that life happens and that consistency may not be maintained the same during different seasons of your life. If you have a couple of weeks off, try not to stress about it and when you come back, listen to your coach!!
If you have any questions, reach out to a coach. We are here for you!!