Thanks to the two most recent blog posts (presumably), we had several recent inquiries to our On Ramp program and all that it entails. I have touted the progressive curriculum and application of our On Ramp as one of the best systems CrossFit Ktown has implemented to offer the best service possible to our clients. So let me now take a moment to delve in to some of the more granular aspects of the program.
First, let me begin by saying that almost all new athletes at Ktown go through this month-long program. We do not often move an athlete straight to group classes. For an athlete to be allowed to move directly to group classes he or she must be very coachable and possess a strong base of technique for not only technical lifts like snatch and clean and jerk, but also the foundational movements like push-up, air squat, and ring rows to name a few.
A fact that we are proud of is that the median athlete at Ktown moves very well. Great movement is not limited to competitive athletes; it is endemic to almost all athletes here. Countless stories have been told by our members about their experiences dropping in to other gyms. They are regularly told that they move well. There are few compliments as sweet to the ear for us coaches!
But great movement starts with a solid foundation in movement principles. And those movement principles are taught during our On Ramp. So let us now dive in to our On Ramp…
Day 1 –
15-12-9 air squat + ring row + push-up (scale up or down as needed)
After a doing some individual introductions we do a brief run down of what they can expect during our twice-weekly On Ramp meetings at Ktown. We give the new athletes a quick overview of the gym and play some of the same six-year-old jokes that we (Grant) have been using since 2009 (most of the jokes still slay, btw). We then give them a heads up on what they are learning for the day and how integral these movements will be in their journey with Ktown.
It can never be stressed enough how important these movements are and how they will form the foundation on which we will layer everything else. Even I forget this fact sometimes. And I am constantly reminding athletes via this blog and on the floor of the gym that how they perform a push-up is how they catch a snatch – how you do anything is how you do everything. Striving for virtuosity, performing the common uncommonly well, in these simpler movements will help the athlete get in to very technical movements and positions quickly and with ease. If you do 1,000 perfect push-ups and air squats, you will be a lot closer to the perfect snatch or clean and jerk than if you do 1,000 poorly executed push-ups and air squats.
And now look, I’ve written 250 words on the importance of these foundational movements without even getting in to how to perform them. Allow me to get back on track here.
The air squat begins On Ramp Day 1, and rightly so because there is not a day that goes by at CrossFit Ktown that we do not perform some sort of hip or knee bending (flexion) movement. We often warm up with a row or bike, both involving deep knee flexion. We regularly perform lunges and squats in the warm-up. Our strength movements will typically involve some type of knee or hip flexion. Almost everything we do has some resemblance to the air squat. It is the most functional of movements and relates most to what the athlete will encounter in day-to-day life outside the gym. Imagine sitting down and standing back up, getting in and out of your car, walking up stairs, picking something up or setting it down – all of these movements require knee and or hip flexion and extension.
So we go over what it means to get set up and prepared to air squat. We discuss activating the glutes and externally rotating the femurs while stacking the rib cage over the lumber over the pelvis. We talk about why this is important in as much as setting the athlete up for the strongest and safest position. We go in to movement choices and deciding which to perform based solely on that fact: the strongest position should ALWAYS be the safest position. If a movement does not hold up to that scrutiny, we do not perform it, simply. And then cues are given to both set the athlete up in the correct position as well as helping the athlete find that same feeling throughout all portions of the squat.
Attached to the glutes and external rotation teaching moment is the discussion about hinging from the hips and not from the lumbar spine. We do not want the athlete dumping the pelvis forward, or having an anteriorly rotated pelvis, during any movement much less a squat. So we teach how to set the pelvis and lumbar spine, how to weld them together through muscular recruitment, and then how to descend (hip hinge) down in to a squat without losing that hard fought position. If you are an athlete stalled out on your squats (or just generally concerned for your health and wellness), check your setup and early movement hip hinge. You may find you are getting shut down by your brain (more on that below) because it realizes you are in a funky position. Do not be in a funky position!
We discuss maintaining three points of contact through the foot throughout the entire squat: heel, lateral ball of the foot, and big toe. Your brain is the best software every developed (because it can learn and improve!) and it is connected to the best hardware ever created, your body. The brain knows when something is wrong, and if you are an athlete that squats with your big toes in the air SOMETHING IS WRONG! Neural inhibition will keep you from ever attaining a true squat max if you are not grounded through all three points on your foot. We also discuss maintaining both the front-to-back and the side-to-side arches of the foot during the squat. We teach the athlete the connection between the valgus bone of the ankle and how it affects knee position during movement as well. Do you have pain in your knee? Check your ankle mechanics.
And finally we drill that air squat over and over. Does everyone get it right the first day? No. Will people forget half of what we talked about? Likely. But we start the conversation from a point of reference that everyone, coaches and athletes, can understand. And once we establish that reference point we layer on more and more detail. I read a metaphor from Tim Urban not too long ago portraying knowledge of a topic as a tree. Without a solid trunk you cannot hang a new branch or leaf on to it; it will just fall away forgotten forever. This is why it is important to build that solid foundation of a trunk so you can add those branches to the solid foundation. So we are building that solid trunk on day one movement one. We give them 20% of the knowledge that will elicit 80% of the movement standard goals. And we are quite happy with 80% on day one.
All of that happened in the first 25 minutes of Day 1 On Ramp. Warm-up, introductions, tired old jokes, and air squat instruction have all been wrapped in to 25 minutes. That leaves us only 35 minutes to go in to detail on the back squat, push-up, and ring row, but we have the most functional movement in our arsenal already under our belt. So we have planted and grown a solid trunk of a tree to then layer more and more detail on to later in the session and subsequent On Ramp days.
But I have now run to 1,300 words, and I understand that people likely get very bored reading this stuff. So I will leave the remainder of Day 1 On Ramp to another post.