Greetings my Children of the Iron,
As we reach the halfway point of our current, endurance-biased cycle I want to address the notion of “good” reps vs. good reps.
These are the repetitions that achieve all measurable standards of what a repetition entails but the movement is done in a way that the intent of the movement is subverted at best and ignored at worst.
For clarity I will use the Russian kettlebell swing (RKBS) as an example. For a rep to be “good” (i.e. would count as complete in a competition) the kettlebell must pass behind the midline of my my body between the hips on the negative swing and reach approximately eye level on the positive swing. To achieve a “good” rep I can easily dip down ever so slightly, like during the loading phase of a push press, and push the bell behind me and then use my hip lockout to push the bell forwards while doing a front shoulder raise. By any standard that would count as a completed rep. However, it ignores the intent of the movement.
By squatting into the negative swing instead of hinging, I overload my quadriceps; the intent of the RKBS is to load the posterior chain and train dynamic hip extension. The further we get our shoulders in front of our toes (while maintaining a neutral spine and flat feet) without allowing our knees to lever forward, the more preloading of the muscles of the posterior chain will be achieved. The more muscles that I can load means more muscles get stronger which means I become a better athlete when concerning dynamic hip extension which then translates into literally everything we do in the realm of sport.
Overloading the anterior chain shortens the range of motion of the movement thus allowing the movement to be done more quickly but completely ignores what the movement and the program are attempting to express.
At the other end of the movement, the top portion of the swing, I can easily finish a dynamic front raise with a kettlebell if I can push the bell in front of me with my hips, but, the swing is supposed to be a swing, not a shoulder lift. This comes back to the preloading aspect of the swing. The kettlebell should be finishing somewhere around eye-level height due to the extension of the hips; this should be able to be done with absolutely no pull from the shoulders. At the top portion of the swing I want to be intently packing my shoulders back (imagine sitting upright on a rower and pulling back as hard as you can on the chain without bending your elbows) and maintaining stability in my midline. If I am overexerting myself with a shoulder lift, I may be able to do more reps more quickly but I am once again subvert the intention of the training.
When it comes to competition I encourage everyone to find the shortcuts that make you move the fastest. I hope you all podium one day. But on any given Tuesday afternoon at the gym we aren’t trying to podium. Yes, being #1 on the whiteboard feels great, but, if that comes at the expense of truly getting stronger, no one cares. And if your top priority is doing workouts only “technically” correctly so you can beat the local pool of athletes that you train with every day, that is why no one will remember your name.
May the Ravens of Odin guide you
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Greetings my Children of the Iron,