I always liked the story about the Tortoise and the Hare. I think it just makes me feel better about being slow cause its gives me hope that on a long enough timeline, I can get ahead of someone better than me! It also has a ton of carry over to working out. Most people feel that the fastest way to progress, is to always be the hare. Always performing the hardest movements and going as fast as possible. Harder is always better, right?
Going through the motions with movements and focusing only on getting the reps down will really slow down your ability to improve. We know that we are usually working out for time or reps, but by prioritizing your score on that day (and lacking attention to detail) you usually are sacrificing your progress down the line. This is actually a huge concept to understand so read it again – by prioritizing your score on that day (and lacking attention to detail) you usually are sacrificing your progress down the line. This idea has become far more popular in training circles and is often referenced by training and competition days. Competition days have their importance as they allow you to see the progress your hard work has created and of course come in handy on competition day, whether that is an obstacle course race, a Crossfit competition, or a 5K race. These days are not when you improve though, training days are when the magic happens, in fact when we see people turn their training days into competition days, we actually see them regress both mentally and physically.
During this cycle we are focusing on your upper body pushing strength. We actually chose this area of focus because through our assessments, we found that the gym as a whole was lacking in this area. By working on this strength the last few weeks with the tabata push-ups and 10 rounds of push-up workout, we have seen the tortoise and the hare effect in play. The pushup seems so simple but it actually has a ton of nuance and strength requirements. Remember, you have to master the basics before you can progress to advanced movements.
On those two workouts, we saw a lot of people (mostly guys) with flared elbows, their midlines breaking as they snake the pushup, and half reps (these are the hares). On the other side, there were people moving much slower or with a box, working through controlled descent, midline braced, chest to the ground pushups and taking breaks when their form started to go (these are the tortoises). The most interesting part will be at the end of the cycle when we retest the push-up tabata, the tortoises will have improved night and day both in their form and strength from the initial test. The hares on the other hand will be frustrated that they barely improved even after all that work.
I put the mostly guys part into the last paragraph for two reasons. Because its true but also because it shows that the biggest barrier to progress is actually your ego. Most guys think “I have been doing pushups my whole life, I know how to do them.” Instead of paying attention to detail, slowing down, and perfecting their movement, most of us guys are just focusing on getting the most pushups done possible and definitely not willing to scale down the reps or do box pushups.. Don’t think it is just the guys either, there are women with egos as well!
This whole idea carries over to almost every other movement as well (hello olympic lifting and toes to bar), but lets keep the focus on pushups. Here are the things you can do to speed up your progress on your upper body pushing strength and endurance.
- Modify or slow down the movement so you can have full range of motion and perfect execution.
- Take a break when you feel your form start to break down.
- Keep attention to detail during the workouts. Try to stay in the moment and focus on each movement as you do it.
Not sure what a perfect pushup looks like or if your form is on point? Ask a coach for help! We are constantly on the lookout for these things anyway and will point them out and help you anyway. However, there is nothing we love more than when someone comes over and asks “Can watch me and help me out with this movement?”
95% of your days should be your training days. Remember to be the tortoise most of the time as you focus on attention to detail and progress in each of your workouts. Then when that 5% comes on an assessment day, at a competition, or race then you will get to show of all your gains.