A while back when I was first starting out my college volleyball career, I had a coach who was known for tough love. Before we get into the details about his method, let me share some background about his life.
He served in the US military and played volleyball on the team there. After his service he got into coaching volleyball at my school. He wasn’t the tallest, he wasn’t the fastest, not even the best player on his team. He was a hard worker. He believed that working on your skills would improve your game. That means starting from the very basics to the most complex things.
Let me give you some examples of the habits that he would be very strict on. Let’s say we had a group of freshmen coming into the tryouts. He would watch them as they “warm up.” You know college sports, especially the indoor ones happen on the same court, meaning the volleyball court would be set up on the basketball court. There you would see these young adults taking a volleyball and “shooting hoops with it.” From there, he would come up to me them and inform them, if they shoot a volleyball into a basketball hoop one more time, they are doing “suicides” after practice. Suicides are the sprints back and forth from different lines on the court. Last person to finish the round would do them all over again.
How does this relate to Cross Training you ask? Simple. Let’s say you’re at the gym
warming up for deadlift or a snatch or any type of movement. You begin by
grabbing the bar off the ground or whatever the item is and move it around to get some blood flowing, wake your body up, etc. Well, here is where it matters the most. If you are getting ready to lift something, even if it is just to move an object around, make sure you practice proper form. By that I mean, if you’re lifting the bar off the ground to warm up, be aware that this is a pivotal time to practice technique. Setting your back straight, making sure your arms are relaxed, shoulder back, heels on the ground, whatever the cues are for the proper lift, good habit training starts there.
You are teaching your body to move well. It seems silly because you’re strong enough or know what to do, but muscle memory learning doesn’t just start when the working sets start, it begins as soon as you interact with the object. Think of it this way, a couple of seconds here and there add up to minutes, those minutes add up to hours. Next thing you know you have spent a few hours practicing technique without spending extra time that can be used elsewhere.
Another thing to keep in mind is injury. Most injuries happen when one feels as if he or she is strong enough to perform the movement because the weight isn’t “heavy enough to really focus on it.” There are a ton of stories of people hurting their back because they lifted a grocery bag off the ground from a weird angle, even though their deadlift is x15 higher. If you make it a habit to move perfectly even if it is to just lift the PVC pipe or the barbell, I guarantee that you are going to improve faster than just waiting for cues from the coach.
To summarize it all, practice good form inside the gym no matter what you
do. Even as you warm up, you are learning and teaching your body how to move, if it’s range of motion or proper motor recruitment, all of it adds up. Better technique, and the healthier you will be because of these good habits!