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At the Chalkboard: The Art of Training by Greg Glassman - CrossFit Journal

In Coaching, CrossFit, Reference, Videos

March 12, 2010

Video Article

Knowing the finer points of a movement is important to being a great trainer, but it might be equally important to be a passionate, energetic person who creates a great atmosphere and motivates clients.

You can know everything there is to know about squatting, but you’ll be lecturing to an empty gym if you don’t have the skills to use that knowledge to help clients who don’t care about physics, anatomy and biomechanics.

“The desire to get too deep into the nuance of the movement is startlingly the exclusive province of the folks who have got no clients,” Coach Greg Glassman explains in his garage.

It’s certainly important to know and understand how to deadlift, but you still have to make a client enjoy doing it—and therein lies the art of training.

3min 50sec

Additional Reading: Motivating Athletes by Dave Tate, published Aug. 14, 2009.

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13 Comments on “At the Chalkboard: The Art of Training”


cristin botsford wrote …

I could not agree more coach. Work hard, have fun, and practice not hurting yourself.


wrote …

That's a great point about facilitating an enoyable experience while still providing a kick butt work out. I think good coaching is a fine art that's a combination of many things, including: training experience and knowledge, creating a positive environment, caring about your athletes' safety and improvement, etc. And then there's that "IT" factor that's hard to explain. Some coaches just have "IT."


So needed!
I am a newbie L1 Certified Trainer and getting some interest from people for me to start training them. I was struggling with how to approach things: focus on form, technique, &/or fun. I ended up going back to my roots of teaching, neuroscience: surprisingly most (95% or more) psychology undergraduates do not want to study neuroscience, the brain! What they don't know is that it's the most important thing to learn about as a psych major. So I make it fun: I even have them do dinky little art projects and am starting to incorporate some CF methodology into my classroom. The students report "..didn't realize neuroscience was so easy, fun, & exciting..." In much the same way, the article here suggests I do the same: work hard, get the points across, but be fun, enthusiastic, etc. I've, personally, found in my neuro classes that a little bit of enthusiasm about what you are doing goes a heckuva long way to convincing others that it's worth it.
Thanks for posting! Great vid!


wrote …

The ability to teach and correct movement patterns IS critical to the success of any trainer or gym. You can't have any exercise "fun" if you are nursing an injury from performing a movement incorrectly. It doesn't matter if it is a body weight exercise, heavy power lift or olympic lift. A trainee who routinely exhibits poor technique at high levels of exertion is eventually going to get hurt.


wrote …

It's no FUN, when a client does not perform a movement correctly. I really don't understand where this question or video was going. Sure you don't need to explain all the "details" of a squat, but you better have a person preforming a squat efficiently before you add any weight on their back. Using cues and knowing what to monitor is different than explaining the finer details of the movement. I am making an assumption here, maybe what Glassman is talking about is do not become so technical in your training that you forget the goal is results. You will only get results if you use proper technique.


replied to comment from Al Rymniak

With all due respect, your last statement is simply wrong. Performing a wide variety of functional movements with (relatively) high intensity is what gives results, even if the technique isn't "proper." Now, our definition of proper technique is that which is most effective, efficient and safe, so of course we are highly supportive of it. In fact, the majority of the Journal content is oriented toward it in one way or another.

But, and this is one of the key points of the video and essential for all trainers to understand, technique is the servant of performance, not the other way around.


replied to comment from Tony Budding


I think you are confusing "proper" technique with perfect technique. Worrying about perfect technique too much will destroy intensity and results, but doing a movement properly won't. Proper technique allows the intensity to happen in an effective, efficient, and safe movement pattern. So performance would be the servant of proper not perfect technique. Watch some of the videos and see how much extra movement people have to do because they didn't focus on technique. Specifically Fran videos where they drop the shoulders in the bottom of the thrusters. They add an extra six inches per rep of bar travel because they didn't focus on keeping the shoulders up. Sure it adds intensity but it decreases performance because of the extra distance and it probably slows down bar speed as well because the core is not able to transfer power from the legs as well.

I have to disagree performance is the servant to technique and both technique and performance are servant to intensity.


replied to comment from Patrick Lewis

I think you misunderstood my point. Al said that you will only get results if you use proper technique. That is not true. You won't optimize results without proper technique, but we have seen hundreds, if not thousands of examples of folks getting very good to excellent results with sub-optimal technique.

This is in no way a suggestion that anything other than proper technique should be sought and actively practiced. But I also won't pretend that without proper technique you can't develop work capacity across broad time and modal domains.

Does that make sense?


replied to comment from Tony Budding

Yes, thanks for clarifying.

So, what you are saying is optimal technique optimizes performance while sub-optimal technique optimizes intensity due to its inefficiency, and both produce results with varying degrees of efficacy in the realm of increasing work capacity. But, none of that matters if you can't show people results and therein lies the art of training.


wrote …

I think what Glassman is say is "Do work son". This is why, I feel that Crossfit is getting away form the Level 2 cert. It focused too much on the minner personal out looks on things like shoulders, in front of the bar, over or behind. Glassman is saying move the weight in a safe effective way now, fast and have fun.


Frank DiMeo wrote …

Our bumper sticker says, "CrossFit is entirely too much fun!"
People have a blast at our gym, and keep coming back for more fun.
If CrossFit wasn't fun for me, I wouldn't keep doing it.
I found CF in 2004, and still love it!


wrote …

there is no substitute for proper technic. i do not care what anyone says. i will not have anyone squating if he or she cannot do a near flawless air squat. then and only then will i allow them to move on. proper technic = safety. if you do something with poor technic with high intensity, especially squats, Ol , deadlifts, you will get results for sure, but you will also injure yourself because when you do not have proper technic your body compensates with other muscles which are weaker and not that well trained...and have an injured client that has to take a couple of weeks off and you lose money. Even worse he or she spreads the word that you suck as a trainer. We all like when our clients show results but not on the expense of injury. if they cannot show willingness to practice proper form and just want to go heavy...then i know they do not posses the proper mindset and i get stubborn. they will learn or they will not be allowed to train. at least not with me.

- Sasha (Croatia)-


wrote …

so, Greg, basically what your saying is, have fun, don't worry about technique when trying to back squat 300lbs, just enjoy your back braking, and laugh it off on the way to the hospital...

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