By Greg Glassman

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In this 2005 open letter to CrossFit trainers, Coach Greg Glassman discusses the importance of virtuosity, defined in gymnastics as “performing the common uncommonly well.”

Unlike risk and originality, virtuosity is elusive, supremely elusive. It is, however, readily recognized by audience as well as coach and athlete. There is a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art, whether learning to play the violin, write poetry, or compete in gymnastics, to quickly move past the fundamentals and on to more elaborate, more sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques.

What will inevitably doom a physical training program and dilute a coach’s efficacy is a lack of commitment to fundamentals. Rarely now do we see prescribed the short, intense couplets or triplets that epitomize CrossFit programming. Rarely do trainers really nitpick the mechanics of fundamental movements.

I understand how this occurs. It is natural to want to teach people advanced and fancy movements. The urge to quickly move away from the basics and toward advanced movements arises out of the natural desire to entertain your client and impress him with your skills and knowledge. But make no mistake: it is a sucker’s move. Teaching a snatch where there is not yet an overhead squat, teaching an overhead squat where there is not yet an air squat, is a colossal mistake. This rush to advancement increases the chance of injury, delays advancement and progress, and blunts the client’s rate of return on his efforts. In short, it retards his fitness.

There is plenty of time within an hour session to warm up, practice a basic movement or skill or pursue a new PR or max lift, discuss and critique the athletes’ efforts, and then pound out a tight little couplet or triplet utilizing these skills or just play. CrossFit trainers have the tools to be the best trainers on earth. We want virtuosity!!

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16 Comments on “Virtuosity”


wrote …

AMEN! This topic goes far beyond fitness; it should be at the heart of everything we do. Great work, Coach!


wrote …

I refer to this article as if it were the Bible. One of the best things Coach has ever written. I wish I could fit it onto a tattoo.


wrote …

Keith, did you see Memento? Put it across your entire torso in reverse. :-)


wrote …

If I could only pound this into some of the trainers I know.


wrote …

Being a new trainer this is the most valuable article I've ever read. I thank you and my future clients thank you!


wrote …

I once heard a lecture by the world's expert on ants. I know almost nothing about ants, but I was enthralled by his -- now I have a word for it -- virtuosity. He kept it simple and let his mastery of the subject shine through.


wrote …

Fantastic article.. This is a must read for any trainer or for that matter anybody working with people in the health/wellness field. The propensity to jump to the lastest fad (equipment,diet,guru) and neglect the basics of health, is what is leading this world down the path of disease.

Thanks Coach


wrote …

One of the best articles I have read in a long time. I am 50, a former Marine, and a Level 1 Certified CrossFitter. I have been involved with CF for about 3 months now and I have come to deeply appreciate and truly understand why fundamentals are so important. You could not have said it better.

Thanks Coach


wrote …

This should be required reading. Many trainers feel the need to over-complicate movements, instruction, and explanation for no apparent reason or benefit.


wrote …

Coach, I am brand spanking new to crossfit and since I live where there is no Box I am trying to start out on my own. I have been reading everything I can get a hold of and watching all the videos and I am really glad you wrote this article. I was starting to rush into things and this will help slow me down and hopefully help me to be a better crossfitter and achieve my fitness goals a lot faster. Thanks.


wrote …

I apply this to everything I do, from cooking to ring dips. I know people who make elaborate recipes and they come out....interesting. But to eat a very basic meal by someone who has made it for decades....priceless. Most people don't even notice the nuances of movement. It takes study and awareness to do it well. Very good stuff.


wrote …

I've read this numerous times and it never ceases to inspire me.

Thanks Coach


wrote …

I wanted to start an affiliation today but after riding all these right words about technics and others i've changed my mind ! I should improve my technic first and join the affiliates center before to open something officially with a Crossfit name ..

Thank you for your rights words Coach


wrote …

The concept is so simple, but have really made me reflect on not just the way to coach, but the way I train as an athlete as well. That you must crawl before you walk and walk before you run. I'll be taking a step back and try and view my training from the outside in. Thanks for shining a light on something that is, more often than not, overlooked.


wrote …

I'm so excited to begin this new journey into CrossFit fitness. After reading the article I couldn't agree more. We deal with more youth age fitness and technique has always been the foundation to a great athlete. Progression and getting it right has always been my philosophy. I'm working CrossFit exercises into our conditioning to help with endurance and strength training. Trying to get my cert for the level 1 CrossFit instruction training.


wrote …

los PDF solo estan disponibles en el idioma ingles? si pueden ayudarme gracias de ante manos, saludos.

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