CrossFit Level 2 certificate seminar

I spent last weekend at CrossFit Belltown at the CrossFit Level 2 trainer seminar. The staff were Nadia Shatila, Todd Widman, Tommy Rudge, and Jesse Ward. They did a really great job of helping us trainees not to feel defensive and nervous — they weren’t just nice, but you could tell it was a deliberate, active effort to support us and make us as comfortable as possible. This was important because it’s hard to coach people under scrutiny from other trainers. This course isn’t graded, so it is really about the experience and the things you can learn about holes in your coaching.

I learned (not for the first time by any means) that I need to be more concise in cueing. When I make a correction while people are practicing what I have just taught, I need to slow down and stay with that person and that correction longer sometimes. This is to make sure they understand it, and have corrected it to the best of their ability, and that the others in the group understand what the point of the correction was (if I’ve pulled the person into the middle of the circle for them to see). I had to teach the push-jerk twice in a row specifically in order to slow down.

Earlier I had coached people in the press (I taught that one start to finish) and the med ball clean. Maybe the sumo deadlift high pull too, I’m already forgetting! In teaching the press, I used Rippetoe’s method. People found it surprising, but for me the point was to convey the information in an organized, effective, concise manner, and I find this method to be more technical and specific than the CrossFit method. Our coach for that session, Jesse, took this in stride but said it’s a bit nuanced for new trainees.

There was never any sense of defensiveness about information sources from outside CrossFit. In her wrap-up, Nadia encouraged us to look elsewhere as well as within CrossFit for training. I’m really glad I’ve always done that, because I’ve enjoyed it a lot and I appreciate that I have a pretty well-rounded body of knowledge (such as it is) because of this exploration.

Day 1 had small-group sessions where we worked on seeing, correcting, visual cueing, tactile cueing, praising, and one-on-one teaching. Day 2 had small-group sessions on group teaching and on programming. We’re supposed to “program for the best and scale for the rest,” so we invented workouts for Regionals-level CrossFitters. The weights and reps involved were so hard to relate to that if I’d been on my own, I wouldn’t have done a very good job. I would have been able to see and plug the holes in the sample programming they provided, but my workouts would have been too easy.

We had a fun workout at the end of each day. Day 1 it was, with one partner, do 100 wallball, then spend the remainder of 10 minutes doing barbell power snatches and see how many you can get. My partner was Christine from CrossFit RE, who I really liked. We used a 14# ball and did 59 snatches with 55 pounds. Prescribed was 65#. The idea of scaling was (1) not mentioned and then (2) scoffed at, but we did it because it seemed like a better idea.

My only criticisms of this seminar have to do with the teaching methods. For one thing, they never mention that we should provide context for each lift by explaining its purpose before we teach it. This is especially important because they use 5′ PVC pipes, or in this case varnished dowels, to teach all the barbell lifts. Trainees need to know how the lifts fit together among the other lifts and in the context of one’s overall training. This leads to my second objection, which is that you can’t teach a deadlift without a weight sitting on the floor. Taking a dowel at hip height and pushing it down to mid-shin and standing up again is not a deadlift, and they shouldn’t say that it is. A deadlift starts on the floor, or it’s not a deadlift. My third objection is that bracing — how to breathe to pressurize the trunk for a safe back — was never mentioned. At one point I realized this and I talked about pressurizing while teaching the push-jerk. It was too easy to overlook this critically important piece of safety information when we were using dowels that weigh nothing.

Because the trainees such as myself were already CrossFit trainers, it might be reasonable to assume that they know to teach bracing, and that they know how the deadlift works. But some of the trainees had very little experience as trainers, only months in some cases, so I think we should have been really hammering on how to pressurize and make sure everybody got it. It’s not an easy thing to see when someone demonstrates it. And regarding the deadlift, it is so fundamental and so powerful that it should be taught with more respect to safety and how it really works.

“These movements are a part of your DNA … One of the funnest things we do is teach the deadlift to people who’ve never seen it before” The people in the video below look like they’re new to it, but this talk by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman still inspires me: