Teaching Crossfit: making small steps

When i decided to take the crossfit level 1 trainer course, i also had the intention of teaching people. And although i already had my first real time teaching crossfit, it still felt like a trial and not yet real. So now that the corona-rules are reduced to the point where we can start working out again in the box, the classes i was supposed to give also started up again. So i was anxious and excited to start and see how people reacted to me but also about me teaching people the right things.

The good thing is that i got in contact with the people from Exist, who setup their box at the beginning of the year (next to their martial arts training) and were looking for a trainer. This means the box is young and inexperienced when it comes to Crossfit and also the people training there are not well known with Crossfit. So this gives the me opportunity to learn to teach in a relaxed environment.

Snatch

One of the things i wanted to try is to teach the snatch, or rather, let people give it a try without disastrous results. Because the snatch is one of the hardest things to do well and also to teach well. There are so many things to look for and for me it was about trying to spot and correct basic flaws like stance, grip. Seeing also that my hip-flexibility is limited (and i’m working on it), showing the quick drop in a deep squat position after the pull is hard.

CrossFit | The Snatch

To prepare i looked at dozens of youtube videos. The list below is in my humble opinion the top 3 youtube video’s to study.

But studying and teaching is -unsurprisingly- quite different. The other complicating factor is the fact that the group consists of people who have never heard of the snatch before or have done much work with the barbell. Which is fine, and the burgener warmup works well (although we did each stage 20 times), but handing them the barbell was tricky.

You see people thinking when making the move, hesitating, extremely flawed, sometimes even frustrated. My job is then to make small corrections, just 1 or 2 (mostly don’t pull the arms too soon and stance) and set them at ease. Even so, a lot of them don’t really have good control over their back and are more flexed or extended instead of a neutral spine. But after a while most of them got the general idea and also the appreceation of having learned something new. For myself it was a very good teaching moment in the sense that you have to be patient, you can’t expect people to do even a half proper snatch after only 1 hour training if they’ve never held a barbell before.

Pull-ups

The next week we had an EMOM (buddy workout) of 20 minutes, 5 pull-ups and 20 situps. Now teaching a pull-up, again to some people who have never done it, is also hard. You have to have good shoulder and back strength and good muscular control. So i had them start with just a 20 second hang. For some this was already hard, and if so, you know you have to scale way down to, in this case, a box for assistance.

The Kipping Pull-Up - YouTube

For woman it’s often harder since their upperbody strenght is often less then men. Since the group was so diverse, it took more time to get everyone the proper scale and to show the movement. Again a good teaching moment, show all the scaling options beforehand, and then start with hanging, scapula pull-ups, etc…

The nice thing is that when they got going everyone had the proper scale and did the movement ok. One guy who was light and strong, just almost did them strict altough not always extended the arms when coming downwards. I gave two athletes some small tips like try to ‘fall through”when coming down and ‘push away from the bar’ and they got pretty close to kipping pull-ups right away which was cool to see.

Another nice thing happened after practice where i was asked what she could do to get a pull-up done without having a bar at home to work with. Besides the standard answer like practice, (ring)rows, i gave her the advice to come in a bit early and just hang and work a bit on scapula pull-ups. Just a few minutes before every practice. It’s not just about strength it’s also about neurologic training. The other advice i also gave her was to be patient, don’t expect a pull-up really fast, just try to do a bit more every workout.

Next

The good thing is that i can teach every week on tuesdays (2 classes) to get more experiece. The groups consists of mostly the same people with some variations so that also helps because you know peoples capabilities and limits and it helps build a certain bond.

When i’ve got a few months under my belt i’ll write an update on what i’ve experienced so far. I’ll also actively point out some do’s and dont’s to people which i’ve also written a blog about. If you have to learning moments from your first period as a (crossfit) teacher/instructor and things you would have liked to tell yourself when you started, let me know. Always interested to learn.

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