Crossfit Technique, and Why Yours May Not be that Bad.


“Insert name here” has great technique when clean and jerking. “Insert name here” technique is so efficient on pull ups. “Insert name here” makes squatting look effortless with their technique.

Go ahead and insert whoever you want to into those speech marks, it may be someone at your local box, a Games competitor, a non-Crossfit athlete from another sport, it doesn’t really matter. My point is that at some time or another we have all either heard or used a line like this to describe someone making sport look easy.


Greg Glassman, has stressed over the years that virtuosity is key.

‘…being able to perform movement so well that it looks almost like an art form is the key to athletic success.’

This isn’t in doubt and not being challenged, the ability to move in a way which makes a task feel effortless is paramount and will give you a huge advantage over your competition. Saving energy by not wasting it struggling with a movement frees up your ability to use it elsewhere in a workout.


However, what is often overlooked is the meaning of virtuosity for each individual athlete, a technique that works well for one athlete won’t necessarily work well for another. A prime example of this is within another sport, Golf. No two players in the top 100 worldwide rankings swing a club the same, yet all of them are capable of winning any tournament at any time, and make very lucrative careers out of golf along the way. They all demonstrate virtuosity with differing technique. This raises the question of what is right? Who is showing virtuosity if two techniques are different but both athletes are efficient?

Crossfit technique
Crossfit technique: we all work in slightly different ways.

Another example is Michael Johnson. For years critics ousted his running technique as inefficient and incorrect, yet for years he destroyed the field at Olympic level and to this day still holds World Records. So again, just because Michael’s technique didn’t look like everyone else’s, does this mean that he was inefficient and showed no virtuosity? His Olympic and World medals alongside his World Records may answer this one.

  • The bottom line is that no two individuals are ever going to be the same, even identical twins will have their differences, so it doesn’t make sense to categorise efficiency in a one size fits all way.


There are basic fundamentals that always need to be in place, these are proven over time to have a negative impact on performance if they are not learned correctly. For example, in a squat it may be bracing of the core. Whatever they are, the fundamentals will be present in all top athletes no matter how you look at it. This is for a good reason too, without them you simply will not be able to perform at optimum levels. Basically, master the basics…

So there needs to be basics present in movement to be efficient, but what happens when the fundamentals are present but the idiosyncrasies are different?

The muscle-up is a prime example of this, Nick Sorrel advocates teaching and practicing the basics to then apply them in a way which works for you. Someone like Noah Olsen who can perform 28 unbroken muscle-ups will likely not have optimum technique once he gets past halfway, however he will still have the basics present right through to his final rep. His technique will likely break down in different areas to another athlete and will look different, however the basics will be there and these will be applied to his body in a way that allows him to move optimally for him!

  • Another example is handstand walking, the key for being able to walk on your hands is maintaining tension/stability through the midline. You need to be solid from the shoulders through to the glutes to be able to be efficient at walking on your hands, and staying upside down for any length of time.


If look at Elizabeth Akinwale who has a scorpion-like handstand walk and then Julie Foucher (who looks like she has just left a textbook on handstand walking), next to each other there is a huge difference. So who is more efficient? Both are very, very good at walking on their hands but both have differing techniques. The key is that they have virtuosity in their fundamentals, which then allows it to look like the rest of the technique is worlds apart.

An extreme example was at Regionals in 2014, one female competitor completed the handstand walk going backwards, she literally performed a movement in the exact opposite way to everyone else, yet still performed well. How can that be? Just because her technique looked different doesn’t mean it was any less efficient or it lacked virtuosity. Although rules made the technique illegal, it highlights the fact that virtuosity of the basics allows you to tailor technique to suit yourself. Good technique can come in many different ways provided basic fundamentals are present. Not only this, I bet she learned to walk on her hands the reverse way faster than anyone else can.

Crossfit techniques Julie Foucher
Text book Crossfit technique from Julie Foucher


All of the above is not to say you should get good at moving poorly. There is a funny segment of a longer Crossfit HQ video in the team series where Jason Khaipa is laughing at how he was told he and Sam Briggs are the best in the world at moving inefficiently. The ironic thing is that they still move better than most of us now because they have been working on mastering the basics from day one.

  • Progression will come at different rates, but don’t be stupid. Don’t say you are moving in your own way which is the best technique for you when you are still missing the basics. Be honest with yourself, don’t ignore re-visiting or practicing foundational movement and hide behind the excuse of ‘this technique works for you’, because you will never fully reach your potential and will hold yourself back.

If, after mastering the basics of a squat, this leads to you having straight feet in the set up but your knees track the toes and you squat pain/injury free at heavy loads then so be it. You’ve found virtuosity in the basics and applied this to your physical make up to find the most effective way for you to squat. If you repeat this effortlessly and consistently at high intensity, then you demonstrate virtuosity.

In simpler terms you have found the technique that works for you built on a solid base of foundational movement.

Whilst exceptions may exist, generally where movement technique and efficiency are concerned, provided you master the basic fundamentals and cement these into your movement patterns, what you do around them in executing the movement is less important.

The movement will feel and look effortless and graceful for you by doing this. Virtuosity of basics is crucial, as without these you will never be able to achieve true virtuosity for complete movements. However, what good technique looks like will differ from individual to individual. This is why we see so many contrasting forms of movement that produce equally successful results.

 So work hard on the fundamentals, allow your body to move, find virtuosity and enjoy the benefits of good technique suited to you. Train hard, have fun.

Pull Up © Nero RX’d Photography

Female Crossfitter © Nero RX’d Photography

Julie Foucher © apthul.files.wordpress

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