10 years of CrossFit and I never figured out how to make double-unders look and feel easy. Big-ass sigh.
For many years, my double-under deficiency angered me, but now that I’m no longer competing in CrossFit, it dawned on me a few months ago that I don’t ever have to do one again. And I haven’t! Any time double-unders appear, I quietly substitute them for something else. Because, well, I can.
Before you call me a quitter, give me a chance to explain:
(Ok, maybe I AM a quitter. 8 years into CrossFit at the 2015 Regionals, and yet my double-unders STILL looked like this!)
I know I’m being cheeky with my persistent double-under boycott, but my point is simply that, unless you’re competing in CrossFit, you do NOT need to do double-unders. When else in life will my ability to do double-unders per se help me? I can't think of a possible occasion...
But double-unders are great for building endurance, you say...
Truth. But there are many ways to build endurance that don't involve a skipping rope...
The above concept holds true when we consider many of the movements we program: If you’re not competing in CrossFit, GASP, you do NOT EVER need to do kipping pull-ups or handstand push-ups (if, for example, you have shoulder issues). And you don’t ever need to do pistols, if, for example, they blow up your knees, or toes-to-bar, or hell, even muscle-ups…!!!
What? But aren't those movements key to fitness?
Not necessarily. Again, unless you’re competing in a competition that asks you to do pistol, if you have half-injured knees, why would you put your body at risk when you can substitute pistols for something else and achieve the same fitness results?
I repeat: If your goal isn’t CrossFit competition, but instead to get stronger, improve your endurance, your power, your speed, all the while staying injury-free, then why would you put yourself in a position to blow up your delicate shoulders by kipping your brains out just so you can look sexy and show off that you can do all of the CrossFit movements?
But time and time again, I see people putting their bodies at risk. Just the other day, I saw one of my clients doing pistols—someone I know has notorious knee problems from years of rugby, and every time he does them he can’t walk the next day.
“WHAT THE F ARE YOU DOING! Do Bulgarian split squats instead,” I urged.
“But I want to do the pistols,” he replied.
“Joey, the point of the strength session today is single leg strength, and you’re still going to build a shit load of single leg strength doing Bulgarian split squats. Load them up and they’re going to be even harder than pistols.”
Joey doesn’t ever need to do a pistol again. And he doesn’t ever need to learn how to kip, considering has has joint issues all over the place. As long as he keeps pulling and pushing, he will have the strength to do a muscle-up, but he never needs to actually do, for example, kipping muscle-ups, as the strength he has gained is completely independent of the arbitrary movements programmed any given day.
It’s the same reason I laugh when someone asks, “Can you teach me a pistol?” or “Can you teach me a toes-to-bar?” My answer: “No, I can’t. Can you just get stronger so that you’ll be able to do a pistol or a toes-to-bar?”
If you don’t need to be doing pistols or muscle-ups, per se, then what do you need to be doing?
Simple: It’s not about the movements themselves. It’s about the concept behind the movement. Ring dips are a push. Pull-ups are a pull. Deadlifts are a hinge. Pistols are a squat.
In other words, all you need to be doing is pushing, pulling, squatting, hinging, carrying. Almost all of the movements we do in CrossFit fall into one of those categories, so if a specific movement doesn’t work for you, don’t fret: Just substitute for another more appropriate movement that will achieve the same adaptation.
So the next time something comes up that you know your joints don’t like, put your ego aside and find the appropriate substitute to continue to improve your fitness in a smarter way! Your body will thank you.