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Fundamentals: a Doorway to Virtuosity

You’ve probably heard the term virtuoso before, but more than likely it has been in relation to someone who was a master of a musical instrument.  Beethoven was a piano virtuoso, Miles Davis a trumpet virtuoso, Luciano Pavarotti a virtuoso tenor, etc.  These were people who, through thousands of hours of diligent training and practice, became masters of their crafts.  

One thing virtuosos have in common is they all started by mastering the fundamentals of their crafts.  Frédéric Chopin had to learn where to place his hands on the keys before he could become a master pianist.  Simone Biles had to learn to somersault before she could do backflips on a beam at the Olympics.  

Only through relentless practicing and refinement of the fundamentals is it possible to open the door to virtuosity.  Unfortunately, there’s a 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. This compulsion is the novice’s curse—the rush to originality and risk.

When it comes to CrossFit, the novice’s curse is apparent to anyone who has spent more than a few days in a gym.  It is an athlete attempting squat snathces before they first have a mechanically sound air squat; kipping pull-ups before they first have several strict pull-ups; power cleans before they’ve first demonstrated sound hip function with a kettlebell swing.  

At TBCF, by insisting our athletes master the basics before moving onto more complex movements we aren’t just making sure you’re on the most efficient road to virtuosity and mastery, we’re also helping you to avoid injury.  After all, the most inefficient way to reach your goals is to get hurt and have to take time off because you tried to rush your progress.

Promise yourself you’ll pursue virtuosity in the basics of CrossFit before anything else.  Strive to perform the common uncommonly well.  This should be a years-long pursuit, not something we treat as a box to check.  

If you find your progress on a particular movement has plateaued, take a step back and look at that movement’s underlying fundamentals.  Often our plateaus can be traced back to imperfect fundamentals.  

Adapted from “Fundamentals, Virtuosity, and Mastery: An Open Letter to CrossFit Trainers,” CrossFit Journal, August 2005, by Greg Glassman.

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