Its is recommended that Technique Training 101 is reviewed prior to reading this post, as this post builds upon concepts established in 101.
To visualize riding around on triangular, square, or octagonal wheels is one thing, but visualizing sport specific technique in this manner is not as simple. To help, here are gifs that will hopefully let you ‘see’ the smoothness of the technique of top consistent peak performing athletes who are repeat medalists at the Olympics, Worlds, and International events. Can you ‘see’ the consistent circles these athletes complete from having trained to execute exquisite technique.
The markers on Farah’s elbow and knee trace out a yellow wave pattern called a sine wave. Below, you can see how a circle transforms into a sine wave, and vice versa… how a sine wave can be equally expressed as a circle. This is why and how exquisite technique can be presented by a circle and/or a sine wave. This is why training to gain full range of motion, flexibility, and mobility is critical to exquisite technique… without them you cannot trace out smooth sine waves, you cannot complete circles (and that’s how you end up with triangles and squares as wheels; see Technique Training 101 if unclear on what is meant by wheels).
Now imagine each and every joint in Farah’s body having a marker… when all the joints, when all the markers make smooth symmetrical consistent wave patterns that is when technique has been optimized. When you are using every possible joint, every possible muscle, and using them all without restriction, limitation, or forceful effort is when optimal technique is achieved. To achieve such a level of consistent execution on demand takes years and years of training. A few weeks, months, or one good solid training camp do not yield such results. It is for this reason that consistent peak performers train for as many hours a day, week after week, and for as many years as they do. It takes loads of work to coordinate your body, brain and spirit into the symphony which is appreciated as effortless execution of sport specific technique: a circle.
Isn’t it why we watch the Olympics? We want to see beautiful movement; movement which is smooth, consistent, symmetrical and fluid in nature. When movement flows seamlessly from one motion into the next, we not only ‘see’ it, but we feel it, we share in it by experiencing it. In sport, ease of movement translates into speed, endurance, height, and distance. Its the reason why the performing arts capture our imagination… because we are mesmerized by the flowing lines, the ease with which the artists balance, jump, float, glide.
Isn’t that why we watch ‘skills’ competitions? We want to see the technique of top NBA and NHL players put on display. We want to see athletes soar through the air, slammin’ the ball into the net while hanging in mid-air. We want to see wingers and centres go one on one with a goalie, see them swing across the ice from left to right, back to the left, while their stick slides the puck in the opposite direction attempting to confuse the goalie allowing a gap to open, and a goal to be scored.
Why does it look like Farah runs effortlessly? Because compared to anyone with a wave pattern any less smooth, any less symmetrical, his running is – relatively – effortless. Farah is not running with triangular, square, or hexagonal technique (i.e. ‘wheels’)… in fact, when he runs you cannot be sure if he is running or hovering overtop of the road. He runs in this manner not because he is gifted, talented, or a natural (whatever these commonly heard remarks mean), instead it is because he has developed technique where he moves with smooth symmetrical consistent waves across every joint, every muscle in his entire body. There is no physical resistance, no mental doubts, no emotional barriers to his movement… that is what he has trained: to eliminate that which prevents effortless movement, and so he moves effortlessly.
Now imagine the typical runner you see plodding, trudging, or dragging themselves down the street, as they ‘train’. Put imaginary markers on their elbows and knees. Do you think they will trace out smooth symmetrical waves when they run? Not even close. Their wave pattern is jerky, asymmetrical, inconsistent… meanwhile those athletes wonder why running for them is so effortful, so forced, and painfully so. They train hard and harder and then even harder hoping that forcing movement will somehow translate into ease, into speed, into endurance; yet all it results in is pain, injury, illness, frustration, disappointment. By failing to train technique, failing to improve posture, form, lines, symmetry, range of motion, flexibility, mobility, these athletes fail to improve. Instead they perform or their coach will have them perform tempo runs, run flights of stairs, hill repeats, hi intensity intervals on a treadmill or the track. They fall for the narrative that ‘to train’ means ‘to suffer’, where ‘no pain’ means ‘no gains’ and since they are definitely suffering, in pain, they think they are training properly.
When your technique is as beautiful, when your movement as effortless as Mo Farah, then it makes sense to add a distinct amount of training to peak (i.e. HiiT). But even that training is designed with the intent of identifying new weaknesses, new asymmetries, so that the process of training technique can restart once again, just on smaller and smaller scales with every cycle.
The concept of technique training applies to all sports:
Put markers on Phelps’ shoulders, his hips and his ankles… and you will see that they all follow a beautifully smooth and symmetrical sine wave. Phelps swims fastest not because he has a higher VO2, not because his lactate threshold is a thousandth of a % higher, not because he can hit a higher max HR… Phelps swims fastest because he swims the smoothest, and is able to swim the smoothest consistently. Phelps swims fastest because even when he fatigues he holds onto technique which is smoother than any competitor.
If you put markers on all of Phelps’ joints you would see they all complete consistently smooth symmetrical wave patterns, indicating that his technique is nearly flawless (to say Phelps is flawless would be to say that there is no way for anyone to swim faster as Phelps has mastered swimming technique perfectly… that is not the case, and never will be the case). Nonetheless, the point is that of all swimmers, Phelps technique is undoubtedly one of the most refined with the result being that he has become the most decorated Olympian (for now).
Put markers on Froome’s shoulders, pelvis, and hips even on his bike and you will find that his technique – like Farah’s, like Phelps’ – will carve out beautiful symmetrical smooth sine waves.
Put markets on Contador’s shoulders, pelvis, and hips and you will also find consistency and symmetry in his sine waves. Contador is said to ‘dance’ on his pedals, and this is provided as the explanation why he is able to climb up mountain passes with what appears to be a fluidity and ease seldom seen amongst even top cycling pros.
Want to improve as an athlete? Want to significantly improve your speed, your endurance, your ability to generate power? Want to explore your potential, while delivering consistent peak performances? Want to improve your health while you improve as an athlete? Had enough of average training, being trained by coaches who can only deliver average results?
Then stop wasting your time, your effort, your life with HiiT (hi intensity interval training).
Start training technique. Start working on gaining more range of motion, more flexibility, more mobility so that you can move smoother, move with greater symmetry, move with greater ease.
Start training to move with smooth consistent symmetrical wave patterns. Don’t know how. Then find a coach who does. Find a coach who understands physics, biomechanics, knows how to teach skill development through drills, who knows how to instruct athletes to strive for efficiency, ease, and fluidity in their movement. Find a coach who will take the time to help you learn how to move, giving you step by step instructions to improve.
A long long time ago, I used to compete in alpine skiing and was an alpine ski instructor who taught the littlest monkeys how to ski. It wasn’t until today when I saw a video from Outside Magazine that I recalled the technique I used to teach (and its relevance to this post). Can you guess from the gifs below which way is the right way to carve out a turn, and which way is wrong? I believe it is obvious (considering there is a distinct sine wave in one of the gifs). For those who do not ski, the gif where the leg is pivoting in one spot does not result in nice turns. Pivoting results in 90 degree turns which are sharp and skidding, and if you do enough of them… exhausting. Hmm. That sounds just like anything else… swim, bike, run with poor technique and its hard, sharp, and exhausting. Execute smooth symmetrical technique… and that’s performing on an entirely different level, a level that you cannot describe, it has to be experienced to be understood.