When I learned that Carl Paoli was bringing his Free+Style Connection Seminar to Southwest region, specifically my box, I was adamant on attending. What better way to take my training to a new level than by learning how to train and perform some of the basic fundamental movements with greater efficiency.
This all-day seminar, as explained by Carl Paoli, is to analyze and demonstrate the interrelationships between achieving ideal positions, quality functional movements and performing for a purpose.
At this point in my CrossFit training, I am focused on gaining comfortability with some of the more complex movements – snatch, overhead squat, handstand walk, butterfly pull-ups, and muscle-up progressions. Because they are considered high skill movements, I really have to focus on my coordination and mental acuity when performing them. Pistols, burpees, handstand push-ups and the like have become second nature and require minimal forethought. I was hopeful that by attending the Free+Style Connection Seminar I would better understand the concept of functional movement and be able to apply the principles of skill transfer into my training.
Carl started off the seminar by getting to know his audience. Who is a competitive athlete? Who is a CrossFit coach? Box owner? Newbie? I was pleasantly surprised to learn that nearly everyone in attendance was a CrossFit coach. In my opinion, this speaks volumes to their dedication to the sport. By proactively expanding their knowledge base, they are becoming more qualified to train athletes of all age, skill level, and experience.
He continued with an introduction into the theoretical framework behind Position-Movement-Purpose in which he explained basic body mechanics and the concept of applying movement. With astonishing aptitude, Paoli broke down his movement philosophy into four basic skills – handstand push-up, pistol, muscle-up, and burpee. He poured all of his experience as an elite gymnast and as a renowned CrossFit coach into this insightful, yet brief lecture. In a Good Will Hunting/A Beautiful Mind kind of way, he scribbled a mathematical movement formula on the board with a plethora of connecting lines and arrows.
Although my notes look a bit disorderly, I assure you the concepts were all explained in a clear and concise manner.
If you have any interest in learning the intricate details of his framework, he has a 432 page manual entitled Free+Style: Maximize Sport and Life Performance with Four Basic Movements for purchase.
The remainder of the day consisted of hands-on learning where Carl emphasized the importance of technique, position, progressions and general mechanics. The first of the four basic movements covered was the handstand push-up. While I can perform both strict and kipping handstand push-ups, there was still plenty of valuable knowledge to reap that will help me to gradually transition to freestanding handstand push-ups.
Although it wasn’t on the agenda, we then switched our focus to the handstand walk. I am very comfortable on my hands so long as I have a wall to support me. Take the wall away and I’m down for the count after all of two seconds. Carl asked the question, “Who here can only take a couple steps on their hands before falling?” Naturally, my hand went up as well as the hands of several others. After exhibiting my pitiful attempt at walking on my hands for more than a blink of an eye, Carl instructed me to do a handstand against the wall – piece of cake. He then had me take a few steps back and walk on my hands until I reached the wall. We continued this process a couple times until I was a good 4-5 steps away. Then, he asked me step away from the wall and perform a handstand and immediately roll out of it. He asked me to now try walking on my hands, but rather than falling fumblingly, to simply roll out of it once more. On my best attempt I was able to get 6-7 steps and on my worst I was still able to get 4-5 steps. I’m nowhere close to being able to walk the length of a football field, but adding a few steps and feeling more confident in my bail out method was a big success in my book.
Following a short lunch break was a brief running segment with Nate Helming. Nate is an Olympic level cyclist coach, trains professional triathletes, junior elite mountain bikers, and national-level ultra runners on their strength and mobility. He is also known to collaborate with Carl Paoli’s Free+Style Connection Seminar in order to provide further insight on how to integrate functional movement and skill development to your sport of choice. In the CrossFit community specifically, Nate is a known for his renowned running expertise, which comes in handy for those of us stereotypical CrossFitters that dread any wod that includes running.
Next up, pistols. Like double-unders, this is just one of those things that I could do from day one, but it was still fascinating to go through the progressions that address the importance of unilateral loading, mobility and flexibility. The various progressions and techniques introduced helped a couple athletes do their very first pistol, ever. In typical CrossFit fashion, everyone hooped and hollered in celebration of their success.
The most revered gymnastics movement in CrossFit was next on the docket, the infamous muscle-up. You may be able to perform a strict pull-up followed by a dip, but transitioning between the two on a set of shaky rings requires an advanced level of strength and coordination. If you are light years away from performing muscle-ups, Carl has some incredible progressions involving resistance bands that help to achieve proper positions, false grip and seamless transitions. If you are close to executing your first muscle-up, it’s likely you would get one with the personal instruction of Carl.
Last, but not least was the most dreaded CrossFit movement of all time – the burpee. The burpee is a full body exercise that is performed in four steps. It sounds seemingly easy, but it is one of the more challenging aerobic skills. Carl was able to skillfully breakdown the various movements in order to reduce time between positions, thereby reducing the level of suck.
The Free+Style Connection Seminar came to an end, prompting everyone to express their gratitude and relish in their new found skills. I would highly recommend this seminar to any and all levels of CrossFit athletes and coaches looking to improve their game and increase their wealth of knowledge. Carl is an engaging speaker and coach that has truly redefined the concept of position and movement with a purpose. The information I gained was invaluable and I am eager to apply it to more complex skills that have a higher demand.