My friend and I flew 7,500 miles to settle the debate once and for all about what style of training in best. Carl and I are best of friends, but we’re an odd pair in the fitness world. There’s a debate raging on in fitness and, let’s just say, our people don’t’ really see eye to eye.
When Carl asked the crowd, nearly eighty men and women lounging on plyo boxes and gymnastics matting, “Who here can show us a salto?” there was one tiny hand raised in the front row. The young boy, maybe seven years old, jumped up proudly to show off his moves to the eager crowd. As the strongman who’s never dared to try a back flip, he had surely had my attention.
Taking his place before Carl and I, the boy matter-of-factly put his feet together and executed a beautiful back flip. He even stuck it, like they do in the Olympics, with his arms up, palms proudly pointing away. The room immediately erupted in applause. Chills.
We were in Sydney, Australia speaking to a group from the local gymnastics schools, CrossFit gyms, and powerlifting garages about our brand STR/KE Movement. Ironically, it wasn’t the exclusivity of the message that brought nearly a hundred Australians out on a school night, which you might expect. Much of the narrative today is yoga versus CrossFit and weightlifting versus powerlifting, and the walls of defense seem to be mounting higher and higher. The moats are being dug deeper and deeper. That is human nature, though, isn’t it? We like to put things in boxes.
Carl and I don’t like boxes, let alone being put in them. The purpose of our talk could be found right there inside of our young volunteer’s back flip. Even if enjoy a beautiful salto, I’m not so sure that’s what we all were applauding in that moment. It’s not what I was applauding. I was applauding was a young man’s preparation for the moment. I was saluting vulnerability. I was moved by his ability to harness a skill that wasn’t there in the first place. No offense, Carl. No offense to all the gymnasts out there, but it wasn’t the gymnastics I was clapping for. I fear that my applause would have been just as loud if the kid came up and began break dancing or juggled bowling pins or sang falsetto. If I’m willing to admit that, then maybe it’s not what we’re doing in the gym, but, rather, why we’re doing it that unites us.
Carl Paoli is former gymnast who won national gold in the vault in Spain. He’s a New York Times best selling author who travels the globe sharing his message, Free+style Connection. I, on the other hand, am a former professional baseball player turned strongman. With a string of unconventional gyms under the DEUCE Gym brand, I also travel the world teaching leadership. Together, we’ve acted as a beacon for inclusivity. STR/KE Movement is our excuse to do so.
If look closely, our seemingly opposing movement practices unite us more than you’d think. Don’t the fruits of our efforts provide the purpose of our training? Or, are we really in the practice for practice’s sake? The question, then, isn’t to determine if yoga or CrossFit is better, the better question is, “what does it do for you?” Training styles are the excuse to explore and express ourselves. They provide environments that demand our focus. They drive evolution and they make us feel good.
When it came time for me to address the crowd back in Sydney, I shared the tools of deliberate practice, coined by psychologist Anders Ericsson. At the highest level, development requires an environment with specific goals that stretch our abilities. We need to earn reps in these environments that specifically provide immediate, informative feedback. This is what professional baseball did for me. It’s what competing on the Spanish national team did for Carl. It’s the environment that entrepreneurship provides us today. With this view, you’ll notice that yogis, rock climbers, and gymnasts are all just accomplishing the same things differently.
When you understand the universal human craving for progression, you start to recognize how united we really are. In the same way that swimming might serve as a vehicle to explore one person’s peak expression, surfing might be that vehicle for another. As the fitness world starts to look like towering walls and deep moats, it may feel like dogma and in fighting are taking over. Be rest assured, the truth that I saw in the little boy’s backflip is the same truth I think we see in all great efforts. It’s not the vehicle that matters so much as where you’re going.
Complete 3 rounds for quality of:
8 Decline Ring Rows
8 Half Kneeling DB Presses (Ea)
12 Chest Supported DB Rear Delt Flys
Complete the following for time:
Hang Snatches (95/65)