The One Way Street of Muscular Tension & Skill Acquisition

For years I’ve talked about a concept I’ve been calling “task specific tension” as a way to educate athletes about the spectrum of body tension needed in the system to perform tasks well. As tasks vary, so does the tension created in the body to perform them well. 

Running is a great place to look at this briefly. If you head out for a slow jog and take note of the muscular tension in your body to accomplish this task, you’ll likely find that you’re quite loose. Tension is low. It’s not zero, however, because you are standing up straight and you are pulling your foot from the floor. Contrast this with the tension you feel in your body while sprinting a short distance. This is a different task with different tension. 

To coach movement without this consideration is silly at best and often overbearing and authoritarian at worst. Coaches who stand on a principled soapbox of dogma in the name of “form” who would comment on the lack of rigidity in someone’s back while they picked up their gym bag because it doesn’t mimic the rigidity required to pull 500 pounds off the floor are missing this very point. 

While the reality is that athletes can and should be able to toggle up and down on the spectrum of muscular tension to meet the task at hand, there’s more to mention about this. While not gospel, a helpful maxim is that earlier stage athletes, specifically those acquiring new skills, can afford to deploy too much tension, but can’t afford to deploy too little tension

Novice and intermediate athletes should consider over-committing to the kind of muscular tension that would support maintaining posture and position and with experience he/she can strip away “excess” effort to find a least effective dose, which of course is what would be required for the best performances. This is why it’ always better to brace too much for a back squat than too little

7/31/20 WOD


[Meet at Anderson Park]


[Meet at Pan Pacific Park]


Half Kneeling 1-Arm DB Presses

Complete 4 rounds for quality of:
15 Shoulder Taps + 5 Box Walks
12 1-Arm DB Rows (ea)
15-18 Hollow Rocks

Then, complete the following for time:
90 Overhead Reverse Lunges (45/25)
30 Power Snatches (135/95)