I had the pleasure of working with the youth climbing team at the Seattle Bouldering Project last week. I came in, and will again, as something of a postural and movement specialist.
Between myself and their excellent coaches, we have the goals of making sure these young athletes know how to take basic care of themselves. High on this list is to know when a little pain they might feel in a finger is well worth mentioning to their coach, and not pushing through the pain (lest a tendon pulley tear, an ugly and common climbing injury, or the like).
And a big piece of that puzzle—and actually getting it to sink in, i.e. the athlete will actually stop and know it is in their best interest to address what comes up now rather than later—is the mentality in which they train. One of their coaches called it being process, rather than goal, oriented. I liked that.
When you’re doing a chin up, what’s the point? To get your chin over the bar? If so, there are literally thousands of anatomical variations you could do to get there, most of them via a movement path, custom-made for you, that is a genius at avoiding the weak/less-coordinated tissues. These tissues are, indeed, the ones you’re trying to train … but they’re being bypassed in order for your body to get the job done, in whatever way it take to get your chin over the bar.
It’s a beautiful bit of evolution and adaptation: If you were running from a saber-toothed tiger, the goal is of course to get out of there asap, not to be a better runner. Who cares how it’s done? It’s a similar idea to the function of the sympathetic nervous system.
However, athletic training is not life and death (though elements of the intensity of the martial arts can carry over, and be an awesome element to work with). The point is excellent movement patterns, something our paleolithic ancestors wouldn’t have had to worry about with their day-long natural movements. The point for us is re-training movement and awareness that supports longevity as well as power, endurance, etc.
And so … If the point is to do the form well, to literally make the process be the goal, then you’re asking a very different question. Then if your chin goes over the bar becomes kind of a moot point.
The engagement is the point. Literally.
We opened my workshop with this question: “Practice makes … ?”
Train well! Live well. Especially when it’s not the easiest path.