I recently came across a quote: “Cheating on your girlfriend is like cheating on your workout. Neither is acceptable” (CrossFit London ON). Cheating happens more than we may like to admit, and it undermines and defies what CrossFit is about. Having said that, there are those who cheat deliberately, whether it’s miscounting reps or shorting movements. And there are those who cheat unintentionally. It might be due to not knowing what the movement standards are. It might be because someone is limited by injury or mobility (in which case, it is more of a scale than a cheat). It also can be because an athlete goes heavier than their abilities or needs to scale down to their level (which there should be no shame to do. It is better to scale and look solid than go too hard and look like a tool).
Whatever the reason is that someone cheats movements, this is the perfect time to get a little schooled on movement standards as the CrossFit Open is right around the corner. Let’s all understand what an honest rep is on a few different movements so we can all follow suit and help those around us who may need some extra guidance or assistance.
*Note: Cheating reps in many cases also indicates bad form which can lead to injury. I implore everyone to keep that in mind as above anything else, this is the most dangerous aspect to doing movements incorrectly or illegally.
**Note: This blog also by no means is intended to be an all encompassing technical reference nor am I claiming to be an expert in this domain. Any of the movements in the list below could be its own post, which in fact there are plenty out there if you google. I am including some references I found if you want to click to get much more information and perspective (and supporting expertise).
- Squatting to full depth. This means below parallel, ass to grass as we often say. This applies to ALL SQUATS: front squats, back squats and overhead squats. Also, full cleans and full snatches as they end with (front) squats. Thrusters have front squats too as do wall balls (more on this movement in #2). Do not forget the basic air squat (which are frequently shorted too). Squats may be done with just body weight, barbells, dummbells, kettlebells, med balls, etc. The point being, get full depth on any squat to have an honest rep.
If you are not sure if you are squatting to full depth, firstly, do not assume you are. That just fosters bad habits. Secondly, ask someone, preferably a coach, so that they can help assist you in getting the right form to ensure you get full depth. Also, if a coach does tell you that you are not getting full depth, lose the ego and fix it, even if that means that you have to go lighter in weight.
I found these 2 posts to have candid commentary as well as tips on how to squat correctly (and honestly).
- Wall Balls (my favorite!) Firstly, I am kidding. I hate wall balls. Secondly, as they are not a short person movement, I have in my day cheated them in every way possible at some point along my journey of trying to hate them less (therefore, I can claim to be an expert in how not to do them). I fully understand how difficult they are but that does not mean it is ok to cheat them.
Alright, so with that out of the way, remember as mentioned in #1 above, wall balls are 50% squats. SO GET LOW! A rep does not count if you do not complete a full squat. Similarly, when you throw the ball up, it must hit whatever the target required is. So if that means it has to be 10 feet, make sure you get it to 10 feet. Also, the ball has to make contact with the wall or target. If it’s all air, it’s all wrong. No rep.
- Push-Ups: the all American movement. They are difficult movements that require a lot of strength, and that is why they get so much respect. They are one of the most commonly cheated movements though, and I just find that to be rather unpatriotic. There are too many ways to cheat a push-up so please read here for a post I wrote two years ago that gives many more details as to how to ensure you do an honest push-up.
- Burpees. We love to hate them. You know without a doubt they will be in The Open. One of the most common ways I have seen them cheated is by not either clapping overhead or touching a target (and yes, even burpees have variations. Often, you have to touch a 6 inch overhead target with both hands). There is a tendency when trying to quickly and ferociously crank them out to not get full height on them, so to speak. Same deal on the descend. Burpees can be cheated by hips and chest not making contact with the ground.
On http://girlsgonerx.com/standards/, the standards are well outlined:
Burpees Over Barbell
The athlete must be parallel to the barbell at the bottom position, with the athlete’s chest and hips touching the ground. The athlete must come to her feet and must jump over the barbell with two feet to the other side where the athlete will start the next rep. You must jump over the barbell from both feet and land on both feet. One-footed jumping or stepping over is not permitted. Do not need to fully extend hips during jump.
The athlete’s chest must make contact with the ground before the athlete can jump back up to the starting position. Athlete must jump and touch hands over head at top of burpee, reaching full extension of hips. Feet need to visibly leave the ground at the time of full hip extension during the jump.
Each burpee must be performed perpendicular to and facing the barbell. Your head cannot be over the barbell. The chest and thighs touch the ground at the bottom.
You must jump over the barbell from both feet and land on both feet. One-footed jumping or stepping over is not permitted. The next rep will then begin on the opposite side facing the barbell.
- Gymnasty stuff on the bars. I am lumping a few movements together in this last point as they all have a common cheating trend: not making full contact or clearing the bar as prescribed.
When it comes to pull-ups, often athletes can use whatever grip they fancy as long as their chin goes over the bar and that they fully extend their arms in between reps. Chest to bar pull-ups require your chest to actually make contact with the bar. No contact, no rep.
Toes-to-bar. Your toes have to make contact with the bar at the same time. This is what I see as the most common way of cheating. If you don’t know for sure if your toes touch, most likely they didn’t. If you can’t get your toes to the bar, well then they are more like knees to chest. Girls Gone Rx explains the standards well:
The athlete must go from a full hang to having the toes touch the pull-up bar. Both feet must touch the bar together at some point. The arms and hips must be fully extended at the bottom and the feet must be brought back to behind the bar, not out front.
I am calling all these out so everyone can be aware of encouraging and promoting good honest reps. Often we do not even realize we aren’t doing honest reps so let’s just put it all out there. Let’s all agree to withhold the standard in which this crazy thing called CrossFit has fostered. Let’s all hold each other accountable and help one another to learn how to do full honest reps. (And yes, I am deliberately repeating the word honest not because I have run out of synonyms but rather as I want to instill that CrossFit is about being honest as much as it is about being strong and fast). When we do honest reps, we are better CrossFitters. Let us all strive to not cheat or short movements. We will all be better for it.