What is Movement Interference?
Movement Interference: when two or more movements are placed into a workout that fatigue the same muscle group(s) or biological systems.
Others I’ve heard movement interference referred to is “non-complementary movement pairings” or “redundancy.”
Basically, the elements of the workout are programmed in a way that challenge a particular body part.
An extreme example would be…
For Time // 21-15-9
Compare how that would feel versus…
“Fight Gone Bad“
3 Rounds for Total Reps
-Wall Ball | 20lbs, 10ft | 14lbs, 9ft
-Sumo Deadlift High Pull 75/55lbs
-Box Jump 24/20”
-Push Press 75/55lbs
In “JT” strength endurance and muscular endurance is key to success and systemic fatigue will be relatively low. In “Fight Gone Bad” systemic fatigue will be incredibly high even though the movements still do interfere to a degree. But the stress these two workouts place on the body are very different.
Is Movement Interference Functional?
For a long time, I didn’t program many MetCons with movement interference. To me, it just didn’t make that much sense.
Why would I write a workout that intentionally slowed me down?
Isn’t the goal to pack as much work (output) into the smallest window possible?
I was asking the right questions, yet the way I went about answering them in (ie. my training) was flawed. Here’s why…
CrossFit® as an organization routinely programs MetCons with high movement interference. After all, “JT” is a mainsite workout.
For me (an athlete competing in the Open on CrossFit’s terms), I was ill-prepared for when these types of workouts were tested.
And they come out quite frequently…
Past Open Workouts with High Movement Interference
For Time // 33-27-21-15-9 (20 min TC)
One of the simplest forms of movement interference is the couplet or triplet. This is simply because you come back to the same movement again and again, each round with higher levels of muscular fatigue.
Even if the two or three movements didn’t have much interference (thrusters are squatting & pressing and Chest-to-Bar is pulling & midline) you still come hit the same exercise enough times that the movements fatigue.
-Burpees to a 6″ Target
Single movement workouts, by their very definition, have high movement interference. It’s really simple: if you are only doing one movement, then the same muscle groups are being used the entire time.
Okay, so yes you can change the movement to ‘get away’ from the fatiguing muscle group(s), but that’s not the most effective ways to get work done. That’s called a compensation pattern. Changing your burpee technique to “the slinky method” simply isn’t the ideal way to get through work. That being said, all athletes (even the elites) have compensations, and sometimes it can be useful to have trained them.
Still, if you want to be as good as possible (get the best score), this means altering your technique as little as possible.
For Time // 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
-Dumbbell Squats 50/35lbs per Hand
-1 Rep Max Clean
*power clean or squat clean permitted
(12-minute Time Cap for both Parts)
Sprinting burpees and fast squats means quads on fire. For top athletes, lifting as much as possible also means the squat version of the clean. This means, you must not only complete MetCons through high levels of local (muscular) fatigue, but max lifts as well.
For Time (20 Minute Time Cap)
-30 Box Jumps 24/20″
-15 Clean & Jerk 95/65lbs
-30 Box Jumps 24/20″
-15 Clean & Jerk 135/95lbs
-30 Box Jumps 24/20″
-10 Clean & Jerk 185/115lbs
-10 Clean & Jerk 225/145lbs
-5 Clean & Jerk 275/175lbs
-5 Clean & Jerk 315/205lbs
(you may perform step-ups)
This is yet another classic example of movement interference. Step-Ups, Pistols and Clean & Jerks all rely heavily on the legs, especially the quads. The ability to generate high forces after loads of contractions from the same muscle group is a skill that needs to be developed.
-30 Double Unders
-15 Power Snatch 75/55lbs
Often at a glance, don’t appear to have much movement interference. Then once you get into it you realize that the two movements aren’t as complementary as you had first thought. For example, in 11.1 many people had their grip and upper back / shoulder ‘blow up.’
For two reasons, this wasn’t as much of the case for most efficient athletes. One, they minimize hip-to-bar contact to reduce grip demand. And two, they carry much less tension in these areas during double unders. Don’t forget how movement economy plays a big role in pattern sustainability.
Turns out I was right -and also- still wrong.
The goal is to get through as much work as possible. However, the goal is for that to happen on a specific test, on a specific day, put out by a specific organization.
Therefore, meeting the goal of performing as much work in the smallest amount of time on the tests CrossFit® puts out means preparing for high levels of movement interference.
This means slowing yourself down in training (at times) by formatting workouts in a way that is similar to the way they are tested.
Rate Limiting Process
First, realize that all workouts have movement interference.
All workouts use the heart, respiratory musculature and many of the same postural muscles and prime movers.
After all, doesn’t this workout have high movement interference?
3 Rounds for Time
-25/30 Calorie AirBike
-35 Wall Ball | 20lbs, 10ft | 14lbs, 9ft
Yes, for sure. I’m sure your legs would be on fire. But most athletes with some capacity won’t be limited by their local muscular endurance any more than their global energetic systems (heart & breathing).
So, the essence of ‘movement interference’ is when movement inference in local muscles poses a risk of being the rate limiting process.
In other words, once your muscular endurance is the thing slowing you down in a workout, that’s when programming for movement interference becomes more relevant.
So, how do you best prepare for workouts with movement interference?
Programming Movement Interference: My Advice
My first piece of advice for programming movement interference is to simply not avoid writing workouts that have movement interference for athletes who plan to compete in the Sport of Fitness.
My second piece of advice would be not to overprogram movement interference work, as it is a rather organic piece of the training process if you’re training in a style that reflects the demands of the sport (aka. good programming).
My third and final piece of advice is know the level of the athlete. Novice trainees don’t have the movement proficiency to handle high levels of local fatigue and continue to move with quality.
If you haven’t trained cleans, bar muscle-ups and bar-facing burpees to the point where every rep is the same when you are fresh, then you stand zero chance of maintaining your quality of movement as fatigue climbs.
Don’t try to skip layers. Movement interference, especially while expressing your capacity in MetCons, is for intermediate and advanced athletes. By adding this kind of work in too early, you are only slowing the learning process, and stunting your athletic growth.
Programming Movement Interference: Example Protocols
Let’s assume you are an athlete who has spent time developing your physiological systems (strength and aerobic qualities), and who has consistent and well-developed movement patterns in the testing body of the Sport of Fitness (e.g. clean variations, snatch variations, muscle-ups and other high-level gymnastics skills, etc.) then you can begin to think about programming movement inference work into your training schedule.
These protocols might be a stand alone session, strength endurance or muscular endurance work after strength work, or even accessory exercises with a high level of carryover.
For the sake of simplicity, all my examples will have elements of movement inference in upper body pressing.
Protocol #1: Single Modality Density
Week 1 | EMOM 12: 35% of Bar Muscle-Up Rep Max
Week 2 | EMOM 10: 40% of Bar Muscle-Up Rep Max
Week 3 | EMOM 8: 45% of Bar Muscle-Up Rep Max
Week 4 | EMOM 6: 50% of Bar Muscle-Up Rep Max
Notes: Sometimes movement interference work will look the same as single modality density training.
Protocol #2: Interference Interval Couplet
Week 1 | E2M x 5 Sets: 8 Bar-Facing Burpees AFAP + 8 Strict HSPU; Unbroken
Week 2 | E2M x 5 Sets: 8 Bar-Facing Burpees AFAP + 10 Strict HSPU; Unbroken
Week 3 | E2M x 5 Sets: 8 Bar-Facing Burpees AFAP + 12 Strict HSPU; Unbroken
Week 4 | E2M x 5 Sets: 8 Bar-Facing Burpees AFAP + 14 Strict HSPU; Unbroken
Notes: In this example, the Handstand Push-Ups are really the focal point, with the Bar-Facing Burpees used as a tool to pre-fatigue the triceps and shoulders.
Protocol #3: Broken Intervals
-9/7 Calorie SkiErg
-7 Shoulder-to-Overhead 185/125lbs
*Week 1: Rest 90s after each round
*Week 2: Rest 75s after each round
*Week 3: Rest 60s after each round
*Week 4: Rest 45s after each round
Notes: The goal for the athlete would be to hold a similar ski pace and barbell cycle time each week, as the work to rest ratio increases.
Protocol #4: Increasing MetCon Chunking
Week 1 | AMRAP 13:00
-2x25ft Handstand Walk
-4 Bar Muscle-Up
-4 Snatch 135/95lbs
-12/10 Calorie Row
Week 2 | AMRAP 13:00
-4x25ft Handstand Walk
-8 Bar Muscle-Up
-8 Snatch 135/95lbs
-12/10 Calorie Row
Week 3 | AMRAP 13:00
-6x25ft Handstand Walk
-12 Bar Muscle-Up
-12 Snatch 135/95lbs
-12/10 Calorie Row
Week 4 | AMRAP 13:00
-8x25ft Handstand Walk
-24 Bar Muscle-Up
-24 Snatch 135/95lbs
-12/10 Calorie Row
Notes: Since the row portion never increases, the percentage of the workout that is spent rowing decreases each week. Therefore, the built-in recovery time for the shoulders and triceps diminishes every week. The result is a progression from a relatively “well-balanced” MetCon in week 1 to a very pressing focused chipper in week 4, where the row is basically irrelevant.