January
18
2016

Episode 14: Sean Manseau of “By The Numbers”

By Chris 0
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Sean Manseau is the author of “By The Numbers.

A former animator, Sean found CrossFit in 2005 and believed he was “the only person in New York who had ever heard of CrossFit.” As often happens, he was drawn to coaching after a few years as an athlete.

In the animation world, a “master animator” draws the major positions of movement, and then an assistant draws all the joint angles between those positions. Sean teaches the major positions and assigns them a number–hence, “By the Numbers.”

Sean refers to “rhyming positions”–positions that are identical across different exercises. “The second position of the deadlift is really close to the bottom of the KB swing, which is really close to the hang position of the clean…” he says. When he’s coaching, he can relate new cues to previous positions.

We talked about “drawing the line” between intensity and sloppy movement. Sean says the line will depend on an individual coach’s “quality of mercy.” While he agrees a coach must take the long view on client training, he names different modes of training through which an athlete passes.

The three modes are: learning, practicing and performing. In this interview he describes his method for scaling on the fly depending on which mode the athlete is training within.

“There’s a right way and a wrong way to do these things,” he says. And we talk about who gets to decide “the right way,” where he draws the line, and how he addresses “slop” with athletes and coaches.

The book contains over 1600 high-quality photographs, stick-figure drawings to share on the whiteboard, and movement hierarchies like this:

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Sean is a great mixture of a right-brain (creative) thinker and a left-brain (analytical) thinker. His assessments are critical and refined; his solutions are creative and unique. That means an interview without cliches or ANYTHING you’ve heard before.

Like me, Sean keeps a large library in his office. Some of his favorite titles:

Supple Leopard, by Kelly Starrett

Starting Strength, by Mark Rippetoe

Kettlebell Rx, by Jeff Martone

Olympic Weightlifting for Sports, by Jeff Everett

Mastery, by Robert Greene

Wrestling Physical Conditioning Encyclopedia, by John Jesse

Supertraining, by Mel Siff

11870682_10153471089107527_4332713417114855063_nSean’s book is a mixture of art and science. And every art carries risk: the artist’s perspective WON’T be shared by everyone (that’s the point.) But the systems in “By The Numbers” give coaches a way to teach dozens of movements in a step-by-step fashion. When teaching systems are in place, the coach is free to give his attention to watching the athletes, instead of trying to recall the next part of the class schedule. Systems, done right, aren’t resrictive; they’re liberating.

 

Recorded on January 13, 2016.

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