MCI (mechanics-consistency-intensity) represents the approach CrossFit takes emphasizing longevity over immediate gains.
Breaking down mechanics-consistency-intensity, piece by piece
Your foundation should be mechanics, that’s the base of your pyramid and that’s learning the basics of the movement. If ten weighted pull-ups is your eventual goal, then the mechanical part of the processes would involve nailing your pull-up form. You might have to start with a jumping pull-up or enlist the help of a resistance band to give you a boost. Only when you could do a pull-up without having to compromise your form should you move on to tier two. There is a consistent desire to skip this step. Intensity is where immediate "gains" come from, but without perfect mechanics, your ceiling is capped. I'm here to admit that you can clean a lot of weight with early arm pull, but you can clean EVEN MORE with perfect technique. Spending the time necessary to lift a PVC perfectly will allow you much larger intensity in the long run, it just may not be as immediately rewarding.
Alright, so you’ve got your pull-up—here’s where things get tricky. You’ve got to be able to make the first rep look like the last rep or the last rep look like the first rep—even under fatigue. That means if you’re doing three sets of five pull-ups, every single one should look the same. That’s no easy feat, but it’s crucial before moving on to tier three. As we get tired, that's the form our body remembers. Once you master the mechanics of something, it's easy to do one of that movement under no duress. We need to train consistency to the point that adding intensity doesn't change our movement patterns or all the work we've put in to achieve those mechanically proficient patterns are for naught.
High Intensity is one of the three main tenets of CrossFit, so it feels counterintuitive for Intensity to be the last tier, however it really is the icing on the cake. It means that whether you’re doing pull-ups, rock climbing, or logrolling, your mechanics and consistency have set you up to move faster and more efficiently. At the gym, this could translate to doing more reps with higher weight or dynamic moves. Best of all though, it means you can enjoy your chosen sport with the peace of mind that you haven’t taken any shortcuts.
What MCI looks like in practice
In practice, MCI takes a big ego check. It asks that on heavy squat snatch day that you assess your movement patterns and while everyone else in class may be lifting big numbers, you may be doing PVC work. In these scenarios, it's important to keep your long term goals in mind and remember that strength is only 1 of the 10 components of fitness. Dialing in balance, coordination, accuracy, and mobility through perfect mechanics is much more important to your fitness than 1 rep done poorly of a highly technical movement.