June 25, 2012
Focusing on Technique and Rest: Austin Malleolo
By Keka Schermerhorn

"He is strong as an ox and really mobile, but had no technique," E.C. Synkowski says.



Austin Malleolo’s innate athletic ability, brute force and remarkable mobility have suited him well so far.

Two consecutive first-place finishes at the North East Regional, three trips to the CrossFit Games and an enviable position as Reebok CrossFit One’s head coach would be a dream come true for most athletes. Malleolo wants more.

A self-confessed workaholic, Malleolo does not shy away from putting in long hours. He identified the need to work on his Olympic lifting technique and found the perfect coach in fellow CrossFit trainer E.C. Synkowski.

Synkowski subscribes to Coach Mike Burgener’s philosophy.

“If the technique is not there and the barbell is not where it needs to be, there is no need to make it heavier,” Synkowski says. “He is strong as an ox and really mobile, but had no technique, and that’s what I like to coach. It’s not easy to teach it, but as long as you have time, you can make improvements.”

Improvements were made and Malleolo successfully snatched 235 pounds in the Snatch Ladder at Regionals, putting him in second place overall going into the last event of the weekend.

In Event 6, a chipper that was in his wheelhouse, Malleolo went unbroken on the deadlifts and on the last set of muscle-ups. This strategy allowed him to edge out Daniel Tyminski and win the Regional.

Malleolo and Synkowski started working together in December, and Malleolo recalls working with weights significantly lighter than his max on the snatch.

“I didn’t go anywhere near my 1-rep max for months and months, then all of a sudden, there is a 30-pound PR,” he says. “Who would have thought that technique would make you that much better?”

As it turns out, Olympic lifting technique wasn’t the only thing with which Synkowski was able to help Malleolo. As CrossFit trainers, both travel as much as three weekends out of the month.

“E.C. has been traveling like I do for the past couple of years,” Malleolo says. “She knows the demand it takes on your body. But this is better for me. Being busy helps me keep down the negative self-talk … it keeps me from overtraining. I also like the stimulus of training somewhere different. It plays into the unknown and unknowable.”

After coming into last year’s Games overtrained and mentally burnt out, Malleolo realized if he was going to get any better, he would also have to address his other weakness: managing his rest.

Now he trains five days a week, alternating between two and three workouts per day. On his days off, Malleolo bikes, swims or does some light skill work. When he's not training by himself, Malleolo works out with fellow Reebok CrossFit One coach and Games-bound athlete Spencer Hendel.

“E.C. is now responsible for all of my programming,” Malleolo says. “My warm-up has become a workout of new skills and drills and I’m spending more time under tension learning new skills and not overtraining.”

Olympic lifting is still a constant in the programming, as are new movements such as kettlebell clean and jerks, and work with yokes and atlas stones.

“He is such a strong, well-rounded athlete. We can’t really increase his strength in this short period of time,” Synkowski says. “But his technique is still a weakness relative to his strength, so we can keep focusing on that.”

Malleolo’s entire focus this year has been to simply improve and he says he’s hoping all his hard work translates into a proportionate performance at the Games.

“I’m really not looking forward to any single-modality events,” he says. “A 1-rep max, a long run, a long row, but give me a multi-dimensional event and I can be up there with the best of them.”