Friday, November 23, 2012

Stuff (And Things) I Have Learned

Hey gaiz,

Here is some stuff which I have learned, in no particular order.  All of it applies to me.  Some of it may apply to you.  Or not.  It is what it is, man.

1) You're a whip, not a hammer.

If I have a choice between a former gymnast and a former powerlifter to become a weightlifter, I'm going to choose the gymnast every time.  I'm not trying to say strength isn't important - it's HUGELY important.  It's just that you have to learn how to use it properly.  You have to have position, rhythm, timing, and speed to match.  You cannot grind a snatch (that's what she said.)  Learn to move with some looseness.  Appropriately time the application of force.  Like cracking a whip.

Being able to do this, however, requires that you...

2) Trust your strength

Assuming you've done your due diligence - your squats, your back work, your pressing work, etc - you need to trust your back and legs to do their job.  If you have done a proper job of getting strong and learning your positions, you aren't going to suddenly become weak.  You should be tight and organized, but too much tension will slow you down.

3) High volume snatch, not so much on C&J

This is one which will definitely be very individual.  In the past, I've always matched my snatch and C&J volume for the most part.  And I finally figured out that it doesn't work.  I would guess that this will be more true for heavier athletes than lighter ones.  I can handle a ton of snatches (oh yeah) but too much C&J and I just end up lifting light weights with shitty form.  And yes, I know this is probably obvious to some of you.

4) Smooth dip, long drive, wider grip

These are three things which have helped my jerk a lot.  Widening my grip made a much bigger difference than I expected it to, and focusing on a smooth dip and a long drive, rather than sharp movement, has allowed me to move with much greater consistency.  This is actually a cue I used to use a lot, and somehow forgot about.  Fortunately my friend Brian reminded me, and it's helping a lot.  I have never been particularly fast, so I feel like I'm using smoothness to make up for it.

5) Sometimes you have to stop squatting

That was physically painful to type.  And it's not true for most people.  But my patellar ligaments give me shit, and I have never had trouble standing up a clean which I racked properly.  Literally not once ever.  I did my best C&Js when I wasn't doing any squatting other than snatches and cleans, and I was far more consistent.  Most people should be squatting heavy all the damn time, but remember that if you're a weightlifter, you don't compete in the squat.  If it's keeping you from making lifts, give it a break.  You won't get the AIDS, I promise.

6) Sometimes you have to do GPP

Dammit, there's another thing I hate to say.  But it's true.  I feel better when I do a couple of conditioning sessions a week, and regularly play with some gymnastics movements.  It shouldn't crush you; some kettlebell work, medicine ball stuff, etc.  If your knees are healthy, I think sprints are great (50m and below, please.  You're a power athlete.)  Box jumps may be fun to play with.  You don't need to over think it, but the extra work capacity can be very helpful, especially for bigger athletes.  I'll do something really hard occasionally (like the Prowler,) typically on a Saturday (last training day of the week) and with some partners to make it fun.  Strongman stuff is also cool.

7) Make more reps

I think this is one is particularly true if training without a coach, as I am.  A little bit less time spent maxing, a little more making lots of beautiful reps.  As an athlete training on your own, it might be wise to go from maxing once a week to once every other week, and spend the other days in the 80-90% range.  Missing reps with a coach watching you and telling you what's going wrong is different than missing reps on your own.  If you've been lifting for a very long time and pretty much know what you're doing right/wrong every time, that's different.  If that's not the case, make more reps.

8) Rest more

Duh.  Everyone knows this.  But athletes are dumb sometimes.  I did my best lifting when I trained MTWFSat.  Then I decided to train 6x/week.  Again, for athletes training with a coach, this can be great.  But if you're training on your own, being tired all the time probably isn't going to help you.  Pay attention to facts - how many good lifts you're making and how much progress you're making - not your ego, and figure out the optimum training frequency for YOU.

9) Short, Split sessions.

Big thanks to Coach McCauley for this suggestion.

I snatch in the morning and C&J in the afternoon.  I allow myself no more than 60 minutes for training the actual lift (usually it's more like 45.)  But I get a LOT of work done, especially in the snatch.  My snatch session from low blocks on Wednesday looked like this, in 45 minute (numbers in pounds, shut up):


Lots of work, and the rep at 195 was the best of the session, so I stopped on a high note.  Wasn't tired at all and felt great going into C&J in the afternoon.

10) How you feel is a lie (until)...

Until what, I'm not sure.  For me, it's about 80-85% on the snatch, and about 80% on the clean & jerk.  I can go into a session feeling stiff, sore, and tired, and I really have no idea how I'll perform until I get to around those numbers.  The percentages may be different for you.  The point is, don't go into a session thinking you're defeated before you've even started.  Allow yourself to be surprised.

For the record, I'm not talking about injury or sickness here.  Just the normal stiff, sore, tired that comes with being a weightlifter.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summon Your Strength.

Man.  It has been a rough month for some of the lifters of the Monterey Bay Barbell Club.  Myself included.  Weightlifting may just be the most frustrating mindfuck of a sport ever created, and none of our brains are invulnerable.  Nor, for that matter, are our bodies.  These things seem to go in waves: things are good, things hold steady, things suck, repeat.  In the midst of my bitching, I failed to realize, at least on more than a superficial "I'll program some lighter days for you" kind of level, that quite a few of us are riding the frustration-train through this-sucks-town.  So I figured I'd better quit moping, and do my job.

I want to distinguish between two mental issues, and two physical issues.  First, the physical: pain versus injury.  Injuries are not to be pushed through.  They are to be assessed, worked around, and healed.  Do not be an idiot: I've trained through injuries, and it doesn't end well.  On the other hand, weightlifting hurts.  It's physically demanding, and it hurts in big and little ways.  Muscular soreness, tender hands, stiff joints are all part of the package.  Sometimes they're enough to warrant backing off for a day.  Sometimes you just have to suck it up.  Accept now that sometimes training will hurt.  You can bitch if you want to – I sure do – as long as you do the work when you are able.

Second, the mental: frustration versus burnout.  Folks, burnout is a real thing.  It can happen to anyone who takes more than a recreational interest in training.  And it can make you lose your focus, your passion, and your love for the sport.  It can make you forget why you decided to dedicate so much of yourself to it in the first place.  When this happens, it's time to change things up.  It may be a small change - like switching around your programming.  Or you may need a break.  You may need to put the lifts on the back burner for a week, or two, or four.  It's not ideal for a competitive weightlifter, but sometimes it's just what has to be.

Frustration, however...if you're not frustrated a good bit of the time, you're probably not trying hard enough.  I know you have had days where you wanted to cry, or yell, or kick your bar, or storm out of the gym.  I've thrown my straps to the floor and and made up new and interesting combinations of swear words more than once.

I know you have wanted, at least for a minute or two, to just quit.  I've been there too.

Unfortunately, it's part of the game.  When this is the case: take a walk, take a breath, and take another attempt.  We're going to suffer, and fail, and suffer, and fail, and suffer, and succeed. And we're going to do it as a team.  Remember that your teammates know what you're feeling – it helps.

I know you're hurting.  I know your knees are swollen and your shoulders are stiff.  I know your hips don't want to move normally and your elbows feel funny.  I know that sometimes, you have weird pains that seem to float around your body with no real intent other than to piss you off.

I know your minds are tired.  I know that sometimes training feels like a chore.  I know that there are days when the last thing you want is to look at, much less lift another stupid-asshole-God-forsaken-mother-fucker-of-a-barbell.

Well, summon your strength, because you have to pull that bar.  You have to pull it because you are better than giving up because of a shitty workout.  You have to pull it because when you find the strength for another set, so do your teammates, and you are here to help each other, not only yourselves, prevail.  You have to pull it, and you have to pull it hard, because in this sport, sometimes it's not about legs or shoulders or even the almighty gluteus maximus.  Sometimes it's about spirits.  And the spirit of the Monterey Bay Barbell Club – as individuals and as a team – is strong.  Push through.  Persevere.  And eventually you are going to land a PR snatch, lock out a PR clean & jerk, grind through a PR squat.  And when you do it, your knees will still be swollen and your shoulders will still be stiff, your hips still won't move normally and your elbows will still feel funny and you will still get the weird pains that float around your body with no real intent other than to piss you off.

But your spirit will soar, and we will all be there with you to watch it fly.

I guess what I'm saying is, fuck this sport.

Same time tomorrow?

Friday, April 27, 2012

A General Philosophy for the Development of Weightlifters

I really like weightlifting.

I think about it entirely too much. It's weird, you guys, seriously. If weightlifting was a chick I would absolutely stalk her on Facebook. The downside of this obsession (or rather, what I assume normal people see as a downside) is that I have no social life at all because I just sit at home, thinking about weightlifting. Really. Take, for example, this 100% completely real text message conversation that happened on a recent Saturday night, while I was at home watching videos of weightlifting on YouTube:

Friend: Dude, there are like 20 of us at CRBC! Come down! (CRBC is a bar right down the street from my house.
Me: Will Klokov be there?
Me: See you Monday.

But the upside is that I think I am starting to understand this whole picking-things-up-and-putting-them-down-thing. So I figured I would write some stuff about it.

Make no mistake: I am at best a mediocre lifter, and a pretty decent coach. None of what is written here is new, and some of it is pretty obvious, at least to anyone who's spent some time training the lifts. Some of the things that I think now may very well change, and I will most certainly have a better understanding of them in five years. I'm also certain that I will add to it over time This writing will serve as an organized reminder to myself of precepts around which to base my training, and the training of my lifters. If I'm lucky, it will help someone else too.

The following concepts are not presented in any particular order, except for #1, because I feel that all the others follow from it. If the first concept presented is assumed to be true and correct, I believe that it is easy to see how the others make sense.

#1: Position Is Everything

If you can put your body in the right positions, with the bar following correctly, with maximal loads, consistently, you will be lifting at the limit of your potential. That's pretty much it.

Oh, right. I'm explaining things.

How far ahead of the bar are the shoulders when the bar is just below the knees? How long can the lifter stay over the bar once it's past the knees? How close to his center of mass can the lifter keep the bar? Beyond the novice stages of learning the lifts and building base strength, the lifters ability to consistently and powerfully transition through the optimal positions will be the determinant factor in how efficient he is.  Everything else follows. Keep this idea in mind when reading the rest.

#2: Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity

I'm sure many people who wind up reading this will be CrossFitters, and thus will probably be familiar with the hierarchy of mechanics, consistency, intensity which is generally presented as a core concept of CrossFit training. It applies to weightlifting too, but it is important to remember that, as a good friend of mine once said, it is a chronological, not philosophical, hierarchy. In other words, the ultimate goal of training is to lift at the highest intensity (i.e., the heaviest weight) possible, ideally in competition. But in order to achieve maximum intensity, we must first achieve consistency with the proper mechanics. And before we can be consistent with the proper mechanics, we must learn the proper mechanics. It's as simple as that: if one does not learn the lifts correctly, he will consistently do them incorrectly, and thus he will never lift at, or likely even near, his potential.

The mechanics, consistency, intensity hierarchy is also how I seek to structure my programming. It is a constant balance between optimizing technique, establishing consistency with near maximal loads, and pushing for new PRs. If one of these three components is missing from a lifters programming, his training will suffer for it.

#3: Regularly train at or near maximal weights

Coach Pendlay is fond of saying "the hallmark of great lifters is consistency." The best lifters usually have nearly identical lifts from 10% all the way up to max. They may have to save a snatch, or struggle to stand up a clean, but the pull itself - the part of the lift that determines whether they will have the opportunity to save or struggle for a lift - is virtually the same. And if you're spending most of your time working with weights which allow, even encourage, sub-optimal mechanics, you will never develop that level of consistency.

The SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demands) goes farther than most people think. The body learns what you teach it. Executing the snatch is not the same with 50% of max as it is with 80%, 90%, 100%. The lifter must train, both structurally and functionally, to perform the lift correctly with heavy weight if they wish to be able to do it with heavy weight. Crazy, I know.

Finally, the ability to save a less than ideal lift is a skill in and of itself. There are certain lifts which are not worth saving in training, lest one court injury. However, the ability to make minute adjustments under maximal loads is important, and it will only be developed by allowing oneself the opportunity to practice it.

#4: Everything which is not a competition style snatch or C&J is an assistance exercise

Yes, everything. Power snatches and power cleans. If you are a split jerker, the power jerk. Back squats. Front squats. If it's not what you're doing in competition, it's assistance. I might even go so far as to say that snatching or clean & jerking doubles or triples is assistance work.

Here is how I draw the distinction: often, it is possible to perform certain exercises with heavier weight, when those exercises are done in a way which does not necessarily lead to optimizing position for the full lifts. For example: I have a pretty strong back, and can safely squat more weight if I let my hips rise and "good morning" the weight up. I can keep my back flat and neutral while I do this. But it's not going to help my snatch or clean, because if I let my hips rise that much in a snatch or clean, I am going to a) lose the weight forward and b) look like a real jackass.

When snatching from blocks, it is often possible to lift heavier weight if one initiates the pull by bringing the chest up, rather than pushing with the thighs and using the lats to bring the bar back (which is what should be happening in the full lift.) When power snatching or power cleaning, the lifter may be capable of greater loads if he sticks with the pull for too long and focuses on getting the bar higher, rather than getting under it at the most opportune moment.

Because these exercises can often be performed with heavier weights when executed in a manner which does not produce optimal carryover to the competition lifts, they must be treated as assistance exercises, and thus the focus must not be on using the greatest load possible, but on using the greatest load possible in the way which provides the best stimulus for improving the competition snatch and clean & jerk

#5: Never stop doing the full lifts. Ever.

This might be the most "Thank you, Captain Obvious" moment amongst all the obvious things I am saying here. But it is worth saying, because I see a surprising amount of people letting their frequency with the full lifts drop to near nothing in favor of a ton of assistance work (see above.) The problem is that the only metric by which we can judge the effectiveness of our assistance work, is the regular performance of the competition style lifts to maximum or near maximum.

Sprinters never stop running their competitive distance. Football players regularly scrimmage. Why would weightlifting be any different? You have to practice your sport, and your sport is the snatch and the clean & jerk, at maximum or near maximum load, in the style which you will perform in competition.

I'm sure there are more things which I am either forgetting, or have not learned yet. And it is entirely possible that some of these things will change. However, I feel that these precepts lay an effective foundation for a functional understanding of teaching and programming weightlifting.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Storm

The Storm
Dedicated to Donny Shankle (no homo.)

He does not need to speak
He but stands
And the room goes quiet
He walks slowly
He is patient
He knows what is rightfully his
And will take it in due time
For he is the Lion
King of this jungle
His jungle
He stands calm
In the wind and rain
Teeth bared
Body tensed
He knows what belongs to him
And will take it in due time
He moves like lightning
His soul roars like thunder
A storm is coming
A storm is coming

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Improving the Split Jerk.

It's no secret that my split jerk sucks. A lot. I mean, with a PR clean of a pretty easy 137, my best competition legal clean & jerk is 118, and my best jerk off blocks is 125. Meanwhile, I have strict pressed 102. Seems legit.

With that said, I have made some effective changes to my jerk, so I figured I'd write a bit about stuff that's helped me improve. It is still a work in progress, so please comment on this post if you have further ideas that may help me/others jerk more and better (heh heh.)

Let's start with the obvious.

Are your positions good?

Before discussing what drills may or may not help improve your split jerk, you need to be sure you're not just doing it wrong. We'll work from the ground up.

Dip Drive:
-Is your weight in your heels? If you dip/drive on your toes, not only are you doing a poor job of engaging musculature (the posterior chain will see little to no involvement if you're off your heels,) you're also allowing the weight to come forward, and a forward lift is a missed lift.

-Are you dipping and driving on both feet (i.e. not favoring either side)? If not, you're not using as much muscle as you could be, and you're creating uneven force against the bar. Obviously not the most effective way to move weight.

-Are you dipping straight down, and driving straight up? Same as the first. Dip forward, drive forward, bar forward, miss forward.

-Are you keeping your shoulders pulled back hard? I bet you're starting to see a pattern here. If the shoulders aren't pulled back hard, your chest will collapse, and guess where the bar goes? Hint: not backwards, and probably not over your head.

-Are you allowing the weight to "sit heavy" on your shoulders (i.e. not trying to hold it in your hands or push against it with your hands to make it feel lighter)? This was a big one for me. I really held the bar in my hands and even though it was in contact with my shoulders, my arms were tensed and I was committed, whether consciously or unconsciously, to making it "feel light." Doesn't work. You WANT the bar to sit heavy across your shoulders, with the arms loose and relaxed. That way the legs can do their job without those pesky shoulders getting involved until it's their turn. Remember, the legs drive the bar up, the arms push you down.

Receiving Position (i.e. the split):

-Are your feet where they need to be? Consider both length of the stance (front to back) and the width of the stance (left to right.) If the stance is too short, you won't get under the bar. Too long (much less common, in my experience) and it's harder to get the hips and knees properly positioned, and it becomes harder to recover the bar. Too narrow, you will lack stability, too wide, and you end up in all kinds of weird positions, usually including the stance being too short. I found recently that my stance didn't need to be as long as I thought (particularly, my rear foot was too far back, making it hard to get my hips under my shoulders,) and it needed to be wider than I thought. Honestly, this is one thing where you very well may need a coach to take a look and tell you what needs fixing - that's what I needed, at least.

-Is your weight distributed correctly across your feet? There should be just slightly more weight in the front foot than in the rear foot.

-Are your heels turned out/hips internally rotated? If your heels are turned in/toes out, the hips will be in external rotation, and you're creating openings for the weight to push you out of position. The heels should be slightly turned out, and the femurs internally rotated, particularly on the rear leg. This will help "lock" you into place.

-Is your front shin slightly behind vertical/knees behind toes? Knee ahead of toes = missed lift. Keeping the shin slightly behind vertical helps ensure that the weight pushes you DOWN instead of forward (because what do we know about forward lifts?)

-Is your rear knee soft and the heel off the ground? If the rear leg is straight, then when the barbell pushes down on you, there's no give. So guess where you go? That's right, to that hateful "bar forward" place. Let that knee be soft. And if the heel is on the ground, it's a) unlikely that your knee is soft enough and b) VERY unlikely that the heel is turned out. Seriously, try it. If you can have your heel on the ground, turned out, and your knee bent to a reasonable degree (you need to have give,) you have some weird flexibility, man.

-Are your hips directly beneath your shoulders? If your hips are behind your shoulders, your torso is probably leaning forward, and there's that terrible word again. It also means that shoulders will probably be behind the bar, and that's no good.

-Are your shoulders directly beneath the bar? If not, the bar is likely forward. THIS IS A TREND IN CASE YOU HAVEN'T FIGURED IT OUT YET. Pretty much everything we do in the jerk, is done to ensure that the weight ends up squarely over the shoulders, which are squarely over the hips. The position and angle of the feet directly affects the position of the hips and legs, which affects the position of the torso and shoulders, which affects the position of the bar, which affects whether or not you make the lift, which affects how much you hate yourself at the end of the day.

I think that about covers it. Now onto drills and skills.

Stuff that might help

One thing I should get out of the way right off the bat: the biggest difference maker for me, was switching my grip. I used to jerk with the bar in my hands. This is probably optimal if you can do it, but I couldn't do it. I had the flexibility, but my natural inclination to press would completely take over. I dipped in poor position, didn't drive hard with my legs, and tried to lay back and get behind the bar. No worky. One day I decided to put my elbows higher and move the bar more towards my fingers, and almost immediately saw significant increases in the weights I could consistently jerk with pretty good, and legal, form. Not a chance in hell I would have managed 125 off the blocks with the bar in my hands. I was able to let the bar "sit heavy" more effectively, and stayed loose and relaxed through the arms. Again: for most people, it's probably optimal to have the bar in the hands (as long as you can also have it sitting across your delts,) but if you have a significant "press out" problem, especially one which occurs early (i.e., I would start pressing the bar around forehead level, not just at the top,) then give this a shot.

1) Press, push press, jerk from split. I got this one from Coach Pendlay, who got it from Donny Shankle when he brought it back from the OTC. This is a tremendous way to establish an understanding of what your position should be in the split jerk and how you should feel when receiving the bar. I ALWAYS warm up my jerk or C&J with this drill.

2) Behind the neck jerks. Particularly if you have problems with trying to press the jerk, because it's a whole lot harder to do from BTN. Much like moving the bar into the fingers can do, putting the bar behind your neck disincentivizes pressing because it puts you in a suboptimal position to do so. It can also help teach you to keep your shoulders back, weight on heels, and get a nice, straight dip and drive. I hope you have jerk blocks, because I don't, and let me tell you lowering the bar behind your neck SUCKS.

3) Clean + Jerk + Jerk from split. I don't go too heavy with this, and I never go to a point where my form isn't good. Doing the jerk after a clean is always good, since that's the contested lift, and I find that doing the jerk from split after a normal jerk helps me keep the position. I typically do this as I'm warming up my clean & jerk, and after 80-85, I switch to regular clean & jerk.

4) Timed sets. Light weight (I typically use 85.) Anywhere from 10-20 singles on the minute, preferably off blocks. Ideally your form will get better with each rep. Coach Pendlay said to me "the most important thing you can do for your jerk, is to do a lot more reps with weight you can do correctly." I took that to heart, and unsurprisingly it helped.

5) Mobilize your shoulders and thoracic spine. Seriously, if you're not mobile enough to get into good position in the first place, nothing else you do is going to matter. If you have no idea how to do this, head over to Mobility WOD, start with the very first post, and begin your journey to becoming a Supple Leopoard.

6) Rush it a bit. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but for some reason, if I very quickly begin the jerk after standing up the clean, I do better. Even if the clean felt heavy or I feel like I need more time, I just get onto my heels, pull my shoulders back, take a big breath and GO. This one is probably pretty individual, so give it a shot, and if you suck more than usual, discard it.

7) Focus on the legs. Thank you, Captain Obvious. But hey, it helped. Just really think to yourself "LEGS, LEGS, LEGS." Let your arms be loose and don't even think about them. Just try to send that bar FLYING with your hips and legs and then move your feet.

8) Try a belt. For some reason, the belt helped me a ton. Maybe it's just because jerks tend to make my lower back feel strained, so this may be totally irrelevant for you. But it seems to keep me from laying back and lets me get a more "solid" set-up for my dip and drive.

I think this pretty much covers the stuff that made the biggest changes for me. Post thoughts to comments.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

I guess my back is going to get strong.

Welp, I'm not squatting heavy for the next 4-6 weeks, because it's beating the crap out of my knees, and adding 5kg to my squat isn't going to help my lifts any if my knees are too worn out to snatch and C&J consistently. I'm replacing my 3 days of squatting/week with RDLs on Monday, snatch pulls on Wednesday, and clean pulls on Saturday. Also I'm going to do a lot of pause lifts. Basically here is my training schedule, if you're into that kind of thing.

Snatch, heavy single
Pause snatch, 3 doubles (both reps from floor)
Clean & Jerk + Jerk from split, moderate single
Clean & Jerk, heavy single
Pause clean, 3 doubles (both reps from floor)

Drop snatch, heavy singles
Drop clean, heavy singles
Miscallaneous Bullshit

Snatch, heavy single
Pause snatch, heavy single
Clean + Jerk + Jerk from split, moderate single
Clean & Jerk, heavy single
Pause clean, heavy single
Snatch pulls

Friday AM
Snatch heavyish single
C&J heavyish single

Friday PM
Snatch to max
Clean & Jerk to max

No Hands/No Feet snatch, heavy singles
Snatch Grip Push Press, heavy singles and possibly drop down for some volume
Clean Pulls
Miscallaneous Bullshit

Basically my back is gonna be real tired all the fucking time.

I guess I'll talk about why I'm doing everything.

Heavy singles in snatch, C&J: I'm not explaining why I'm doing this.

Pause variations: improve strength in the second position, get better at sweeping bar, get better at bringing bar towards hips from second position and getting into/staying in my heels.

Clean & Jerk + Jerk from split: This just seems to make my jerk feel more solid.

Drop snatches/Drop cleans: improve receiving positions for the lifts. I don't think either of these are really good ways to develop speed under the bar (too different from pulling under,) but I'm hoping it will help make me more "rigid" when I catch the bar, and help me get better at catching the bar in the right place (more behind head on snatch, further back on shoulders on clean.)

Snatch pulls, clean pulls, RDLs: Well, I'm not squatting, so I need to do SOMETHING to get stronger.

No Hands/No Feet snatch: because it's fucking awesome. Encourages a smooth pull, hitting the positions correctly, and speed under the bar. I'm starting to feel like this drill is not only great for more experienced lifters, but as a teaching tool as well.

Snatch Grip Push Press: help stability in the receiving position for the snatch.

Miscallaneous Bullshit: Phase 1, do curls. Phase 2, ... Phase 3, PROFIT!

Training 2/6/2012
Snatch, 205#
Pause Snatch, 175#x2x3 (both reps from floor, missed 2nd rep of 3rd set but immediately reset and made it)
Clean & Jerk + Jerk from split, 185# (jerk from split was ugly
Clean & Jerk, 245# (cleaned 255#, no jerk)
Pause Clean, 225#x2x3 (both reps from floor)
RDL, 300#x3x3 (100% of clean)

1) Not squatting was a good decision. My knees felt better after training yesterday than they did before, and they still feel good this morning.
2) Fuck my left shoulder and left wrists, srslyuguyz.
3) When pause snatching, an exaggerated focus on pushing the bar back towards me after the 2 mississippi pause at the knee, led to my best lifts - caught ass on ankles with the bar well behind my head.
4) "rushing" into the jerk after standing up from the clean seems to help. Perhaps because I just don't "feel" the weight, or the stabilizing muscles aren't tiring out. Something like that.
5) pause work is hard
6) I hope girls like thick, pythonesque spinal erectors, because if the way I feel this morning is anything to go by, I'm going to be seeing some serious spinal hypertrophy.

This song makes me want to sneer like Johnny Cash at a bar loaded to a PR, snatch the fuck out of it, sit at the bottom and yell "COME AT ME BRO!" before standing it up and slamming it to the floor ala Jon North, and then giving everyone and everything around me a two finger salute.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Thoughts on the Power Variations.

I've been thinking about power lately. Specifically, the power variations of the lifts, i.e. the power snatch and power clean. This post is going to be a bit stream of consciousness, but I want to get these thoughts down, so forgive me. Or just, you know...don't read it.

First, to define the power variations: a lift is considered a power variation when at the point where the bar is caught – more specifically, the lowest part of the receipt of the bar - the crease of the hip joint is at or above the level of the top of the knee. In other words, if it would get red lighted for depth in a powerlifting meet, it's a power snatch/power clean.

There's a fairly widespread misconception about the Olympic lifts, at least in the U.S., that the primary goal is to get the bar as high as possible, rather than putting the focus on extending the hips and immediately retreating under the bar. "Hips and under, nothing in between," as Coach Pendlay puts it. But I feel like even lifters who understand that the idea is to get under the bar, not to get the bar up, often have trouble carrying this over to the power variations.

Because the lifter is limited in how deep he can receive the bar in the power snatch or power clean, it is ostensibly beneficial to pull the bar as hard and as high as possible. However, I think this is based on the assumption that the limiting factor is the lifters ability to pull the bar up. That's not the case. The limiting factor is the depth at which the lifter can receive the bar, and thus lifters tend to try to pull the bar higher. Seems obvious, I suppose, but thinking about it this way created a shift in thinking about the power variations, at least for me.

The case may be that when executing the power variations, a lifter may be able to use greater loads if they put more emphasis on getting the bar up. But will there be as great a carryover to the Olympic lifts? If so, why? I feel like pulling the bar higher means more time at the top of the pull, and worse timing, and my initial thought is that most lifters would be better off using lighter weights with better timing.

How about in the context of athletic performance?

These are not questions I know the answers to. Would like to hear some thoughts on the subject.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Importance of Context.

Pretty regularly, someone will ask me to "write them a few workouts." I used to oblige - after all, a few workouts is only a few minutes of work. But, these days I usually say no.

The problem is, programming without sufficient information about the athletes goals, athletic history, current training plan, injuries, strengths, weaknesses, etc - in a word, context - is weak sauce. It may work for your fat friend who has been on the couch for most of his adult life, because he just needs to get up and move, but for athletes? Not a chance.

When you program out of context, you risk interfering with the athletes planned training, aggravating injuries, failing to address necessary skill development, etc. Now, of course, the athlete can just change the programming you give them to suit their needs - but then what was the point of asking for programming in the first place?

Programming shouldn't be random. Varied, yes, random, no. Even my competitive CrossFitters only have a certain degree of randomness to their training. For most of their preparation period, they have a set structure wherein only the conditioning sessions are "random" (meaning they do not necessarily progress from one to the next.) In their sport specific phase, all their training is varied, but I am still ensure that they have a minimum and maximum frequency for everything they do (for example, an athlete in their sport specific phase for CrossFit competition may not squat heavy on the same day each week, but will certainly squat heavy at least once per week. Same goes for running workouts, snatch, pullup workouts, etc.) It'll be different for each athlete, but there are always general guidelines.

If you want to see some of my programming in action, check out my good friend and athlete Owen Satterley. His blog has good information and he logs his training there as well.

Training has been nothing special. I've pretty much just squatted a bunch and done some clean pulls, GHRs, etc. I'm paying for last Friday. I'm really focusing on improving internal rotation in my left shoulder - I seriously think if I can get it up to par, I will be snatching 110+ very soon. Some mobility stuff I've been using regularly:

LAX ball to anterior shoulder with arm in internal rotation (lie on floor, face down on top of LAX ball, reach arm behind back as if someone was twisting it)
LAX ball to lateral border of scapula, alternate from internal to external rotation
"Pitcher" stretch (See the first stretch in this video)
Thoracic mobilization on double LAX balls

Friday, January 27, 2012

10 Attempts.

I live in the spaces between the knurling. Where chalk collects and where my blood dries and flakes and eventually wears away, leaving behind a residue like the rust of my efforts and my spirit. Even with straps, my hands are tired and starting to tear. I probably should have quit by now, but for some reason I couldn't. I was more afraid of quitting than I was of trying again. I guess I took the path of least resistance, if you think about it.

I'm not sure what attempt it was when they started goading me. I wasn't counting. I just knew I hadn't made it yet.

"You're trying again? No way you're going to make this."

I didn't make it.

"He's gonna clark this."

I didn't make it, but I sure as shit didn't clark it.

"Mental intensity, that's what you're lacking! Your problem isn't in your body, it's in between your ears!"

Fuck you, you don't know shit about me. You don't know about what's in between my ears, you don't know the beating it's already taken, you don't hear the rhythm my heart beats.

"Jacob, just call it, you're not gonna fucking make it."

"Why are you still trying?"

"No, just fucking stop. You're not going to make it."

I don't know if they believed what they were saying, or if it was just their way of encouraging me. But in that moment, it didn't matter. I believed that they believed it, and I believe that if you tell me I cannot do something that is within the realm of physical possibility, I am going to do it or die fucking trying.

"You had one shot, and that shot was about three attempts ago. It's not going to happen."

It didn't happen.

I've been yelling back. In Russian and in English. I was getting in their faces, I was ready to fight. I tried again, missed again. My knees hurt way more than they normally do when I snatch. The shoulder that's been giving me trouble is pissed at me, screaming in my ear after every attempt. I ignore it.

"Is he seriously trying again?"

"You've got nothing left in the tank, nothing!"

I'd calmed down. Composed myself. Changed the music. Timed my attempt with it.

I missed.

I waited about thirty seconds, and got back down. I heard someone yell across the gym, "you're a loser!"

That word is familiar. "Loser."

I smiled. Real big. I can't explain it. I knew I had the rep before I even got into my start position. I smiled like I'd been keeping a secret and I was finally able to tell the world. Pull, hit, retreat. Ass-to-grass. Bar in the slot. There was never a chance that I was going to miss that attempt. If predestination is God's will, and in this world there is only me and the barbell, then one of us has to be God, and it wasn't going to be that fucking piece of knurled steel. Not today.

In weightlifting, the bar always wins. No matter what. It's not like other sports. You PRed? Go to a meet. Won the meet? Go to a bigger one. Won Nationals? Go to the Olympics. Take gold? Beat the all time record. Beat the record? Fuck you, add one more kilo, and then another, and then another. The bar always ends up being God, and I'm certainly never going to the Olympics, and I'm never going to win Nationals. But I'll struggle every day like I think I'm going for gold. I will put one more kilo on the bar, and I will miss, and I will miss, and I will miss, and the bar will always win more matches than I do, but I will fucking win when it counts, because to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift (Prefontaine.)

I will be here, leaving the rust of my efforts and my spirit in the spaces between the knurling, where the chalk collects and I lay down to sleep. I'll wake up kicking and screaming, ready to go again, roaring like a bear, yelling in both of my languages, and my soul will bounce off the walls in the echo of the plates hitting the platform.

Can you hear me yet?

Am I loud enough?

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The past week of training has been a solid 5 on TIOLI.

i did a bunch of stuff. None of it notable. On Friday at Cal Strength I went straight from 90 to 100 in the snatch and proceeded to miss it like 10 times. Cleaned 120 twice but missed the jerk, then on the third attempt missed the clean and tweaked my right knee again. Couldn't squat 405# yesterday. I'm going to take a week of squatting, my knees and back could both use a little bit of rest.

Well that's all.