2017 Victorian Championships Session 1

Another year and another Vics or States went by.

This year, we had a slightly bigger showing representing the previous SES but now known as TG Strength especially on the female side. It was a good two-day event with a big number of lifters in each session which put me on my toes making sure that the warm-up attempts were on point. Even though some of the girls were around the same weights, this meant that certain attempt changes can easily change the order of lifting. 

From a coach's perspective, it was a good experience for me as usual to practice my attempt counting but also ensure that my crew had a good warm-up and an excellent chance to do their best on the platform.

I will be providing a lifter-by-lifter account of how they went and finishing off with a conclusion of the whole competition as coach. 

For this post, we are starting with the Saturday morning session where the 48kg, 53kg, 58kg and 63kg female lifters competed, I had both Amelia and Rachel competing in the 63kg and 58kg division respectively. This was in fact the first State Championships for the both of them. 

AMELIA THOMSETT (63kg)

For Amelia, this was the second competition we had worked together on since she came through as an TG intern at the end of last year and started competing under my roster only this year. In the last competition (VWA Open), she managed a 133kg today (56/77kg). So in training, we had to make sure that those numbers were in reach. Our goal for this competition was actually to keep her safe as she would be competing in the World Masters Games three weeks after! When it came to the last heavy session, we managed to get her hitting a 58kg snatch and a 75kg clean and jerk, and more importantly, she even went for a 84kg PB clean! This set a good tone set going into States.

As my guys and girls already know, I always try to get them to start at least 1kg more than their last competition. So knowing that she could comfortably hit 58kg in training, we started Amelia on 55kg.

 

After that first attempt, her confidence was up. Keeping to my belief that jumps should be smaller and wanting her to hit more successful lifts so that we have a good chance for a good total, we put her second attempt up to 58kg. This was a weight she actually missed during our last heavy week but knowing that she's a competition lifter, we knew that she was able to pull it out of the bag when needed.

Now the fun begins. Knowing that her training PB is around 60kg, we knew that the safer bet for this third attempt was 60kg. At this point, the thought of getting her to qualify for Nationals was becoming more of a reality. We could creep closer to achieving the total of 144kg by getting her to go 61kg which was still a safer jump. But if she were to miss, it meant a 86kg clean and jerk was needed. So we went 60kg for the third attempt.

Seeing that now she has gotten all three of her snatches, we were 84kg away from hitting the required total for her to qualify for Nationals. So during the 10-minute intermission, we made a decision and said that we will take bigger jumps for her clean and jerks which we did try to train for in training and stuck to our opener at 75kg.

The 75kg went up easily and looked even better than in training. And since we have been pushing her to take big jumps in training, we did the same here and went on for 80kg for the second attempt. Seeing how she finished on 77kg in the last competition, this would be a 3kg PB in comp for Amelia.

Based on that celebration, and even catching that 80kg clean almost as a power clean, I figured that we had a good chance to actually hit that needed 84kg for Nationals qualification. So we just put it there. By this time, she had laser-focus on her lifting and I was already calling the weights without her knowing what she was doing. 

From the video, it actually looked like she didn't get the lift. Why? Because she dropped the bar before she was signalled to drop it. Hence the drop of the face into the hands at the end of the video. What preceded after this was actually an immediate change to excitement as we saw two white lights! Even more happy when we found out that the button for the centre referee was malfunctioning and he actually had a white flag up! Both of us were so in the moment to not even realise that because we thought we had lost the lift. Saying that, it was a perfect performance and an incredible moment in my coaching career. 

RACHEL WILSON (58kg)

This competition was more of a lead-up competition for us to gain some confidence for Rachel in her lifts. Particularly in the last comp, she struggled alittle with her snatches although we managed to regroup it quite well for the clean and jerks. In training, she was easily hitting 62kg and 64kg for snatches as we prepared with a wave-loading block and even PB'ed her clean and jerk at 87kg on our max-out session. 

With the first attempt, we went with something we knew she could hit. Usually I would get the lifter to hit 1kg more than their previous competition openers. But for Rachel, we had certain numbers in mind for the second attempt so hitting this with a reasonable jump after was the deciding factor for the weight selected. 

Following that easy opener at 62kg, she wanted to go for the elusive 65kg which she struggled to hit the last comp for the second and third attempt. In training, the 64kg was easy and comfortable and hence going into this one, we knew that she would be able to get it if she executed it right.

It's times like this that you know that the work the athlete has put in has definitely paid off. The ease and smoothness of that second attempt at 65kg was well-deserved for Rachel and I knew that she really wanted that. So we were ecstatic. With her confidence back in her snatches, we thought we would see how far we can push her numbers up.  

Even though missing the third attempt at 68kg, from the lift, we knew she had the height on the bar and more importantly, the strength and speed off the ground to bring 68kg overhead. Knowing that 70kg was close in training, I am pretty sure with her mental game being more solid in this comp, we will hit bigger numbers in a matter of time. 

Moving to the clean and jerks, we went with an opener at 80kg which was actually less than her previous competition. The reason for that was so that she would hit an easy opener then we could make the push for her to hit a bigger total. This was also because there were several attempts at 80kg and we wanted to prevent her from waiting too long. 

Making good work of the 80kg, we went on to hit a weight that would set her up for a good third attempt. Seeing how she managed a 87kg PB in training, I thought it would have been good to hit 85kg for the second attempt so we went with it. 

By this time, I left it up to her to decide what she wanted to hit next. Because she was trying to go for a good total in this comp, we did not want to push her too hard. She would be better off finishing the comp not too fatigued and being able to train immediately in the coming week. So we made a 2kg jump for 87kg to match her training PB. 

Though missing the lift, there was alot to take away from it. She missed it because she was already fatigued in her back by then. And considering that she did only hit that 87kg in training on the Monday of the comp week. I am actually happy to see how she came off the ground because it was definitely a more solid attempt than her previous 87kg attempt in her first comp. Saying all that, she still blitzed the competition and walked away with a gold medal in the 58kg class. 

With that, it concluded a highly emotional and well-deserving session for the two girls. Not only did they manage to hit some personal goals, it was done in spectacular fashion, making it more rewarding a job for me as a coach. With all that adrenaline, it was now time to calm myself down again and have a break for the next session which was the Men's 85kg and 94kg which I had two lifters in. 

To be continued...

Movement Screening: 4 Reasons To Do It

Screening your movement is one of the biggest things you need to consider when starting with a programme or a coach. Even before you partake in any activity, an assessment of your background is critical to ensure that there is sufficient information provided about any underlying conditions you may have medically or physically. From a legal perspective, this is to ensure that nothing is done out of the scope of your capabilities. 

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Whenever I work with someone new, there are 4 main reasons why I want to assess them and I highlight these four reasons heavily to them so that they understand my intentions for them and what they should be looking out for when it comes down to their general movements as well as their weightlifting movements. 

1. What You Can Do

It falls under the category of your capabilities. What is your body capable of. Answering questions like how mobile you are, how stable you are, how strong you are etc. Even to the point of saying how well you adopt your positions, how well you move, how well your body awareness is. This basically tell me and you what you can achieve with the current state you are at. This could be as simple as being able to touch your toes.

Understanding this portion of your movement will allow you to empower yourself with the knowledge that at least you are doing something right and not everything needs to be worked on. This empowerment then reminds you that you are still able to achieve progress by making these strengths stronger. 

2. What You Can't Do

This is also pretty straightforward like the first point. It is as simple as what the statement is: things that you cant do. For example, you cant feel your shoulders rotate into internal rotation or out into external rotation. You can't sit past parallel in your squat. You can't lock your arms out overhead in a narrow grip. You can't keep your leg straight when raising it up while lying on your back on the floor. 

These tell me what your restrictions are and where they lie. Where you struggle to attain a good position. Or where your body awareness starts failing you and you can't get a grasp of what you are doing. Losing that mind-muscle connection the moment you are required to add some velocity to the movement.

3. What You Should Be Doing but Are Not Doing

Now this category of movement is slightly different from what you can't do. The example I give would be your squat. If I break it down, movements like hip flexion or dorsi flexion would be things you probably cant do. So assessing for these can't-dos would be your regular manual testing protocols or range of motion testing. While testing you in your squat pattern would then dive deeper into looking out for where these can't-dos surface from. Going back to the squat, you may not be bracing the abdominals which then limits your hip flexion while dropping into the bottom position. 

So this category of movements focuses more on joint coordination, muscle synergies, activation patterns etc. On top of that, there is also the under-rated and bastardised concept of biomechanics. Understanding the structures and the relationship of the structures within the body to better facilitate the movement of the body. The comprehending of lever lengths and how it affects joint coordination. The application of moment arm to facilitate the appropriate activation patterns for movement. This is basically giving meaning to the causes for your restrictions. 

4. What You Shouldn't be Doing But Are Doing

Now this is the important one and probably the reason why you would be desperate for help. The mistakes you are making in your positions and movements which are probably causing problems for your body in motion but also affecting two big issues within your training: the inability to improve (aka plateaus) and the breakdown of the body (aka injury). 

This is probably the main problem you are experiencing but you just can't figure out why. And even if you know why, you don't know how to fix it. But my answer is always to provide why you don't know how to fix it. Take a hypermobile back for example. The common problem associated with positioning in such a situation is the excessive engagement of the lumbar spine which results in hyperextension. You think you are doing somewhat the right thing because you are bracing the back to support a deadlift or squat. But in fact, you are not keeping the spine in a neutral position which then throws the pelvis out of position which then throws your squat or deadlift out of position because the wrong muscles are firing up to support the position. You think it's the right thing to do because someone or somewhere said you should be arching the back. But what you don't realise is that in such a case, maybe you shouldn't be overextending the back. 

With that baseline, we can identify and demonstrate the fundamental movements that are missing, deficient or dysfunctional. If movement is below a vital sign or ability—that’s dysfunction; below an environmental standard—that’s deficiency (necessary, but not sufficient).
— Gray Cook

Having that background knowledge of what a good position or movement looks like and facilitating the ability to compare your current positions and movements to the ideal would be what will help you progress from here. This is where the correction work comes in. But before the need to understand what a picture of "good" looks like (thanks to biomechanics) compared to what you are current doing (which is "not so good"). 

So by providing these four reasons for a movement screen, you then get a better idea of your current state, your ideal state and the link between how you can get from your current state to your ideal state. In simple terms, you basically get to understand what your body can do (the strengths), what it can't do (the weaknesses), what it should be doing but ain't (the ideal biomechanics of your body), and what it shouldn't be doing but is doing (the current mistakes you are making). 

Then you know the link I mentioned about getting from current to ideal? That's where the fun starts and the work begins. 

 

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Weekly Favourite Five #2

The Second Edition of The Weekly Favourite Five! 

Find out the why to these top 5 Instagram posts of the week. 

Weekly Favourite Five #1

As a recap for the week, I'll be putting up the five favourite posts from you guys and girls who support me on my social media. I'll also be providing the behind-the-scene to what came about with each post to give you a better understanding of the purpose of each one.

1. Lunges: Love Them or Hate Them.

This was to introduce some of the accessory work I prescribe my lifters at SES. More importantly, I wanted to provide a picture of how lunges can be modified in terms of where the overload can be distributed to elicit the adaptations you want in regards to strengthening the body.

Lunges: Love Them or Hate Them. . The lunge is a very powerful tool in a strength coach's arsenal of exercises to strengthen the body for sport. . For weightlifting, almost all of our movements are performed on the sagitaal plane (as I have mentioned before). Apart from lateral movements which we need to add in, we need to challenge the body transversely. . The lunge is good for this as it helps with ensuring that minimal rotation occurs in the hips and pelvis when the legs are challenged to move in opposite to one another. For example in the split jerk, it's common to see these days that the hips are rotated out of whack due to the familiarity of splitting in one direction. . Apart from learning to split on both sides, strengthening exercises such as the lunges need to be introduced as accessory work to prevent this rotation from manifesting into an overuse injury. . As you can see @rachel_elise90 and @allnutadventures performing dumbbell lunges as part of a conditioning EMoM at the end of their session. The placement of a load in the lunge is also critical as it emphasises the overload principle. We use dumbbells by the side so that the additional overload is focused on the hips which we are training with an anti-rotation purpose. . If you find yourself over-rotating in the split jerk, better be lunging often to keep your hip and pelvic stability strong. . #TheTrainingGeek #weightlifting #olympic #lifting #crossfit #crossfitgames #fit #fitness #workout #wod #train #training #lunge #dumbbell #hips #pelvis #stability #strength #strong #unilateral #active #lifestyle #gym #gymlife #getfit #instafitness #exercise #paleo

2. When one learns to use their legs, one feels the weight move easy.

This was a highlight of one of my athletes whom I have worked with awhile back and recently gotten back to working with her again. It is empirical for an athlete to constantly improve and one of the things that will help sustain progress in the lifts is the use of the legs. Because you be squatting most of the time so learning to translate that squat strength to your lifts will only help you progress your lifts further if taught to use the legs well.

3. Keep Your Hips Healthy. Don't Be Lazy.

This was actually posted while I was sitting down waiting for my chiro to be done with his sessions at our collaborative weekend at Warrnambool. I have always found that keeping good posture is easily forgotten and many, including myself, try to get away with it and only see negative repercussions in your training or lifts. Treating it like incidental exercise, making mobility an incidental thing is also relevant in ensuring that you are taking care of your body if you want to put it through vigorous training.

4. Shoulders Over = Staying Over.

The basis for this post was more along the lines of something I read online. There is a constant battle in the way the power position is taught. I just wanted to provide my logic and explanation behind the positioning of the shoulders but more in lines of making sure that the legs are positioned well under the torso in order for the correct direction in force production. It is afterall the crux of the lift as getting to the power position and how you move off from it can make or break the lift.

5. Keeping The Back Knee Bent in The Split.

This being one of my more recent posts, this came about as I was teaching several of my lifters who were working on their jerks in this past week. From personal experience having gone through injury with the hip flexor from not bending the knee too much (also because I have terrible core strength), I have found it easier to support the weight of the bar with a bent back leg. Ever since, teaching the bent knee has also helped with preventing the lifter from leaning forward too much or shifting the hips forward when achieving the split.

 

 

So that's it for this week's Favourite Five. As always, thank you for your support as I continue to share with you more of my thoughts and ideas in the sport of weightlifting.

What Confucius Would Say About Lifting.

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If you have been following me on Instagram, you would have seen that I have began some of my posts with a certain quote that I find relevant to the content I intend to share. So on the topic of quotes, who better than the man of wisdom himself, "Master Kong", to give us some thoughts regarding lifting that are relevant to the things he says.

Confucius says <insert stereotypical Chinese accent>..

1. When it is obvious that goals cannot be reached, do not adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.

This is very straightforward when related to lifting. It tells us that it is important to be willing to try different methods if your progress begins to stagnate. Be it more strength work, be it cross training, switch things up to keep the body guessing and even adapting but keep the eventual goal the same.

2. A man who does not think and plan ahead will find trouble right at his door.

This one is specifically to attempting a lift. Many go in with the intention of "grip and rip", almost becoming mindless. If you do not visualize how the lift is going to be, your body cannot prepare physiologically. The last thing you want is not to be able to remember what you thought of before the lift because then it becomes impossible to put the correct steps in place to repeat it.

3. All good things are difficult to achieve, and all bad things are very easy to get.

When it comes down to lifting technique, it is easier for you to fall into the path of frustration as you keep making mistakes. But the ability to distinguish a good lift is what will allow you to get better if you have the patience for it. Don't end up doing lift after lift without resetting and reflecting so that you can distinguish the difference. That's how you build a feel or an awareness for the lift. 

4. The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect [his] work must first sharpen [his] tools.

In order for your lifts to feel right, it's not just a matter of learning the lifts but putting in the necessary layers upon your movement patterns. This can be mobility, motor control, strength etc. Do the work to improve every aspect of your lifts so that there are no lagging components in your technique.

5. Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.

I find this one very personal. Working with many individuals at my workshops and seminars, you can see the frustration they have at the start of the day. But giving them the concepts and principles which make sense empowers them with better knowledge of the lifts. So when they hit the hands-on lifting component, they have a completely different perspective on the lifts. More importantly, they end up feeling better about their movements and the desire to improve further now that they have felt the difference can be seen as a takeaway for them and most importantly very rewarding for me.

Of course there are many more truths spoken up the man himself. But I find these ones to resonate really well particularly to lifting and my experiences in the sport. Hope that sheds some light into your lifting journey as you continue to enjoy this sport of self-discovery and achievement.

Learning Weightlifting is like Having a Haircut.

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As of late, I have been making sure that I regularly visit my barber to keep my look fresh. So this got me thinking as I watch Tom from Uncle Rocco's work his magic and turn me from a mess to looking sharp. 1. Every lifter is different like every head shape is unique.

There may be certain stereotypes of head shaped such as round, oval, flat, high forehead etc. The barber is experienced enough to understand how to match the hairstyle you want to fit the head shape you have.

Lifting technique is no different. With the body, as you hear from many coaches and many times in my articles, everyone has different lever lengths. You may fall in a certain category of body types but knowing how to specifically tailor to your body type is key to learning the technique which will not only make your lifts look smooth but also sexy.

2. It's about the finer details.

Apart from getting the general look right, the barber also puts the effort into the smaller details such as making sure your hairline is well-kept (i.e. No baby hairs sticking out, keeping the cut even on both sides etc). You can also see him making sure that after styling, another check is done so that nothing is left out to make the look as sharp as it can be.

Again, learning your lifts is no different when it comes to keeping the finer details in check. Small points like how you are holding your hookgrip, or how much your feet should be turned out, where you look etc, all play a part to make sure that you get that smooth lift you are aiming for.

3. It doesn't matter what style you keep.

Everytime I get to sit down on the barber's chair, Tom will ask "What can I do for you today?". The choice is mine to make on what hairstyle I want to have. But at the same time, I also trust him to have a better picture of what suits me.

This goes hand in hand with technique. I always get questions about what technique or style is the best. My answer is always "the one what makes you comfortable and the one that you can keep consistent". Like a new hairstyle, it may feel foreign at the beginning but the look is something you can get used to if you keep to it. Like lifting technique, some of the changes you make may feel foreign but once you keep them consistent, you will see yourself gradually and naturally moving better with it.

4. Visiting the barber regularly is good for your hair. 

Having a haircut is what will help keep your hairstyle in check. Allowing it to grow out is fine but too long and it will be too much to handle. Things like knots or split ends (and trust me I have experience with this) can easily get out of hand.

Like your lifts, having that constant feedback is key to allowing you to keep your lifts in check. Because of the reasons above, sometimes assessing yourself may not be the greatest idea and it can be good to have a different perspective. Doing so will ensure that you get to maintain the correct habits and movement patterns for smooth and easy lifts. More importantly, being able to keep you hairstyle sharp and fresh will keep those around you happy as you can see. Like your lifts, it makes everyone including yourself and your coach happy for you to hit an effortless lift.

P.S. If you need a recommendation for a haircut, you won't go wrong with Uncle Rocco's in South Melbourne.

Uncle Rocco's Barber Shop

1 Fennell Street, Port Melbourne, Victoria

Stop Making These Lifting Mistakes This New Year.

A New Year, A New You. Many of you have New Year's resolutions which you want to keep this year and some of them may be lifting related. Save yourself the disappointment of not being able to achieve them by preventing yourself from making these simple mistakes as you look towards the new year of training and practising your lifts.

Stop Ripping and Start Slowing Things Down.

The weightlifting movements are always perceived as movements of explosiveness and speed. Many people think that you need to be as powerful as your human potential allows you to in order for you to perform the lifts well. This leads to many making the rookie mistake of trying to "grip and rip". Especially when you are in a setting that requires you to perform these lifts faster in order for you to "get a good time".

560279_365187063536124_94998705_nHe sure doesn't pull the bar off the ground aggressively even though he gets quite aggressive in his set up. Image Credit: Hookgrip

According to Fitt's Law, movement speed is inversely proportional to movement accuracy. This also means that if you are going to try to move the barbell fast off the ground, it means that you would have some form of compromise getting into the positions you NEED to get into in order to properly execute the correct movements in the lifts. Instead of thinking of trying to hit it hard and fast from the gecko, you may want to try to generate enough speed to overcome ertia and GRADUALLY increase momentum to the point of extension where you then move with the intent of speed.

Hip Hinge Less, Leg Drive More.

When learning the lifts, as a beginner, you will always hear that you have to bring your hips through in the extension phase of the second pull. This typically results in a more loopy bar path or a swing of the bar around the torso. More importantly, it uses more of the back or torso as a lever instead of the legs as a driving force in the vertical direction. Even when cycling repetitions, it is critical that the intention is to use the legs more than the back. Once the trunk starts fatiguing, things get messy quite quickly.

mg3062The image speaks for itself. Knowing to use your legs doesn't mean just your hips. Image Credit: Karl Buchholtz Photography

Learning this correctly from the start will help in picking efficiency up as you will be learning to use your biggest prime movers in the body to do the work. Learn to spread the work across the glutes, hamstrings and quads (3 main muscle groups) rather than putting the stress on the erectors which are not meant to be movement generators. This will not only help get you through your training more effectively but also reduce the chance of a major injury or compensatory movements subsequently causing over-use injuries.

A Bigger Squat Doesn't Necessarily Mean Bigger Lifts.

Being able to execute the lifts well requires a good sense of what the body is going through during the movements. This body awareness is something that takes time in training to build up and gaining it will make alot more of your assistance or accessory exercises more transferrable.

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This relates alot to squatting because squatting is a major part of a weightlifter's program. Yes, squatting well and having a big squat will definitely benefit your lifts. IF you are able to transfer that leg strength into your movement. The ability to use your legs in extension is critical and not just being able to push up a certain load. This ability of having awareness in the use of your legs will allow you to properly execute the leg drive needed for most of the propulsive components of the lifts. The mistake is that many novices embark on a squat program without this awareness and put in countless repetitions of squats and end up banging their bodies up but not achieving their eventual goal of improving their lifts.

Don't Just Learn Technique. Learn YOUR technique.

Like a golf swing, there is no one technique that is identical to another. It is pretty awesome now that there's so much more coverage on weightlifting and you can easily gain insight to how the top-level athletes are actually moving through media platforms. However, seeing such movements at surface level and not understanding the complexity of their style in relation to other factors such as anthropometry and training history, the rookie mistake made is to imitate and not to apply.

keep-pulling-female-webMay look like the same point of the movement but all the positions are different. Image Credit: Hookgrip.

Learning the concepts behind movement, the reasoning behind certain positions or cues and subsequently applying it to your own lifting allows you to then make an INFORMED decision (not just a blind decision) on how you should be moving in the snatch or clean and jerk. Knowing the characteristics of your body such as your lever lengths, and even your strengths and weaknesses or physical limitations will help you make a better decision on how to move and give you a smooth path towards improvements in your lifting.

Accessorize to Maximize Your Training.

I completely understand that if you are executing most of your training in a class setting, you are basically following whatever programming is given on that day and it's completely up to your box's programming if you are getting what you NEED in terms of developing your movement and even body for lifting. When you first get hooked on the weightlifting movements, you will fall into the trap of just doing the main lifts and thinking that the more you practise them, the better you will get with them.

ba63d301baa60f0706ad0be99550549eHow do you think they build bodies like that? Probably not just from the full lifts. Image Credit: Hookgrip.

Sadly, you are WRONG! Not really wrong but you are not building yourself up to maximize your success in performing the lifts well. As a beginner, it is critical to understand that you need a variety of exercises related to the lifts to create as much practice and motor development opportunities within your motor control. Think of it like building up that memory bank. This helps develop that awareness for the movements as mentioned earlier. Secondly, even if you are doing some variations of the lifts in your training, you may not be prepping your body up physically to handle the physical demands of the lifts. So not only variety, but also the mundane work like mobility, stability and even hypertrophy. In simple terms and in the words of a famous strength coach with his own training system, if you want to build a massive pyramid, you need to build a big base. If you want a bigger pyramid, the base has to be bigger meaning you have to be covering more exercises first before you can begin specialising in the main lifts for the most part of your program.

Conclusion

It's great to see that you have understood that the weightlifting movements are pretty awesome and they benefit you in many ways than just explosiveness and power. Done with the right mentality, you will be on a path of discovery, learning about yourself and what your body is capable of. Too many people look for the easy way out only to find that they have hit a dead-end. Set things right from the start and you will see yourself growing easily into the lifts with ease as you work towards your New Year resolution of being great at them this year.

4 Reasons Why You Cant Use Your Legs.

Legs. Legs. Legs. Everyone knows they need to use their legs when trying to create the drive in the second pull or the drive in their overhead movements. "I don't feel them engage at all." or "I can't tell if I am using them". These are the common reactions when I ask an individual if they know whether they are using their legs.

quadsWhat are such legs for? #legsmuch?

Let's talk about 4 possible reasons why you cant feel the strongest muscle group in your body and that is not your back.

1. You are "pulling" off the ground.

Yes, it's indeed called the first and second pulls within a lift. However, many mistake this action as a pulling action and what happens is that the individual begins pulling the bar off the ground. This results in the use of the back or even the arms to create the initial drive off the floor.

IMG_1363-1Are you using your legs or your back here?

If you are guilty of this, try focusing on feeling your feet as you move the bar off the ground. Feel like you can spread them out and push into the ground. This will help you begin the movement and engagement of the legs right from the beginning. Yes. It becomes a push with your legs off the ground to get the bar moving.

2. You are pushing off the ground too quickly.

Yes. You may be using your legs to overcome inertia and come off the ground. However, you are thinking of hitting it hard right from the ground and realise you don't really feel the leg drive happening when it comes to the second pull. Try jumping up as high as possible from the bottom of the squat position. In order for you to generate as much force and as much height as possible, you do not do the violent push with the legs till you come up to a certain height. That is where the range of the lower limb joints are at its strongest to create as much joint extension velocity as possible.

If you are guilty of this, try slowing down the initial portion of the lift. It should feel like you have the ability to accelerate once the bar begins reaching mid-thigh level (for the snatch) or above the knees (for the clean). Slowing the first pull of the lift also helps ensure that you are getting into good positions and you are timing the second pull right. When more proficient with this, that's where you can add more speed to your first pull and still have the acceleration or explosiveness when the second pull begins.

3. You think too much "hips" and too little "knees".

If you look at the position of the joints within the body, there seems to be a sequence when trying to generate force and transfer that force to an object that you are trying to displace. Take a shot put throw for example. Upon anchoring the support foot onto the ground, the drive is initiated from the legs into the hips and transferred through the torso and shoulders before the arms follow through to drive the shot put into the distance. Very similar to the lifts is this kinematic sequencing of joints. The force is driven into the ground from the feet, through the legs, then the torso and lastly the shoulders to create momentum on the bar. If the sequence is lost in between, that joint can no longer contribute to the summation of force. The contribution of the knees not only help drive more force into the bar but drive the bar in the right direction (i.e. vertical instead of horizontal with just the hips).

rybakou_wrIf done properly, knees should be fully extended as well as the hips come through.

If you are guilty of this, you should try doing some squat jumps with a very short counter movement but still with the intention of generating as much height as possible. The burning sensation you begin to feel in your quads after a decent amount of reps gives you an idea of you properly using your legs which you should be feeling within your lifts.

4. You are knowingly or unknowingly doing too much with your feet.

I know I mentioned that you need to feel your feet when you initiate movement off the ground. The common error with weight distribution is that the individual needs to feel that the weight gets shifted around within the feet (i.e. from the balls of the feet to the heels, back to the balls of the feet before extension). Imagine that combined centre of mass being physically over the base of support. If it is shifting back and forth as much as I have described, what do you think the muscles and structures in the body are doing to maintain that in the center or from hitting the extreme limits of the base of support? All that effort to keep the balance while moving the weight up can be directed more to actually moving the weight up instead of trying to pull the body back centered.

jamie-collins-vertical-jump Gif credit to b-reddy.org

If you are guilty of this, try thinking of your jumping mechanics and feel where you get to put out the most amount of force when going for a vertical jump. Most of the time, it should be on the balls of the feet. How to get this feeling in your regular weightlifting movements? Do the drill that everyone has been on and using to feel your legs. Heels off the edge and do your pulls from there. Nothing new about that.

Conclusion

Learn to engage those springs within your body known as your legs. They are designed to act as hinge joints and in a synergistic manner, easily propel the torso in a vertical direction which is key to force transference to the barbell for the lifts.

Want to learn more? I am running a workshop talking about the second pull and how to transition under the bar at Crossfit 3039 this Saturday at 10.30am (Melbourne Time). At the same time, come down and listen to Anurag from Crossfit 3039 explain and demonstrate how that same transition is applicable to the muscle up.

http://e.mybookingmanager.com/MuscleUp-Snatch-Workshop

The Philosophical ABCs of Weightlifting by The Training Geek.

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The quintessentials of weightlifting is seldom discussed and personally I feel is related to the coaching philosophy developed by the coach imparted to the athlete. In any sport, the coach has certain ideals and thoughts that they constantly strive to bring about through their lifters and also through their coaching methodology. For example, the Russians have a certain way of teaching and programming the lifts and that's what makes them Russian. So do the Chinese. On top of that, everyone likes their lists, everyone loves their numbers, and everyone adores the alphabet. So here's my little take on the ABCs of weightlifting from the eye of a coach, an athlete, a recreational individual, a modern day coach, a modern day athlete or whatever you want to call me.

A - Appreciation

Appreciation is something that many struggle to get a grasp of. Appreciation comes in many forms within the world of weightlifting. You appreciate the technicality of the movements. You appreciate your coach's ideas and methods. You appreciate the platform and the competition vibe it brings to you. You appreciate the history and tradition of the sport. You should also appreciate the evolution of the sport. You should also appreciate the people who are working to make the sport more accessible and popular. You should appreciate that you are given a gift when you are involved in the sport and that you should do what you can to share what you know.

Too many people fail to appreciate the right things and only choose to appreciate what they deem fit. Weightlifting is so diverse and there is still so much more for us to explore and discover. Being able to appreciate that helps the sport evolve, not being stuck in your ways thinking you have already attained the highest level of the sport.

B - Benevolence

The community of weightlifting is small and close-knitted to begin with. If you do not have an appreciation for the fact that we should be working with each other to improve the sport or its popularity, we lose the vision of creating a bigger community in the sport. Benevolence is defined as the quality of being well meaning. As a coach, as an athlete, or as an individual involved in the sport, what have you done to mean well for the sport? Have you done all you can to allow people to enjoy the sport or have you constantly belittled people in the sport only because you think you know almost everything?

Even the best coaches with most experience seek to learn more and understand why. Being open to learning allows people to understand that you are constantly improving yourself to help them get better.

C - Character

Also related to the last point, character is something you build up as you grow into the sport of weightlifting. It definitely takes alot to be knocked down by the bar after each failed attempt and coming back to it to make the lift. It also takes alot of character to push through working on your weaknesses to improve a certain aspect of your lift, committing fully to your program and listening to your coach.

Character also refers to the way you approach the sport. Being one who chooses to contribute to the growth of the sport is the direction of growth that weightlifting needs and seems to be heading towards. Always seek to help others improve is what I say and try to do. Regardless of the time and the effort.

 

Well that's the ABCs from me. I wouldnt do the whole alphabet only because in weightlifting, we don't go more than 3 reps for the classic lifts.

Stay Strong and Keep Growing the Sport,

Lester a.k.a. The Training Geek.

My 3 Tips for the 2015 Crossfit Games Open Workout 15.1.

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So the first workout for this year's Crossfit Games Open involves the two main weightlifting movements. To be attempted one after the other, one for reps and the other for a maximum attempt. 

At first glance, many would suggest to save the grip as the metcon is grip-taxing (with toes-to-bar, deadlifts and snatches) and to pace oneself. But here's my take on it and three things I would suggest from a weightlifting front. 

1. Use your legs appropriately for the various movements. 

You have all three movements in Workout 15.1 that can easily blow your grip. For guys, chances are you will want to muscle these movements and hope that you have enough juice in the tank for that 1RM clean and jerk. 



So you need to save your grip at the start in order to prevent you from misappropriately using your arms in the clean and jerk. How to do so?

  1. Focus on flexing the hip in the toes-to-bar
  2. Engage the back and posterior chain in the deadlift despite it being a minuscule weight. 
  3. Use the quad punch for the snatches and actually receive the snatch than trying to pull the bar to position. 

Your key in the metcon is to increase the efficiency of your movements by using the correct muscle groups to move the weight or your body. See it as a secondarily warm up for your clean and jerk. 

2. Keep your hookgrip loose. 

The hookgrip is designed to save your grip on heavy loads in the weightlifting movements. If you are capable of using the hookgrip, I would suggest using it not only for 15.1a but also 15.1. 

Letting the weight rest within your hookgrip will ensure that you keep your arms loose and for the first tip to be effective. This will also help in the clean and jerk where a much heavier load is attempted and you risk the tendency to use your arms especially in a fatigued state. 



Saving your arms will also benefit you in the jerk portion as you can still maintain a snappy lockout. 

3. Aim to be technical. 

Although it's a metcon and your aim is to get as many reps as possible and following that as heavy as possible, but technique will go a lot way for this one. 

Being able to punch with the quads in the snatches will potentiate you for a good punch with the legs in the clean and in the drive for the jerk. 

Using enough legs and allowing momentum to carry the weight up for a power snatch, plus possibly receiving your power snatch lower will ensure a good lockout and save the arms. 



Being technical also means having a good strategy to your clean and jerks. Have a goal of what you want to hit with fatigue in mind. Make calculated attempts within that 6 minutes you are given. Even if you fail an attempt, look to keep to the timing of each attempt. 60-90s per attempt will give you 4-6 attempts so planning them out will be a better idea. 

Conclusion

It is a test of performance under fatigue. And it is also a test of strategy in the 15 minutes you are given. Going in without a plan will kill you. Be smart and keep both workouts in mind when planning your strategy. From a weightlifting perspective, aim for good technique and be efficient and you should be able to move well for the clean and jerks. All the best for your first Open workout!

Stay Strong and Keep Weightlifting,

Lester aka the Training Geek