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How One Thing Affects Pulling Biomechanics.

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There are many factors which normally affect pulling biomechanics. Joint angles in the start position, weight distribution through the pull, arm bend during the pull etc. However, there is one thing that has an effect on these factors. I am referring to the packing of the shoulders or the tension created within the scapula. I discuss this very often during my interactions with my lifters as well as during the workshops/seminars that I have done. Creating tension in the upper back or attempting to use the lats is usually interpreted as pinching the shoulder blades back. Yes, that creates alot of tension but in the wrong direction and will subsequently affect your pulling mechanics in the snatch or clean. Here is why: 1. It Shifts Your Pull Forward.

Secondly, if the shoulders are not packed properly in the start position, it causes the combined centre of mass of the weightlifter and barbell to sit forward over the base of support (feet). And when the mass being lifted on the barbell is more than the weightlifter's mass, this means that the combined centre of mass will be further forward upon movement being initiated. So keeping the shoulders properly packed will not only ensure that trunk stability is established but also allows increased balance as the weight is shifted off the ground.

olystartposition Keeping your scapulas down in the start to help you keep the bar within your base of support (feet) to avoid having the pull go forward. Photo credit to Catalyst Athletics

When that happens, then as the bar gets pulled into the power position and you already lose the shoulder position, you end up executing the second pull with your shoulders and subsequently the bar sitting in front of where you should be, resulting in your second pull either being initiated too early or your pull being forward.

2. It Reduces The Ability to Create Trunk Stability

When you address the bar and set yourself up for a snatch or a clean, you do your best to maintain tension in the trunk. We are always told to maintain the arch or stay tight as we come off the ground. We assume that by pulling our shoulders back or pinching the shoulder blades, it allows us to create the tension we need for trunk stability or maintain the arch. However, we actually put our lumbar stability in a vulnerable position as the middle back may not have adequate tension once movement is initiated. This will place the lumbar region in a position to work harder to maintain trunk stability and possibly put too much strain on the lumbar region to hold the stability as the load increases.

Losing your shoulder position due to the inability to create sufficient tension is also detrimental in the receiving position. As the movement of the snatch or the clean is so fast, the organisation to create trunk stability at the start is critical to establishing trunk stability in the receiving. In other words, it means there is no time for you to try to tighten up your core any further just when you execute your second pull and before you receive the bar. So if you have lost shoulder tension due to poor packing of the scapulas, chances are that you will have poor trunk stability when receiving the weight and the increased probability of collapsing or not being able to support the weight overhead or on the shoulders.

3. It Can Result in Poor Shoulder Mechanics and Subsequently Poor Performance or Injuries.

Not being able to get the scapulas in the right position will affect the structures around the shoulder joint. Most of the time, shoulder issues arise from the stress placed onto the anterior structures of the shoulder joint/capsule. Like trunk stability, shoulder joint stability cannot be reestablished or created in a a matter of milliseconds. So having the stability from the start is critical to prevent injuries particularly in the receiving position. More importantly, it will promote neuromuscular performance of the supporting structures in the shoulder joint because it allows those muscles supporting the shoulder to work in unison and not get inhibited due to poor position of the shoulder joint or scapulas.

Also, not packing the shoulders appropriately will result in the turnover becoming more of a loop as your shoulder blades are already pinched back. The only direction of pull that your scapulas would be capable for would be towards the back when you perform a shrug for the turnover phase. Depressing the scapulas would then allow correct shoulder blade movement downwards when creating tension and subsequently upwards when finishing the pull.

 

So we know the issues that poor shoulder alignment or scapula position can cause in regards to your pull and weightlifting performance. Correcting this issues would require a few simple steps. Here is what I normally do with my lifters to allow them to understand shoulder positioning and scapula movement.

1. Power Position to Fully Extended Position.

Packing the shoulders down (scapula depression) in the Power position is easier as you are upright and the movement of your scapulas is more pronounced. From there, the next thing to do is to keep the scapulas depressed and extending up onto the balls of the feet, as though finishing off the second pull. Then bringing the shoulders to the ears to perform a shrug will then allow correct scapula movement (elevation). More importantly, the shrug needs to be performed correctly. Many shrug by pulling back  instead of driving up. If that happens, I would suggest even shrugging to somewhere in front of the ears. This will be performed till the lifter is moving correctly and the positions are ideal before more weight or speed is added.

olympic-lifter-back Packing the shoulder blades down allowing the traps to be relaxed and utilising the lower traps alittle more. 

2. Pulls from the Ground then from the Hang.

Next form of correction would be performing the pull movements starting from the ground before proceeding to performing them from the hang. Starting from the ground would allow the lifter to feel the pronounced movement of the scapulas under no tension as the load of the bar has not been added to the demand of the movement. Only until the strength to maintain scapula depression is attained, then the movement can be progressed to the hang variations.

3. Pauses within the Lifts.

By adding a pause in, you not only reinforce position but also build strength in that position (how many times have you held that from most coaches). More importantly, think of pausing the knees and making sure that scapula depression is still active and you do not have to search or find that tension which connects your middle back to your lower back. The two pauses I would recommend would be at the knee as well as at the power position. You also need to sense that you are pretty well-balanced in your paused position but not completely relaxed. For example, in the pause at the knees, the hamstrings need to feel "loaded up" or stretched. If you don't, it probably means you have either sat back further or you have lost tension through the scapulas.

juergen-spiess208_lg Pause here, ensure "scaps down", "legs loaded" and "balanced weight". Photo credit to Ironmind.

 

So this is the one thing I personally experience in my lifts where sometimes being lazy, I do not keep scapula depression well enough. It pulls my lifts forward and it also mucks my shoulder up. Might not be the same cause for your shoulder problems but it's definitely worth a try eh?

Stay Tight and Keep Lifting,

The Training Geek

The New and Improved Training Geek.

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Training Geek Logo

WELCOME!

The previous concept of The Training Geek was to provide you the How's and Why's behind your training as it's not just about sweating it out! Now I am doing it slightly different.

With my keen interest in research and inquiry, I do my best to help you learn more about the latest trends and the traditional training protocols in Strength & Conditioning originally planned for elite athletes. However, running this blog for awhile, I have come to realised that there is a bigger need to allow everyone to understand that such methods are not only meant for athletes but they can also be used for the regular everyday person.

So now, The Training Geek is here to help the everyday person become an everyday athlete.

The Training Geek's goal is to help everyone learn more about Strength & Conditioning and apply it to any activity, be it training or work, whether they are elite or recreational athletes. My secondary aim is to paint a better picture of weightlifting (the snatch and the clean&jerk) and allow everyone to understand the wonders of this sport and how you can use it in your own training, whether you are a sportsperson or just the regular Joe.

So what's on offer in terms of training options? Applied Strength and Conditioning, Beginner's weightlifting, Movement analysis and many more. For more information, take a look at my services here!

Stay tuned on this blog for more news and information about training! If you are interested in training with the Training Geek, please contact me and I'll be in touch with you as soon as I can.

The Rebuild: Fixing The Wrist

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As mentioned in my previous post, I have taken a break from proper training to fix myself up. Main issues to work on include my wrist, my hips and some technical bits for my lifts. So in the first part of my rebuild, I am going to look at how I actually approached my rehab for my wrist. rack-position

Picture from StrongLifts.com.

The Issue

It began with a strain in the wrist from catching the weight in the snatch. With time, it developed into a slight pain at the distal end of the radius (the forearm bone closer to the side of the thumb). I also felt it when doing my cleans as I usually have a slight grip on the bar when racking the weight. On a daily basis, I feel a pain in the left wrist when going into flexion or extension and I do not have as much range of motion as compared to my right wrist.

So here are some of the things I implemented in my wrist rehab:

Wrist Stretching and Strengthening

After having the physio (Jim from Pinnacle Physical Therapy in Mount Eliza) smash my wrist up with a brutal massage, I started working on stretching out the left wrist from all planes of movement. At the same time, I was introduced to Ido Portal from my mate (Benny at Cohesion Strength and Conditioning) and I started looking up on his videos. One in particular was the wrist routine he recommended. A post on All Things Gym on wrist mobility provides a very good illustration of this as well. This involved stretching the wrists out in four directions (fingers facing North, South, East, West) in flexion and extension.

One of the key elements about this is to keep the arms in full extension as any flexion in the elbows takes away the stretch in the forearms and movement would come from the elbow or shoulder when we are supposedly stretching the wrist. Even if your range of motion is minimal with a locked elbow and compact shoulder, start from there and work to a better range of motion. Do these wrist stretches to a point where its tolerable. Do not push till there is pain.

The strengthening aspect of this comes from performing these stretches as well. While you put yourself into the positions for these stretches, you will be either on your palms (when stretching in wrist extension) or the back of your hands (when in wrist flexion). To strengthen the wrist up, I have tried putting some pressure on these areas while stretching. Firstly, it's to build up the confidence to put pressure on the wrist and secondly, it's to build up the strength in the wrist. It is also important here when you apply pressure to make sure that your arms are locked out and shoulder is compact. This is to emphasize the idea of a lockout in a snatch or jerk or the top of a press or bench press.

Wrist Mobility

Think of stretching and strengthening as giving you the ability to maintain the required positions of the movement. Mobility is the ability to transition from one position to another in regards to the joint. So mobility is more associated with movement than a fixed position.

So with help from Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr Kelly Starrett, I applied the method of compression bands on my wrist and start working not only on the stretching exercises with the bands but also the movement that my wrist gets involved in in the lifts with the bands as part of my warm-up. I felt that this really helped loosen up the structures in the wrist but also gets the wrist pretty warmed-up for movements to come.

Technical Changes in the Lifts

Sometimes injuries surface from the technical errors which you have let slipped in your lifts. The wrist is one that easily falls into this category. That's why if you think you can get away with sloppy technique, think again. So what I did in terms of this for my wrist were just two simple adjustments.

First adjustment was just the width of my grip in the snatch. Because of a grip that perhaps was too wide (that wide so that I could get the bar higher), this wide grip put more strain on  my radius at the distal end when catching the weight. So I just brought the grip in closer and it seems alittle better. Only time will tell. The second adjustment I made was more of being more focused in maintaining a good lockout. Locking the arms out allows the weight of the bar to be effectively transferred down the arm into the shoulder and the torso for the catch. This was done by using a lighter load and emphasizing the lockout everytime I caught the weight. Only when I could do it confidently then I would increase the load being used.

That was for the snatch. For the clean and jerk, i also made a few conscious adjustments. Firstly, the rack position in the clean is one of the culprits for wrist injuries. Rack the weight wrongly and you would probably feel it in your wrist straight away. Having a death grip while racking the weight on your shoulders is another way to strain your wrist in my opinion. Racking of the weight should be the bar coming in contact with your shoulders and having the weight on them, not in your hands. I can't seem to time this right so this has been a limiting factor for me (not relaxing my grip to rack the weight). So I have been practising the racking of the weight on my shoulders and letting my fingers cradle the weight. This also allows my elbows to turn around faster and remain in that position rather than collapsing and eventually letting my torso collapse as well.

On the flip side, in the jerk, I have been focusing on getting a grip on the bar and maintaining my grip while performing the jerk. This keeps my wrists in a more stable position and somewhat gives me a better ability to transfer my drive into the bar during the jerk (could be a placebo but it seems to be working so far). The problem with that is the issue of timing again. I have to have a grip while pulling the weight, let go of my grip when racking the weight and then firming my grip up again for the jerk. Seems complicated right? Yes, that's my thought process when performing the clean and jerk (probably why I find the snatch so much easier).

So that's my rehab process for my wrist for the past 6 weeks or so. It has helped me so far and I have managed to get back into lifting at Phoenix again. And so, I have managed a 95kg snatch since stopping and implementing this program (though I still suck at the clean and jerk and only managed a 105kg since taking a break) so I think it has worked for me somehow.

 

Stay Strong and Keep Training Your Wrists,

The Training Geek

Rebuilding Myself.

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Hello my fellow training enthusiasts. I apologise for my long absence. There have been many things going on in my life (same excuse everytime I am away from this space). So here's a quick update.

My PhD. Recently, work for my PhD has increased. I have been writing a huge amount and slowly all these writing over two years have slightly paid off. Firstly, I submited an abstract for a poster/oral presentation and have been accepted for the European College of Sport Science Congress held in Barcelona at the end of June this year. So it means I get to go to Europe for the first time in my life. But not only is this going to be abit of time off, it is also a PhD-development trip. I will be catching up with my supervisor in Wales whom I have not met up with for at least two years. Plans meant for my trip are in place and I am looking forward to getting some work done overseas while I am away.

My work. PTs have been maximized recently with most of my mornings being filled up with awesome clients who have been with me for a long time. Many of them have shown vast improvements in their strength and power and I am glad that I have managed to help others in their pursuit of strength and power. Despite my nonsense, they still put their trust in me for their training and I am grateful for that.

My training. This is the one that has taken a slight turn the other direction. Since I got back from Singapore, I have been plagued by one issue after the other. It started with my hip which caused a numbing/aching pain and prevents me from sitting down for prolonged periods. Next was my wrist where I felt wrist pain during training and stiffness in the middle of the night. The last one was my lower back which I strained and was close to the same injury as the back injury I had three years ago from deadlifting. This prompted me to take a short break from proper training.

So how am I going to rebuild myself?

My PhD. I will be looking at my final bout of data collection and analysis which I intend to complete as soon as possible. If I am capable enough, I intend to get that done before my trip so that I have more to share during this international gathering of the experts in my field of study.

My work. I will do my best to come up with better programs and be more organised in helping others achieve their training goals. More specifically, I am going to make sure I put the best programming in place for my clients to ensure that they get real results, not just a training effect because of them learning something new.

My training. I have taken a break from proper training and will be looking at my weaknesses in the lifts. My game plan is to get proper rehabilitation done to improve flexibility and mobility in the issues I have mentioned. At the same time, I intend to make sure I return stronger in the lifts by focusing on some light technique work and emphasizing the positions I am weakest at once I resolve the issues of my body. More importantly, I will get my headspace sorted and come back more confidently in what I am doing on the platform everytime I lift. I will also be giving you guys a rundown on how I intend to approach my rehabilitation and introduce some ideas which I have gathered from the teachings of others.

So stay tuned as I provide more insights to this process of rebuilding myself. I intend to bring real results to this and I will ensure I do everything I can to make this happen.

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Stay Strong and Keep Building,

The Training Geek

Rant from the Training Geek.

Well.. I am not one who usually rant in public about others in what they do. But there is too much talk around in the area of sport science, weightlifting and all that. Plus, I am tired of people who try to sound like they know it all. Everyone should take a page out of the book from my friend Kirk from lifthard.com. One should always be on the path of discovery and learning. No matter how many years of experience, no matter how many athletes you have or are training, you should always seek to learn. No one system works all the time and everything is so organic that even perspectives and ideologies themselves have to be adapted as we go along.

As a coach, we can read alot and learn alot. But it doesnt stop there. The way we pass down the knowledge is as important as a parent teaching their kids life lessons. If you think the way kids were handled in the past could be used in today's modern society, you got to be living in the wilderness or in a certain tribe where if you make a mistake it means you lose a limb to your siblings. Like parents, coaches should make sure that they teach their athletes everything they know so that they are gonna be successful on their own, and not hold anything back in order to make a consistent buck from them.

Too many people these days have this mentality that they need to bring others down in order for them to rise up the ranks. Before looking at what is wrong with others, look at what's wrong with yourself. This is the only time you can be self-centered. Instead of always pinpointing the mistakes of others, try asking yourself what is it you can do to make yourself a better coach, a better athlete or a better person. The ability to accept that you have your own faults as well and not at the expense of putting others down is going to show your sincerity to those you have under you. Show you are willing to learn and others will be willing to learn from you.

Most importantly, a coach should always lead by example. If you want your athlete to do something right, at least make sure you are competent in it. So many "coaches" these days want to coach something they are not even able to do. If you can't do it, what makes you think you can teach it. What I know about Olympic weightlifting is barely scratching the surface. That's why I only teach beginners and I do not even think of taking anyone advanced yet. If you do not even snatch or clean and jerk properly (and I don't mean the strength and conditioning style of Olympic weightlifting), you should think twice about using it in your programming. If you really want to, get someone who knows the how-tos to come in and assist you. A snatch or clean is not even close to a RDL.

With that, I am satisfied. The strength & conditioning world is not going to change with a rant like mine. But just examine yourself first. That's all I gotta say.

Stay Strong and Thanks for Listening,

The Training Geek.

The Fire Burns..

Day by day, the fire that has been lit burns brighter and brighter. As long as it lasts, I will make the best out of it.

Yesterday's session:

1. Back Squats

Worked up to 125kg for triples. Legs slowly coming back and I am slowly finding my feet under me. Need to also get comfortable yet strong at the bottom of the squat. Working with a slightly wider stance at the moment to facilitate the bottom position and get the hips stretching out more.

2. Power Cleans

Despite doing 80kg-triples on Saturday, I backed off and did 75kg triples. Because 80kg felt heavy and I actually caught a few in a full clean position, I thought I would be better off with 75kg to make sure I can still pull and catch it high. Need to remind myself not to lean back too much in the pull.

3. Clean Pulls

115kg for triples for this session. Weight felt manageable despite doing additional warm-up on 110kg. Higher volume for pulls but working on the bottom and extending the pull made it feel lighter and faster. Need to translate this into the clean itself.

Back onto a program and feeling good about it. Yes I may look like it's all about fun and games. But remember, a dog that doesn't bark doesn't mean that it doesn't bite.

dsc_0172Picture from Glenn Pendlay's Blog.

Stay Strong and Keep Training,

The Training Geek.

Training Starts Today.

On the program: 1. Front Squats

Decided to work on my weak points (which are quite a few sadly). As I am returning back to training, I dropped the weight down and focused on a good bottom position. Worked up to a 5-rep set on 95kg (managed a 5-rep set at 90kg on Tuesday). Hope to bring the numbers up for fronts squats soon.

2. Power Cleans

Wanted to focus on pulling off the ground properly. The right hip is still bothering me quite abit but still managed to work through it. Worked up to 85kg for a triple and carried on for a few more sets.

3. Clean Pulls

As this is the week I am trying to find my feet still, I managed to work up to 120kg for triples as well. Again, the same focus on a good pull off the ground. Like my snatches in the past, I think I am moving too much in my start. I need to try to be more static in the start of my pull.

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Picture from Catalyst Athletics.

Overall, strength is slowly coming back. Body is still sore from the week back and having no training for 6 weeks. But I am going to take tomorrow off to prepare myself for the start of my new program. Time to train harder than before and keep improving.

The return back to training has taken its toll. Despite being progressive over the week, muscle soreness is unavoidable and I am glad to be moving some weights again. Certain plans are in place to make sure I am going to be better prepared for the training till Clubs so let's see if these plans are effective.

Stay Strong and Keep on Training,

The Training Geek.

The Return to Training.

I have slacked for 6 weeks. No training. Barely touched a barbell. Not much weight lifted.

Now that I am back in Melbourne, it starts all over.

But this time it's different...

 

The first week is tough.

The first step back into training is difficult.

The first squat is rough.

However, the fire is lit. All I needed was a spark.

Now the fire burns.

It's no longer a game.. It's a war.

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Picture from hookgrip

Exercise is Like Studying.

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Yes I am a nerd. I am the Training Geek. I over-analyze things. Thus, prompting me to write such a post.

 

Picture from elitefts.com.

1. Exercise is like learning a language.

Being able to speak a language is one thing. Understanding the language and how it works is another. You may know the language or the words in that language. But using them in the right context and using them at the appropriate times is what makes you proficient in the language.

See exercise as learning a language. You may learn what it takes to perform some basic exercise techniques. But learning when to use the right exercises to achieve the right results is critical to attaining your training goals. Doesn't make sense for you to do alot of running-based drills when you are a swimmer right? Or similarly, using a powerlifter's program to help improve your running cadence or endurance.

Also, in a language, there are many ways to express the same thought. Most of the time, flowery language is used by many to say something as simple as ABC. Like language, many trainers like to use "complex" methods or techniques to train their clients to give an impression that they have this repertoire of exercises or they know something that someone doesnt. The problem with that is it is not effective and does not achieve the desired result.

You want strong legs, you squat. You want a strong back, you deadlift. You want big pecs and guns to impress the girls, you do your bench press and bicep curls. Stick to the basics and keep it as simple as you can to achieve the best results from your training.

2. Exercise is like learning mathematics.

How do you want to do well in mathematics? Three things you do: practice, practice and practice! You know the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, alegbra etc. However, putting it into the various context of the maths questions you face is something which many can't grab a hold of. They overcomplicate things and focus more on the context of the question than focusing on the mathematical concepts behind the question. It's the same as exercise. If you keep your program consistent and stick to the basic exercises, you are going to be so proficient in doing the basic exercises that all you need to do in your program is manipulate the training principle of progressive overload for constant gains or adaptations. If you want to get better in the squat, you squat. If you want to get better in the press, you press. If you want to get better in the snatch or clean and jerk, you snatch or clean and jerk. Consistency of technique before overloading will not only help you get better with the exercise but also pile on the adaptations tremendously. As simple as counting 1-2-3.

3. Exercise is a science.

You see many concepts of training, exercises etc that are being brought into the market. But how many of them have gone through proper testing for their effectiveness? Take compression garments for example. Marketed to be awesome products which increase your exercise ability because of their many functions. How many of these functions have been properly tested? Not saying that they do not work, but the research on such products are anecdotal at the moment. Similarly, in exercise, try to base most of your training on research. Things that have been found to work and be effective in providing the adaptations you are looking for. If there is no research on it, find out if many others have tried using the same method of training and how it has benefitted them. If majority of the people asked if it has worked, there must be something that is beneficial by using it in your training. More importantly, remember that something that works for someone else might not work on yourself. So trial and error and read up more about what you intend to use in your training than just blindly follow the current fitness trends. Some trends out there are just mockery of traditional training concepts.

 

Just my two cents' worth on what exercise is to me and how I look at it. Try asking yourself what your perspective on exercise is. You will be surprised.

 

Stay Strong and Keep on Training,

The Training Geek.

Be Inspired.

As I train to get better, I see things like these to keep me pushing and going harder each time I walk into the club for a session. Till the day I can get it right, I will never stop pushing my body to its limits. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPbQIgYtcWc]