Workout

The Philosophical ABCs of Weightlifting by The Training Geek.

untitled-shoot-154.jpg

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.

Squats in Weightlifting: 10 Thoughts to Share

img_3730-0.png

Squatting in a weightlifting program is a staple exercise and its uses are aplenty. It's seen as an exercise indicative of leg strength and is "somewhat related" to increasing your snatch or clean and jerk numbers. IMG_3730.PNG

Here are 10 thoughts I feel should be made known about squatting based on my playing around with technique as well as programming and now I'm sharing with you to give you alittle more insight to how squats should be viewed in weightlifting.

1. You NEED to be able to squat consistently.

Pretty straight forward right? But many don't back squat consistently to reap the full benefit of the exercise. And in many S&C coaches' eyes, you miss out on that transfer of strength/power to your lifts. Consistency here refers to the fact that from the set up to the re-racking of the weight when done is consistent. Every rep is the same from start to finish. Always strive for that kind of consistency so that you load your legs correctly all the time.

2. You SHOULD learn how to back squat well.

What is back squatting well? Tight trunk, load up the legs and keep position at the bottom while remaining stable. Correct breathing/bracing technique. None of that sitting back on the heels, knees can't go past the toes etc stuff or getting aggressive just because you want to be fired up. Being composed allows you to do things well; so why not be composed in the squat and your other lifts?

3. You need to be back/front squatting at least ONCE a week.

You should be performing the back squat and front squat at least once a week. Back squat to build muscular strength/strength endurance in the legs; front squat to build strength in position for the clean and to reinforce the rack position. Overhead squats? For weightlifting, perhaps beginners who struggle to maintain the bottom of the snatch can do some overhead squats. I wouldn't advise to go heavy though.

4. Calculate your tonnage/poundage/weight used.

Being objective with your squat numbers can help you monitor your progress and see if you are squatting enough or too much (which is most of the time). Percentages are important in squatting and so is volume. Not taking these into consideration will just crush your squat and hinder you from progress. You can also see if you are overtraining or properly over-reaching; they are two different things.

5. Frequency is more important than intensity.

This is related to the first point about consistency. Being consistent in your movement is equally as important as being consistent with your training. Especially in squatting, loading up the legs constantly will build accumulation to fatigue and subsequently increase strength/strength endurance. If done properly, it should fall within the periodization plan of the program and allow you to peak following a good taper period.

6. Too much frequency/volume can be detrimental WITHIN your weightlifting program.

That's where the blurred line of squats positively contributing to your lifts come in. Squatting a lot may build strength/strength endurance but also takes away a lot of energy in your legs and will affect the ability to produce force for the lifts. Add the accumulated fatigue on top of that, it is like staying tip-toed off the edge of a cliff. Lean too far forward or in this case, push yourself too regularly with squats and you may end up falling off and crashing rock-bottom. You also have to consider that there are many other lifts like pulls or even your classic lifts that build the ability to produce force in your legs.

7. It is alright to spend a period of time focusing on squatting for leg strength BUT not all the time.

I find this extremely important. It's like building a house. You can't build the house and lay the foundation at the same time. You need to lay the foundation THEN build the house. It is not going to happen if you want to build leg strength while increasing your snatch and clean and jerk numbers at the same time. Focus on one job at hand and do it well.

8. You don't have to be squatting maximal or close-to-max all the time.

It can be good to work up to a heavy double or single but the more crucial element is the volume. It is more important to build up the resistance to fatigue in your legs so that you can continually produce force for the weightlifting movements. That way, you have more in the tank to produce force in your classic lifts or pulls in your weightlifting program. But testing it once every cycle is good for you to track progress and ensure that the program is on track with your goals.

9. Going low doesn't mean hitting end-range of your bottom position.

When squatting, you always try to go as low as you can. You are even told to go ass-to-grass. Yes. You should go low. You should hit below parallel but you need to be able to do a few things if you want to gain that depth. You need to be able to feel that your legs are still loaded at that transition from the descent to ascent.

IMG_5205.PNG

If you can't feel tension at that point, you may end up putting the strain of the load onto your joints or even muscles not meant to be supporting the joint and result in injury. Notice that many lifters when receiving at the bottom pull themselves down not to rock-bottom position. This is so that the legs can be loaded up to resist the load coming down on them, allowing them not to lose stability at the bottom.

10. You squat to get stronger legs, not bigger lifts.

Many embark on a squat program in the hope of getting bigger numbers for their snatches and their clean and jerks. And their sole focus on their program is to get that leg strength (see point 7) which is not wrong! But squats help make the lifts easier. It does not make you lift better. You still need to put in the same consistency in your lifts as in your squats if you want to see your numbers go up. You squat to squat bigger numbers. You snatch to snatch bigger weights. As simple as that.

Conclusion

Hope this clarifies the use of squats and its appropriateness within a weightlifting program. Being strong in your legs is definitely important but if you are looking to be better in your weightlifting movements, there are other things to consider which could be more important than squatting.

Stay Strong And Keep Squatting,

The Training Geek

2 Main Symptoms Leading to Possible Over-Training

article_590_cane4.jpg

Over-training is usually defined as a condition where one's volume and intensity in training is exceeding the individual's capacity to recover. Especially in any sport, where the variables of volume and intensity are manipulated all the time to ensure constant adaptation of the body to the stimuli provided, it is important to ensure that recovering from training is adequate to meet those training demands. When that doesnt happen, overtraining occurs and many don't seem to recognise it. article_590_cane4

If a load meant to feel easy begins feeling difficult, something must be wrong right?

Even for weightlifters or powerlifters or anyone involved in the strength sports, overall poundage or tonnage is critical to periodisation and constant improvement in the lifts. Overdoing it will result in poor performance, increased risk of injury and the lack of progress.

But more importantly, you need to be able to recognise the symptoms that could possibly lead to overtraining. Many articles always mentioned the signs of overtraining but signs are objectively measurable while symptoms are more subjective. Being able to recognise the symptoms would allow you to recognise the situations which could lead you to overtraining.

1. You think you are not training hard enough.

You look at the exercises in your program and you think the loading is too easy or there are insufficient exercises. You want to do more reps, more sets, more exercises, hit more areas of your body within that session. You feel you have not accomplished something if you don't hit a PB or you don't sweat enough. You just want to do more and finish each session smashed and have nothing left in the tank.

Most of the time when you fall into this category, chances are that you are going to be over-training. Not every session needs to be a killer. In the whole picture of periodisation, there are times where the loading is less or the volume is less. This is to allow for constant adaptation and it's just a piece in the entire puzzle. Learn to trust the program and have the belief that the program is pushing you to help you gain the results at the end of the day, not kill you day after day.

2. You are either always injured or sick.

Every other week, you fall sick or get a bug and cant train. Recovering slightly, you get back into training and end up falling sick again. Or you feel a small niggle and push past it. Suddenly it becomes an injury and you take some time off. You come back from it but get injured again because you went too hard too fast.

Usually when this happens, it's a sign that your body is breaking down. The purpose of training is to break the body down to allow it to build back up stronger. Breaking it down too much or too often will result in too much stimulus to the systems of your body and not allowing it to recover enough. So a drop in your immune system or structural trauma of your muscles indicate that healing is needed. See it as nature's way of telling you to let your body take a break and not physically break it.

Conclusion

There are many ways to figure out whether you are over-training or not. But these are the two I look out for. Especially in the weightlifting movements or any other movements involved with the sport, being able to identify these two symptoms is critical to ensuring longevity in the sport. Consistency in training is important so that you can continually have good practice of the lifts at a certain intensity. If you find yourself falling into these two categories, you are pushing yourself towards the direction of over-training too easily.

4 Reasons Why I Listen to Disco When Training.

salimi-focus_lg.jpg

Music is a big thing when it comes to training. Many use it to motivate oneself for a set, or to push oneself further when going for a run. Activities that require a certain rhythm would benefit from this as it provides a pace for you to follow when running. However, in strength sports such as weightlifting and powerlifting, how does music affect one's training atmosphere? So here's why I listen to disco when training:

1. It teaches me to zone out the distractions.

There are many things that can distract us in a lift. Someone walking across, a phone going off, people talking in the background. Music that is playing and is not within your preferred genre will help you zone out and train you not to be easily distracted.

office-distractions Many things, big or small, can throw you off easily before a lift. 

2. It helps me to zone into myself and my lifts.

By clearing out the distractions, the internal focus becomes stronger and the needed cues for each lift can be internalized alot better. This makes the pre-lift routine more prominent and subsequently make lifts more consistent.

salimi-focus_lg

What you tell yourself before a lift will help you set the tone for the lift. Image credit to Ironmind.

3. It allows me to calm myself down and be composed before the lift.

By being able to zone in as mentioned in the previous point, I can figure out if I am ready for the lift or not. Music that seem to motivate you sometimes brings your heart rate up. With your heart racing at 1000 beat per minute, you will find it difficult to be composed in order to move properly through the lift.

psyched_baby

Psyching up is good. Psyching out isn't.

4. We all need alittle bit of grooving in the gym.

Being able to psych yourself up for a lift is important. Being able to relax after a lift is also crucial in order to reset yourself for the next lift. Groovy music will help you keep the vibes positive throughout your training session, rather than angry and upset all the time.

Night Fever[1]

Getting the groove on to help keep the atmosphere positive and allow the mind to remain relaxed. 

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Weightlifting Before I Started.

olympicsday5weightliftingqexljrzjv6pl.jpg

1. It is not simple lifting something overhead whether it's heavy or not. No need to explain any further. As simple as it sounds. 2. You will be left with all kinds of superficial damage to your body. Whether it's bruises on your thighs, shins and/or hips, shin scraps, abrasion on the thighs, calluses on your palms, broken fingernails etc, be prepared to look like you have gone through tough times during a war.

3. You will possibly be affected by some form of niggle or minor injury. Serious injury shouldn't be a norm though. You will never be physically 100% fighting fit but your mind should be always be clear and 100% focused to tackle the session ahead. More importantly, you do what you can with what you have available. Shoulders screwed? Squat. Back sore? Lift off the blocks.

4. You wil experience frustration, confusion, joy, anger, excitement and many other feelings in a single session. You get a good lift, you are happy; then the next lift you fail and can't repeat the same movement, you get anger, frustration, confusion all at once. You think you did a good lift but you end up being told that you didn't use your legs enough. "What the?"

5. You will have to treat it like weight loss where every single kilogram added to your total is hard-earned. It can take a few days, perhaps a few months, possibly a year to add 1kg to your total and get a new PB. You just gotta keep going at it. You might take 100 attempts at a single weight before you finally get it. That could take 20+ sessions. Sometimes you just need one attempt.

6. If you take a break from it, be prepared to work at least twice as long and hard to get back to the same level as before. Strength and power take ages to build up but can be lost through detraining in a very short period of time. When taking a break from it, it is more important to ensure the movement pattern is still being practised to maintain the temporal structure of the movement.

7. Venting your anger and frustration on the bar only results in one of Newton's Laws: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Go figure. If you have experienced this, you easily know what I mean especially when no matter how much harder you go at the lift, it ain't happening.

8. Your coach gives you so many cues to focus on when lifting and yet tells you not to think too much. "What the?!" What they mean is to focus on the important stuff. What we also mean is to not fall into the notion of "paralysis by analysis". Also, when you start to over-think the movement, it's better to leave it and come back to it another session or another day.

9. You should know how to fail a lift more than anything else. Trying to muscle a weight results in undesirable outcomes. Injury is the common one. More importantly, muscling it long-term results in chronic injury. Learning to fail a lift is part of safety in lifting. Come back again to fight another day. But before you can come back you gotta make sure you survive.

10. So many different ways of pulling the bar off the ground. Which one is good for me or which should I follow? Learning more about the pulling techniques from different coaches/lifters/countries is good. Being able to understand the mechanisms or the fine points of that technique is another. Being able to apply that to your own body based on your individual anthropometric characteristics is what you need to be doing. So just lift how your body allows you to be lifting and what suits you best or works for you to lift the heaviest weights you can lift.

Olympics+Day+5+Weightlifting+qeXLjRZJv6Pl Ahhh. Why didn't you tell me this earlier? Sa Jaehyouk at Beijing 2008. Source: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images AsiaPac

Four PRs, Two Weeks. How?

1277494_213741665453127_626844514_o1.jpg

Yes. You saw right. 4 PRs in two weeks. Started with the Pendlay Seminar. Constant repetition during the seminar. Position to position, back and forth. Each transition done at least 10 times. Bam! 102.5kg PR for the snatch, 121kg PR for the clean. From a motor learning perspective, the emphasis on positioning during the seminar and transiting from one position to another built that learning effect. More importantly, like many coaches have constantly emphasized, perfect practice makes perfect. Ensuring that the positions were hit right, three of us (the coaches from the Strong Room) made sure we hit each position right and watched out for each other.

1277494_213741665453127_626844514_o

Following the seminar, I hit another PR 2 days later at 103kg. Missed 101kg 2 days later (not feeling the best). Then another 2 days later, I hit 104kg. The week after, I held it back alittle early in the week and went for 100kg for the next two training sessions. But then came the end of the second week.. Went for it and hit 105kg. Been awhile since I had such improvements in my lifting. Below is my session which I hit the 105kg..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GdZ287vKNM

So what happened? Nutrition? Recovery? Epiphany?

Just learning. Proper motor learning. Why do I attribute it to that? The program I was on simply made me do repetition after repetition of the classic lifts, similar to a "Bulgarian"-style program. But I am nowhere physically capable of doing such a program so I had to listen to my body. But the feeling of pulling something heavy off the ground made sure that technique was maintained.

Many think that to build technical strength (a term suggested by Bob Takano) is to use light weights and then put your focus on your technique. However, based on my research, bar velocity is no different from 100% 1RM after 88% 1RM. So even if you are not going to be hitting your maximum weights, hitting 90% will require you to maintain the same technique as compared to 100% 1RM. Based on that, I kinda kept the intensity around the range of 90-100% depending on how I felt. If I felt good, I went 100%. If I don't, then I kept it lower but no less than 90%.

It worked for me with 4 PRs in a span of 2 weeks. Of course there were other contributing factors such as getting sufficient sleep and eating enough which probably helped. But this is why I get the people I coach to go heavy if possible because to be able to maintain technique for a load close to your maximum, you simply have to lift close to maximum. I will have more information about how I came about with this sort of programming for the "busy" man (idea inspired by my discussions with JP from FirstPull.net) in an upcoming post.

Stay Strong and Keep Lifting Heavy,

The Training Geek

Rebuilding Myself.

img_3439-e1366016198948.jpg

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.

IMG_3439

Stay Strong and Keep Building,

The Training Geek

Keep Your Friends Close, Keep Your Enemies Closer.

The title is a very common phrase heard in many cultures and countries. But how does this relate to training and in this case, strength and conditioning? Upon interacting with several sports and organizations involved in strength & conditioning plus the experience in training others and knowledge (which I hope I have gained) over the years (or what little years I have), I have concluded with a principle that is highly adopted by many of the best athletes and coaches which relates to the title of this post. Now let me explain how you can make this statement the basis of your training and how you can link it to programming.

Keep Your Friends Close.

Basically in the context of strength and conditioning, I would recommend you to do the stuff that have worked for you. If squats have made your sprint times go up, keep squatting. If snatches have increased your vertical jump, keep snatching. If kettlebell jerks have increased your work capacity, keep jerking. What I am saying is that if it works for you, you do not need to change it too much. Only when you start flattening out or your progress goes nowhere or even drops, then you need to put some thought into changing your program. This then leads to the next point.

Keep Your Enemies Closer.

Enemies here refer to your weak links in your program, your movements, your training etc. Things that you do not normally do when you should be doing them, or the things that you hate doing. These are probably things that have been proved by others to help with improving a certain movement or increase a certain fitness component. An example of this can simply be any movement or exercise which you totally suck at. In "Crossfit" terms, it should be your GOAT (which I dun really have an idea of what it stands for) but I think they are somehow right about something. Working on these weak links or movements that you suck at is only going to make your weaknesses become strong points.

So if you do both, doesn't that mean you need to be in the gym for hours? NO. This is where proper programming comes into play. There should be a balance in working on your strengths and your weaknesses. As much as you work on what you are good at, you need to be doing as much in what you are terrible at. With that, you can still fit it into your overall program, you can still fit it into your session. For me, I see movements I like such as the snatch, the deadlift as my friends. I really enjoy doing them and I am happy doing them (despite being terrible at them and failing the lifts most of the time). But as much as I enjoy doing these movements, I know I need to focus on my weaknesses such as front squats, cleans. Basically that rack position. So as much time I am spending on snatching, I would be working on ways to improve my clean.

Games2012_NealMaddox_365CleanThis is how my rack position looks like when maxing out. Just not as heavy as that. Picture from The Crossfit Games site.

So remember, as dark as the phrase might seem, it is very relevant to strength and conditioning. Perhaps you could try listing your "friends" and "enemies" so that it can give you a clearer picture on what you need to focus on for your training and programming.

 

Stay Strong and Keep Training Hard,

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.

120226-stevePowerClean

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.