Thursday, March 29, 2012

Feet in Split Jerk

Every now and then on Youtube I'll watch weightlifters - some amateur, some elite. I notice most of the people who split jerk appear to execute it too early. Despite it being a very fast movement it's important to move under the bar at the right moment.

The lifters who split jerk prematurely tend to do so at the apex of the dip back up, specifically at this point:
Take note of how his feet are almost off the ground. Many lifters choose to jerk the bar during this ascent. As a result the front foot leaves higher off the ground. Their foot does a sort of hop forward.

I've learned from other sports that footwork has a standard rule - when the feet move they should move while staying as close as possible to the ground. My short experience with kendo, eskrima, grappling, and ballroom dancing hold this fact true. There are no hops or tall strides.

Allowing the foot to rise higher than needed creates more distance it has to travel. Not only that but imagine where your foot would be more stable. When you have a heavy bar overhead, do you want your foot near the floor or far from it?

The weightlifting coach at my school gave a great tip. He said "slide" your feet out instead of jumping them out. It's a good way to visualize how to split as you drop under the bar - not while you're still driving the bar upwards.

It takes patience to not split early but if you wait you'll have a more solid jerk in the end.

Related articles,

Friday, March 16, 2012

Long Arms

Pulling with bent arms.

The only lift that benefits from long arms is the deadlift. They help grab the bar at a high hips position and the bar travels a shorter distance for lock out. On the other hand this is absolutely terrible for cleans.

In a clean the bar needs to reach a specific height - slightly below the navel - to allow the lifter to speed under it. After all pulling the bar higher takes more effort and strength. In competition it's better to pull a heavier weight at a low height than pulling a lighter weight high.

The problem comes when long arms put the bar too low. This causes the pull after extension to be longer and makes it difficult to get under the bar. In the recent post "Moment of Power" I mentioned the bar should be in or near the crease of the hip. Chances are if you clean with long arms the bar will be closer to your knees than your hips.

The easiest way to get the bar further up the thigh is by widening your grip on the bar. Spreading the hands apart automatically moves the bar up a bit. If the bar isn't high enough the next cue to use is to "sweep" the bar in after extension. Think of it almost like putting on pants really fast.

Technique aside, those two methods should take care of most lifters. If your arms reach down to your knees you'll still have trouble. Don McCauley suggested on the Pendlay forums having the shoulders shrugged before starting the lift. There's also pulling with bent arms, but I believe there's a certain finesse to doing this correct.

And of course you can always try this,

Looks easy doesn't it?

Your leverages might not favor Olympic weightlifting but don't let that discourage you.

Always experiment, persist, and strive to improve.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Olympic-Style Workout

I haven't seen this method outside many Olympic weightlifting programs. Basically the main exercise is performed up to heavy singles and then the weight is reduced. It allows the lifter to get more volume in on the same exercise without compromising technique. Here's a template to follow for non-Olympic lifters,
1) Dynamic Warm-up

2) Primary Exercise: Work up to 1-3 heavy singles

3) Remove 10-15% of weight and perform 3-4 sets of 2-4 reps

4) OPTIONAL: Single-limb exercise, 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps

5) Ab, Postural, or Grip exercise

6) Cool Down

Here's a sample training day for back squats,
1) Dynamic Warm-Up
  • Stretch: Hip flexors, piriformis, pecs
  • Mobility: Ankles, upper back
  • Multi-joint Drills: Pull-throughs, wall slides
2) Back Squat
  • 100 x 6, 135 x 3, 155 x 1,
    175 x 1, 185 x 1, 200 x 1, 200 x 1

3) Perform 4 sets of 3 @ 175lbs

4) Lunge or Press Variation: 2 x 6

5) Plank Variation: 3 x 20s

6) Cool Down

  • Stretch hip flexors and quads
  • Light unilateral farmer's walk: 2 minutes each hand
You can try this workout or create your own. Experiment with the template and find out what you respond to best.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Balance and Maturity

An amazing soup

As you get more experience in a craft the more adept you should become in it. Those initial years are especially rough because you try to incorporate everything you've learned. It's understandable though - do as much as possible or include everything and it should yield the best result. However that isn't true.

A few weeks ago I was watching an episode of Top Chef. The chefs had to create a dish that "fulfills and even exceeds your mentor’s expectations of you as a great chef.” Paul Qui decided he would serve a chilled soup. As he finished plating he said,
"I keep on second-guessing myself. I really want to put more stuff on it. Being able to recognize that your dish is where it should be takes a lot of experience. And it takes a lot of discipline."
He won the challenge. One of the judges told him,
"Young chefs don’t understand restraint. They want to add more. You knew that enough was enough."
While his mentor said,
"This is everything that I’ve preached to Paul over the years, is balance, of flavor, and not overdoing it."
These words are incredibly true for many areas outside of culinary arts. The discipline and ability to recognize when enough is enough rather than doing more displays an individual's maturity and experience.

In the realm of exercise, the new trainee's mentality is to include more volume, intensity, and exercises. They attempt to do it all because they think more is better.

It's not. Athletes themselves stick to a handful of relevant sport movements to prepare for competition. Olympic weightlifters are a perfect example: snatch, clean & jerk, and some partials of the full lifts.

Aim to strike the right balance for yourself. It takes time and patience, but reach the point where you're attuned to your training. The little quantified variables aren't hard-and-fast where they aren't up for change. Don't be caught up in the exact number of reps, sets, and rest periods. They're guidelines. Instead it's important to be flexible and adapt to your sessions based on how you feel.

Be able to know when enough is enough in your training and heed Bruce Lee's sage advice - "Be water, my friend."
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