Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Third Pull

Some serious pulling

I first learned about the third pull reading Tommy Kono's books. To paraphrase his explanation, in the snatch it occurs right after hip extension when the bar is traveling overhead. During this transition the lifter actively pulls themselves under the bar by raising their elbows up and keeping their wrists down. In the clean it happens following hip extension where the lifter shrugs to pull their body under the bar.

You can get a feel for each by using a light stick (like PVC pipe) and slowly going through the motions. Progressing to the barbell gives you a little more variety to choose from - specifically high pulls and technical pulls.

Snatch High Pull

For the high pull, execute the snatch as you typically do but after the hips snap, immediately pull your elbows up while having your wrists down and in towards yourself. You want to stand as tall as you can and get the bar to around the nipple/armpit area. If you end up on your toes so be it, but it shouldn't be an intentional action.

Technical Pull

While searching online one day I came across these from crackyflipside over at the BodyBuilding forums. These are very similar to high pulls but here the pulls are to the neck with a fast quarter squat to have the body meet the bar. This is the closest pull you can get to a snatch without actually going under the bar and getting it overhead. The execution is like the high pull but after the hips snap there's a QUICK change of direction from the tall standing position to a quarter squat.

The clean versions can be done for either exercise using a narrower grip. However since the bar isn't pulled that high in heavy cleans you can cut the movements short. Let the hips extend and when the bar is right below the navel shrug as you stand tall [high pull] or simultaneously do a shrug and quarter squat [technical pull].

I'd say technical pulls are a progression to high pulls because of the added component of changing directions. Also when incorporating these keep in mind the higher the bar goes the less weight is used for the exercise. These exercises aren't for moving a lot of weight but instead for technique work.

Lastly they can be done from any position. I recommend performing them from the floor to develop a smoother pull. If you get tired starting from the floor then switch to a hang. And if you have straps use them for the snatch pulls. A comfortable grip lets you focus better on the movement.

A good third pull will help you move more efficiently under the bar.

*UPDATE: You can view video demonstrations of the technical pull here.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Dean Karnazes ran 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days.

Whether it's here on the blog or elsewhere, I rarely discuss aerobic exercise - commonly known as cardio/energy systems work. I primarily avoid it because (1) it's overzealously used, and, (2) in my opinion, the poor handling of strength training warrants more attention.

What constitutes aerobic exercise? Usually most people think of running, cycling, and swimming. However it also includes jump rope, rowing, circuit training, the elliptical trainer, and many more activities. The focus of this post will be predominantly on running.

Running is easy. There's no cost association, virtually zero instruction, and it can be done almost anywhere by anyone. Like I said it's easy. But that's the problem in and of itself. Typical running is too easy. If you're doing exercise that's not difficult then there's no reason to call upon your energy reserves (excess body fat).

Notice I specifically wrote "typical" running. I consider this to be running where the individual moves at a slow pace and does a sort of scuttle where the feet only lift a few inches off the ground. The person is relying on high volume of a low effort movement. It's an ineffective way to exercise for performance gains.

*I'm not covering stride form in this post. Just search Youtube for sprinters and watch how their legs move.*

In weightlifting I like low volume and high intensity exercise. I feel the same applies to running and other forms of aerobic exercise. Sprints and uphill running are excellent forms of intense running. Although not every runner chooses to run short distances that are 100 meters or below. Some runners compete in sports that entail a lot of miles making high intensity runs not a suitable choice.

With that said, you can make your aerobic exercise more effective by using the following guidelines when you train:
  • Select a distance you want to complete and time yourself. In every subsequent run of equal distance aim to improve your time from the previous run.
  • Alternatively when you run cover as much distance as you possibly can in a given time. Similar to the option above, you want to improve by covering more distance than in your previous run within the same amount of time.
  • Add variety by breaking a long run into multiple smaller runs and resting between each run.
    - If your goal is to run 3 miles then divide it into six 1/2 mile runs the first week, three 1 mile runs the next week, two 1.5 miles runs the following week, and a 2 mile run plus a 1 mile run in another week.
    There's a ton of freedom in how you choose to divide and arrange your runs
These rules also work in sports that aren't distance-based such as kick boxing or jump rope. In place of distance you would account for the amount of strikes or how many times you skip rope.

And that my friends is my brief discussion on aerobic exercise - something I do very little of.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Time-Based Workouts

Use the clock!
(Or a stopwatch)

In exercise time is an overlooked variable. It only becomes relevant when you ask yourself, "Do I have enough time to work out today?" I think time is an easy way to plan training. (An example I've noted in the progressions post.)

Another simple way to do a training session is by allotting a specific amount of time to each movement. I picked this up from coach Kirksman,
"...and athletes usually use how they feel and time blocks. For example, 1 ¼ hours is spent snatching, 40 minutes snatch pulling, 30 minutes block snatching and 30 minutes of practice. During this period, they try to take as many sets, reps and weight as possible."
He's speaking in reference to Olympic weightlifters. A recreational exerciser wouldn't be lifting anywhere close to 3 hours. (I hope not!)

Designing training is straightforward. First divide up time amongst each lift. Then use how you feel to figure out the number of reps to complete. Do this by performing your first set. Gauge what you feel is a comfortable number for each set. It doesn't have to be the same rep amount for each set but it gives you an idea of what range you'll be in for that day - think + 1-2 reps. Don't worry about sets because you stop when the time is over for that exercise. Rest periods can be timed but don't have to be. Wait until you're confident you can complete another quality set without failure.

In practice an example bench press day would look like this,
1) Warm-Up
  • Mobility: Thoracic spine extension and rotation
  • Multi-joint Drills: Band pull-aparts, push-ups

2) 25m Bench Press, 3-4 reps

3a) DB Row
3b) DB Floor Press
  • 15m total, 6-8 reps

4) 10m Face Pulls, 8-10 reps

5) Cool Down

  • Stretch pecs and lats
  • Overhead DB walk: 1m each hand
The benefit I see from creating time blocks is prioritization in the workout and that there's room for adjustments from one's own individual feedback. The workout is tailored to you instead of you being tailored to the workout. (Think about it.)

By manipulating time you'll be more aware of how your body responds to training. You'll also find you can get in and out of the gym quicker too!
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