Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The FuBarbell + The Training Geek Seminar with Diane Fu and Lester Ho

A day of learning and lifting

After attending the Ma Strength seminar in December 2014, I didn't plan on attending another seminar for a while. However, when the "FuBarbell + The Training Geek Tour" popped up on my Facebook feed, I couldn't pass on the chance to attend - the session was going to be held awfully close to my neighborhood at Brazen Athletics in Fairfield, NJ.

The session was held on a Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM. The hosts were:
Diane Fu
- Owner of FuBarbell
- Extensive work with Kelly Starrett
- Weightlifting coach for Team NorCal
- Mentored by Wu Chuanfu, coach of Singapore's national weightlifting team

Lester Ho
- Co-Owner Southeast Strength
- PhD candidate, three dimensional kinematics of the snatch
- Mentored by Robert Kabbas, silver medalist at 1984 Olympics
The day before the seminar, I received an email with the course manual. It was a pleasant and appreciated surprise that allowed me to review the material beforehand. The manual gave me an idea of the day's schedule and what to expect.

The seminar had 15 attendees in total with the group comprised mostly of coaches.

Diane began with an introduction of her template which is geared toward improving the athleticism of a specific type of individual - the modern athlete. The modern athlete is usually a person who has little-to-no exercise experience and has a sedentary lifestyle as a student or office worker with limited time to exercise. They tend to pick up weightlifting in their 20's or 30's and are very new to it.

In order of most important to least important, the template prioritizes:
  • Position - A combination of mobility, proprioception, and strength in certain positions/postures
  • Movement - The flow and  rhythm of the full movement and consistent rep quality
  • Speed - Position and movement are prerequisites to speed. Speed will be detrimental to reps if the other two qualities are not developed
  • Load - Weight is the least prioritized aspect. Skill is required first and an individual will lift whatever they are capable of with the correct technique
Lester then began to speak on the biomechanics and physics of weightlifting and covered the laws of motion and the center of mass. This lead to the next segment on levers and varying body types using the toolbox method.

Participants paired up and used their phones to take a picture of each other in the position shown above while lying on our back. Using that image, two boxes - using an app or a computer program like paint - are drawn on to the upper and lower body. This gives an understanding of the lever relationship between the torso, femurs, and lower legs. Depending on a person's leverages, they will have one of three body types, which are:
(1) A long torso with short femurs (ideal for weightlifting)
(2) Long Femurs compared to their torso (more use of legs)
(3) Equal length torso with their femurs (strong upper body)
These characteristics affect a person's positions. For instance, a weightlifter with long femurs will take a wider stance with their feet somewhat externally rotated and catch the bar with an inclined torso in the snatch. A longer torso individual will be able to set up comfortably in a narrow stance and receive the bar with a more upright torso.

They noted levers add another layer of information and give insight, but a coach shouldn't rely only on levers when examining a lifter.

Assessment and Mobility

With the fundamentals explained, we proceeded to the movement portion and started with assessment testing.

The first assessment was simply to crawl on our hands and feet. This is what I consider a true bear crawl - trunk parallel to the ground with the hips at or slightly below the height of the shoulders.

Notice the controlled limb movement
Opposite hand and foot move together

I'm familiar with the crawl and use it in a warm-up or part of the training session. However, I've never thought to use it as an assessment, but it makes sense. The crawl allows you to see pelvic control, core strength, and coordination. Some of the participants found it a bit challenging.

The second test was a narrow stance squat with the hands clasped together overhead called the Charlie's Angel Squat. It's a very simple movement that reveals mobility restrictions in the lower body and shoulder extension along with feeling the quadriceps (more on this below).

Those two movements illustrated how well one's body can move. Understanding how we did on those drills, we went into mobility of the upper body, hips, and ankles.

The upper body stretch we did was a hang from a pull-up bar and our partner pushed on us right below the scapulae. Over the course of three sets, we worked towards a more narrow grip. This stretched all of the anterior pressing muscles really well. Combined this with the fact a bar hang also stretches the lats, there was significant improvement in shoulder extension.

Jump to the 1:20 mark to see a 
similar take on the stretch we did

The next focus was on the hips and ankles by using band distractions. With a band anchored on the rack, you take the other end and put it around your hip or ankle. With the band on, work through various angles - lunge, split, squat, and then repeat on the other side. Almost everyone saw improvements in their positions. The drills were good, but if anyone had an injury they were advised to not do them.


Now that we were all warmed up, we began the actual lifts. They used a top-down approach to break down the pull. It progressed as,

Extension > Power/Hip > Knee > Start

After hitting each point, we reversed the movement and initiated the pull. Combining it together, we did a snatch pull, power snatch, and then finally a full snatch.

From the start position, we were told to go straight up as if we were trying to draw a straight line from a pencil sticking out of our ear. Visually, a PVC can be held adjacent to the lifter. Keeping the ear in line to the PVC will force the lifter to pull straight up. If the lifter still needs further feedback, Diane demonstrated by having her hand on the upper back and told Lester to press her hand upwards. This achieves the correct pulling action.

I really enjoyed their cues. They provided excellent cues to understand how it should feel. I particularly liked the emphasis on feeling the quadriceps contract in the start position and in extension. In the start position, "feel your heels float" gave the right idea of how far you should start over the bar - the weight is shifted forward just enough to have your heels stay lightly on the ground. If done correctly, the quadriceps muscles can be felt.

Extension was cued in a similar fashion. There was no forceful plantar flexion, but instead were told to extend upwards and feel the quadriceps. Done correctly, the heels again "float" as opposed to doing a calf raise.

We were now given 30 minutes of open lifting to snatch on our own. We were allowed to go as heavy as we chose under the condition we maintain good technique. As we lifted, Diane and Lester went around observing and coaching everyone.

I did some light muscle and power snatches and took this as an opportunity to take photos (which can be found at the end). At this point, we were about halfway through the day and we broke for a one hour lunch. I stuck around and took more photos of Diane and Lester lifting. This surprised me a bit because they taught for 3-4 hours, lifted during lunch, and then taught for another 3-4 hours. That is awfully tiring, but kudos to them for being able to do it!

Clean & Jerk

Once everyone got back, we briefly went over the clean and spent more time on the jerk. For the clean, we went through the same progression as the snatch. Everything discussed on the snatch applied to the clean. The only change was the grip width and the bar being racked on the shoulders.

They stressed to set the lats in the rack position by not having too much space between your armpits. If the elbows are too high where the humeri are parallel to the ground, the lats are unable to support the weight. Once the bar was correctly racked, we did a complex that consisted of a push press, push jerk, and split jerk. The goal was to first achieve proper depth on the dip and then complete extension. Most trainees will cut the two movements short which results in a shallow dip and splitting too early for the jerk. To ingrain proper dip depth, including dip holds into your training will cement the new change.

Just like the snatch, we were given 30 minutes free lifting time for the clean and jerk. In the previous seminar, I was instructed by Liao Hui for the rack position - have elevated shoulders and make a big chest. This actually strained my shoulders and caused them to cramp. Lester said set the lats instead. I found it much more comfortable.

Closing Discussion

After lifting, we had the opportunity to ask questions. Questions were asked throughout the day, but I don't recall any questions during this specific Q&A. Diane and Lester spoke about how they taper and deload - including how they are different from one another - plus how a trainee should set their annual training if they compete minimally or not at all.

The final discussion was on programming. They program in 3-4 week blocks. Diane recommended for those who only do WOD's to include strength training sessions that incorporates trunk work (core and lower back). They both agreed pulls are underrated and very beneficial. Pulls done correctly really employ the legs. If feeling the quadriceps is hard to understand, then they recommended narrow stance squats.


It appears Crossfit certifications teach sitting back in the start position of the snatch and clean with an emphasis on hip extension. I am not 100% sure - because I've never taken a Crossfit certification - but this is what I took away from the seminar.


The seminar was solid. The only adjustment I would consider is adding a segment on programming prior to lifting. It felt somewhat brief and lumped together with the Q&A and end. It can be expanded on with an overview of a sample training week along with how to set up the main movements plus accessory work to improve technique.

This next point is not exclusive to this seminar and something I've seen in every seminar I attend. While questions were asked throughout the day, when it comes to Q&A at the end of a seminar, participants hardly ask questions. For whatever reason, that's the way it is. I'd recommend any seminar presenter(s) to instead try and anticipate questions or ask themselves "Can I/we elaborate on this here?" because people will rarely put forth the good questions. I had to do this in college for research papers and I've found it helpful. It's not a foolproof method, but it might encourage more dialogue from the guests.

Material aside, sitting on a wooden box is surprisingly extremely uncomfortable. I would have gladly enjoyed being able to sit in a chair. Call it nitpicking, but it's hard to pay attention when your glutes hurt.

Suggestions for Trainees

If a trainee engages in only WOD's, devote time to training you typically wouldn't do, such as bodybuilding work. Try to feel the muscle for each rep, do isolation work for smaller muscles, go slow, do high reps, and don't worry about the load.

Need to get use to the new start position and staying over the bar? Apply the same concept from the jerk dip hold to the the start position, Hold it for time and get accustomed to how the start position should feel. Stay in the start position for 10, 20, or 30 seconds and then do the snatch or clean. You become familiar with the set up and can use a light load for the lifts.

Final Thoughts

Weightlifting is simple. You take a heavy barbell and you put it over your head. Learning how to do it efficiently is difficult, but teaching someone else how to do it is much harder. Describing how weightlifting should feel to an individual is not easy and can be tough to grasp.

Diane and Lester did a terrific job at conveying that feeling without making it overly complex. This is what I walked away with and it enhanced my coaching skill set. Both of their extensive backgrounds and experience combined into an enjoyable seminar.

If you're lucky, they will do the tour again in 2016.

You can view photos I took from the seminar here.

FuBarbell Sites
The Training Geek Sites

Further Reading,


  1. Neil, thank you for the excellent writeup. I actually attended the same seminar (I'm the guy with the red klokov shirt). Your summary reminded me of some cues that I forgot to jot down in my notes. Since the seminar, I've incorporated the ideas into my training which has resulted in more efficiency and I hit a snatch PR a couple days ago. I be sure to check your blog as it seems you love learning about strength and conditioning as much as I do (I would have loved to attend the Ma strength seminar).

  2. Thanks Richard and nice work on the PR. I'm glad you found this writeup useful. I did my best to cover the seminar from my notes and memory. I found it made me more consistent in my own training.

    I appreciate you visiting and commenting. I'll have another weightlifting piece up later this month that will be great.


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