Feb
25

Junior Nationals Round-Up

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IMG_6067I am on my way back from USAW Junior Nationals and have a bunch on my mind. It reminds me of that hot date feeling I had after the first date with my wife, my mind is racing with so many thoughts. I am amped for what the future holds for Force weightlifting and USAW.

Here are some of those random thoughts, several of which may be expanded into longer posts in the future, so PLEASE if you read something you want to hear more about, let me know so I can go into a little more detail.

  • So proud of my team right now, they all competed really hard, and made a lot of lifts. Going through all of our athletes we only had 1 athlete that had less than a 4 of 6 performance. In that case he was on deck (all the way through his warm-ups) and there was a computer malfunction which required him to sit for 10-15 minutes before taking his opener, he missed his first 2 clean and jerks on calls of press outs, but came back to smoke it on his 3rd.
  • Speaking of 4 for 6, that’s really the magic number for being competitive in a weightlifting meet. We always shoot for 6 for 6, but 4 for 6 will let you be in the battle. It’s almost impossible to be in it (unless you are far and away the best) at 3 for 6, and impossible at 2 for 6. My friend Rufus shared with me the stats from recent Olympics and World championships and all the best countries (Russia, China, etc) average 66.7% for made lifts, almost like clockwork. The US on the other hand is closer to 50%.
  • We had two athletes get medals (6 total- 2 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze) at this meet, both in hotly contested battles. We also had a 3rd I was coaching in contention for a medal. When you are the coach in those circumstances the pressure really gets put on you to make the right calls. if your attempt counts are off, then you are putting your athlete at a serious disadvantage. You have to keep your eyes on the competitors in the warm-up room to see how they are looking, and the real fun comes in choosing openers, second attempts and final attempts correctly.
  • There are some dirty tricks that can be played in the warm-up room to put your competitors at a disadvantage.  I won’t share but when the medals are on the line (especially) in the clean and jerk, the pressure can be put on you after a miss. Be careful.
  • I was a little dismayed at how rude coaches can be to the marshals at the table. Yelling your changes doesn’t make them happen any sooner. If the computer goes out, it’s also not their fault. Be nice.
  • Speaking of the marshal’s table, please, please if you are in the B or C session, don’t try to play games with your attempts. Just pick a weight that your athlete can make, and then send them out to the platform to make it. Of course if they are following themselves, gain as much extra time as possible, but making all your allotted changes on every single attempt is just screwing up the flow of the meet for the other kids there trying to do their best.
  • I was really impressed with the lifting both in the junior sessions (there are some really good young lifters out there) and in the men’s and women’s senior sessions that took place. This Olympic year is going to be a good one for big lifts in the US and hopefully in Rio.
  • Your job as a coach is to pick weights that your athlete can make, not that they want to make, but that they can make. It’s great to be a positive coach (it’s my personality) but knowing what they are capable of on that day is your number one job, not encouraging them to do attempts for which they aren’t prepared.
  • Most of my athletes did not hit nearly the numbers in training as they hit in the meet. We rarely went heavy enough leading up to the meet to actually touch the numbers we went after on the platform. That is by design, much of our training is done for volume and repetition at lower intensities. There are many ways to skin a cat, but I believe all of my athletes felt the best they had felt in weeks on the day of competition.

With all that set I am so excited about the future of our weightlifting club, and bringing home an even bigger tally of medals at national meets going forward. If you want to lift with our club at national meets, hit me up and let me know, our online team is growing.

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Feb
08

GPP for Weightlifting

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Chris Howell | Herald-Times SIDEBAR LUKE KOPP AT UNIVERSITY SCHOOL in Bloomington, Ind., Thursday, December 17, 2015.

Chris Howell | Herald-Times

Standing in front of a crowd of about 20 master’s weightlifters at the Olympic Training Center last August I made a suggestion about the training of weightlifters that drew me looks of horror and simultaneous looks of great pleasure.

It seemed that half the crowd was extremely happy with my suggestion and the other half thought I might have been a complete and utter fraud.

I had just suggested that in a good training program weightlifters should bench press. One attendee said “I started weightlifting so I wouldn’t have to bench press.” The suggestion that bench press might be a good idea was what drew me the ire of half the crowd. I also said that they should do rows, do pull ups, do complexes, press a lot, and do about 20-25 other exercises during certain parts of their training. Read More→

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Photo Cred: Barbell Poetry

Photo Cred: Barbell Poetry

This isn’t a program for true beginners.

A true beginner would be my dream scenario, a young talented athlete that wants to pursue weightlifting, one with very little training, but untapped athleticism. I don’t get many of those. In the US we don’t get many of those at all.

Instead, i get a lot of “technical” beginners. I get athletes and individuals that know what the lifts are, have done them, and have done them with sub-standard technique. That was exactly the stage from which I began weightlifting over 18 years ago.  I had done a power clean, but it wasn’t particularly good.

Technical beginners are the high school football players, volleyball players, and gymnasts that transition to weightlifting, they are definitely most CrossFit athletes that I get to work with. Specifically these athletes have some level of strength already, they are possibly very strong and good at some aspects of weightlifting, but just don’t know how to translate that strength to movement on the platform. Read More→

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Jan
12

Lifting From Blocks

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JCG24188

Photo Cred: Hu Lee Aon

In college I would beg and plead to lift from the blocks. If snatches were listed, I’d figure out a way to get the blocks out and lift. Cleans, same. All this work from the blocks didn’t go without reward, by the time college was out I got really good at it too.

During my college career, my finagling allowed me to snatch 145kg from the blocks and clean 182.5kg from the blocks.

On the other hand, all that lifting from the blocks had me especially good at lifting from the blocks, I would venture to say that my best from the floor at those times was more along the lines of 125/160, but I honestly haven’t a clue because I never did it.

I had developed technique all together dissimilar than the technique it takes to lift from the floor. I actually see this a lot, it seems that in American weightlifting there are a lot of instagram videos of massive lifts from the blocks but not the same lifts from the floor and definitely not on the competition platform.

I don’t think this needs to be the case, lifting from the blocks can be extremely valuable to developing position specific strength and technique in the weightlifting movements. The keys are all in the set up (this next line is important)

Your position on the block needs to be exactly like the position you would have achieved if pulling from the floor.

Although Dmitry Klokov once said “Americans lift from blocks, Russians lift from deficit” I think there is some value to training from the block when applied correctly.

In the video below I share some of my thoughts on how to correctly use the blocks.

Some Notes:

Yasha Kahn on how to lift from a different type of blocks and the “Back Angle” 

My weightlifting Poster for positional reference: HERE

What a good bar path looks like: FirstPull.net 

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JCG12840I recently read an article by a performance coach talking about how he coaches the Olympic lifts. His argument was that it is not correct to “jump your feet” in weightlifting. He didn’t go so far as to say it was out and out wrong, but in pretty strong terms he suggested that doing so wasn’t exactly the right thing to do.

His primary point of emphasis was that in the realm of “performance” we need great hip extension and by jumping the feet you will likely cut off your ability to extend the hips and instead will focus on lifting the feet.  I was all prepared to say “not so fast” and post countless pictures of weightlifters jumping their feet. The author tried to preemptively squash that by saying that in the realm of performance typical weightlifting technique might not be applicable.

Lets look at this from a couple angles,

Do weightlifters jump their feet?

Should we treat athletes and weightlifters differently?

If weightlifters jump their feet, why?

Do weightlifters jump their feet?

Some of this argument, “to jump the feet or not” comes back to the language that some coaches use. Many coaches, including myself use the terminology “jump” when teaching the Olympic lifts. Some say “jump and shrug”, I say “jump and punch”, or “jump and sit”. Several years ago plenty of weightlifting coaches turned against this terminology to suggest that the best lifters don’t jump their feet at all, or hardly move them, and the terminology was incorrect. In turn, we have people now trying to say that you don’t need to jump at all.

Photo Credit: Hookgrip.com

Photo Credit: Hookgrip.com

When looking at elite weightlifters a great number do actually jump their feet in some way, and nearly all of them reset the feet (either by moving them up and out or just out). Almost certainly the high school donkey kick jump that cuts off the pull is incorrect, but as I will point out shortly, jumping the feet in the right way should improve one’s ability to extend the hips.

Are athletes different than weightlifters?

This is an argument from the performance coaches all the time (by the way my primary job is to coach high school and college athletes), that weightlifters are different than athletes and you can’t take what the WL athlete does and apply it to the performance athlete.

I can say unequivocally that athletes are different than weightlifters, but the differences come not in how you coach them on movements, but on the program that you design (More on that in a future post).

Think about it for a second, elite weightlifters have pretty much perfected the technique of the Olympic lifts, should we then coach our athletes to technique that is less than what the weightlifter can accomplish? Certainly time restraints will mean that we probably can’t get athletes to exactly that level of technique, but can we be satisfied with  sub-standard technique because they are a performance athlete?

Why is jumping the feet important?

Jumping as a cue is pretty excellent for getting individuals to reach full hip AND knee extension (more on the  importance of knee extension in this post). While the actual finish of the pull is not exactly like a jump, the idea of jumping is very helpful.

The second part of jumping assists the athlete in getting under the bar. According to Zhekov in his paper Biomechanics of the Weightlifting Exercises (1976) the athlete must achieve a speed of 1 m/s in his descent to successfully catch the bar. By jumping the feet we now have the assistance of gravity to help us reach the required velocity.

Some elite weightlifters demonstrate what we would call an actual jump while others just reset the feet, both are designed to help the athlete move under and prepare them for the squat portion of the lifts.

While the feet remain in contact with the platform the body is best suited to increasing the vertical speed of the bar, both by pulling upward with the large muscles of the lower body and also the smaller muscles of the upper body. It is only when the feet leave the platform can the athlete successfully move under the bar.

Even when coaching the athlete that will only complete a power clean or power snatch it is critically important that there is a phase of “move under.” Doing so will allow the athlete to prepare the body to receive the bar in an athletic position as opposed to straight legs or the starfish position.

One last important note about jumping the feet and by extension (what many would call) stomping the feet. The audible noise of the feet re-hitting the platform is an important point of a good lift for most individuals. This noise signifies that the feet are meeting the platform in a balanced manner, that is the weight is distributed across the entire foot and not to the toes or heels. Again the point is not to MAKE this noise, but to have this noise because the athlete demonstrated balance through the pull and in the pull under.

Conclusion

For most individuals jumping will be a critical aspect to a successful lift. It can assist in both the finish of the pull as well as the ability to move under the bar. If you struggle with either aspect of the Olympic lifts or have athletes or lifters that struggle in these aspects try jumping the feet.