The Natural Athlete

I work with really smart people. Like the post from Rod Root (Depth Jumps), I have turned to another one of the awesome coaches on my team to explore an idea that I love. Matt Myers is a MovNat certified trainer and the head coach of our adult training program at Force. Matt just so happens to specialize in things that make him look like a ninja (black costume withstanding). I asked Matt how to train athletes to move naturally, freely, and BETTER. He came up with this awesome piece.  

Throughout all of history, stories of athleticism have helped to define our human heritage.  There was Milo and the first Olympians – legend has it that Milo trained by carrying a bull on his shoulders everyday.  As the bull aged, Milo became stronger (this may be the first known example of progressive strength training).

In his book “Born to Run”, author Christopher McDougall highlights the fossilized footprints of early humans whose stride-length suggests sprinting speeds faster than that of Usain Bolt.

There was Pheidippides, who ran 150 miles in two days to beg the Spartans for help against and invading Persian force, who landed in Marathon, Greece.  He then ran 25 miles to Athens to announce the victory, and fell dead (the modern “marathon” takes its name from his legend).

Even in modern times, athletes like Bo Jackson are famous not only for their unrivaled athleticism (including the fastest ever 40-time at the NFL combine, 4.12s), but for the seeming lack of modern strength and conditioning we associate with such feats.

These stories are not only a part of our collective history, but our own personal histories as well.  My great-great-great-grandfather, John R. Murphy, was strong as a bull.  Even after getting hit by a train, which disfigured his arm, he was called the “strongest man in Fairport (NY).”  Legend has it that he used to win all kinds of bets down at the railroad station showing feats of strength such as moving hundreds of pounds casks from one platform to another with one arm.   He routinely carried railroad ties home 1.5 miles at the young age of 65, and boasted that he would’ve beat John L. Sullivan for the heavyweight boxing crown if he had two good arms.  These were the types of stories my father told me as a young child, and shaped my understanding of what it meant to be an “athlete”.

Obviously, athleticism was a part of our humanity long before the advent of barbells and bumper plates.  Which begs the question:  put in their situation, how would you perform? 

With all of our modern knowledge, but without modern conveniences, how would you train your athletes?

Fix Your Power Clean: catch every rep low

Power Clean: LOWThe “power clean” is a staple of modern athletic strength training programs. Unfortunately the ugly ass power clean ends up in most of those programs too.

A better way to power clean is needed to make huge gains in this lift. Just pulling on the bar and finding a way to catch it isn’t going to cut it anymore.

A better way to catch the power clean is to take a cue from Olympic lifters and learn to catch low on every rep.

“But wait…I coach athletes, not Olympic lifters.”

“I don’t want to compete in Olympic lifting.”

“I don’t have the time to teach athletes to catch low on every rep”

While those have been my concerns in the past, they no longer are. The ability to catch the bar low is now a staple in my gym, and gone are the days of ugly lifts. 

Demystifying Depth Jumps

leg_press_musclesOne thing I have done in the past couple years is really work to surround myself with great coaches. One of those great coaches is Rod Root. Rod has become more than my right hand guy, he has become my go to guy. When it comes to all things, I ask Rod for his opinion before I finalize my own.

Rod has led the charge in developing our programs for basketball players and has helped to create multiple division 1 prospects and was the strength coach for the Indiana State Champion Girls basketball team that trained in our gym all fall and winter.

If you know basketball players like I do then you know that there is one thing on their mind at all times, jumping higher and dunking. When it comes to jumping higher the king of movements is the depth jump.

Below is a post about everything depth jumps, from Rod, be careful though, this program of depth jumps has gotten one of our 7th grade basketball players dunking. This stuff works, almost too well….

Smart Training vs. Hard Training: Snatch Complex

My friend Coach Dos (shout out to Dos being in at least 2 straight blog posts), summarized facebook to me last year.

If you are friends with fitness people, your newsfeed is a mix of 4 things:

  • Descriptions of what people eat.
  • Descriptions of workouts people just “crushed”
  • Catchy quotes
  • Bacon

Just to lend my support, all of this is true. Bacon definitely fills my newsfeed, and hopefully fills my belly on most days.

The attention of this blog is not on food, but today it is on one of those facebook categories: catchy quotes.

One catchy phrase that I see a lot is “don’t train hard, train smart” or some iteration of those words.

To the Day Periodization?

IMG_2727Training means having a plan. It actually is part of the definition of the word showing up and doing whatever is called working out, or exercising.

If fitness, athletics, or aesthetics are your goal, there is nothing that should be unexpected.  I don’t think that you have to be ready for “anything” but you do need to be ready for exactly what you want.

Traditionally, planning for your training means periodization. In some form or the other (undulating, conjugate, linear, etc) periodization can help you achieve that goal.

My view on periodization has changed a lot in the last 15 years or so, but so have my views on Brussels sprouts, professional wrestling, and how to get women. While 16 year old me thought that every rep had to be planned out to a T, Brussels sprouts sucked, Goldberg was the pinnacle of man-dom, and chicks liked it when I called them “chicks,” 31 year old me knows that there can be a little wiggle room in the master plan.

Today I have a better understanding of how to REALLY use periodization to get the best out of my program

Two Hard Strength Complexes

Complexes have really morphed for me recently.  Two years ago, I would turn to complexes to work on conditioning, and quite honestly for aesthetic purposes. More work in a little bit of time meant that I was able to stay really lean. Today my complexes are shorter, with no eye on conditioning.

As I have gotten back into weightlifting more and more, the complexes I do today are about strength. Maximum weight for up to few reps. They provide a great opportunity to work on my weak points in the lifts, and on busy days provide the best bang for my buck.

My new strength complex focus should not make it sound like these are easy. They are still extremely hard, but for entirely different reasons than the marathon complexes I used to do.

Recently I put together 2 complexes that fit right in this mold. Strength based, ball busters. Check them out.

My Snatch Technique Changed EVERYTHING

snatch techniqueThis started out as a blog post about the snatch. It may very well end up about the snatch by the end, but while outlining it I realized that this blog post needed to be  about change.

I’ll get to how I fixed my snatch later, but lets examine the idea of “changing”

Changing a blog post about change. Seems fitting.

I thought recently, about how I changed my snatch around to be more efficient, to be better, to lift more weight. I thought about literally “un-learning” 14 years plus of technique to make myself better and realized that this exercise in change was one of the most important things athletes and coaches can do.

Re-inventing yourself, re-tooling yourself is one of the most important things you can do.

Fix your Jerk with two movements you haven’t done

I have had a problem since I was a young weightlifter. It’s a regular jerk mystery. I stand up with the clean and making the jerk is a serious question mark. Since I was 15 years old, I have always needed to fix my jerk.

I have done plenty of jerks from the rack, and from the blocks. I have pressed until I am red in the face (literally and figuratively), but until recently the question of whether I would make the jerk or not was like a Scooby Doo mystery.

The 2 movements in this post are different, maybe even odd, but they have each helped me bring my jerk up to the levels of my clean. No more mystery of whether I will nail the jerk or not.

Too Jacked to Olympic lift: Olympic lifting Mobility

Fixing your  Olympic lifts can happen in one of two ways, typically. Fix your Olympic lifting technique (improving the way to do the movement), or Olympic lifting mobility, improving your ability to do the movement. There are also strength fixes, but they are longer term and we all know how to do those (squat if you can’t stand up with it, deadlift if you can’t pick it up).

There is a game that I play called underrated, overrated, or properly rated. I stole it from Bill Simmons, but I have adopted it as my own game. Having trouble picturing it?

Arnold Schwarzenegger movie: Terminator- Overrated

Arnold Schwarzenegger movie: Commando- Underrated

Arnold Schwarzenegger movie: Twins- Properly rated

When it comes to Olympic lift fixes, mobility fixes are definitely underrated. There are certain problems that most people encounter that cannot be influenced by technique or strength, unless the underlying mobility fix is addressed first.

The Lazy Man’s Guide to Olympic weightlifting

People like the bare minimum. Instinctively we want to know what’s the least we can do to get a result.  Yes there are some that would say “if one ibuprofen is good, then 10 must be better” but those are the same people that end up with liver problems.  It could be laziness, but it’s more than likely intelligence.

Training is no different, we should strive for the minimum effective dose, when delivering it to our athletes or to ourselves. Becoming great at a skill like Olympic weightlifting is a different beast, but for most that is not an issue until after we have tried out the minimum effective dose.

This is the bare minimum Olympic weightlifting program you should be doing to be a good Olympic lifter.