I have received the following question recently in my email, and figured it might be time to answer. “Hey Wil, I have my first weightlifting competition coming up and wanted to know how you should warm-up?” Before I get to how to warm-up, let’s start with how to not warm-up At Junior Nationals this spring…
Like many of you that love Olympic lifting, whether it be for performance, CrossFit, or the sport itself, I was shocked when I heard last week that an athlete had suffered a serious and life altering injury from doing an Olympic lift. I received a dozen emails about how to “miss a lift,” and thought that this was an important time to release this blog post.
I don’t know Kevin Ogar, and I will not speak to the way that his injury occurred, I think that it would be very disrespectful to Kevin, his family, and friends. Personally I think this was a completely freak accident, a massively unfortunate, 1 in a billion occurrence. I only wish him the best, and will pray for his recovery.
This is a piece of an upcoming project I am putting together, and wanted to make sure it is out there to share.
In college I waited tables at a local sports themed restaurant that featured more TV’s than you could shake a stick at. While this meant that I never missed an episode of sportscenter for 4 years, it also meant that Sundays in the fall meant waiting on tables full of football fans of dozens of NFL teams.
Being in small Bloomington, IN you might think that every table was full of like minded Colts fans, but the largest group of fans that we would get in the restaurant were those of the Cincinnati Bengals. Ahh, the great wearers of the stripey clothing, and the great shouters of “Who Dey”, fans of the Cincinnati freaking Bengals.
If there is one take away from those days it is that I do not like Cincinnati Bengals fans (at least the ones that frequented my restaurant). Maybe it was one too many small tips on a large bill, or one too many guys calling me names for telling him he had reached his limit of adult beverages on the day, but to this day when I see a Bengals jersey on a fan I shudder.
Well, today those fans would be wise to read the blog because I have a very special guest.
Coach Ron McKeefery is here to answer my questions. Coach McKeefery is one of the most well respected strength and conditioning coaches around. He literally built the football program at South Florida, built the largest weightroom in the country at the University of Tennessee, and is now making Bengals fans everywhere happy by developing the programs for Cincinnati’s NFL team, who are having one of their best seasons in years.
Coach McKeefery also maintains one of the best rolodexes in the S&C field having worked with legends like Istvan Javorek, and conversing regularly with the best coaches in the field on his AWESOME podcast, Iron Game Chalk Talk. (Doesn’t hurt that I was the first guest).
In my youth I thought the idea of a computer hacker was pretty neat. I can recall one of my first experiences on a PC playing a heated game of Number Munchers, when the computer switched away from the game and showed a series of numbers and letters. It is very likely that the computer crashed, but to my 8 year old mind, I had hacked the computer system like I was Matthew Broderick in War Games.
Hacking a computer is a work around, a barrier which was set up is broken down by some clever trick. While I have heard of the sheer force of thousands of computers trying to hack through a computer security system, the neat ones that we read about are the ones that are just so clever as to say “why didn’t I think of that”
While life has not led me down the path to computer hacking, the idea of the shortcut, or work around that breaks down barriers is still something I am pursuing. The web is full of ideas on how to “hack” your everyday life, to make your experience in the kitchen, with your tech, and your job even easier.
Weightlifting hacks also abound. These are simple tricks that just by their nature correct technique. They are independent of training, they don’t make you stronger, they just make weightlifting easier. If you want the red pill, read on, if you want the blue pill just return to your normal daily routine.
The following post comes from Eric Cressey. Eric is world renowned as the “shoulder guy”, and in this post he gives you an assessment tool to see if you are ready to train overhead. Never have I seen such a simple assessment and simple corrections if you are found to be lacking. If you want to press, snatch, or jerk you must keep reading.
“It’s all comes back to breathing”
Breathing it seems has become a panacea of sorts to nearly all that ails us, our clients, and my athletes.
- Bad squat mobility: Breathing.
- Bad shoulder position: Breathing.
- Back Pain: Breathing.
I am not exaggerating when I say that most (not all) problems that we encounter can be fixed or improved by breathing better.
Olympic lifting is filled with cues for even the most minute details of the lifts. These lifts have been studied by sports scientists for decades and there are no real secrets to them anymore, as such it is common to hear jargon that is filled with precise internal focused coaching points.
- Maintain a 30 degree torso angle.
- Push the knees back until the shins are at vertical.
- Externally rotate the shoulders overhead.
These are certainly valid points, but what athlete really has great command over the individual angles of their torso, hips and knees? Some athletes certainly do, but we have been working to diversify our coaching points to include more external focus cues.
I get questions all the time about what I use to train for weightlifting. The shoes I wear, the bumpers and bar I use, or what I would recommend for training, or for home gym set up, etc. There are plenty of choices, but in my experience the best options when price and quality are considered are what I try to get.
If you are interested in Olympic lifting, there are only a few things that you MUST have.
Bumpers-Without rubber plates you are going to have a very tough time dropping the weights over and over. Not that the weights or the floors won’t be able to handle it, but the impact of metal weights hitting the bar when dropped will eat through bars quick!.
Bar– A good weightlifting bar will mean you can put more weight on the bar without sacrificing your wrists, shoulders, etc.
Shoes– Weightlifting shoes are more than just nice to have. They give you an essential base of support, and open up your ankles for squatting deeper. Plenty of problems that I see with athletes in the clean and snatch can easily be cleared up simply with some weightlifting shoes.
Platform– While not 100% necessary, they are really nice to have, so I shared with you the way to build a platform in about 10 minutes.
There are plenty of other things that I like to use all the time and keep in my weightlifting bag, but those are all listed as miscellaneous.
I have written several posts (both here and elsewhere) on complexes and combos. Lots of those have been absolutely murderous (5 and 6 exercise behemoth’s for up to 5 reps each) and each serves a purpose in my training.
Recently though I have found myself navigating towards simpler and simpler combos. Instead of 5-6 exercise slogs, I am focusing in on 2-3 movements and doing them at a fairly heavy weight, (similar to what I wrote in this article for T-Nation). These simple combos are more suited for developing strength and enhancing my technique.
They just so happen to be the types of combos that we use at my gym the MOST often for athletes. 2-3 movements done really well, not taxing on energy systems, but on strength. Athletes and olympic lifters get the most out of this type of combo or complex, short and to the point.
Below you will find 3 combos that I have been using in my own training a lot recently. The clean and jerk combo, and the jerk combo are really well suited to everyday athletes, and the snatch combo is perfect for the more weightlifting centric types.
I have said it here and many other places that “squatting is the life blood of Olympic lifting.” As your squat goes so do your lifts.
I should be clear, the primary part of your program should consist of the competition movements or a variation, probably 60% or more of your total reps, but the remainder of the program will be a lot of squats, with just a small amount being pulls of some sort and pressing.
A certain level of technical competence is required for the “squat more, lift more” motto to be in effect. For me this is seen when my lifters have been in a few competitions, but in general after an athlete has been in the gym for a year or more. We have to remember that lifting is a skill and that skill has to be learned well for strength to carryover to the platform.