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.
A good weightlifting hack should be clever, because cleverness is the key to trickiness, and in weightlifting hacks we are trying to trick the body. We are tricking the body to re-learn an exercise with fewer repetitions than it took to learn the exercise in the first place.
Some of the simplest weightlifting hacks are just those little tricks you pick up from a more experienced guy in the gym. Trying to spread the floor when you squat, to activate the glutes and create a space to squat into, or bending the bar when you bench so that you create a better shelf to bench from.
As you learn an exercise you are training your body: training the muscles, and the pieces of the nervous system responsible for the movement, to fire in the manner and order you need them to fire. The longer you do an exercise the more your body has myelinated the nerves responsible for the actions involved.
For beginners this is a great thing, for more experience lifters, this means that your bad habits might stick unless you have a serious intervention. In this case a great intervention is a weightlifting hack.
Toes off lifts and Pulls
When it comes to weightlifting hacks this one has been tailor made for me and my problems. Since I was a young lad my tendency has always been to rush to my toes in the pull and jump forward under the bar. This typically results in an incomplete 2nd pull, or the inability to jump under the bar at all.
By doing a “toes off” lift you are eliminating the body’s ability to make this mistake. Any attempts to go to the toes would result in an unsuccessful lift, but to tell you the truth I have never seen any of my athletes attempt to pull from their toes when doing the “toes off” drill.
Set up on a minimally elevated block (3/4” plywood works well, but so does a short bumper) and place half of your foot off the block. Then, lift. That’s it. Problem solved, you will feel the term “jump from the heels, land on the heels”
Check out the video below to see a demonstration.
Good lifts typically follow the same bar path, a flattened “S.” This bar path means that the bar is coming into the body off the floor. A missed lift usually follows the opposite pattern and the bar loops away to move around the knees off the floor. Typically I might cue the athlete to drive through their heels and push the hips up and back to correct this problem, but that doesn’t always work quickly.
The RNT snatch is a hack to solve this problem more quickly than verbal cueing can.
RNT is short for reactive neuromuscular training. RNT is typically used in the clinical setting as a way to speed the proprioception of peripheral sensation into the appropriate motor response. Let me give you the most typical way we use RNT to assist in motor learning.
In the instance of a squat it is somewhat typical to see an athlete collapse inward at the knee. To use RNT to solve this problem we like to use bands placed at the knee level to accentuate this problem. By sensing the inward pull of the bands athletes will consciously, and ultimately subconsciously resist these forces to activate external rotators and create a better squat pattern.
Here is a video of an RNT squat
The RNT snatch places the external stimulus in a position that accentuates the problem of the bar moving forward. The bands in this case are placed in front of the bar, in a position, that without effort would cause the athlete to move forward even more.
This stimulus causes most athletes to correct their bar path to pulling the bar back into them.
Watch the video below to see an RNT snatch in action.
It should be noted that most athletes fail miserably in their first attempts at performing this movement, so don’t load this movement up much at all, and unlike me, don’t use a partner to hold the bands (use a squat rack). On second and third attempts they begin to dial into the correct movement and make big changes, send them off to the platform after performing a couple correct reps and you will see a huge difference.
A big thanks to coach Rod Root for thinking outside the box enough to do this movement in the first place (I was a little scared to try it, but it is seriously legit).
Conclusion: I need more hacks…
These are only two weightlifting hacks that you can use to improve your movements and I would love to know more. If you have a good hack, that speeds up the learning process then please let me know in the comments below.