Biomechanics, Exercise, Motor Control, Programming, Strength & Conditioning, Technique, The Training Geek, Weightlifting

Stop Making These Lifting Mistakes This New Year.

A New Year, A New You.

Many of you have New Year’s resolutions which you want to keep this year and some of them may be lifting related. Save yourself the disappointment of not being able to achieve them by preventing yourself from making these simple mistakes as you look towards the new year of training and practising your lifts.

Stop Ripping and Start Slowing Things Down.

The weightlifting movements are always perceived as movements of explosiveness and speed. Many people think that you need to be as powerful as your human potential allows you to in order for you to perform the lifts well. This leads to many making the rookie mistake of trying to “grip and rip”. Especially when you are in a setting that requires you to perform these lifts faster in order for you to “get a good time”.

560279_365187063536124_94998705_nHe sure doesn’t pull the bar off the ground aggressively even though he gets quite aggressive in his set up. Image Credit: Hookgrip

According to Fitt’s Law, movement speed is inversely proportional to movement accuracy. This also means that if you are going to try to move the barbell fast off the ground, it means that you would have some form of compromise getting into the positions you NEED to get into in order to properly execute the correct movements in the lifts. Instead of thinking of trying to hit it hard and fast from the gecko, you may want to try to generate enough speed to overcome ertia and GRADUALLY increase momentum to the point of extension where you then move with the intent of speed.

Hip Hinge Less, Leg Drive More.

When learning the lifts, as a beginner, you will always hear that you have to bring your hips through in the extension phase of the second pull. This typically results in a more loopy bar path or a swing of the bar around the torso. More importantly, it uses more of the back or torso as a lever instead of the legs as a driving force in the vertical direction. Even when cycling repetitions, it is critical that the intention is to use the legs more than the back. Once the trunk starts fatiguing, things get messy quite quickly.

mg3062The image speaks for itself. Knowing to use your legs doesn’t mean just your hips. Image Credit: Karl Buchholtz Photography

Learning this correctly from the start will help in picking efficiency up as you will be learning to use your biggest prime movers in the body to do the work. Learn to spread the work across the glutes, hamstrings and quads (3 main muscle groups) rather than putting the stress on the erectors which are not meant to be movement generators. This will not only help get you through your training more effectively but also reduce the chance of a major injury or compensatory movements subsequently causing over-use injuries.

A Bigger Squat Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Bigger Lifts.

Being able to execute the lifts well requires a good sense of what the body is going through during the movements. This body awareness is something that takes time in training to build up and gaining it will make alot more of your assistance or accessory exercises more transferrable.

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This relates alot to squatting because squatting is a major part of a weightlifter’s program. Yes, squatting well and having a big squat will definitely benefit your lifts. IF you are able to transfer that leg strength into your movement. The ability to use your legs in extension is critical and not just being able to push up a certain load. This ability of having awareness in the use of your legs will allow you to properly execute the leg drive needed for most of the propulsive components of the lifts. The mistake is that many novices embark on a squat program without this awareness and put in countless repetitions of squats and end up banging their bodies up but not achieving their eventual goal of improving their lifts.

Don’t Just Learn Technique. Learn YOUR technique.

Like a golf swing, there is no one technique that is identical to another. It is pretty awesome now that there’s so much more coverage on weightlifting and you can easily gain insight to how the top-level athletes are actually moving through media platforms. However, seeing such movements at surface level and not understanding the complexity of their style in relation to other factors such as anthropometry and training history, the rookie mistake made is to imitate and not to apply.

keep-pulling-female-webMay look like the same point of the movement but all the positions are different. Image Credit: Hookgrip.

Learning the concepts behind movement, the reasoning behind certain positions or cues and subsequently applying it to your own lifting allows you to then make an INFORMED decision (not just a blind decision) on how you should be moving in the snatch or clean and jerk. Knowing the characteristics of your body such as your lever lengths, and even your strengths and weaknesses or physical limitations will help you make a better decision on how to move and give you a smooth path towards improvements in your lifting.

Accessorize to Maximize Your Training.

I completely understand that if you are executing most of your training in a class setting, you are basically following whatever programming is given on that day and it’s completely up to your box’s programming if you are getting what you NEED in terms of developing your movement and even body for lifting. When you first get hooked on the weightlifting movements, you will fall into the trap of just doing the main lifts and thinking that the more you practise them, the better you will get with them.

ba63d301baa60f0706ad0be99550549eHow do you think they build bodies like that? Probably not just from the full lifts. Image Credit: Hookgrip.

Sadly, you are WRONG! Not really wrong but you are not building yourself up to maximize your success in performing the lifts well. As a beginner, it is critical to understand that you need a variety of exercises related to the lifts to create as much practice and motor development opportunities within your motor control. Think of it like building up that memory bank. This helps develop that awareness for the movements as mentioned earlier. Secondly, even if you are doing some variations of the lifts in your training, you may not be prepping your body up physically to handle the physical demands of the lifts. So not only variety, but also the mundane work like mobility, stability and even hypertrophy. In simple terms and in the words of a famous strength coach with his own training system, if you want to build a massive pyramid, you need to build a big base. If you want a bigger pyramid, the base has to be bigger meaning you have to be covering more exercises first before you can begin specialising in the main lifts for the most part of your program.

Conclusion

It’s great to see that you have understood that the weightlifting movements are pretty awesome and they benefit you in many ways than just explosiveness and power. Done with the right mentality, you will be on a path of discovery, learning about yourself and what your body is capable of. Too many people look for the easy way out only to find that they have hit a dead-end. Set things right from the start and you will see yourself growing easily into the lifts with ease as you work towards your New Year resolution of being great at them this year.

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Strength & Conditioning, The Training Geek, Weightlifting, Workout

The Philosophical ABCs of Weightlifting by The Training Geek.

The quintessentials of weightlifting is seldom discussed and personally I feel is related to the coaching philosophy developed by the coach imparted to the athlete. In any sport, the coach has certain ideals and thoughts that they constantly strive to bring about through their lifters and also through their coaching methodology. For example, the Russians have a certain way of teaching and programming the lifts and that’s what makes them Russian. So do the Chinese.

On top of that, everyone likes their lists, everyone loves their numbers, and everyone adores the alphabet. So here’s my little take on the ABCs of weightlifting from the eye of a coach, an athlete, a recreational individual, a modern day coach, a modern day athlete or whatever you want to call me.

A – Appreciation

Appreciation is something that many struggle to get a grasp of. Appreciation comes in many forms within the world of weightlifting. You appreciate the technicality of the movements. You appreciate your coach’s ideas and methods. You appreciate the platform and the competition vibe it brings to you. You appreciate the history and tradition of the sport. You should also appreciate the evolution of the sport. You should also appreciate the people who are working to make the sport more accessible and popular. You should appreciate that you are given a gift when you are involved in the sport and that you should do what you can to share what you know.

Too many people fail to appreciate the right things and only choose to appreciate what they deem fit. Weightlifting is so diverse and there is still so much more for us to explore and discover. Being able to appreciate that helps the sport evolve, not being stuck in your ways thinking you have already attained the highest level of the sport.

B – Benevolence

The community of weightlifting is small and close-knitted to begin with. If you do not have an appreciation for the fact that we should be working with each other to improve the sport or its popularity, we lose the vision of creating a bigger community in the sport. Benevolence is defined as the quality of being well meaning. As a coach, as an athlete, or as an individual involved in the sport, what have you done to mean well for the sport? Have you done all you can to allow people to enjoy the sport or have you constantly belittled people in the sport only because you think you know almost everything?

Even the best coaches with most experience seek to learn more and understand why. Being open to learning allows people to understand that you are constantly improving yourself to help them get better.

C – Character

Also related to the last point, character is something you build up as you grow into the sport of weightlifting. It definitely takes alot to be knocked down by the bar after each failed attempt and coming back to it to make the lift. It also takes alot of character to push through working on your weaknesses to improve a certain aspect of your lift, committing fully to your program and listening to your coach.

Character also refers to the way you approach the sport. Being one who chooses to contribute to the growth of the sport is the direction of growth that weightlifting needs and seems to be heading towards. Always seek to help others improve is what I say and try to do. Regardless of the time and the effort.

 

Well that’s the ABCs from me. I wouldnt do the whole alphabet only because in weightlifting, we don’t go more than 3 reps for the classic lifts.

Stay Strong and Keep Growing the Sport,

Lester a.k.a. The Training Geek.

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Biomechanics, Exercise, Motor Control, Programming, Strength & Conditioning, Technique, The Training Geek, Weightlifting

4 Types of Exercises to Fix Pulling Mechanics.

Getting the pull right in the snatch or the clean is one of the most important things to achieve a good performance in weightlifting. More importantly, being able to perform a good pull with a decent amount of weight will give you the best chance possible of lifting heavy weights with good technique and subsequently efficiency. If you are constantly struggling with getting a grasp on how to lift the bar off the ground and maintain good balance (i.e. centre of mass over the base of support), here are 4 types of exercises typically used to help improve your pull in the weightlifting movements.

1. PULLS.

Yes. I am not trying to be funny but doing pulls will definitely help with pulling mechanics. Snatch pulls or clean pulls are basically the first progressions to learning the lifts. It is important to get this exercise right because it WILL transfer to your lifts not only from a strength perspective but a movement pattern aspect.

Pulls are usually done from 90% to 110% or more depending on the proficiency of the individual using this exercise. Learning to pull right will also teach you to properly execute the correct sequencing for leg drive as well as the coordination of the leg drive with the shrug. More importantly, it also allows you to understand the role of momentum upon executing the second pull.

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Most of the mistakes made in the turnover are due to the arms being too active in the turnover, resulting in a loss of velocity and subsequently momentum of the bar. Using pulls to emphasis less of the arms and more of the shrug and keeping it close will help with getting that “floating” or “weightless-ness” feeling of the bar during the turnover in the snatch or the clean.

2. DEFICITS.

Deficits movements are done with you standing on an elevated platform. Typically used to strengthen up the back as you are starting with the bar in a lower position, these do put alot of emphasis on getting good mobility and back strength in the start position.

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Mr Deficit, Klokov himself. 

In weightlifting, using deficits can help in many ways to improve the pulling mechanics off the ground. Firstly, it allows for better utilisation of the leg drive to initiate the movement off the floor. This is due to your back being in a more vulnerable and taxed position due to the deficit. So to get the bar moving, the legs will have to do the work and it should be the legs driving the movement off the ground.

Another benefit of deficits to pulling mechanics is the prolonged duration of the pull. As the bar travels over a longer distance, it helps emphasis the tempo of the pull. This will be useful if you constantly begin your second pull too early without getting the bar at the same level as the hips before being explosive during the second pull.

3. HANG/PAUSES BELOW THE KNEE.

This is one movement I picked up from my coach, Mr Robert Kabbas, from Phoenix Weightlifting Club who taught me everything I know about the sport and its immerse history. He had me doing hang snatches below the knees as part of improving the “finish” of my pull. The purpose of the exercise is to extend the use of the leg drive in the second pull and not just bringing the hips through.

Expanding on that, I see any hang movement at knee level or below the knee as an opportunity to teach the body how to balance and create leverage. More importantly, many individuals have trouble negotiating around the knees and that results in bringing the bar forward to go around the knees. When that happens, the combined centre of mass of the weightlifter-barbell system gets pulled forward over the base of support, resulting the lifter being pulled forward with the bar due to momentum or the lifter having to do more to pull the bar back into the centre (which often results in pulling back too much and jumping back or excessive looping).

So adding a pause below the knee or doing a hang movement below the knee will allow the lifter to learn how to get the bar moving straight while the knees get out of the weight, maintaining balance through the feet and not coming onto the toes or balls of the feet too early. If all that is done, it will place the lifter in a better position to execute the second pull properly in as vertical a direction as possible.

4. TEMPO REPS.

Tempo reps are reps performed under a certain time duration during the phases of the lifts. Usually prescribed for the eccentric, end-range, and concentric part of the movement. So if you want to build strength fast, increasing the tempo of the eccentric phase by doing a three-second eccentric in the deadlift for example will help build strength in the back.

How I approach teaching the lifts and ensuring that technique is emphasized is to slow the movement down. I adopt a slow-to-fast approach, meaning that any progressions given to the individual, it will be done with control and less emphasis on speed till the correct positions are adopted. I have found this to be very effective in nailing the correct position in the lifts.

This is where tempo lifts come into play. By introducing a tempo to the lifts, it forces the lifter to put into place the key points of each position and phase. It will be easier to pick out things like the use of the arms, or the lack of use of the back to hold the weight or not getting the weight off the ground through the legs. It also helps with getting newcomers to understand how to get the bar off the ground without ripping it too quickly to generate movement.

CONCLUSION

These are the four main assistance exercises which I typically use to help work on technique. They can be used to emphasize not only different positions of the pull but also build different components of the lifter (i.e. strength, balance, stability etc). Depending on what the lifter’s weaknesses are in the lifts and what portion of the entire movements needs to be addressed for more efficient and effective lifting, these exercises can be part of a cohesive program to improve weaknesses if used appropriately.

Stay Strong and Keep Lifting,

The Training Geek.

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